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The pitch meeting between Elvis Presley and late TV producer-director Marty Pasetta was likely among the most intense in Hollywood history.
Pasetta was tasked by NBC with making an enormous, historic Hawaiian concert a reality, which meant he would not only have to come up with a dynamite idea but also convince Presley and his notorious manager, Colonel Tom Parker, to agree to the performance.
Ultimately, the iconic concert at the Honolulu International Center, broadcast live via satellite to audiences around the globe on this day in 1973, would be a smashing success. But the initial pitch meeting between Pasetta and Parker, and then Pasetta and Presley, was a doozy.
In a previous interview about the Aloha From Hawaii event, Pasetta said when he first met with Parker, he pitched his ideas of a lowered stage, a runway for Presley lined with lei-bearing women, and, as a backdrop, the singer’s name in huge neon lights in every language spoken in the countries that would receive the live broadcast. Pasetta wanted to make the 90-minute concert far more engaging for television audiences than the singer just standing there singing. But Parker would have none of it.
“He said, ‘No. I have security guards, and they will be there next to the stage. I don’t want him anywhere near the people [in the audience]. I will not have that. And I don’t want all those lights. It’s taking away from my boy, my star'” Pasetta recalled of the conversation, which took place in a Hilton lobby.
Pasetta demanded that he at least be allowed to run his ideas by Presley, so the endeavor wouldn’t be a total bust. In the same Hilton, Pasetta was taken by “goons” to a floor Presley had to himself, where the situation got really intense.
“Going for broke, here I go,” Pasetta said of his thoughts before laying out his pitch for Presley. “I said, ‘I went to see you through NBC’s request in Santa Monica. Your music is outstanding — but you weren’t exciting. It was boring. And I don’t know what I am going to do with you for an hour and a half, but I have an idea.'”
Pasetta, at that point, took out some drawings he had of the stage while Presley’s bodyguards “took out two silver-plated guns and put them on the table,” the director said. “And if you don’t think I was inhibited, you’re crazy, because I was shaking in my boots.”
Pasetta quickly laid out all the ideas Parker rejected — and concluded by telling Presley he needed to drop some weight before the performance. What happened next shocked Pasetta.
“He jumped up. And I said, ‘If you do all this, we’re going to have a good show,'” Pasetta recalled. “He threw his hat and glasses away, left his coat and ran over to me, grabbed me [and] hugged me. And he said, ‘You’re the first person who’s been honest with me.’ He said he would lose weight, and he lost 25 pounds. We became lasting friends until the day he died.”
And, obviously, Presley overruled Parker, and the concert went off much as Pasetta had planned.
Watch the full interview below.
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