Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023 |
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WAILUA — Call it a crowd fit for a king.
Fifty hardcore Elvis lovers — some even Mr. Presley impersonators themselves— took a special tour Sunday of the rock and roll icon’s old hut: Coco Palms.
Better yet, some even got a chance to sing with Elvis’s old pal, Larry Rivera, who used to serenade the scene when the King was around.
“We’re inside the Coco Palms, and some of the Elvis tribute entertainers get to sing ‘The Hawaiian Wedding Song’ with Larry Rivera,” said Diane Gaines of Fiesta Travel Design, the group’s coordinator from Louisiana. “This is very special for the group.”
Among the doting crowd was David Lee of Birmingham, Alabama, who was named a 2014 Elvis Tribute Artist semifinalist after winning the Georgia Elvis Festival. Todd C. Martin, who was ranked third in the worldwide Images of the King competition in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2008, was on hand, too. So was Buzz Anderson, a 2013 inductee into the Iowa Rock and Roll Music Hall of Fame and an avid collector of Elvis memorabilia who established Stardust Productions to produce Waterloo’s Tribute to the King Competition.
Rivera sang to the group, not only the Elvis numbers, but several of his own, as well.
Bob Jasper, who oversees Coco Palms, met the group who arrived aboard the Royal Caribbean’s “Radiance of the Seas” for a one-day visit, concentrating on places where Presley frequented when he was filming movies at the Eastside spot.
The group trekked through the guinea grass-laced trails to Bungalows 56 and 59, two locales made famous by Presley in the “Blue Hawaii” motion picture.
“The chapel was built for the filming of the movie,” Jasper said. “Once the filming was done, Grace Guslander asked the producers to just leave the building which has been used for weddings.”
One concern for the group: that the Elvis historic places will be torn down or disappear.
“Work on restoring the resort will start in December, according to the current plans,” Jasper told them. “The places will be preserved and not disappear.”
For some, just seeing the landscape — forget the buildings — was enough to tie them to their idol.
“These coconut trees were here before Elvis came here,” a woman said. “He breathed the air from the trees, and to think that I’m here breathing that same air is thrilling.”
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