When Harry Met Elvis

elvis1I’m a hot dog guy, but I love me some good barbecued ribs, too. When your Chicago roots run as deep as mine do (I was born at Ravenswood Hospital), mustard shares your veins with barbecue sauce.

And like many Chicagoans and Americans, I’m a Harry Caray and Elvis fan, too.

Once upon a time, in 1966, there was a convergence of the three in a famed anecdote told by Bob Costas. Harry was calling Memphis Hawks basketball games for a series of Monday nights at the then-new fieldhouse in Memphis Tennessee. One night, he gets a call from Elvis Presley, a fan of his.

Here’s how Costas describes it:

So Elvis sends a car to pick up Harry after the game, and they go back to Graceland. Elvis, surrounded by sycophants as always, plays some songs on the guitar, and the two men talk Cardinals baseball and down several Budweisers.

Late into the night or early in the morning, Elvis considerately remembers that his guest may not have eaten. He sends out for a barrel of ribs from Rendezvous Ribs, and the impromptu gathering goes on till daybreak, the guys chewing ribs, drinking beer, and singing songs.

Costas wonders what it would have been like to be a fly on the wall that night.

harry-carayThat got me to thinking. What did they talk about? Elvis was thirty years old, his twenty-third movie “Double Trouble” was about to be released, among other films that year, and he was a little while away from marrying Priscilla. Harry was 51, and enjoying his successful broadcasting career in St. Louis, at this point still just a gleam in White Sox impresario Bill Veeck’s eye.

Having visited Graceland, I imagine most of the evening taking place in the Jungle Room. Guitars are draped over chairs, “thrones” are arranged, soft leather couches beckon, and the night is wide open.

I can picture an interactive dinner theater event coming out of this – a kind of cross between “Tony ‘N Tina’s Wedding” and “Million Dollar Quartet.” Guests enter a big room decked out like the Jungle Room. Sycophants circulate to mingle with guests, talking about how great and “on” Elvis is that night, maybe Priscilla shows up to tell everybody to knock it off, Harry grabs a mike and re-enacts some of his greatest baseball calls, and Elvis, in great form, sings heartbreakingly beautiful songs and chuckles.

Midway through, Elvis calls for ribs, and guests are treated to some great barbecue while the beers keep flowing. It’s a night I’d like to go to.

Hell, I might just write it.

I could be that fly on the wall.

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