Kay

A Night to Remember... Elvis Live in Concert
Kay Lipps tells her story of seeing Elvis live in concert in 1976 at Fort Wayne Coliseum. Kay has been an Elvis fan since the 1950s and currently works to continue his legacy by raising money for the Special Olympics.

I can hardly remember not being an Elvis fan!  I do remember begging my parents to allow me to watch Ed Sullivan and was allowed to leave my room, where I worked on my homework - only when the king appeared on the show. During my teenage years, Elvis was on his way to Germany. That Army uniform really did me in and from then on Elvis was my favorite singer and my heart throb. My favorite Saturday’s were spent with my girlfriends at the movie theatre watching the latest Elvis movie.  Did you know back then you could pay and watch more than one showing?

Elvis returned to the home front and I replaced my “Good Citizenship” award hanging in my room with the beautiful cover of “Elvis Is Back.” Our house had plaster walls and putting nail in the wall was strictly forbidden by my father. My award had warranted a nail – not so sure my dad agreed that Elvis did. High school days arrived and so did the Beatles! Elvis continued to be a huge movie star. By the time the '68 Comeback Special appeared on TV, Elvis and Priscilla had a new baby. Paul and I were expecting as well. I remember hoping that Elvis and Priscilla were as happy starting their family as we were.

There wasn’t much time as a mother of now three children to be much of a fan until one morning as the radio came on, the morning talk show guys were discussing the big news of the day - Elvis Presley was coming to Indianapolis. That was prior to Ticketmaster and my husband’s business partner knew one of the owners of the travel agency that sold the tickets. We secured sixth row seats and I was never the same after that show in April of 1972. Elvis won my heart right back again and we spent the next five years going to as many concerts as we could. Fortunately, Elvis won over my husband too with his stellar performances and joined me on our Elvis travels. Paul and I managed to see Elvis in concert 29 times. Actually, Paul was a couple short of that, as I attended additional midnight shows in Vegas while Paul gambled. 

I belonged to Shawn Shaver’s fan club in Kansas City and became good friends with Bob Heis and his fan club in Dayton, Ohio, “Elvis Something for Everyone.” Both gentlemen provided excellent concert photos which entranced my photo albums of our Elvis travels. Bob happened to know someone in Colonel Parker’s office who had a third shift job with access to an 800 telephone line. If our phone rang at midnight, it meant Elvis was on tour! This helped us "organize the territory" so that we could split up and go to the various venues for tickets and cover all the cities close to where we lived. The basic rule was “if we could drive there in a day,” we got tickets.
 
Being at Elvis fan can often times be contagious. First, you were happy with just a ticket to the show, then you wanted a closer seat and even a front row seat because of course you wanted a scarf. You can’t get enough and actually would love to meet him, so you start doing espionage work to locate him at the airport or find the hotel and finally, you’ve got to fly to Las Vegas and see him at the Hilton!  It became important to meet some of the musicians and other members of the security team. It was also the start of another legacy that Elvis has left us and that’s the friendship which begins as soon as you meet someone who loves the king as much as you.
 
My first front row seat - can you say M-E-S-M-E-R-I-Z-E-D?
   
One of my favorite memories is from a concert we attended in October of 1976 when Elvis' fall tour was in the Midwest. We were lucky enough to have tickets to seven different shows within about a two week time frame. One was in Fort Wayne, IN.  We arrived at the Fort Wayne Coliseum and checked out the souvenir booth, then headed for our much covenanted front row seats.

Much to my delight when we located our seats, lo and behold, my hubby and I were seated in the two seats that blocked the center aisle! Not only did we have the hottest seats but the stage was so low that when I stood up, I could put my elbows on it and I am only 5'2"!  I felt that this was an omen and this was going to be the best Elvis show ever. Not that I was ever disappointed at an Elvis Show and certainly not this night!

