Interview with Connie Stevens
Connie played 'Cricket Blake' in the popular Television detective series Hawaiian Eye from 1959 to 1962, a role that made her famous.
In a 2003 with Larry King on CNN's Larry King Live, Stevens recounted that while on the set of 'Hawaiian Eye' she was told she a telephone call from Elvis Presley. She didn't believe it, but in fact it was him, inviting her to a party, saying he would come to her house and pick her up personally. They dated for a time and she says they remained lifelong friends.
Q : Tell us how you first met Elvis.
A : I think he called me is what happened. He said, 'Come on over, we're havin a party,' or something. I think that's how, I didn't believe it was him at first, but it was him. All by himself on the phone. And so I went and, to that old Hollywood house there, a lot of fun. Pool tables, a lotta people around. The best was hearing Elvis actually sing. You know? Actually sit there and, to become part of that group was, of course, I was just such a baby and so naive and, my little bow and my crinoline petticoats.
So I was, you know, wide eyed, very bewildered for a long time.
Q : This was around the time you were doing 'Hawaiian Eye', right?
A : I think so. He made me very comfortable, though. And he loved my voice, the sound of my voice. He had me singin the song every five minutes, and he'd say, 'Ohhh,' and all the boys would go, 'Oh my God, oh my God.' He said, 'Did ya hear that, did ya hear that, do it again, do it again.' He'd play and sing. So those are the nice memories that you harbor in your heart for a long time. This is the first time I've ever talked about all this.
Q : So you started dating Elvis, didnt you? What were typical dates with Elvis like?
A : Typical dates, I tell ya, they were crazy. I think I was one of the few girls who said, 'I don't care, I wanna go to the movies tonight.' I know this is gonna sound very strange but he was afraid of a large crowd being there by himself. And so we finally went, he listened to me long enough. And we went to Graumans Chinese, and I thought, I'll never put this guy through this again. I remember Joe givin him some money in his pocket. And he was nervous as hell. And we went out in the car and he wore his favorite cap and we ran out of gas too by the way. And he was just panic stricken. I says, 'Don't worry, we'll push this car.' We pushed the car into the gas station. And we went to see, we missed the beginning of the picture. Cause there were too many people who recognized him going in. We missed the end of the picture.
Q : Do you remember the picture?
A : I can't remember the picture. But, that's why I can't remember it, I didn't see the beginning and I didn't see the end. And I thought, I'm never gonna put him through this again. And sure enough, we got out, we got into the car and we were goin' home, laughin' about the whole night and everything and he went to reach for his favorite cap and it was gone. So it was typical of, you know, people wanting a piece of him all the time. And those of us who didn't want a piece of him, we wanted a part of his heart, you know, a part of him. And even though I didn't see him for a lot years, you know, I think we saw each other on and off for maybe about two years. And I never spoke about him. I denied it, you know, so that I think it gave him a comfort level.
I cared what happened to his life. So consequently, we reattached many times later. Especially in Las Vegas. And I probably have a lot to thank to him, because I remember, I just didn't wanna do a lotta things I was asked to do at the studio, and I wanted to branch out and, my agent at the time, Stan Kamen, one of the world famous agents who always had an eye, he would come up to Vegas and he said, you know, you've gotta go to Vegas. And I said, oh, I'd be scared to death. And I think it was because I believed Elvis. And he told me, always told me that I had a sound and that I should just sing, just sing for the people. And then sometimes the other doesn't even matter. So, it gave me kind of the courage that when somebody else said it, in Las Vegas, come on, just stand up there on the stage and put a Hawaiian Eye, you know, lei around your neck and sing a couple songs and just talk to the people. I trusted that instinct.
And of course, I worked there for 12, 15, 20 years after that.
Q : And Elvis trusted and respected you very much.
A : I would hope so. I would imagine, you know, you never know what the other person is thinking. All I know is that I would just get flowers, I would occasionally speak with him on the phone, and I remember this one incident. I started going with Bill Medley. And we were driving around one night. And we got to talkin about Elvis, how much we really cared, and how worried we were about his isolation and so forth. I said 'Let's go steal him. We'll put a hat on the guy, we'll put a moustache if we have to. And you and I will take him to places that had become our haunts at night.' Because you can't go to sleep if you're performing in Las Vegas. So you find other things to do. And so I called Joe. I said, 'Got this crazy idea. Bill and I wanna come up.' And he goes, 'Yeah, that would be great.' He says, 'I'll sneak ya up the back elevator, we won't say a word, you know, until he's actually there.' And we were so excited. I said to Bill, 'We got him.' So we made all these plans, we had so many friends that were gonna meet us and surprise him, and we were just gonna hang out at some pizza parlor or something like that, and just like I did with Bobby Darin, til 7:00 in the morning, just sit there and talk about our lives and talk about where we had come from and how we were gonna watch out for our families, and, you know, all of those, cause we all grew up together.
And we went up there, and there was the usual thousand people there. And we waited around. And I'll never forget Elvis face. He walked in the room, cause Joe had said, 'Hey, Connie's here,' something like that. And he walked out and he was smiling, and he saw Bill, he saw me, and for a split second he went, 'Wait a minute, you know, this is kinda my territory.' And then he went, 'No.' He said, 'This is good. This is really good, you guys, wow, that's perfect.' And so we told him what we wanted to do and he said, 'Wow, that'd be great, it's gonna be fun.' He never went. By the time the karate started and the thousand people just trying to get a piece of him. You know, and it was our night too. And we said, 'We'll see ya, babe, you know, we love you.' And he said, 'I love you guys, I love you guys.' And I never saw him again. That was pretty late in the game.
