Elvis Presley's Paradise, Hawaiian Style co-star Irene Tsu remembers the King

By: Elvis Australia
Source: Fox News
August 7, 2020

Irene Tsu (born November 4, 1944) is a Chinese American actress who made her debut in the film adaptation of Flower Drum Song in 1961, and has had many subsequent roles in TV and films. Tsu co-starred with Elvis Presley in the 1966 film, Paradise, Hawaiian Style and was featured playing the wiki wiki girl in the Wiki wiki dollar advertising campaign for Chevron Corporation in the 1960s.

Irene Tsu has worked with some of the most recognizable names in Hollywood -- but none compare to the King.

Elvis Presley's First Meeting With Irene Tsu

'It was the very first day on set and I was so nervous', Tsu told Fox News in an interview. 'Everyone was having lunch and I really didn't feel like eating because I was that nervous. So I decided to go take a nap and if I was needed on set, they would call me. I went to my trailer and the air conditioner wasn't working. I was just hysterical - really hysterical. I thought, 'Oh no, this isn't happening'. You could only imagine how hot it was. And there was no one around because everyone was having lunch'.

The actress was walking around the set when she discovered a big hut and thought there would be air conditioning inside. 'All of a sudden, there was a hand stopping me', she recalled. 'I immediately apologize without even looking up. And I was told, 'That's Elvis' dressing room. You can't just go in. I'm going to have to ask if you're allowed'. '

Security let Tsu in and in addition, she ended up taking a nap on a couch in the cool area. Elvis was close to her staring at her when she woke up. 'He was putting a cold compress on my face', she explained. 'He thought I must have passed out or something'.

Irene Tsu and Elvis Presley, 'Paradise, Hawaiian Style' 1966.
Irene Tsu and Elvis Presley, 'Paradise, Hawaiian Style' 1966.

What Irene Thought of Elvis

'He was absolutely beautiful', she admitted. 'I mean, people with great voices are attractive to me, but this was something else. I didn't even know what to say because I was so shocked. And then he went, 'Don't worry about it. I just want you to feel good. Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat? Are you thirsty?' I couldn't even talk!'

She was overwhelmed by his presence. 'He smelled like baby powder and milk. But he just kept insisting if I needed or wanted anything'.

Tsu regularly saw Elvis with his entourage and team. 'The Colonel [Elvis' manager] was there and he just gave me bad vibes immediately', Tsu said. 'He was not a kind man'.

Tsu shared that they became friends while working together. Elvis and Tsu bonded over their admiration for martial arts, Tsu even knew Bruce Lee. They also connected over their spiritual ideals. 'He was a Southern Baptist and my family was very Christian', she stated. 'So we connected from that alone. He was very spiritual'.

Irene Tsu and Elvis Presley, 'Paradise, Hawaiian Style' 1966.
Irene Tsu and Elvis Presley, 'Paradise, Hawaiian Style' 1966.

The Last Time They Saw Each Other

Furthermore, Tsu said the last time they saw one another was in his trailer. 'He just looked at me and said, 'Keep that light burning baby'. And that was it', she said. 'I guess he lost his light. Couldn't find his way home, you know? I truly feel he just worked himself to death. It was very tragic'.

Finally, Tsu thought the world of the music mastermind. 'He was filled with so much light', she described. She also added that he was 'generous and caring'. 'He was always surrounded by people wherever he went. But if you just sat down with him, he was simply a good friend'.

Irene Tsu and Elvis Presley, 'Paradise, Hawaiian Style' 1966.
Irene Tsu and Elvis Presley, 'Paradise, Hawaiian Style' 1966.

Quick Links

Articles about Elvis Presley The Elvis : Hawaii Connection
Articles about Elvis Presley Paradise Hawaiian Style | Paramount 1966
Elvis Presley Video Angela Lansbury about Elvis and Blue Hawaii
Photos Elvis Presley : Hawaii : November 9, 1957
Photos Elvis Presley on Holiday, Hawaii, May, 1968
Photos Holiday, Hawaii : May and October 1969

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