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Elvis Presley's Strangest Concert

Based on the pandemonium Elvis Presley had generated the last two times he played Jacksonville, Florida, Colonel Tom Parker, his manager, booked him for six shows over two days in August of 1956. All six shows would be at the Florida Theater, a medium-sized venue that held about 2,200 people.

The 21-year-old Elvis was quickly becoming a national celebrity based on the riots he had stirred up in places like Jacksonville. A few months earlier, after his Jacksonville performances, which included his trademark bumps, grinds, and hip motions, "Elvis the Pelvis" had incited the female members of the crowd to nearly tear him apart like jackals on a rabbit. They literally tore the clothes off his back. Besides his gyrations, Elvis would also lie face down on stage, stretching full out on the microphone, writhing and saying things every girl in the crowd wanted to hear. And while the girls were whipped into a frenzy by Elvis's controversial singing and moves, their boyfriends were furious with jealousy, and many wanted to tear the young singer apart themselves.

Although the teenage girls were enthralled, the adults of Jacksonville were both worried and terrified. And so it was that before his August concerts of 1956, Elvis Presley was ordered to meet with local judge Marion W. Gooding. Meeting Elvis with Judge Gooding were the Optimists Club and the National Congress of the P.T.A. All were up in arms, "frozen stiff with outrage and bewilderment" at Elvis's "bizarrely spasmodic and purely sexual" moves. They saw Elvis as arrogant, sneering, dangerous, and defiant -- the very embodiment of the 1950's juvenile delinquent -- and insisted the judge warn him to tone down his libidinous intensity.

"They had me convinced that no teenage girl was safe around Elvis Presley..."

"They had me convinced that no teenage girl was safe around Elvis Presley," Judge Gooding recalled years later. "They wanted to have him watched at the theater and they wanted his hotel room watched. They had him pictured as a real villain."

In his chambers, the judge warned Elvis and his manager that he would be present at the first show and that he had prepared warrants charging him with "impairing the morality of minors." As if for proof, deputies would be stationed in wings of the Florida Theater.

After the meeting, Elvis told reporters, "I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I know my mother approves of what I'm doing."

Judge Gooding called Elvis a sweet, gentle kid, "with the sort of good manners that we associate with southern politeness." Still, the judge attended the first show at 3:30 p.m.

On stage, Elvis opened with his current hit, "Heartbreak Hotel," and threw his hips out once. "I'm going to put him in jail, sure as anything," Gooding whispered to the lawyer in the theater. But then Elvis caught himself and decided to have some fun.

"Wait a minute. I can't do this..."

"Wait a minute. I can't do this. They won't let me do this here," Elvis told the audience. To everyone's amazement, instead of shaking, wiggling, and jumping around, Elvis stood perfectly still. Then he wiggled his little finger suggestively in place of his usual movements. This thrilled the crowd, who found "the finger" both hilarious and deeply erotic. Elvis continued the finger twitching movements throughout the remainder of the concert.

"The kids went nuts anytime he did anything," said June Juanico, Elvis's girlfriend at the time. "He could just make a funny face, and they would scream. These teenagers would just go crazy."

So Judge Gooding's wife, the Goodings' three daughters, and their girlfriends all watched as Elvis wiggled his finger suggestively throughout the unique concert. Even they roared when Elvis dedicated "Hound Dog" to the judge.

"Everybody in the audience got the biggest charge out of that," said Marilyn, one of the judge's daughters.

After the concert, Elvis happily told June (who hadn't been able to attend that day) all about it: "Baby, you should have been there. Every time D.J. [Elvis's drummer] did his thing on the drums, I wiggled my finger, and the girls went wild. I never heard screams like that in my life. I showed them sons of bitches--call me vulgar. Baby, you don't think I'm vulgar, do you?" Then, to lighten the mood, Elvis put a pair of June's panties on his head and strode around the room.

Elvis performed all six concerts in the Florida Theater on August 10th and 11th with no pelvis thrusts or gyrations, just the "sexy" wiggling of his pinky finger.

Elvis's mother, Gladys, hearing later about Judge Gooding, told her beloved son to never, ever go back to Jacksonville. There was nothing for him there except trouble.

But he had made some new fans. The judge's grandson, Tony, would grow up to idolize Elvis and plaster Presley posters over his walls. And the last Christmas Judge Gooding was alive, for a Christmas present, he gave his wife an album of Elvis Presley singing religious songs. There seem to have been no hard feelings by the judge or anyone after Elvis's "censored" performances in Jacksonville.

