Wednesday, 15 August 2007

The King Dies

UPDATED: 31/08/07
Toronto's Q107 FM boasts that it scooped everyone in Canadian media in breaking the news that Elvis Presley had died in Memphis 30 years ago today.

But it was the memorable Toronto Sun edition, with "The King Dies" front page, that became a Canadian collector's prized possession from the day it was published.

The Aug. 17, 1977, Toronto Sun still shows up occasionally on eBay in postings by sellers in North America and Europe and has sold for $10 to $20 online and at live auctions.

It helped that the Toronto Sun newsroom was peppered with avid Elvis fans, including Les Pyette, the city editor who would keep Elvis alive in the Sun on and off for four decades.

Day Oner Andy Donato remembers being asked to help with the Elvis sendoff.

"I remember the great Pyette coming to me with a black and white photo of Elvis and asking me to put Donatovision to work and colour it," says Andy. "I did. It turned out great."

Les Pyette says he "remember it well."

"I pleaded with Ed (Monteith), with the support of Kathy Brooks and others, to put Elvis as the main line and main picture. Finally, Ed said okay and we called Donato for his magic touch with colour - remember there was no regular colour available in those days - and bingo!

"We had a great front page that sold out! I got the picture from an Elvis album cover which was a hot seller a few years earlier."

Elvis stories would be told by avid Elvis fans at the Sun, including the late Ray Smith, who was working for the National Enquirer when Elvis died, and Linda Barnard, now at the Star, over the years.

This blogger paid $4.50 to see The King at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1957. The emphasis is on "see" not "hear" because we couldn't hear him for the screaming.

That precious memory is of a distant, gold-suited singer on stage and tens of thousands of hysterical female fans breaking records for the loudest and longest scream fest.

But just witnessing one of the few Canadian concerts by The King was worth the ear pain.

Twenty years later, Elvis was dead at 42.

An assignment in Calgary on the day Elvis died kept me from sharing the newsroom experience in packaging the emotional sendoff, but it was productive.

Hugh Wesley, former veteran photographer and photo editor, remembers the late, great Jerry Gladman got the call to fly off to Memphis for reports from Graceland.

The Sun did that in the 70s - fly reporters and photographers to where the action was instead of relying on wire copy. Not so much today.

The Sun gave Elvis a fitting royal sendoff on Aug. 17, 1977, and he has never really been forgotten. A glossy Elvis tribute magazine packaged a few years ago by Les Pyette and Len Fortune, the Sun's former graphics maestro, is another Sun collectible for Elvis fans.

Elvis just won't die, thanks to his movies, his records and the wonders of 21st century technology. He topped the charts in 2002 with a remixed A Little Less Conversation, a song from the 1968 film Live A Little, Love a Little.

And that on stage If I Can Dream duet with Celine Dion and a virtual Elvis on American Idol in April gave Elvis fans goosebumps.

And now, Lisa Presley and her virtual dad sing an In The Ghetto duet in a video and on CD. The video will be posted on

Elvis would have been 72 this year. On records, CDs and video, he is forever young.

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