Lucky 13

Phoenix, AZ. September 9, 1970

By Debbie Lynn Gobins

In late July, the night after Tom Jones performed in Phoenix, I was listening to the news and heard that Elvis was coming to Phoenix. The papers said tickets for the show would go on sale in late August at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 

In the meantime, I got many requests for tapings and pictures of Elvis. After school, when I saw anything in the paper on Elvis, I would go around to our neighbors and collect any articles on him that I was able to. 

Later, I heard on the radio that the tickets were already on sale, and had been for two days. All of the $10. 00 seats were sold out. Well, I was quite happy to have a seat at all. That same week, all of the 15, 000 seats were completely sold out. 

We left two hours before the show was to start. When we got there, there were big lines of Elvis fans at each of the many entrances the Coliseum has. We waited, and finally 7:30 came when the doors normally would open... but they did not. When 8:30 came I started to wonder if Elvis was O.K. I thought that I might not even get to see the King. But, finally, the doors opened at 8:30. I later found out that someone had made a prank call stating that there was a bomb set to go off in the Coliseum at 8:30, when the show was to start. 

Eventually we made our way to our seats. I was hoping some miracle would take place so that I could really see Elvis close up, and not a quarter of a mile back. 

I was sitting in my seat where I would see Elvis do his thing, and watching people come in by the hundreds when I saw my cousin. He and his friends had seats in the 13th row.... three of them. I really didn't believe it. 

I sat there in my seat anxiously waiting to see Elvis. Ordinarily I don't talk too much... I'm kind of quiet around people I don't know. But tonight was different. I saw some cameras and was wondering if they were the movie cameras so I asked the man next to me. He said they were, and that the cameras would be filming parts of the audience as well as Elvis. A moment later he pointed out Colonel Parker to me. I was kind of curious how he knew so much, so I asked him if he was related to Elvis or the Colonel. He said his wife, Mrs. Wheeler, was the Colonel's niece. I asked him if he ever met Elvis and he said Elvis came. to their ranch in Casa Grand, Arizona. A little while later a man came over to Mrs. Wheeler and gave her three or four large envelopes. She gave me one of them. Inside there was a huge scarf with a picture of Elvis on each of the corners and Summer Festival printed in the center. Also there were three 8 x 10s and two small photos of Elvis, two pens, and a small calendar. 

Photographer unknown Phoenix, AZ September 9, 1970

Finally, after all of that, the show started. The audience applauded when The Hugh Jarret Singers came on first, then The Sweet Inspirations with a few inspiring numbers. Suddenly the announcer said something that made the audience think that Elvis was coming on... but it was Sammy Shore. When his part of the show was through, the announcer said there would be a short intermission. The audience was simply being tortured. 

During the intermission, Mr. Wheeler introduced me to Linda Martin of Tucson. I knew her name was familiar and realized that I had written to her. While I was talking to her, my cousin Ronnie interrupted us, and before I knew it I was behind stage with many other fans waiting for Elvis to come out. The lights were turned off on stage and off stage. There was a high gate so that you couldn't get close to him, but you could see him clearly if the lights were on. My cousin lifted me up so I could have the best view of Elvis. In the dark, you could see Elvis' outfit glow a little as he went into some light. The group of fans backstage were really excited. 

When the King came on, the audience jumped out of their seats screaming, yelling... and some were even racing toward the stage. He sang quite a few of his popular numbers: " That's Alright, Mama, I've Got A Woman, Love Me Tender, I've Lost You, Lovin' Feeling, Polk Salad Annie, Johnny B. Goode, The Wonder Of You, In The Ghetto, Heartbreak Hotel, Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Suspicious Minds, and Can't Help Falling In Love. " During " In The Ghetto, " he purposely said, "A funny little boy with a hungry nose. " The show was so fantastic! ! ! 

After the performance, our family and some other fans went over to the Town House where he was staying. A couple of his fans were listening to this man with an Elvis tag on, while he was on the phone. He said to have a car ready in five minutes. 

The fans assumed the car was for Elvis. Then he said to the man on the phone that everything was smooth after the show. The car Elvis left in was parked right outside the Coliseum so there would be no problem getting Elvis out. After he was through on the phone, some fans asked him where Elvis was. He said he didn't know anything about Elvis. 

The next week, on my 13th birthday, my dad came home with an envelope with an original photo of Elvis taken by the newspaper photographer. That was the best present I have ever received.

 Originally published in Strictly Elvis No. 33