But what about Elvis himself? Did Elvis leave the Florida Theater with any kind of upset or angry feelings?

Well, after Elvis's sixth show and final performance in Jacksonville on August 11th, Elvis had a little message for the good judge and his cronies in attendance, according to Juanico.

"F**k you very much..."

"You know how Elvis always said, 'Thank you very much'? I heard it clear as day. He said, 'F**k you very much. F**k you very much.' Everybody was screaming, but all the members of his entourage heard it. He did it twice and he looked over at me and grinned." But June couldn't quite believe what she had heard. She couldn't believe Elvis had said those words right on stage, in front of everybody.

After the concert, once they were alone together, June asked Elvis if she'd heard him correctly.

"You heard correctly," he replied.


Eddie Deezen has appeared in over 30 motion pictures, including Grease, WarGames, 1941, and The Polar Express. He's also been featured in several TV shows, including Magnum PI, The Facts of Life, and The Gong Show. And he's done thousands of voice-overs for radio and cartoons, such as Dexter's Laboratory and Family Guy.

Read all Eddie's mental_floss stories.

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The Unsolved Mysteries Soundtrack Is Coming to Vinyl
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Terror Vision

If you never missed an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, just listening to the opening theme of the series may be enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Now, you don't need to wait to catch reruns of the show to experience the haunting music: The original soundtrack is now available to preorder on vinyl—the first time it's been available in any format.

Terror Vision, a company that releases obscure horror scores on vinyl, has produced two versions of the soundtrack: a single LP for $27 and a triple LP for $48. Both records were compiled from the original digital audio tapes used to score the show. Terror Vision owner and soundtrack curator Ryan Graveface writes in the product description: "The single LP version features my personal favorite songs from the ghost related segments of Unsolved Mysteries whereas the triple LP set contains EVERYTHING written for the ghost segments. This version is very very limited as it’s really just meant for diehard fans.”

Both LPs include various iterations of the Unsolved Mysteries opening theme—three versions on the single and five on the triple. Customers who spring for the triple LP will also receive liner notes from the show's creator John Cosgrove, composer Gary Malkin, and Graveface.

Over 30 years since the show first premiered, the theme music remains one of the most memorable parts of the spooky, documentary-style series. As producer Raymond Bridgers once said, "The music was so distinctive that you didn’t even have to be in the room to know that Unsolved Mysteries was on.”

You can preorder the records today with shipping estimated for late June.

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11 Surprising Facts About Irving Berlin
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Irving Berlin is famous for writing classic American songs such as “White Christmas,” “God Bless America,” "Puttin' on the Ritz," and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Known as the King of Tin Pan Alley, he wrote more than 1000 songs that appeared in movies, TV shows, and Broadway musicals. In honor of what would be Berlin’s 130th birthday, here are 11 facts about the legendary songwriter.

1. HE WAS RUSSIAN BY BIRTH, NOT GERMAN.

Israel Isidore Baline was born May 11, 1888 in Mohilev, Russia. In the early 1890s, Berlin’s parents moved their family of eight (Israel, who was 5 at the time, was the youngest of six) from Russia to New York City’s Lower East Side to escape anti-Jewish pogroms. He went by Izzy in America in an attempt to assimilate, and when his first composition was printed, it bore the name "I. Berlin." Berlin allowed a rumor to circulate that it was a printing error that created his pen name, but biographers tend to note that he chose it because it closely resembled his birth name, but sounded less ethnic. In 1911, he legally made the change from Izzy Baline to Irving Berlin.

2. AFTER HIS FATHER DIED, HE QUIT SCHOOL AND BEGAN SINGING ON THE STREET.

Berlin's father, Moses Baline, had been a cantor (one who leads prayer songs) in Russia, but had trouble finding steady work in America. He died of chronic bronchitis when Berlin was just 13. Though the young boy had already been selling newspapers to try to help his family make money, Berlin quit school and, in an attempt to lessen the financial burden for his mother, he also moved out and lived in a ghetto on the Bowery, beginning when he was just 14 years old. To support himself, he busked on the streets and in back rooms of saloons for money, hoping that passersby and bar regulars would give him their spare change. He later worked as a singing waiter in Chinatown.

3. HE EARNED A HANDFUL OF COINS FOR HIS FIRST SONG.

In 1907, Berlin sold the publishing rights to his first song to a music publisher for 75 cents. Because he co-wrote the song, called “Marie from Sunny Italy,” with a pianist, Berlin only received half (approximately 37 cents) of the payment for the piece.

