On April 18, 1972. I was setting in Hemisfair Arena with Patti Sanders and Sandie Bailey as the preshow began for Elvis Presley’s concert in San Antonio.
This was my first of half a dozen times I’d see him perform and had no idea how much that concert would change my life.
My paradigm was Elvis in the movies or from the 1950s. When Also Sprach Zarathustra, the theme from “2001 A Space Odyssey” began the arena was blown away as an energetic, white jump suited- with modishly styled jet black hair– Elvis appeared with thousands of camera lights flashing. We weren’t prepared for the overwhelming response and barrier breaking performance.
Little did the audience know what had been going on behind the scenes. By April 1972, years of tension between Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, had built up to an all-time fervor of angry resentment.
During the filming of the musical documentary “Elvis on Tour,” Elvis and Parker were seen in the heat of a fierce disagreement in the hallway of the Hilton Palacio Del Rio hotel.
One police officer assigned to elevator security called it “one vicious battle of words between the two.”
Down below, while San Antonio celebrated the city’s annual Fiesta party on the River Walk, “Elvis came out of his room in his pajamas and he was not happy,” the officer told his peers later. “I wasn’t quite sure who the big man (Parker) was, but the men around Elvis all moved as far away as they could. One told me it was okay, ‘they both need to clear the air about this.’ I went back towards the elevator but could still hear the yelling.”
The night before, on April 17, Elvis, or one of his “Memphis Mafia,” (entourage) found a bugging device in the limousine taking them to the Hilton Palacio Del Rio hotel.
According to Charlie Hodge, “Elvis, by this time things were so bad, that his first thought it was the Colonel’s people spying on him.”
“Later we found out it was a hidden microphone recording dialogue for the movie ‘Elvis on Tour’,” Memphis Mafia member Hodge explained to Jack Dennis in May 1976.
Cinema Associates, an independent film company from North Hollywood was filming during his San Antonio performance. “But some of us thought Elvis had every right to blame Colonel the way things had been going.”
Somehow the argument between Elvis and the Colonel ended on a positive note that when he arrived for his performance he was prepared to give one of the best shows of his life.
“Elvis On Tour” captures many of the highlights of that prominent concert.
After the show, the Colonel wondered how their relationship would be the remainder of the tour. But the next day, at the Albuquerque Hilton, when he went to Elvis for a “very special request,” there was no tension. In fact, the fulfillment of the request would go down as one of the most tender in Elvis Presley’s history.