March 1992: The Elvis Beat #1

And now, one from the archives. I first started writing about Elvis back in 1992. Thirty years ago now, I began an official fan club whose sole purpose was to allow me to write an Elvis newsletter. Not wanting to compete with any existing clubs in my area, I named mine “The Elvis Beat: International Elvis Presley Fan Club.”

The “International” part reflected the lofty ambitions of 16-year-old me. Though The Elvis Beat never obtained any members from outside of the United States, I see The Mystery Train Elvis Blog as a realization of the dream to connect with fellow Elvis fans from all over the world.

I published the newsletter sporadically over the next five years. Most of the time, I printed a master copy using a PC and an ink jet printer. Early issues included literal cut and paste jobs on the paper to include photos, as I did not have a scanner. Then, I would have copies made. Unfortunately, my original master copies have disappeared, but I still have my archive of newsletter copies.

At first, I charged a nominal fee to join, but I soon made it free with the request that members send postage stamps if they could to offset some of the costs. To their credit, most members did send stamps. Still, I would have been in trouble had membership ever exploded much beyond 50 at any given time.

Eventually, I decided to end the club, mostly because I was unable to keep any kind of schedule going on the newsletter. Soon after releasing the last issue in 1997, I began to learn how to create web pages. My first web site would be devoted not to Elvis, though, but to Star Trek.


The Elvis Beat #1 (Cover)

The Elvis Beat #1 (Cover)

Elvis stamp unveiled

On February 24, at the Las Vegas Hilton in Nevada, the dream of millions of Elvis fans finally became reality. United States Postmaster General Anthony Frank, along with Milton Berle and Barbara Eden, officially unveiled two possible versions of an Elvis Presley stamp, one of which will become an official U.S. postage stamp.

The two stamp finalists were chosen from more than 50 entries, according to Frank. One is a circa-1950’s Elvis and the other is circa-1970’s. The public will be given the opportunity to select their favorite through the use of five million ballot cards which will be available at post offices in the month of April. The ballot cards must be mailed with the appropriate postage.

The winning stamp is expected to be announced in May at Graceland, and will be issued in 1993 as the first in a series of American music legends expected to be issued over several years. “He broke new ground,” said Frank, who went on to say that Elvis was the obvious choice to begin the series.

Elvis fans have been lobbying for this recognition for years. Pat Geiger of Vermont began the “Elvis Presley Postage Stamp Campaign” in 1983, and thought that having the stamp passed would be a “simple thing.” In 1987, the first year Elvis became eligible, she quickly found that it wouldn’t be that easy. But after the initial rejections, Elvis is finally to be honored six years later than she had planned.

The Elvis fans have won, and now it is up to the general public to pick their favorite Elvis.


Now (2022)

Elvis Stamp Official Ballot (1992)

Elvis Stamp Official Ballot (United States Postal Service, 1992; from Tygrrius’ collection)

It’s amusing for me to remember how seriously I took the whole Elvis stamp business. If it were taking place now, I would probably only give a brief mention here of the stamp.

Not long before the release of this first issue, I even wrote a “letter to the editor” that appeared in both of our local newspapers in which I defended the 1973 stamp design against typically vicious media portrayals of it as “fat” and “old.” No need to get into that here, because if there’s one thing Elvis fans can agree on is that he was not overweight or old in Aloha From Hawaii.

After releasing this newsletter, I can remember going to the post office the first day the stamp ballots became available. I grabbed three of them: One to vote and two to keep. You see, I considered it wrong to vote more than once. Remember, this was serious business. Turns out, I should have used all three ballots, as my choice was beaten rather handily. But that’s a topic for the next issue!


Then

Back to 1992, here’s a look at some of the other content from that first issue.

In A Flash (page 2): Covered three additional news stories (“That’s The Way It Is and Elvis On Tour outtakes to be released,” “Graceland is named a national historical landmark,” and “Five disc set to be released for fifteenth anniversary”).

Editor’s Corner: (page 3): Included a brief welcome to the first issue and a re-print of my defense of the 1973 stamp.