4. HIS RAGTIME SONG INSPIRED A TRENDY DANCE.

Long before the Macarena or the Harlem Shake, Berlin’s song “Alexander's Ragtime Band” (1911) topped the charts and sold more than 1 million copies of sheet music. Although it wasn’t an authentic ragtime song, it inspired people across the world to hit the dance floor. Over the decades, different singers including Ray Charles recorded versions of the song.

5. “WHEN I LOST YOU” WAS ABOUT THE DEATH OF HIS NEW WIFE.

In 1912, Berlin married Dorothy Goetz, but his new wife caught typhoid fever on their honeymoon in Cuba and died five months later. He wrote his first ballad, “When I Lost You,” about the experience: “I lost the sunshine and roses / I lost the heavens of blue / I lost the beautiful rainbow… When I lost you.” The song sold more than 1 million copies.

6. HE WROTE PATRIOTIC SONGS IN WWI AND WWII.

In 1917, during World War I, the U.S. Army drafted Berlin to write patriotic songs. In order to raise funds for a community building on his Long Island army base, he wrote Yip! Yip! Yaphank!, a popular musical revue performed by actual soldiers that later went to various theaters around New York. It included the popular song "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," which Berlin sang at each performance.

During World War II, Berlin wrote This Is The Army, which became a Broadway musical and 1943 film starring Ronald Reagan. Berlin chose not to personally profit from the show—he gave all the earnings, over $9.5 million, to the U.S. Army Emergency Relief Fund.

7. HE BOUGHT TRANSPOSING PIANOS DUE TO HIS LACK OF MUSICAL TRAINING.

Despite Berlin’s incredible songwriting success, he was neither classically trained nor educated in music theory. He only knew how to play the piano in F sharp, so in order to write songs that didn’t all sound the same, he bought transposing keyboards. These special keyboards changed the key, allowing him to play the same notes but produce different sounds. Berlin also paid music secretaries who notated and transcribed his music.

8. HIS INTERFAITH MARRIAGE GENERATED CONTROVERSY.


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In 1925, Berlin met and fell in love with a Roman Catholic debutante named Ellin Mackay. Her father, a financier named Clarence Mackay, disapproved of Berlin because he was Jewish. The couple’s interfaith relationship attracted major press attention, and Mackay’s father reportedly disowned her when she married him in a secret ceremony in 1926. One biographer noted that though Irving was Jewish and Ellin was Catholic, their three daughters were raised Protestant, "largely because Ellin was in favor of religious tolerance." Mackay’s father came around several years later, and the Berlins were together for 62 years until Ellin's death in 1988. He died the following year at age 101.

9. HE GAVE ALL ROYALTIES FOR “GOD BLESS AMERICA” TO THE BOY AND GIRL SCOUTS.

Although Berlin originally wrote “God Bless America” during WWI for Yip! Yip! Yaphank!, he didn’t use the song until 1938. Through its lyrics, Berlin expressed his gratitude to America for giving him everything, and “God Bless America” became an instantly recognizable, patriotic song.

He decided that 100 percent of the song’s royalties would go to the Boy and Girl Scouts and the Campfire Girls. Thanks to Berlin’s God Bless America Fund, which assigned royalties from “God Bless America” (plus his other patriotic songs) to the Scouts, the organizations have received millions of dollars over the years.

10. HE COMPOSED ANNIE GET YOUR GUN AFTER HIS FRIEND’S SUDDEN DEATH.

In 1945, composer Jerome Kern (best known for Show Boat) started working on the score for a new Rodgers and Hammerstein-produced musical, Annie Get Your Gun. But when Kern died unexpectedly within a week of starting to write, Berlin took over scoring duties. Berlin’s music and lyrics for the musical, which included songs such as “There's No Business Like Show Business” and “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better,” helped make Annie Get Your Gun a massive success.

11. ALTHOUGH “WHITE CHRISTMAS” IS HIS BIGGEST HIT, CHRISTMAS WAS A TRAGIC TIME FOR BERLIN.

“White Christmas” has become a Christmas classic, selling more than 100 million copies. But Christmas was a time of sadness for Berlin and his wife: their only son, also named Irving, died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome on Christmas Day in 1928. The baby was three weeks old when he died, and the Berlins, along with their three other children, mourned his death each holiday season.

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