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Elvis in Hawaii

There was a lot of Hawaii in Elvis
By: John Burnett
Source: Hawaii Tribune-Herald
‘Paradise, Hawaiian Style’ was Elvis Presley’s third and last movie filmed in the Aloha State, but the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s lifelong love affair with the islands began with his arrival Nov. 9, 1957, on the cruise ship S.S. Matsonia for a pair of concerts the following day at the old Honolulu Stadium.
‘Elvis liked Hawaii and the Colonel liked Hawaii’, longtime Honolulu events promoter and radio personality Tom Moffatt said, referring to Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ legendary and colorful manager.
Moffatt emceed one of those shows and the late radio icon Ron Jacobs the other. They snagged the coveted gig because an on-air stunt with Jacobs ferrying an Elvis lookalike around town in a convertible while Moffatt broadcast ‘Elvis sightings’ and spun Presley’s records nonstop brought them to the Colonel’s – and the King’s – attention.
Moffatt, now 85 and still active as a promoter and disc jockey, struck up a lasting friendship with Parker that provided him a level of access to Presley few outside the inner circle enjoyed. In fact, he was on the set of Presley’s first Hawaii movie, 1961’s ‘Blue Hawaii’ – again as the result of a radio promotion.
‘I had a walk-on part – that they cut’, Moffatt said and laughed. ‘We did a contest with the Colonel. (Contestants) had to write a letter ‘why I would like to visit Elvis on the set of ‘Blue Hawaii’. And the winner and her mother, we flew to Los Angeles. Jacobs and I went and spent the day at Paramount in Los Angeles. And that’s the most time I got to spend with Elvis, because he was there, and I realized what a nice person he was, and very, very intelligent.
‘Blue Hawaii’ did more for Hawaii than anything the Hawaii Visitors Bureau could’ve done in that period. That put Hawaii on the world map. Everyone who loved Elvis went to see Elvis in ‘Blue Hawaii’ – and they saw Hawaii for the first time’.
‘Blue Hawaii’ led to two more Elvis movies in Hawaii, ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’, in 1962 – which had the hit ‘Return to Sender’ on the soundtrack – and ‘Paradise, Hawaiian Style’ in 1966, which was released 50 years ago this month.
According to legend, Moffatt was at the center of an event while the King was on Oahu to film ‘Paradise, Hawaiian Style’ that led Presley to record a song composed by Kui Lee, a Hawaii entertainment legend who died at 34 of cancer in 1966.
‘The story was, he was driving to dinner one night with his guys, and they were listening to me on the radio, and I played ‘I’ll Remember You’ by Don Ho. And I’ve heard that’s the reason he put the song on his album’, Moffatt said.
‘I’ll Remember You’ was included as a bonus track on the soundtrack album of Elvis’ next movie ‘Spinout’. He also sang it at his ‘Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite’ concert on Jan. 14, 1973, at the then-Honolulu International Center Arena, now known as the Neal Blaisdell Center Arena.
His performance of the song in that show, as well as the dress rehearsal two days earlier – which was filmed as a fail-safe measure against a satellite outage – raised a reported $75,000 for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. The concert was beamed live to 40 countries worldwide but wasn’t aired in the U.S. until April 4 that year, because it was on the same day as Super Bowl VII.
Elvis’ last visit to Hawaii was a family vacation in March 1977, five months prior to his death at 42 Aug. 16, 1977, at his Memphis home, Graceland.
‘He’d come here unannounced at times. He’d be in and out of town, and I wouldn’t even know it’, Moffatt said. ‘He had a place over on the other side of the island (the Sullivan Estate at Pupukea on Oahu’s North Shore), and he’d just hang out there.
‘There was a lot of Hawaii in Elvis’.

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