Saturday afternoon, before the interview, I dropped by a girlfriend's house. She used to work for Elvis a little and I wanted to ask her about him. We decided to go swimming. We were out in her pool and she got a phone call. It was some of Elvis' people. They wanted her to come by and pick them up and all go out to the beach. She told them, 'Give me half an hour'.
She dressed to the hilt. Makeup. Cashmere sweater. High heels. The works. She said she would change back into a swim suit at the beach. Not to worry. I had nothing to wear but what I came in. Not to worry, she said.
We drove the back streets of Bevery Hills. We turned into the underground garage at the back of the hotel and took a rear elevator upstaires. We were just picking up some guys, then going on down to the beach. When the elevator door opened, we were suddenly in a fabulous suite. Elvis was standing on the other side of the room in a crowd in front of a huge picture window. I nearly died. I stopped breathing. There were gorgeous women evrywhere. Handsome men. Rafts of them. I had on an old faded pair of stretch toreador pants. Not one touch of makeup anywhere. Hair still damp from the pool but a little curl coming back in it. And Dad's old corduroy shirt. Then I remembered the worst. I was barefoot. No shoes.
I wedged my way through the crowd to a corner seat and sat down on my bare feet to cover them up. I tried to look like I didn't have a care. I hoped nobody in that mob would bother to give me a second look. Then a little guy came over, neat and smiling. 'You're Jimmy Wakely's kid?' he said. He had a kind of nice Southern drawl. 'You know my Dad?' Who is this guy, I wondered. 'I'm Charlie Hodge', he said, 'I sang with the Foggy River Boys before me and Elvis went to Germany. Yea, I worked with your Dad on the Ozark Jubilee on ABC'. He sat down on the floor beside me and started chatting away. He was adorable. I just loved him. He made me feel like I was safe and at home there. I actually was feeling like I would get away with it when I looked up and there was Elvis looking down at us with an amused smile.
'You sure look like kin folks', Elvis said, eyeing my clothes. 'Maybe like a cousin of mine'. I poked at my ropy hair and said, 'Your cousin must be a real knockout'. 'It's not a girl', he said, 'It's a boy, Named Billy Smith. You two sure look alike'. Charlie jumped up, 'This is Jimmy Wakely's little girl, Lindalee', he said. It was not the way I planned to meet Elvis Presley at all. I wanted to cry. Elvis winked, 'Stand up and let me see your outfit, Lindalee', he said. I got up and stood there, bare feet and all. 'Lindalee', he said, 'you look like family to me. From now on, that's the way we're going to treat you anytime you come see us'. He patted my shoulder and walked on. I was in a state of shock but it began to feel real good.
I was still feeling that crazy kind of high on Monday on my way to the interview. During a break in one of the dance sequence, Elvis ducked into a studio conference room to talk with me, to two other magazine writers and a photographer from Europe. Afterwards, I remember his smile, mostly. He sent words weaving through my mind like strings of colored balloons in a bright blue sky. He really made you feel like that. Then Elvis had to leave us to go back to the cameras. I walked dizzily back to my car in the parking lot. I already knew the title of my article. It would be called, 'A Handful of Stars'. It was from something my Dad once told me. Dad said, 'Lindalee, when you can walk down the street anywhere in the world and everybody turns and says, 'There's So-and-So,' then you know you are a great star. "But in all the world, there are only a handful of stars'.
The next day, I heard Dad tell Mom that he was having trouble finding a good tenor. He was putting together another one of his shows to take out on the Nevada circuit of saloons and gambling lounges. It was big money out there, stylish and sophisticated. Acts had to be tops. Nothing cornball allowed. 'Dad', I said, 'I met a boy yesterday at Elvis' hotel who said he had worked with you on the Ozark Jubilee. His name is Charlie Hodge'.
'Is he with Elvis now?' Dad asked. 'He was yesterday', I said. Charlie worked in Dad's show for the next six years, 1960 to 1966, that's when he wasn't off making movies with Elvis.
Jimmy Wakely (born James Clarence Wakeley February 16, 1914, died September 23, 1982) was an American Country-Western singer and actor, one of the last crooning cowpokes following the Second World War.
During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, he made several Country-Western recordings, appeared in several B-Western movies with most of the major studios, appeared on radio and television, and even had his own series of comic books. For his work for recording, Wakely has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1680 Vine Street. Over the years, many singers have recorded Wakely creations - including Elvis Presley with I'll Never Let You Go Little Darlin' in 1954.
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