The Day I Met Elvis Presley

Today, August 16, 2017, marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. I had met him accidentally in 1967, along with a dozen or so others, as he was trying to enter his dentist's office in Palm Springs, California. Despite being besieged by people out of the blue, he was gracious and funny...and a bit flirtatious.

Ten years later, on August 16, 1977, I was working for Dick Clark in Hollywood when the phones began ringing and ringing—reporters calling with the news that Elvis had died, and could they get a quote from Dick Clark?

As I fielded those calls, I recalled the day ten years earlier when...

I Met The King of Rock 'n Roll

I accidentally met Elvis in 1967 in Palm Springs, California. I was 15 years old, and had just finished marching in a parade with the high school drill team and band. It was terribly hot that late spring day, and my girlfriends and I were hanging out after the parade, walking down a shady median. All of a sudden, one of my pals shrieked, "There's Elvis Presley!"

I looked across the street and there he was, with two beefy bodyguards, trying to walk into a dentist's office. I say "trying" because a small crowd had gathered around him. My girlfriends and I ran across four lanes of traffic to join that crowd. I don't think we even looked for oncoming traffic—we just ran across the street, a gaggle of squealing teenage girls—to see The King of Rock 'n Roll.

Right Before His 1968 Comeback

This was right before his comeback in 1968—dang, he looked good. Tan, healthy, trim. He was very cordial, charming even, to the people in the crowd, signing things they handed to him, saying you're welcome and thank you very much.

After several minutes, he thanked everyone and said he needed to go inside to see his dentist, I, being an overly excitable 15-year-old, yelled from the outskirts of the crowd, "Please, Elvis, just one more signature!"

He looked over the heads in the crowd, smiled at me, and said, "Okay, just one more."

The Crowd Parted...

And let me through and I stood there, looking up at Elvis Presley. My God, Elvis Presley. Gobsmacked doesn't even begin to describe how I felt. He asked me what I wanted him to sign and...I realized I had nothing. So I turned around and said, "Sign my back."

I meant the back of my shirt, but he lifted my hair and placed the pen on the back of my neck and started writing...

Elvis's Memorable Words to Me

"You're too sweaty for me to sign your back," he teased.

Yep. I'll always remember how Elvis Presley told me I was too sweaty.

"I meant my shirt," I rasped, my heart pounding so hard I thought I'd pass out. "Sign the back of my shirt."

I could feel the pressure of his pen on my back...as he wrote he spelled out, "T-h-e b-a-c-k o-f m-y s-h-i-r-t" as though he were signing my exact words.

I turned around and said, "Is that what you wrote?"

And he gave me that curled-lip grin and said, "No, honey, I wrote my name."

And he went inside the dentist's office.

The Shirt Tale

I kept that shirt for years...sometimes I'd take it out of my closet and look at his signature. I moved so many times over the years (I moved three times that first year in Hollywood alone), and somewhere in the midst of all the moves, I lost that shirt. I've sometimes wondered if anyone ever found it and wondered why "Elvis Presley" was scrawled on the back in large cursive letters. They probably thought it was a joke—well, unless they compared a sample of his real signature against it.

August 16, 1977

In my early twenties, I moved to Los Angeles with the dream of working in film production. Within two years, I was working for Dick Clark who at the time was producing a TV show for ABC. Another TV show, Barney Miller, filmed on a nearby stage, and the actors would often stroll over on their breaks and chat with us. I didn't own a television so I wasn't all that sure who these actors were. Probably a good thing because I would have been gobsmacked all over again. (I know, what kind of Hollywood film production employee doesn't own a TV? Well, I didn't have one for years and never missed it, although I enjoyed watching TV at other people's homes. Years later, a boyfriend decided enough was enough and surprised me with a TV for my birthday.)

Back to working for Dick Clark. On August 16, 1977, our phones started ringing and ringing...Elvis had died. As I fielded calls, I looked back on that spring day when I'd accidentally met Elvis, amazed and saddened that here I was ten years later, juggling calls from reporters about his death.

Dick Clark's Significance to Elvis Presley

On the day Elvis died, reporters and others wanted to talk to Dick Clark because of his reputation for promoting, and making careers for, many musicians, especially on his former TV show American Bandstand (1956-1987) that brought rock 'n roll into millions of families' homes. 

Interestingly enough, Elvis never appeared on American Bandstand, but that's because he was overseas in the Army when the show became a mega-hit. Clark, however, is credited with keeping Elvis's name burning bright in front of America's teenagers during those years via a series of telephone interviews with Elvis that were broadcast on American Bandstand. Fans, especially girl-fans, couldn't wait for their Elvis to come back to the States. You can read more about it here: How Dick Clark Helped Keep Private Presley Popular.