Q : Why do you think he wouldn't go out, was it because he was afraid he'd be recognized?
A : He had a strange fear, and I don't know what that fear was, but he had a fear. And I think that he was afraid in a strange way, I sort of analyzed this over the years, that maybe, I don't know, maybe his daughter and Joe, who was so close to him and could tell you, but maybe it was that he couldn't do it with everybody.
I'll tell you one thing. This is really funny. And I was married twice. And several guys in my life that might as well have been marriages. But my dad, to the day, we didn't talk about it before the day before he died, but his choice for me was Elvis. And he always said, that is the boy that you had the most in common with. And you don't even know it. I remember him goin' to the house, and my father would be out there watering the yard. And I'd be gathering up things and the next thing I know we were an extra hour because he'd be out there with my dad, just talkin' about life, talkin' about stuff, whatever they would talk, my father was a musician so of course they had that to talk about. And the last time I think my dad saw him, before we ended our relationship, he used to tell him, 'That hat looks so great on you,' you know, he used to tell him, wear it in the movies. And Elvis would say, 'I can't wear this hat,' cap, a peacap, remember that? 'I can't wear this in movies, you know, I'll look like a jerk,' or whatever he was saying. And so as we were walkin' out the driveway, Elvis went over and he put it on my dad's head like that. And he says, 'You look just as good in that, Teddy,' you know, and it was really cute. And whatever they talked about, they really clicked. On another level than, 'Hey, I'm takin' your daughter out.' And I think that that's the way he was.
Q : What is your favorite Elvis film?
A : Well it was probably 'Kid Galahad', cause we were on location together.
Elvis Presley and Connie Stevens on the set of 'Kid Galahad'
Q : When was the first time you saw Elvis, was it on television in the 50s?
A : I think so. I think it was on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Q : What went through your mind when you first saw Elvis?
A : I thought this was the handsomest guy I'd ever seen. I mean it is a tossup, now Bobby Conrad will kill me if he hears this, because he was pretty hot himself. But he was just so beautiful. And he had eyes, mischievous eyes that darted around the room. So he had the facility, to me, of talking to you, but if he darted one way or the other, that person was included big time. So he could grab them all in at the same time. And I noticed that right away. I was riveted like everybody else.
So when he called me, that's why I didn't believe it at first. And then I was glad I went.
Q : Do you have a favorite Elvis song?
A : I think, I love 'Love Me Tender'. I love some of the gospel things. As I recall, one of his favorite singers was from the Ink Spots. And one thing that he did tell me was, he just loved the sound of somebody's voice that could get a bass timbre. And I remember later on through the years, who, you know, Eddie Fisher by no means was a favorite singer, or that didn't even enter into it, but one of the things that he did say to me once was. He's got a real beautiful bottom to his voice, he should use more. This was like, 20 years later. Or so. And for Elvis to pick that up and still be talkin about that, where, our connection, I thought that was very interesting.
Q : Do you remember what the year was the last time you went up to see Elvis?
A : I was playing at the Flamingo. But I was under contract to the Hilton as well. And, for about nine years, so I played, I was only home eight weeks a year, so that gives you an idea, at that particular time. And I hit like a meteorite in Las Vegas, I was there a lot. I had a popular show. I would get flowers and, you know, how ya doin? or a phone call. And then it became infrequent. And I was sorry about that, and didn't know why, and, because our lives just spread apart.
But you know our daughters are just a few days apart, which is kind of ironic. And I don't even know if a lot of people know this, but the girls used to go to the same baby park. Where the nannies would sit there and talk, you know, while we were sleepin' til noon after working til two and 3:00 in the morning. And what, they looked, a very, very much alike when they were little tiny babies. And one time, Elvis nanny picked up Joely to take her home. And mine went running, wait, wait, wait, you've got the wrong one. So one of these days, I think Joely and Lisa Marie should get together, I think they're just two days apart. And so, that's another thing we had in common. And, and seeing the baby and seeing him happy for a while was important. Cause I was as well. And, you know, it was like our team, yeah, you know, when you are devoted and you have something in common like that, you always root for each other. And I would hope that he felt the same for me.
Q : Where were you when you found out Elvis had passed away?
A : I think I was with Bill. And I think that he, if I wasn't with him, it was the first phone call. And I cried real hard about it. And so did Bill. You know.
Q : What do you think it is about Elvis that his legend continues to grow more and more each year?
A : All of those things I talked about. He was a purposeful young man. He really wanted to entertain the world, and he was at a time, the timing was right. He was innocent in a way. And he was yet to achieve what I think his full potential was, frankly, as a human being. And frankly, I'm sure Bill and I have talked about this many times, I for one am sorry that I didn't reach out more. Because I think at the end of where his life ended, was when we should have been there more. And I've often regretted that. But, as what happens with a very big star, you have a tendency to think that they're ok, they're surrounded. Which he was, most of the time. But, you know, instinctively we all feel we should have been there a little bit more for him.
Q : What did Elvis personally mean to you?
A : He was one of the loves of my life. I could have spent a lifetime with him. And I knew it was never to be. So I was content to have that and that's probably why I haven't spoken is cause I was content to be, have that little part in his heart that was real. When there were just so many.
Q : We all love you and thank you for taking the time.
A : Thank you, thanks.
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Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever.
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