Walk a mile in his shoes (page 4): Speaking of things I find funny that I cared about back then, I devoted two whole pages to reviewing various portrayals of Elvis in movies or TV shows, ranging from 1979’s Elvis, starring Kurt Russell, up to the 1990 Elvis TV series, starring Michael St. Gerard (with lots of mostly bad ones in between). If you are curious, I determined Gerard as being the best of the lot. I pretty much stay away from these kinds of movies now, but I’d probably still pick Gerard as the best. We’ll see if Austin Butler can deliver the goods in the upcoming ELVIS movie.

Reader’s Comments and Memories (page 6): I wanted The Elvis Beat to be interactive and inclusive, so this page consisted of me begging for people to send content.

Elvis Super Trivia Challenge (page 7): Twenty questions, with the answers printed upside down at the bottom of the page (probably another literal cut and paste job to achieve the upside down text, but I honestly don’t remember). Questions ranged from, “What song is played at the conclusion of ELVIS (1968 TV Special)?” to “Which LP albums did Elvis record in the ‘Jungle Room’ at Graceland?”

The 1956 Albums (page 8): This was a word search containing the songs from the albums Elvis Presley and Elvis. It was a nod towards the types of content I had seen in other Elvis newsletters at the time. I soon dropped this concept.

In Dreams Of Yesterday…1971 (page 9): I could think of no better way to conclude the first issue of The Elvis Beat than to include Elvis’ entire acceptance speech for being recognized as one of the ten outstanding young men of 1970 by the national Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees). I still find his words from that moment inspiring:

“Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to thank the Jaycees for electing me as one of the Outstanding Young Men.

When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream that I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times.

These gentlemen over here, it is these type people who care, who are dedicated. You realize that it is […] possible that they might be building the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s not too far-fetched from reality.

I’d like to say that I learned very early in life that:

‘Without a song, the day would never end,
Without a song, a man ain’t got a friend,
Without a song, the road would never bend,
Without a song.’

So I keep singing a song. Goodbye. Thank you.”

[Originally Published March 3, 2012; revised March 24, 2022]

Elvis Movies: SPINOUT

Mike McCoy tests his #11 427 Cobra in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

Mike McCoy tests his #11 427 Cobra in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Today, we will look at Elvis Presley’s 22nd movie, Spinout. Before we do that, however, I want to take a sidetrack to mention Baz Luhrmann’s ELVIS film. I usually dislike movies that attempt to portray Elvis, so I was fully intending to skip this one. That is, until I saw the preview trailer that Warner Brothers released last week.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures channel (YouTube)

The ELVIS trailer shocked me. Austin Butler seems to have captured the essence of Elvis. He has the body language and moves down without looking like an impersonator. I figured he would look like a clown once they showed him in a jumpsuit, but he pulls that difficult look off, too. I loved the unexpected use of “Unchained Melody” from 1977, which gave me chills. The production design is obviously top-notch, with a keen attention to detail.

The story of Elvis is a challenge to portray in an effective way. It is a tale of both triumph and tragedy. His life is both inspiring and depressing. He achieves the American dream many times over, but slowly allows it all to erode.

“The image is one thing, the human being is another,” Elvis said in 1972. “It’s very hard to live up to an image.” Once Elvis died in 1977, the image won and the human that he once was all but disappeared. Can Luhrmann’s film humanize Elvis again? If the script is as solid as the trailer, this could really turn out to be something special. ELVIS opens in the United States on June 24.

No need to wait until June to enjoy Elvis, though. Let’s take a drive with the real Elvis in Spinout.

Elvis Presley is Mike McCoy in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

Elvis Presley is Mike McCoy in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)


“It’s Elvis with his foot on the gas and no brakes on the fun!!!”

Spinout

Spinout (MGM)
Wide Release: November 23, 1966 (United States)
Starring: Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Diane McBain
Written By: Theodore J. Flicker & George Kirgo
Music Score By: George Stoll
Produced By: Joe Pasternak
Directed By: Norman Taurog
Running Time: 93 Minutes


In Spinout, Elvis Presley stars as Mike McCoy. Is Mike a racecar driver who also sings or a singer who also races cars? Folks, we don’t ask such questions when watching an Elvis Movie. We just sit back and enjoy the ride.

