Few singers have had the impact of Elvis Presley. Born to poverty in rural Mississippi, he soared to stardom in the 1950s and popularized American rock and roll worldwide. Mike O'Sullivan spoke with television producer Albert Fisher who is sharing his reminiscences of the star known as "The King."
Fisher was a young man working for the Seattle World's Fair when the world's biggest star, Elvis Presley, filmed a movie there in 1962. Called It Happened at the World's Fair, it was one of a string of some 30 movies that highlighted his music, but offered little in the way of plot line or acting. Elvis's fans, however, loved his films.
Albert Fisher was just 21 years old, and the production exposed him to the world of moviemaking. He was assigned to help the Hollywood crew, and during the month-long process, he became friends with Elvis. He later went to Hollywood to work as technical advisor as production was being completed at the MGM studios. He recorded what he saw on his movie camera, and recently released his home movies on DVD.
He says when he first met the rock and roll star, he was not a big fan of Elvis.
"But the guy really won me over," he said. "He had such an engaging personality. And the thing that really impressed me about Elvis was that he was a real gentleman. He treated everybody with great kindness and affection, from all the members of the crew to the security people to all the crowds that were there."
Attendance skyrocketed when it was announced that Elvis would be on the fairgrounds filming his movie.
"It was bedlam around him," he said. "The young girls were in tears, screaming out his name and everything. But he'd always turn around and give a nice wave to them."
Fisher once went on a double-date with Elvis. The two men and their dates left the hotel where Elvis was staying, heading to the movies.
"And to be able to do that, at the hotel, we had to go down a service elevator and through the back kitchen way," he said, "because the lobby was filled with fans trying to see Elvis. And we got into just a plain black station wagon. And it took us to the movies."
They watched an Elvis Presley film called Kid Galahad. Elvis's entourage, jokingly known as the Memphis Mafia, had bought enough tickets to clear the last three rows of the theater.
Recalling the event, Fisher said "We waited until the movie began, and then they sneaked us in, and then we left before the movie ended."
Fisher was on the set in Seattle when a child actor got his big break. As the film unfolded, Elvis hired a young boy to kick him in the kneecaps so he could visit a pretty nurse.
"And the kid doesn't even get a credit," he said. "It's the first time he ever made a move. And it's Kurt Russell. He was 10 years old."
Russell went on to become a star in his own right.
Fisher, as a young man, got a close-up view of the colorful characters who surrounded Elvis, including Colonel Tom Parker, the singer's manager. He says that as the star was filming in Seattle, Parker - always the businessman - set up a stand to sell Elvis memorabilia at the world's fair.
After the production had finished and the Seattle World's Fair had ended, Fisher moved to New York to work in television.
"And the day that the movie opened, I got all of my friends together," he said. "I said, let's go to the very first screening at 10 in the morning to see the movie, because I want you all to see my credit come up on the screen as technical adviser. So the credits start to roll in the beginning of the movie, and up comes the credit. It says, "Technical Adviser, Colonel Tom Parker.'"
He later learned that Colonel Parker took the title of technical adviser on all Elvis Presley movies.
Elvis went on to even greater stardom, and Fisher went on to produce television shows in New York and Los Angeles. He says that Elvis, who died in 1977, may be an even bigger star today than when their paths crossed at the Seattle World's Fair.