Forty Years Later

Now it's been 40 years since the day The King of Rock 'n Roll died. Cast members of Barney Miller have passed on, as has Dick Clark. I look back at that job and oddly enough, I can't recall much about my day-to-day job tasks that year for Dick Clark, but I vividly recall the day Elvis died.

The image is one thing and the human being is another. It’s very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.
— Elvis Presley

"The Day I Met Elvis Presley" - All Rights Reserved by Colleen Collins. Do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use the content of this article without written permission by the author.

In Honor of Book Lovers Day: Keith Richards, Rock-n-Roll Librarian

Keith Richards, Rolling Stones Voodoo Loungue World Tour, Rio de Janeiro, 1995 (photo is in public domain, courtesy of Machocarioca)

Keith Richards, Rolling Stones Voodoo Loungue World Tour, Rio de Janeiro, 1995 (photo is in public domain, courtesy of Machocarioca)

When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.
— Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards: Rocker outlaw...guitar god...book lover

This will either surprise you or make you jealous: Keith Richards has extensive personal libraries in both of his Sussex and Connecticut homes. In fact, he has so many books that he once considered "professional training" to better manage his vast collection. Yes, dear reader, rock-n-roll bad-boy Keith Richards dreamed of becoming a librarian.

Keith and the Dewey Decimal System

Once upon a time, Keith was painstakingly arranging copies of rare books about the history of early American rock and World WarII. He was applying the standard Dewey Decimal classification system (possibly fortified with a glass of vino or a little ganja -- although he no longer does "the hard stuff" Keith is quoted as saying he's still fond of wine and weed). Whatever he might have been imbibing, he nevertheless felt overwhelmed with his massive book classification project, at which point he seriously considered becoming a librarian.

Can you imagine being shushed by Keith Richards? Or what it would be like going to the reference desk...and there's Keith Richards?

He'd probably be very cool about books turned in late; after all he once owed libraries 50 years worth of fines.

The Saga of Keith and the Overdue Library Books

Keith Richards Owes '50 Years' of Library Fines (Huffington Post)

Library offers to waive Keith Richards' £3000 fine if he drops in for visit (Mirror)

 

Rock on. Read on.

Misdemeanors to Murder: Nothing but the Truth from a Criminal Lawyer and Private Eye

Below are categories of slides from our April 27 2017 presentation "Misdemeanors to Murder: Nothing but the Truth from a Criminal Lawyer and Private Eye" at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

All slides are copyrighted by the author. Do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use, thank you.

To move forward through a slide show, click on slide image. At end of slides is a PI resource list for writers and others interested in the world of private investigations. There are also a few links to sites dedicated to the mystery & private eye fiction genres.

PI Resources for Writers

Cold Case Squad: A blog by Joseph L. Giacalone, retired NYPD Detective Sergeant, former Commanding Officer of the Bronx Cold Case Homicide Squad, and author of The Criminal Investigative Function. His blog covers such topics as forensics, law enforcement’s use of social media, police body cams, and more. 

Defrosting Cold Cases: A resource blog about cold cases, authored by former human rights lawyer, cold case blogger, and crime fiction author Alice de Sturler. Defrosting Cold Cases has placed #1, category criminal justice, in the American Bar Association’s Top 100 Blawgs for 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Diligentia: A blog by New York private investigator Brian Willingham, CFE – President, who specializes in background investigations, due diligence, and legal investigations.  

eInvestigator: A resource website for private investigators, police officers, crime scene investigators, security specialists, legal professionals, and those researching the internet for people and information. This site has it all: PI specializations (including ghost hunting services for haunted facilities), spy gear, research books and tools, even a “List of Lists” page with lists such as US airports and their official codes, all US Presidents, criminal competencies and corresponding court cases, list of US insurance companies, and more.

Kevin’s Security Scrapbook: Spy News from New York: A blog by Kevin D. Murray, an independent security consultant who specializes in surveillance detection, security, and privacy problems.

PIBuzz: A blog by California private investigator Tamara Thompson, well known for her expertise in internet data gathering, genealogical and adoption research, witness background development, and locating people. 

PI Magazine: A trade magazine for professional private investigators. You can read articles via a subscription or by ordering an individual issue. The website also provides links to podcasts by professional PIs, US PI organizations and conferences, a bookstore, and spygear shop.

PINow: An online directory of pre-screened, professional private investigators. Click on Investigator Center at top of screen to read articles written by PIs on a variety of investigative topics.