Getting through the opening acts always seemed to take a lifetime, but it was fabulous to see the Sweets, Voice, and the Stamps up so close! Having seen Jackie Kahane's comedy routine many times, I took that time to make a visit the ladies room - who wants to take the chance of having to make that trip after Elvis appeared?!?

It was intermission now and I was so excited as I waited for the lights to go down. I thought I would crawl out of my skin. Finally lights dim, Joe Guercio starts up the orchestra with "2001 Space Odyssey" and then came the now famous Elvis riff! 'Na, na,nah, na na, nah. na, na, nah' - and from stage left here came Elvis looking gorgeous in his blue, swirl rainbow suit. He headed across the stage greeting a few lucky fans before turning to Charlie for the guitar, grabbed the mic and, as always, began singing "See, See Rider."
A few songs later, I think after "Mountain," I moved the two or three steps up to center stage to get a scarf and at the same time asked him if I could have a kiss too! He winked, nodded and handed me the scarf! As I leaned forward for the kiss, another fan came up and pulled the scarf which was hanging down from my hand away from me. Oh, well - I thought I've gotten others. I'm going for the body contact! Next thing I know Elvis is walking away from me and my heart sank! What was going on?? He'd already acknowledged my request. I'm so sad, mad, disappointed, but then I see him ask Charlie for another scarf and he walked back to where I was standing. I have no idea how he'd seen the other fan take the first one he'd given me, but he evidently had and came back with another! I got both the scarf and the kiss!

I was thrilled not only to have been so lucky to get a kiss, but was amazed that he took the time to replace the scarf. It confirmed how much Elvis truly cared about his fans and making them happy. Unbelievable! After catching my breath which is much easier said than done, wiping the wetness from his perspiration from my face with the scarf, I sank back down in my seat (picture that one girl in "On Tour") wrapped the scarf around my neck and enjoyed the rest of the show floating on cloud nine! Due to the stage being so low, Elvis heard most everything we said to him and even sang "Reconsider Baby" upon our request!  Can you imagine?  He even referred to us as “his people.”

Previously in 1975, we were lucky to see several shows in the beautiful and almost intimate Hilton Showroom, but they never compared to how close and special that concert in Ft. Wayne, Indiana was to these lifelong Elvis fans. Memories....pressed between pages of my mind!
 
After August of 1977, we started our own fan club called the "Taking Care of Presley Memorial Benefit Committee." A group of Elvis’ fans and friends felt it was important to not only continue the legacy of Elvis' music but to also emulate his generosity and charitable ways. Our events have raised almost $300,000 for the Special Olympics and other charities including Presley Place, the Elvis Presley Trauma Center and Marian Cocke’s Elvis Presley Memorial Dinner. Last year was the 20th Anniversary of our annual Elvis FANtasy Fest in Portage, IN, which hosts one of the qualifying contest for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. I’m delighted to associate our event with this series and look to a bright future to continue doing well for our Special Olympic friends, and doing our part to continue Elvis’ legacy of music, giving and friendship.

The only Elvis Week we’ve missed was in 1998 when our granddaughter was born on August 8. This includes 1978 when it was just a few fans sitting inside the gates on August 15 for the very first “Candlelight Vigil.”  We’ve visited Graceland and Memphis many times and I especially remember the year that Priscilla was there for the first day issue of the Elvis stamp. It was exciting to purchase and postmark our stamps at the Graceland post office and see the fireworks exploding over the mansion.

We were also instrumental in the construction of a marker at the former site of Market Square Arena in downtown Indianapolis, IN, to commemorate the site of Elvis’ last concert. The marker which is now a stop on a historic walk for downtown also houses a time capsule holding remembrances and artifacts from numerous fans. I enclosed one of the scarves that I received from Elvis. It’s hard to imagine what people will talk about at the time it is opened, but 35 years after his passing and with his popularity showing no signs of waning, someone will probably still know exactly about Elvis having given out scarves during his shows and will still relate to the memories of his fans.  
 
What an amazing man and what an amazing legacy.