Interview with Shelley Fabares
February 3, 2013
Shelley Fabares Remembers Elvis Presley
Shelley Fabares and Elvis Presley.
A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On at Dodger Stadium
Brent Shyer : Walter O'Malley.
Savvy music fans know that numerous legendary performers and performances have taken place at Dodger Stadium, beginning with The Beatles on August 28, 1966, to Elton John on October 25-26, 1975, to the heavenly voices of 'Encore -- The Three Tenors' concert on July 16, 1994.
But, not many aficionados would know that in 1966, another famous American idol was at Dodger Stadium. It was not on the Dodger Stadium field, however, but in the parking lots.
Rock 'n' roll superstar Elvis Presley was at Dodger Stadium for three days to film sequences simulating road races in Spinout, his 22nd feature movie. The negotiations between the Dodger organization and Dutch Horton, location manager for MGM Studios were started by Dick Walsh, Vice President Stadium Operations and subsequently turned over to Jeane Hoffman to complete.
Elvis Presley in Spinout : MGM 1966.
Above, The original Dodger Stadium Parking Lot map shows the area in which the movie 'Spinout' was filmed in March 1966, behind the Right Field Pavilion and near the Union Oil station. The MGM movie starred Elvis Presley and a trio of romantic interests vying for his attention: Shelley Fabares, Diane McBain and Deborah Walley.
Walter O'Malley had hired Hoffman as Assistant to the President - the first woman department head of the Dodgers - in May 1965. She was to find creative ways to promote and utilize Dodger Stadium for non-baseball activities on a limited basis, such as rentals from movies/TV, conventions, alternative sports and concerts. Hoffman's name was well-known in Los Angeles, as she had been an award-winning sports writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Mirror. In addition, she served as executive editor of the Police Gazette.
When MGM needed a place to simulate the 'Santa Fe Road Race' in the 'Spinout' movie, the Dodgers were happy to accommodate the production from March 9-11.
In 'Spinout', Elvis plays Mike McCoy, a pop singer on the road with his rock band, who is also a part-time top racing driver (he sports a sleek Cobra 427). Elvis as 'McCoy' goes for a triple play with not one or two romantic interests, but three in this case, including Shelley Fabares, who plays 'the spoiled daughter of a racing car magnate' (Carl Betz); Diane McBain, 'an older woman who writes books on how to trap bachelors'; and Deborah Walley, 'the drummer in his band'. Fabares was in three of Presley's movies as a leading lady. Walley was known for playing 'Gidget' in the 1961 film 'Gidget Goes Hawaiian'.
Shelley Fabares and Elvis Presley in Spinout.
Norman Taurog, a veteran of more than 175 films, directed the movie, which was released under a different name - 'California Holiday' - in Great Britain. The working title of 'Never Say Yes' eventually was changed to 'Spinout' for the United States release. Several other titles were considered by Producer Joe Pasternak. Colonel Tom Parker, Presley's manager, suggested two titles, 'Jim Dandy' and 'Clambake'.
The 'Clambake' title was saved and used for one of Presley's 1967 film releases.
Surrounded by a bevy of beauties with bit parts, Presley might not have known that a young girl named Rita Wilson was included in the film. Of course, actress Wilson later went on to garner her own stardom and married actor Tom Hanks. 'I had Jeane Hoffman negotiate the MGM contract, following my initial meeting with Mr. Horton on January 31st', said Walsh. 'I was involved with a number of other things at that time (including starting negotiations to bring the Beatles to Dodger Stadium in August) so Jeanne would have been our liaison to MGM and the on-site director and crew. I do remember the movie shoot - at the time Elvis was into racing cars so he was strapped into one of them and the racers were 'off' and under a checkered flag a number of times'.
Another of those on site was Bob Smith of Allied Consolidated Services, who handled operational issues and security at Dodger Stadium at the time. Smith later became Dodger Vice President of Stadium Operations.
'The majority of the movie was shot elsewhere, but what they used Dodger Stadium for was the start and the finish line for the racing scenes', said Smith. 'It was filmed near where the Union Oil station is by Lot 26 (now known as Lot H). They set up some dressing trailers and I remember that I saw Elvis, but he had bodyguards around him. They really didn't want it known that he was even out there. They were on site for three days - a set-up day and shooting the second and third days. There were a lot of camera people. Elvis would drive by the start and the finish line and then they would go back and forth and do it all again.
They dressed up the parking lots to tie it in with the rest of the racing scenes where the movie was shot, so it would be hard to tell it was at Dodger Stadium'.
Smith is right, it is hard to know that it was the Dodger Stadium Parking Lot with one minor exception: the Dodger Parking Lot signage was identified by numbers on colored globes with baseball stitching on them. In the movie, during the finish line sequence, the Parking Lot 38 sign is visible (now known as Lot 7). This was the lot near the hillside behind Lot 26 back of the Right Field Pavilion. Two days after filming concluded at Dodger Stadium, Colonel Parker confirmed a UPI story that stated 31-year-old Elvis was the 'highest paid entertainer in the world (about $6 million a year) and the highest single taxpayer in the United States'.
Hoffman wrote in a letter to Walter O'Malley on March 11, 1966 about 'Spinout': 'Elvis shooting running into third day. Their location man, Dutch Horton, says MGM is looking for unusual offices for a forthcoming movie. Almost rented yours out from under you - thought I'd better wait till you get home'. A week later, she updated O'Malley, 'Elvis has gone and the little secretaries are all sad; three of them met him'.
