Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii Co-Star and Lifelong Friend
Make Their First-Ever O. C. Public Appearances at Annual Festival & Tribute to the King
(Costa Mesa, CA-August 13, 2012)-- Like many young people in 1956, Darlene Tompkins was transfixed by Elvis Presley’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“He had such talent and charisma and made everyone move. And he had a sound that no one has ever heard before. It was pure magic,” recalls Tompkins.
Unlike most people, who were fans of that magic from afar, Tompkins got very close to the wizard himself. She appeared in two films with Presley in the 1960s, most notably as his co-star in the 1961 film “Blue Hawaii.” She spent a great deal of time with him on and off the set. “The more you know about him, the more you cared about him. He had a magical effect on everybody who was around him for any length of time,” she said.
Her knowledge about the real-life Presley will be the focus of a “We Knew Elvis” open Q&A session at the 13th Annual Elvis Festival, themed the “Magic of Elvis” on Sunday, August 26 at the Orange County Market Place in Costa Mesa.
Tompkins, will be joined by another longtime Presley friend, Jimmy Velvet.
Velvet was 15 years old when he first met Elvis Presley. (Elvis was 20) An aspiring recording artist at the time Velvet became instant friends with Presley, and went on to tour with him in the 1950’s along with many other major rock ‘n’ roll stars including Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard – just to name a few!
Along with his guitar, by his side was his camera and he took thousands of photos, amassing a large library of unpublished candid shots over five decades of tours and appearances.
In 2007 he selected 1,096 photos of the 6,000 in the collection of the 508 celebrities he met, along with radio station charts, posters, 45’s and his memories and published a 288 page coffee table book “Inside the Dream.” Along with Presley, those featured in this massive book include Buddy Holly, Dick Clark, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood and Princess Di as well as Oprah Winfrey, Tim McGraw, Three Dog Night and celebrity animals including Lassie the dog and the infamous racehorse Secretariat.
At one time, Velvet also had what was considered the largest collection of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia and became the creator of the Elvis Presley Museum. He has since sold most of it, but memories remain.
When asked about one of them with Presley, he reflects on the recording sessions he had with him at RCA’s Studio B.
“Elvis had a great sense of humor and loved to have fun at these sessions. He would send out to Burger Boy and order 100 burgers and fries! He was so fun and spirited, “Velvet said.
Velvet now can often be seen at the Imperial Palace Casino in Las Vegas where he sells his book and reminisces with tourists about his many experiences.
While Tompkins hasn’t written a book about her experiences with Presley, and most of her memorabilia are memories, there’s not a better Elvis ambassador.
“I just adored him and this world needs a lot more Elvis,” said Tompkins, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley and now lives in Nevada. “He was so gracious and friendly and you kind of felt like you were family to him. “When I first met him (on the set of “Blue Hawaii) my jaw dropped because he was so beautiful. But he quickly became a very dear friend. You could say anything to him and he would never scoff or look down his nose at you.”
“He had such a sense of humor and was so interested in anything. It didn’t matter what it was. If someone said, ‘do you think gravity is a push or a pull,’ he would think about it. He was very open-minded, ready for anything and looking for enlightenment. And he was constantly reading everything from religious and medical books to Spider-man comic books.”
She sacrificed her acting career to have two children in the 1960s, but she knows first-hand that there’s no business like show business. She studied her craft from one of the top acting teachers in America, Jeff Corey. Show business is also in Tompkins’ blood, with relatives from the days of Vaudeville. Her aunt is Beverly Washburn who starred in shows such as “The Lone Ranger” and “The New Loretta Young Show” as Vickie Massey. But what sets Tompkins apart from a lot of television and film actresses and even her own family is that she has worked with Elvis Presley.
She didn’t see Presley in the later years of his life. But when she heard the news of his death, she was shocked as she would have been by the death of her own brother.
“Like everyone else, it felt like I’d lost a member of my family,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it. He had such a presence. There was something about him that made you think he would live forever. You just couldn’t comprehend that he would never be there. It’s still incomprehensible to me.”
Though gone for 35 years, friends like Velvet and Tompkins, along with his innumerable beloved fans and Elvis tribute artists, keep his memory very much alive.
That’s the “Magic of Elvis!”
Tompkins and Velvet Q & A will be at 12:15 p.m. during the Festival, but they will be there all day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with memorabilia, signing autographs, posing for photos and talking about Elvis. Velvet’s book will also be available at the Festival.
Additionally, the Festival will feature three stages of Elvis tribute artists, including one of the more unusual impersonators: Mr. Potato Head as Blue Hawaii Elvis. The event is the West Coast Launch for the Elvis Potato Head series released by PPW Toys and licensed by Elvis Presley Enterprises and Hasbro. A Jumpsuit Elvis spud was created in 2010, followed by a leather jacketed ’68 Come Back Special Elvis spud.
Other activities include Elvis Fan Clubs, Rock-a-Hula Hoop Contest, Cr?me de la King Elvis Singing Competition presented by Karaoke Scene Magazine; a King of Sundaes Ice Cream Eating Contest presented by Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour & Restaurants; an Elvis Quartet; stilt walking Elvis and Priscilla Presley; a classic car display featuring the Cadillac Kings Car Clubs, an Elvis Trivia Bee and much more.
The Festival traditionally follows Elvis Week in Graceland, TN, which this year runs from August 10 – 18, and around the time of Presley’s death which was August 16, 1977. On August 21st, The Orange County Market Place will present an Elvis Flash Mob at 5:30 p.m. with location disclosed at a later date.
For more information on the Orange County Market Place and a complete schedule for Elvis Festival visit www.ocmarketplace.com or call (949)723-6660.
Elvis Festival is held in conjunction with the weekend swap meet at the Orange County Fairgrounds, which features nearly 1,000 merchants selling a variety of products and services. Since 1969 the Orange County Market Place has been held every Saturday and Sunday. Hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. All events at Elvis Festival are included in the price of admission to the swap meet, which is $2 for general, and free for children 12 and under.