View from the #9 car, driven by Mike McCoy, during the Santa Fe Road Race in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

View from the #9 car, driven by Mike McCoy, during the Santa Fe Road Race in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Outside of the cars, there is not a lot of action in Spinout. The film focuses more on the romance side of the Elvis Movie formula. Three, count them, three women are vying for Mike’s affections. There’s heiress Cynthia (Shelley Fabares), who runs him off the road in the opening scene. There’s also author Diana (Diane McBain), who declares him the “perfect American male,” with the prize being herself, naturally. Even the drummer in his band, Les (Deborah Walley), has been secretly holding feelings for him.

Deborah Walley is Les, Diane McBain is Diana, and Shelley Fabares is Cynthia in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Deborah Walley is Les, Diane McBain is Diana, and Shelley Fabares is Cynthia in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Mike is initially unable to decide what to do about his admirers. “I’ve gotta think about it,” he says. “I’ll let you know after the race. I think better when I’m driving.”

Shelley Fabares is Cynthia Foxhugh in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

Shelley Fabares is Cynthia Foxhugh in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Spinout is the second of three Elvis Movies in which Shelley Fabares appears. She is one of my favorite Elvis co-stars, so I really don’t understand how Mike found deciding among the three women to be so difficult. Anyway, the movie also includes a couple of fun in-jokes in regards to Elvis’ real-life past – the Ed Sullivan Show warrants a mention and Mike refers to a wandering canine as a “hound dog.”

Though production on Spinout began only a few months after the premiere of the Get Smart television series, be sure to listen out for Mike doing what sounds to my ears like a quick Don Adams impression with Agent 86’s “Would you believe?” catch-phrase.

Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) rehearses "Never Say Yes" in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM). Note the 12-string guitar.

Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) rehearses “Never Say Yes” in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM). Note the 12-string acoustic electric guitar.

Mike does sing quite a bit in the movie. “All That I Am,” “Am I Ready,” “Never Say Yes,” and “Spinout” are all strong songs. “Never Say Yes” is rare in the Elvis catalog in that it includes the “Bo Diddley Beat,” which is fun to hear. On the other side of the coin, “Smorgasbord” is awful.

Mike McCoy drives the #9 car during the Santa Fe Road Race in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Mike McCoy drives the #9 car during the Santa Fe Road Race in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

For a movie named Spinout, there is less racing than you might expect. The Santa Fe Road Race featured in the finale is well-filmed. A humorous subplot involving Mike’s #11 car being stolen by another man vying for Cynthia becomes tiresome, though. Mike ends up substituting for Shorty Bloomquist (James McHale) in car #9 to chase after his own car. Look quick and you’ll see Elvis’ friends Red West and Joe Esposito in Shorty’s pit crew. Cynthia also winds up driving onto the road course, so she and Mike tangle again, creating a bookend of sorts to the opening.

Spinout sometimes qualifies as fun, but all too often feels like it is running on empty.

Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) races in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) races in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)


Spinout Tote Board

  • Kisses: 28
  • Songs: 9
  • Cars Driven By Mike: 4
  • Women Chasing Mike: 3
  • Cars Crashed Into Water: 2
Audience members look on as Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) sings "Adam And Evil" in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

Audience members look on as Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) sings “Adam And Evil” in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

Songs In Spinout

  1. “Spinout” (1966), written by Sid Wayne, Ben Weisman, & Dolores Fuller
  2. “Stop, Look, and Listen” (1966), written by Joy Byers
  3. “Adam And Evil” (1966), written by Fred Wise & Randy Starr
  4. “All That I Am” (1966), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  5. “Never Say Yes” (1966), written by Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman
  6. “Am I Ready” (1966), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  7. “Beach Shack” (1966), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kaye
  8. “Smorgasbord” (1966), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  9. “I’ll Be Back” (1966), written by Sid Wayne & Ben Weisman
Elvis Presley is Mike McCoy and Shelley Fabares is Cynthia Foxhugh in 1966's SPINOUT (MGM)

Elvis Presley is Mike McCoy and Shelley Fabares is Cynthia Foxhugh in 1966’s SPINOUT (MGM)

The Mystery Train’s Spinout Scorecard

  • Story: 2 (out of 10)
  • Acting: 5
  • Fun: 4
  • Songs: 6
  • Overall: 4 (For Elvis Fans Only)

Further Spinout Reading


TMT Files: Mike McCoy

Click image for larger, full-color version


“I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”
1 Corinthians 9:23-25