Elvis In Hawai'i
Author: Jerry Hopkins
Publisher: The Bess Press
ISBN: 1-57306-142-5 (paperback, 88 pp.)
If you follow the news about Elvis publications, you will have heard about this book for some time already. It's been promised for a while and we've been looking forward to it for at least two reasons: firstly, it is written by Jerry Hopkins, the author who gave us our first real Elvis biography ("Elvis: A Biography") in 1972, and secondly because it deals with a part of the world for which we as fans seem to have a very special liking, Hawaii, or, as this book spells it, "Hawai'i" -- and who am I to argue?
Don't be too put off by the apparently meagre number of pages. There are just 88 of them, and that includes the index, but they are at least large-sized (roughly A4 -- that's US Letter for those of you over there). Mind you, the print is fairly large and much of the real-estate is taken up by a large number of illustrations -- largely photos of Elvis, but also a few of memorabilia, film posters, sheet music, and other interesting items, so there really isn't a huge amount of text anyway. The paper used is heavy and seems to be of good quality, as is the binding, so although this is a "paperback", it presents itself better than most publications of that type.
Jerry Hopkins was a boon to the Elvis fan in 1972. At the time, little printed material was available, other than "Elvis Monthly" and its related annual, "Elvis Special," but these largely contained essays and articles by fans, not the in-depth stuff we were looking for. Hopkins' "Elvis: The Biography" gave us just about all there was to know then about Elvis and we lapped it up. Hopkins returned to Elvis in 1980 with "Elvis: The Final Years," an equally fair look at what had happened in the interim.
Does "Elvis in Hawai'i" live up to its pedigree? Well, yes and no! Let's get the "no" part out of the way first. If you're expecting some nitty-gritty about what Elvis got up to in Hawaii, this book does not provide it. Instead, it deals fairly superficially with Elvis's affection for the islands, what he did there professionally, and what aspects of the islands influenced him. There's nothing heavy here. Instead, "Elvis in Hawai'i" is very much a lightweight book for fans to browse through, enjoying the illustrations (except for the one on page 76, which is really badly reproduced, or perhaps it's just my copy!), some of which have not been seen before, and taking in the text.
There are seven chapters, each of which can be approached separately, even though they are written in chronological order of the periods they cover. In general terms they deal with Elvis's acquaintance with and his first concert in the islands, his efforts on behalf of the Pearl Harbour memorial, his three films there, Aloha Via Satellite, and Elvis's last visit there. Interspersed are some interesting additional pieces, looking more closely at other aspects of the islands, including James Shigeta (who played in "Paradise Hawaiian Style"), Kui Lee (who wrote "I'll Remember You"), Hawaiian memorabilia, and a very interesting, but all too brief look at the relationship between real Hawaiian music and its Caucasian variations.
As in his previous Elvis books, Hopkins remains honest and does not shirk from saying when he doesn't like something, and he clearly doesn't hold either "Girls! Girls! Girls!" or "Paradise, Hawaiian Style" in high regard -- probably rightly so! Quite why he seems to be so impressed with Donna Butterworth, I can't imagine, however, and I don't entirely agree that "We're Coming In Loaded" is about shrimp fishing! The most obvious error in the book is also linked to these two films: the photo that accompanies the Introduction, showing a lei-bedecked Elvis being interviewed by Tom Moffatt at Honolulu airport in 1962 is captioned as showing Elvis "wearing the yachting cap he'll wear in 'Paradise, Hawaiian Style', 1962".
Hopkins' dislike of these two movies is countered by his obvious admiration for Elvis's contribution to the fund-raising efforts required to build the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbour, and he devotes a lot of space to this section, which is also extremely well illustrated. He devotes a couple more pages to the Aloha Via Satellite show, but seems less enthusiastic about it and this is perhaps understandable, for Aloha was more about the show than about the man.
"Elvis In Hawai'i" will not disappoint if you are not looking for any revelations; it's a pleasant read and is well illustrated. Most fans will enjoy it.
copyright December 2002email me!