Elvis' youngest co-star shares some of her memories of working with the king
June 17, 2018
Being in the film business is unlike any other. The bonds formed during production last a lifetime and, in Elvis' case, beyond. When I was cast as Ellie Easterlake in 'Speedway' I knew the project was special and that it would be a great experience… I had no idea that from that moment on, Elvis Presley would become a huge part of my life and career forever.
They cast me without even auditioning and I recall the first time I met Elvis was at a rehearsal for our number 'Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby' on an MGM soundstage. Of course I knew of Elvis! I was excited about meeting him and that we'd be working together for weeks. I had already worked with huge celebrities like Danny Kaye, Rock Hudson and Clint Walker and considered Elvis a fellow actor and professional. We were there to make a movie together. So when we were introduced, a very formal almost-7-year-old extended her hand and said, 'Hello, Mr. Presley!' He replied, 'Hello, Victoria! This is going to be fun!'
Above | One of my favorite (and one of the few) 'behind the scenes' stills from Speedway… Elvis and I were discussing how we thought the snack that props made for the scene should have been graham crackers and peanut butter!
The cast included Bill Bixby, Nancy Sinatra and everyone's favorite film/TV dad, William Schallert. Bill Bixby was at that first rehearsal, too. Bill and I had met previously on the Paramount lot, and I was very happy to see him again.
Even though Elvis did ask me over lunch who I would marry – him or Bill Bixby – I didn't know Elvis as an adult. I love that I had the privilege of knowing Elvis when I was just 7 years old… I gained a unique perspective, different from all his other co-stars over the years. Elvis and I got to play together in the MGM sandbox and we had a terrific time.
That Elvis seemed to prefer hanging out with me on the set and lunching together is flattering. I got the impression he really enjoyed being a big kid, making my little books with me, playing cards between scenes and rehearsals, and feeding the tiny kitten in my trailer (I had sneaked kitty onto the set in a shoebox). Anyone could tell he'd be a terrific father. He exuded such warmth and joy.
I have so many wonderful, often photographic memory flashes of the 'Speedway' shoot… Elvis quietly rehearsing off to the side. Humming. How he would hold my hand as we walked to lunch, always stopping to graciously meet with his fans there on the lot. That he shared my secret and fed my kitten with an eyedropper. And how he talked me into actually eating the prop hot dogs with him in the hang out scene!
It was during filming that I remember a particularly special day… Elvis and the assistant directors gathered the whole cast & crew together on set for an important announcement. Elvis was beaming. I remember the anticipation of what he would say, and he stood up on a couple of apple boxes and shared with us all the news that Priscilla was expecting. His famous smile and the glint in his eyes expressed such happiness! Everyone applauded and yelped 'congratulations!' Then, Elvis looked over at me among the crowd, pointed, and said, 'And I want a little girl just like you!' It was an unbelievably happy moment – I ran over and hugged him. And then this story hit the press within days.
One of the stories that ran when Elvis announced that he & Priscilla were going to be parents…
Just a few years ago I finally met Priscilla and we had a chance to quietly chat. I shared this story with her. I would love to meet Lisa Marie so I could personally share with her how special that announcement was and how much Elvis was looking forward to her arrival.
Elvis' contributions to the music/film/TV world are immeasurable. That a half-century has passed and we are still celebrating Elvis' life and music is proof of the incredible 'staying power' that he had. Truly remarkable. I'm honored to have worked with him and cherish the memories as well as all of the new memories of meeting all of you – his loyal fans.
Thank you, Mr. Presley, for making a little girl's acting experience one of the most special and amazing times in her life. Your grace, kindness, professionalism, music, humor and generosity live on through all those you touched.
by Victoria Paige Meyerink
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