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CONCERT DATE: June 4, 1976. Atlanta, GA.

Fans Change, But Presley Stays The Same
by Sally Smith
The Atlanta Constitution
June 4, 1976

It all started as a joke. I mean what selfrespecting teeny bopper growing up hip in the sixties rocking out to Rolling Stones and the Beatles would be caught dead grooving on Elvis ? But it happened.

Time: 1966. Place: Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Two girlfriends from my class in high school and myself had travelled out to Naperville to visit another girlfriend, the fourth in a long-time foursome that had been broken up when her parents had the temerity to move and take her with them. We were bored to death.

After all, it was summer and things were slow. Sure, the local boys, having gotten word that three new girls were in town, had dropped by to visit. And we had a good time sneaking out back to smoke a pack of Old Gold cigarettes (which were the cool cigarettes to smoke in Naperville) But it wasn't enough. Just as the boredom was becoming terminal, however, one of my girlfriends noticed an ad in the paper for a movie showing at an overgrown drive-in in the middle of a corn field someplace about 10 miles away.

The movie was called "Girl Happy" and it starred - who else? King Elvis. We snickered, we laughed. We decided to go. Anything was an improvement, we thought, over hanging around Naperville on a summer day.

We lit out for the cornfield. As Elvis's image flickered on to the screen, we bounced up and down and screamed our heads off. We practiced mock swoons and faints. We even leapt out of the car, carooming around the parking lot waving our arms to the air, to the great annoyance of the hard-core Elvis fans seriously engaged in the movie.

It was great fun until, about half way through the movie, we realized to our horror that we actually LIKED Elvis. We were REALLY having a good time at the drive-in watching "Girl Happy."

After that night, it was a downhill roll into idolization of the King. A couple of days later we went to a record store and bought an Elvis album, picturing Elvis on the front looking heavily made-up and dressed in a gold lame suit about ten million sizes too big. We loved it. We'd play "Love Me Tender" and get all misty. Or we'd drop the needle on "Jailhouse Rock" and go hog wild imitating the famous rubber-legged wiggle.

Elvis Presley is still rocking out and still adding fans by the thousands to his already fiercly loyal army that counts among to members anybody and everybody ranging from the young to the peddle-pusher, sneaker and lacquered hair-do set. And the King is returning to the Omni Friday, where his appearances, even after all these years, traditionally cause the rafters to shake and shrieks to reverberate throughout this fair city.

The three shows he will give - Friday and Saturday night at 8:30 pm and Sunday, June 6 at 2:30 p.m. - have been sold out virtually since the first day tickets went on sale. Since then, newspaper ads have been filled with desperate pleas from people who want to barter (one guy offered to trade an old car for two tickets) or buy tickets at just about any price.

"Treat me like a fool, treat me mean and cruel..." Elvis will sing and the crowd will go crazy. "Love Me tender, love me true..." When he genuflexes, thousands of women will salivate. It happens every time. It happened in 1973 when Elvis's first appearance here since 1950's drew 85,000 people to five concerts.

Undoubtedly, Elvis Presley is the top concert attraction in these parts. It's not just the music. Or the sex. An Elvis concert is a social event, a place to go scream and laugh and hope for a scarf or a kiss from the legend himself. They are also nostalgia trips for those now middle-aged and plump (not unlike the legend himself) But for many of Elvis's fans, the King never really changes. somewhere on the back roads of their minds he is still standing center stage circa 1956 gazing into the camera with dark, lidded eyes. He moves his shoulders slightly, adjusting the sport jacket he is wearing. He relaxes his widespread legs, snapping his right knee almost imperceptibly.

"Weeelll, since mah beh bee left me / Ah've found a new place to dwell / It's down on the end of Lonely Street / it's Heartbreak Hotel." Umph! He sneers. He droops his eyelids. He smiles out of the left side of his mouth.

Yeah, times have changed. But for a lot of folks, Elvis hasn't. "Was it the same, honey ?" a tan thin man in white shoes asked his wife on the way out of the 1973 Elvis concert. "He is," she said. "I ain't"

Courtesy of Francesc Lopez