Aloha from Hawaii

Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite is a concert that was headlined by Elvis Presley, and was broadcast live via satellite on January 14, 1973. The concert took place at the Honolulu International Center (HIC) in Honolulu (now known as the Neal S. Blaisdell Center) and aired in over 40 countries across Asia and Europe (who received the telecast the next day, also in primetime). Despite the satellite innovation, NBC did not broadcast an edited version of the concert in the United States until April 4, 1973 because the concert took place the same day as Super Bowl VII. The decision paid off handsomely for the network, attracting 51 percent of the television viewing audience to become NBC’s highest rated program of the year. The show was the most expensive entertainment special at the time, costing $2.5 million.

On July 8, 1972, inspired by a recent visit made by U.S. President Richard Nixon to China a few months earlier, Presley’s manager, Colonel Thomas Parker, announced that there would be a worldwide satellite broadcast from Hawaii to allow the whole world the chance to see a Presley concert “since it is impossible for us to play in every major city.” What neither Elvis nor his fans knew at the time was that, throughout his client’s touring career and in spite of vast sums he was being offered, Dutch-born Parker habitually turned down all offers of international tours because he was in fact an illegal immigrant, and feared that if he tried to leave the country he would be exposed, and might be deported back to The Netherlands. Parker initially stated that it would take place in either October or November 1972, but this date was changed to early 1973 after MGM showed concern about it clashing with the release of their documentary film Elvis on Tour. As the show had already been planned prior to this upset, the original shows, now set for November, would still go ahead but without being filmed.

Parker held another press conference on September 4, 1972, in Las Vegas to confirm that the concert, now titled Aloha From Hawaii, would be broadcast on January 14, 1973. The press were told that an audience of 1 billion was expected to tune in to see the “first entertainment special to be broadcast live around the world,” even though Parker had not taken into account the fact that many countries, including parts of Europe and America, would not see the concert live due to the time of the broadcast. Although the Our World TV special was the first live international satellite television production, broadcast worldwide on June 25, 1967 which included entertainment artists such as The Beatles (headlining) and Maria Callas, Aloha From Hawaii was the first live satellite concert to be with a single performer. Two weeks after the Las Vegas press conference Parker received a letter from Honolulu Advertiser columnist Eddie Sherman. Sherman had read in news accounts that there was to be no charge for admittance to the concerts, instead a donation for charity was required. He suggested to Parker that, as Presley had recorded, and was still performing, the song “I’ll Remember You,” which had been written and composed by Kui Lee, the donations could go to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund that had been set up following the death of the songwriter in 1966. Seeing the chance to publicize Presley’s charitable nature once again, Parker eagerly agreed.

Producer-director Marty Pasetta had attended one of Presley’s concerts at Long Beach in mid-November, and he had found it to be “boring” and lacking in any physical excitement. He approached Parker with ideas about the broadcast, including a runway that led out from the stage so Presley could get closer to his audience. Parker insisted that the ideas were useless, and that Presley would agree that they were useless. Pasetta, however, decided to approach Presley about the ideas anyway and was pleasantly surprised to find that he would be happy to do whatever Pasetta felt was best for the show. This was another example of the ever-growing rift between Presley and his manager. Although Presley would later dismiss Parker, whom he never truly befriended and towards whom he was openly hostile in his later years, the two would reconcile professionally shortly thereafter, and Parker would remain Presley’s manager for the rest of the artist’s life.

Presley performed three shows over November 17 and 18 in Honolulu, the dates originally planned for the satellite broadcast, and gave a press conference on November 20 to promote the satellite special. He also announced officially that it would now be in aid of the Kui Lee Cancer Fund.

Presley arrived in Hawaii again on January 9, the day after his thirty-eighth birthday, to begin rehearsals. He had lost twenty-five pounds for the show and was confident after news that his record sales were increasing and that Elvis on Tour had been nominated for a Golden Globe. Rehearsals were held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village while the main set was being constructed. Although there were several technical problems, the rehearsals were an overall success.

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