The year 1966 may now be remembered as the one in which both Elvis Presley and The Beatles were at Dodger Stadium. Was there an actual Elvis sighting in Dodger Stadium? 'In all probability he wandered in between takes since we would have had the center field gates open as well as those between the Pavilions', said Walsh. 'Spinout' made its theatrical debut on November 23, 1966.
Stunning Shelley Fabares, who starred with Elvis Presley in the 1965 movie Girl Happy, was one of three leading ladies in 'Spinout', with racing scenes filmed at the Dodger Stadium Parking Lot in March 1966.
Today, actress-producer Fabares says she still holds many memories of being at Dodger Stadium, playing the character of a spoiled rich girl named Cynthia Foxhugh. 'Yes, I do for a couple of reasons, but nothing outrageously specific', she says. 'I was absolutely thrilled to be there. I had been a lifelong baseball fan and a lifelong Dodger fan, so I was very excited just to be in the parking lot of it (Dodger Stadium). For me, it was just exciting to be there. I was a fan of the Hollywood Stars (of the Pacific Coast League) and a member of the Hollywood Stars Booster Club before the Dodgers even got here (to Los Angeles)'.
Fabares, also known for recording the number one hit record Johnny Angel in 1962, remembers that besides filming the start and finish line sequences simulating the 'Santa Fe Road Race' in the movie's racing scenes, she was also involved in another scene on location.
'I think there was another scene that was also done on the property. It was in the same movie', Fabares said. 'I was supposed to be a very rich girl, very spoiled and I was driving some very hot red sports car with the top down. I had told everybody from before we started the movie, when we first met from the time we started to do wardrobe and stuff, I had said I just want everybody to know that I have never driven a stick shift. I have never done that. I must have said that, I don't know, six times.
'We got there the morning of filming and the director (Norman Taurog) is looking at me and he said, 'Okay get in the car and start back from over there and come in really fast and then swerve into that space there'.
And he said, 'I'll have two people jump out of the way in front of you'. I looked at him and said yeah right. And he said, 'Yeah, what do you mean?' Anyway, I was terrified. I think the only person who was more terrified than I was, was the man who owned this car. He was sitting in it with me to help me at the beginning.
I just kept saying to him, I am so sorry, I promise you. And that scene is still in the movie. We filmed it, I think, in two different spots. 'I think when we shot that, Elvis was not there yet. He was there when we were doing the race car part of it, but not this part. So, this was in the morning. His dressing room wasn't there. Mine was, but mine was not a separate star (dressing room). Even though I was one of the leading ladies - in that one there were three of us (co-stars Deborah Walley and Diane McBain) - I don't recall that. All of the equipment was there - the camera, the crew, the extras, the scenery that they need, the lights, it was a huge bunch (in the stadium parking lot) as any motion picture set is'.
Principal photography was done elsewhere, but the vast Dodger Stadium Parking Lot gave the filmmakers plenty of room to roam. 'I think that the majority was filmed on the MGM back lot and in sound stages on the MGM lot', said Fabares. 'There was another place, sort of in the beginning of the movie, where I'm supposed to run Elvis off the road. I can't tell you where that was exactly, but that would have been somewhere like far in the San Fernando Valley, maybe even as far as Chatsworth or Northridge, where there was this kind of rural area with a bridge, with some water under there. I just could see that area. It was fun'.
Adding to her lineup of movies with Elvis, the following year she starred in 'Clambake', her third starring role alongside the King. 'I loved doing those pictures', said Fabares. 'It's a happy memory for me. First of all, they were great fun. They weren't great, but they were great fun. Just for me, that was an extra added dollop of niceness that particular day (at Dodger Stadium)'.
As a lifelong Dodger fan, she had attended games both at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum when the Dodgers arrived in 1958 and at new Dodger Stadium when it opened in 1962.
'Oh yes, I had been to quite a few', said Fabares. 'I can't tell you now which ones they were or exactly what years, but yes, I was there from the start'. She singles out one Dodger, amongst many favorites.
'Several (favorite players), but I always loved Sandy Koufax', said Fabares. 'Sublime-his character, his integrity and what he could do was just graceful and beautiful and extraordinary! I guess he would be my favorite player of all of them. But, that's hard. I had a few favorites, but he was just my overall favorite'.
For Fabares and the Dodgers, 1966 was memorable as she starred in her second movie with Elvis, while her favorite team won the National League Pennant. She said, 'A pretty great year'.
In the 44-year history of Dodger Stadium, many great moments are indelibly etched in memory - the 1963 Dodgers, who won the first and only World Championship on their home playing field by sweeping the rival New York Yankees; a perfect game by Sandy Koufax on September 9, 1965; and the magic of Kirk Gibson with his dramatic game-winning home run in Game One of the 1988 World Series against Oakland, to name a few.
Yet, none of these are able to approach the sustained decibel level of another famous event held there 40 years ago. On August 28, 1966, some 45,000 fans screamed ceaselessly, hysterically...basically, taking constant noise to a fever pitch. It was not for a baseball game, however. No, on this Sunday night at Dodger Stadium, a concert was held featuring The Beatles. Warm-up acts included soloist Bobby Hebb and bands 'The Remains', 'The Cyrkle', and 'The Ronettes'. But they proved to be no match for The Beatles, the piece de resistance, clean-up hitting, sizzling main course of British imports from Liverpool. Shrieking teen-age girls overpowered the 2,000-watt public address system with some 27 speakers that surrounded the baselines. Some girls worked themselves into such a frenzy, they fainted and had to be carried away.
But, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, the famed quartet who comprised The Beatles, did their job and pleased the crowd, performing 10 of their songs in a 30-minute period. The deafening crowd noise, though, prevented the majority of fans from actually being able to hear any of their music.
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