In his later years, Elvis Presley notoriously used a lot of silk scarves on stage. According to the Elvis History Blog, Presley’s practice of giving away scarves started in September 1970 in Phoenix, Arizona. At that show, Presley gave his green scarf to a young fan in the front row, and her joyous reaction eventually led to Presley continuing the practice.
I remember as a kid watching his 1973 Hawaii special and being puzzled and amazed as he used scarf after scarf to dab his sweat, giving each scarf to a happy audience member. Watch how a little bit of Elvis brings such joy as he sings “Love Me.”
In more recent years, even as I have continued to listen to Elvis Presley’s music, I have not given much thought to those scarves. But this year, on All-Star Celebrity Apprentice, the season’s runner-up Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller revealed where the scarves came from as he discussed the charity he was representing on the show.
Each scarf Elvis used did a little bit of good beyond drying his face and thrilling a fan. Elvis and his manager Colonel Tom Parker supported a charity Opportunity Village by buying all of the scarves from this organization that still provides a number of programs for people with intellectual disabilities.
This local Las Vegas news channel tells the story about Opportunity Village and Elvis.
Knowing the story behind the scarves now makes me smile even more when I see Elvis using them on stage. Now that the King is not around, if you would like to walk a mile in Elvis’s shoes and help Opportunity Village, you may donate at the organization’s website.
[Update August 2013: A recent discussion about this post on the Elvis Collectors website recounts a different scarves story from Ed Bonja, Elvis’s photographer and tour manager from 1970-1977. According to the post, Bonja explained that in early 1975 Colonel Parker became concerned about the high cost of the scarves so they began ordering cheap scarves from Korea. It is possible Elvis got the scarves from both sources or that after awhile they stopped getting them from Opportunity Village, which lists itself as “the official manufacturer of Elvis’ scarves” on its website. Even if Opportunity Village did not supply all of the scarves, it is still a good cause and worth checking out its website.]
What do you think of Elvis and his scarves? Leave your two cents in the comments.
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