Private Eye Confidential: A blog by California private investigator Mike Spencer of Spencer Elrod Services, Inc.  Mike has been a private investigator for nearly two decades, in the course of which he worked with legendary Hollywood private eye John Nazarian. Mike's book, Private Eye Confidential, is being released this summer (great resource for writers!).

Pursuit Magazine: An online community of professional sleuths that “opens a door to a world of mystery and intrigue, a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of real spies and PIs.” This site is a rich source of research with dozens of articles by experts in the fields of private investigations, security, bail enforcement, skip tracing, and more. No subscription fees—all articles available for public viewing.

The Rap Sheet: A blog by J. Kingston Pierce, author,  senior editor of January Magazine, and the lead crime fiction blogger for Kirkus Reviews. The Rap Sheet dishes the news in the world of crime fiction, both recent and vintage, and lists links to several hundred (at least) crime fiction blogs and author sites.

The Thrilling Detective: Everything you ever wanted to know about private eyes in books, radio, movies, television, even the real world. Founded by author/editor Kevin Burton Smith.


Unfortunately, comments have been closed due to spammers.

 

Six Research Tips for Writing a Private Detective Character

Online resources, books & conferences can aid a writer's understanding of real-life P.I.s

Online resources, books & conferences can aid a writer's understanding of real-life P.I.s

I recently wrote a series of romantic-mysteries—The Next Right Thing, Sleepless in Las Vegas, and Hearts in Vegaswhich featured private eye heroes and heroines. Because I am also a private investigator in real life, I didn’t have to research their investigative careers all that much. But even if I weren't a P.I. there are ways I could have learned some basic techniques and tools of the trade to help me write a realistic private eye or sleuth character.

Six Research Tips For Learning about PIs
(New Resources & Links Added March 2017)

Tip #1: Read books on investigations. There are hundreds of books on topics, from background investigations to identity theft to personal injury investigations. One resource for investigative books is PIstore.com. My husband and I, when we ran a private investigations agency for a decade, also wrote a nonfiction book for writers, How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths, which includes presentations we gave at writers' conferences, Q&As with writers, a gumshoe glossary and much more. The newest addition to this list will be released in June 2017: Private Eye Confidential by California PI Mike Spencer. Check out Mike's blog to learn more about the book and buy links when it's available.

Tip #2: Review online magazines. There are free, online magazines that outline investigative techniques, resources and tools, such as Pursuit Magazine (my personal favorite), Fraud Magazineand Evidence Technology Magazine.

Tip #3: Research investigation websites and blogs. Numerous private detectives write about investigative practices and case studies on their websites and blogs. For example, my private investigator-attorney husband and I co-author Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, which has articles geared to writers as well as researchers and investigators. Other PI blogs include PI BuzzPrivate Eye Confidential, and Diligentia Group. Also, check out The Art of Manliness site interview with a P.I. as part of its ongoing series "So You Want My Job" -- read it here: "So You Want My Job: Private Investigator"


Tip #4: Attend a PI conference. Some professional PI organizations sponsor conferences that are open to the public. Here you can network with other PIs, attend seminars, visit vendor booths that sell surveillance and other types of investigative equipment as well as manuals (I still use a telephone-book-thick manual on investigating personal injury cases that cost me $125.00 and is worth every penny -- other manuals are typically much less). PI Magazine lists upcoming conferences on its online site.

Tip #5: Register for a PI course. There are numerous online classes and local workshops geared to those interested in becoming private investigators. These classes are typically open to the public and cover such topics as basic investigative tools and techniques, how to research public records, and the legalities of the profession. For example, Colorado private investigator Rick Johnson teaches a classroom course at The Private Investigators Academy of the Rockies. Topics include interview techniques, process services, as well as field exercises in surveillance. Contact your state professional private investigator association for additional recommendations to courses that offer training in private investigations (PI Magazine lists all U.S. organizations by state.)


Tip #6: Take a PI to Lunch. Many private investigators would be happy to answer a few questions about your private eye character or story over the phone, but if you’d like a longer question-and-answer session, consider inviting a P.I. to lunch. In the past, I've sometimes invited an expert, such as a fire fighter or a bailbonds person, to lunch to pick his/her brain on a specialization that I needed for a story. It’s a pleasant way to conduct an interview, it gives you an hour or more to ask questions, plus who doesn’t like a free lunch? If you need a referral to a local PI, contact your local state professional private investigator association.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority. All images in this article are either licensed by the author, who does not have the authority to forward to others, or they are copyrighted by the author.

