Sorry I Missed It: On Presley, the Circle City, and Immortality

Posted by on Jun 26, 2015 in Sorry I Missed It | No Comments

Ryan_FeltonElvis lives.

Now here’s the part where the writer would point to your heart and add, “. . . in here.” But we are not in the same room, so I can’t, and I’m sorry – but the King is dead.

There’s no use telling some people, though. A surprisingly vast number of conspiracy theorists and rock ‘n roll enthusiasts can’t help falling in love with the idea that – even today, when he would be 80 – Elvis Presley’s still in hiding, having shunned his life of jazzy jumpsuits and Memphis mansions for a simpler existence. (In this case, “simpler” being a convoluted mess of assumed identities and attempts to conceal one of the most famous faces of all time.)

The news of his untimely death had most Elvis fans all shook up, but a loudly skeptical faction maintain to this day that he’s either still alive or, at least, didn’t die in 1977. Exhibit A in many theorists’ arsenal is the King’s final live performance.

This historic concert occurred on June 26, 1977 in Indianapolis’s own (and erstwhile) Market Square Arena.

An undeniably cool piece of music and Indianapolis history, the MSA show capped off a tour well past his first “official” comeback of ’68. At the time, this string of performances were notorious disappointments to fans, with many noting that the King was unintelligible and invoked bizarre mannerisms, which makes one wonder how dedicated these so-called fans really were if they hadn’t noticed these traits in their hero before 1977. The retroactive farewell tour and in particular the Indianapolis show have, in hindsight, become an indelible hunk of Americana, and it is Elvis’s appearance in the Circle City that has reached legend status in the intervening years.

18,000 people gathered to watch Elvis shimmy his way through Presley originals like “Jailhouse Rock,” “Teddy Bear,” and… well, beyond that, a heck of a lot of covers. In his white-and-gold jumpsuit, the King stood proudly shrouded in an unending rain of ladies’ scarves. And although he regrettably “limited his karate movements” according to a review in the Indianapolis Star, by all accounts the King was rather spry and energetic on June 26. Skeptics will gladly point out how healthy Elvis seemed at his final public appearance, for starters, and from there will cite a number of supposed hidden messages the musician snuck into his Indy act.

He opened the evening to the blaring notes of Richard Strauss’s tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra, the theme from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Presley was a reported fan of that film and, as some True Believers claim, used its musical cue to send a message to his fans in Indianapolis. This writer is loath to overstate the obvious, but Elvis’s “death” occurred on 08/16/1977, and (I know, duh) 8 + 16 + 1977 = 2001. He may as well have dropped a black monolith onto the stage and screamed, “Awuhh-huh! I’m going to fake my own death in August!”

As if that weren’t enough, in the midst of one of his interlude vamp sessions, a sly Elvis remarked that “I don’t look very good now, but I will look good in my coffin.” Though it may seem to the average person to be nothing more than a curiously morbid joke, many keen-eared pursuers of “The Pelvis” have read between the lines since and lifted the thin veil laid here. “He was telling us something,” they say. “He wanted us to know!”

The astute reader may be rolling her or his eyes, but before you jump to your own conclusions, consider this: at the very end of the show, Presley waved goodbye to the crowd and told them, “We’ll meet again. God bless. Adios.”

Knowing that, it’s hard to argue the claims of Elvis turning up at rural Indiana covered bridge festivals and all over Kalamazoo.

Perhaps I’m being overly facetious here. As aware as I am of Presley’s contributions to music and culture (his propensity for covering lesser-known artists’ tunes notwithstanding), I was not here to witness him break that ground. For those privy to his hip-shakin’ and hound-doggin’, it could be difficult to accept the tragic end their idol met. After all, he was only 42 (in age and pants size)! I’d not begrudge anybody the fantasy of a secret agent Elvis Presley infiltrating the mafia (and that’s a popular one), even though personally I prefer my Elvis fighting mummies in a retirement home.

And though this writer doesn’t buy the “Elvis Lives” conspiracy theories (I’m more of a “Paul is Dead” kind of guy), what I especially love about all this is the place it gives Indianapolis in pop culture history. Our dearly-missed Market Square Arena, though hard-fought over by and lost to fans of Elvis and history, may not have survived the tides of time, but one piece of it still remains: in the parking lot where MSA once stood there is a plaque dedicated to this momentous concert.

One can only hope that some intrepid fan has taken a sufficiently close look at that thing for any hidden, da Vinci Code cryptography.

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