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CONCERT DATE: August 31, 1976. Macon, GA.

Paunchy Elvis Struts For Adoring Crowd
by Cath Coleman
The Macon Telegraph
Wednesday, September 1, 1976

Elvis Presley shimmered when he shimmyed and doted on a sell-out crowd Tuesday night - his second in as many years in the Macon Coliseum.

The 41-year-old legenday singer, with an unmistakable paunch, strutted and pranced before 10,088 ticket-buying fans, most half his age or less.

A few more bumps and grinds, the kind that center around his rotating knees and gyrating hips, would have kept the screams going forever. As it was, the 80-minute set was spattered with spot-hysteria and most of the Pelvis's lyrics were easily audible - except in the usual Coliseum blind spots.

Presley's sky-blue knit pants and vest were heavy with sequins and red, blue and gold stones. His white, wide-sleeved shirt was open nearly to his waist.

With every movement, every shake of his coal-black hair, the spotlights danced and played off his costume - and off the red hot rocks on four out of five fingers.

Presley's fans - obvioulsy some of the most loyal in show business - seemed to love every minute of it and waited patiently for opening acts to end.

When the traditional opening theme of "2001" began its crescendo from the horns, guitars, piano and drums of Presley's 20-member band, the electricity sparkled and the crowd roared.

From "C.C. Rider" and "Fever" through "Love Letters" and "I'm so Hurt," the audience was Presley's alone. An extraheavy squad of Macon policemen struggled to keep sceraming girls from the stage and didn't always succeed.

Stuffed animals, flowers, toys - seemingly everything was tossed on the stage in hopes that PResley might reciprocate with one of his frequently dotted scarves or, better yet, a kiss.

"That was a good one, honey." Presley joked after an especially enthusiastic, smooch. "I'll just have to wear a patch over one eye."

The phenomenon that is Presley started two months ago when the $12.5- tickets sold out in about two hours. That same unquestioning Presley devotion was obvious Tuesday night, as the original rock-and-roller did it all over again for fans who might have nothing else in common except him.

Saralyn Foster, 43, came from Atlanta with her daughter, 23 year-old Diane Mills and parked in the very front row. How they got their tickets was a secret not divulged.

"I think it's the way he moves," said Diane of Presley's appeal. "When he gets to wiggling that leg - Oh, Lord!"

Her mother took another approach. "He's so sincere. He builds you up with every song," said Mrs. Foster, who admitted she has been disappointed with Elvis's performance in Atlanta in April.

Mrs. David Rodgers, 26, of Macon left her husband at home while she was front-row-center for her first view of Presley.

"He sings good, and then he looks good," she said, putting his good points in order.

Her cousin, 29 year-old Jan Shutts of Macon, put it more simply. She was there, "Because I love Elvis - everything about him."

That kind of idolatry probably sold a lot of $2 souvenir books and $5 Elvis buttons, not to mention pennants, T-shirts, photographs, etc.

It was all part of the traditional Presley hype - the buildup that started hours earlier when the durable singer and his entourage swooped into Lewis B. Wilson airport at 1:30 am Tuesday - 20 hours before he bounded onstage at the Coliseum.

Presley's private, red white and blue, four-engine jet was parked on the tarmac in front of a couple hundred die-hard fans who guessed - correctly - that last year's security regimen might be repeated at the airport.

but these fans were not treated to the kisses and autographs Presley distributed last year. Rex Elder, airport aviation director, said Presley was decidedly more "secretive" this time around.

"Last time he walked over and kissed a couple of girls," said Elder. "This time he just got right in the car and left".

And Presley's atomobile was not the Cadillac limousine that fans trailed to Macon's Hilton Hotel last year. The high-powered Las Vegas headliner piled into a 1970, four-door Chrysler for the 20-minute drive into Macon, a car-conscious airport employe reported.

The jailhouse rocker and high roller established his usual strong-arm atmosphere at the Macon Hilton, where he reserved the top three floors (last year it was only the top two).

Elevators were not rigged to stop below the Presley floors said Hilton manager anthony Muto, but guards were posted at all possible entrances to ward off over-anxious fans.

Muto said the three-floor quarantine really was not a high-priced proposition, "It's only a token" reimbursement, since Presley has an agreement with the Hilton chain, said Muto.

Security was even tighter at the Coliseum.

"THis is the the toughest outfit that comes to Macon," said Lt. Robert Utley, who assured the curious that nobody, but NOBODY was allowed backstage this year.

Mayor Macon Buckner Melton, who attended the cncert with his wife and some friends, said he had not asked for an audience with Presley and would not repeat the key to the city offer of his predecessor, Ronnie Thompson, who was there, too.

Whatever Presley's secret is - the one that has sustained him since his first million seller, "Heartbreak Hotel," in 1955 - he's still got it.

It makes his fans overlook his puffy face and sagging belly, the fact that he only slings his guitar and doesn't strum it, and a voice that sounds great - especially with a 10-voice backup.

The secret makes people like 18 year old Verba Kaiser of Macon declare, "I gotr what I came for," and mean half of a scarf. The other half went to another girl who just wouldn't let go.

And the secret made 41 year old Beverly Kirby of Warner Robins ansd her five, ticketless daughters clamor for just a look at Presley as he was whisked inside the Coliseum.

Without tickets, they came just for a glimpse.

"I've loved him all my life," sighed Mrs. Kirby. She pointed to her daughters 7,9,12,16 and 18.

"The're just beginning to love him"

Courtesy of Francesc Lopez