Online Writers Class: Misdemeanors to Murder: Nothing but the Truth from a Criminal Lawyer & PI

For Crime Fiction Writers/Readers, Fans of Legal Thrillers, and Armchair Legal Eagles

 

February 1-28 “Misdemeanors to Murder: Nothing but the Truth from a Criminal Lawyer and Private Eye"

Course focuses on US criminal crimes—lowest misdemeanor to highest felony offenses--from a criminal lawyer’s and PI’s perspectives.

For more info/registration: Misdemeanors to Murder: Nothing but the Truth

Christmas Giveaway: Enter to Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a Romantic-Mystery eBook!

Click on the "21 Days of Christmas" image or the below link to enter my Christmas giveaway (a $25 Amazon Gift Card & an ecopy of Mistletoe and Murder in Las Vegas).

Contest is hosted by Hello Chick Lit, and closes December 23, 2016 (winner to be announced the week after Christmas). Happy holidays!

Colleen's Christmas Giveaway

 

What to Do When You Get a Bad Book Review

Today is National Author's Day, a good time to celebrate writers writing...and a good time to go over how to handle this particular nasty thorn of the writing life: bad reviews. Just like taxes and death, bad reviews are inevitable. Not that a book is necessarily bad, in fact it might be quite good, but judging a book is always a subjective experience. One reader might love stories with multiple points of view, while another gets crazy with all that "head hopping." Or a reader glosses over key points in the story, feels confused, and blames the author. Or maybe a reader has a personal agenda—he/she wrote a book that was rejected, so they become hyper-critical of other authors' success.

I recently got a not-so-nice review on a book that had consistently received good to excellent reviews, and had placed in the top five for its category in a national writing contest. The reader snarked about my letting a character (federal agent) go "MIA" (missing in action) for weeks. Missing in action? Obviously the reader had forgotten, or maybe skipped over, an earlier scene in the book where the character is preparing to leave for his 2-week paid vacation at Christmas time, and asks his supervisor if he can take an extra two days unpaid leave, which the supervisor approves.

I've belonged to a writers' group for 20 years. When I told them about this mean-spirited review, they reminded me that it's not worth it to read reviews...not if I wanted to be a happy writer. LOL! A lesson I learned after a Bad Review Experience many years ago...

A Bad Review Twenty Years Ago

I got it at a very bad time: Right before I left to attend a national writers conference. My fiction novel, my baby, got a dastardly 1-star review. Worse, from a  reviewer for a magazine. I ate an entire bag of M&Ms. Not the small size bag, the drown-your-sorrows-and-flirt-with-hypoglycemia size.  

What, a 1-star review? (Image is licensed; please do not copy)

What, a 1-star review? (Image is licensed; please do not copy)

Then I called my editor. This was the editor who'd purchased my first novel in 1996, and had purchased and edited the next three novels as well. My first novel got splendid reviews, as did my second and third. The fourth got the 1-star review.

Wise Words From An Editor

She listened as I told her in a shaky voice that I had received a bad review. One star. Then she laughed. A kind laugh, I'll add, because she herself is also a multi-published author, as well as being an editor, so she well understood the writers' life.

She said, "Your readers love your books and they're buying them. That's all that matters."

This editor, by the way, now heads up a division at that publishing company. She's smart and savvy about the book biz.

Didn't mean I wasn't still angsting about that bad review.

I Spilled My Guts to an Auditorium of Strangers

I don't recommend this to anyone. Really, it's not my style to stand up in a crowded room and tell several hundred people, most of them strangers, how devastating it is to get a bad review.

I hadn't planned on doing this. In fact, I had kept a low profile the entire conference, that is until I attended a workshop where a nationally known writer, one of those New York Times bestselling types,  was talking about—guess what?—surviving bad reviews.

At one point in her talk, she asked if anyone in the audience had ever had a bad review and what did they do about it?

Some unseen force drew me to my feet. I stood there, my voice quaking, and told an entire auditorium full of people, many writers, how a bad review had gutted me. How it was in a magazine, so hundreds, maybe thousands, of people had or would read it. How I'd consumed so many M&Ms, I had been shaking for days.

I am Spartacus! (Film poster, 1960) is in the public domain)

I am Spartacus! (Film poster, 1960) is in the public domain)

What happened next was like that scene in the movie Spartacus. Not the recent series, the 1960 movie starring Kirk Douglas as Spartacus. Remember the scene where the Romans ask a throng of slaves, hundreds of them, which one is Spartacus, and Kirk Douglas stands. "I am Spartacus," he announces loudly. Then another slave stands, "No, I am Spartacus." Another stands and says the same thing, then another...until the entire crowd of slaves are all standing, each proclaiming loudly to be Spartacus.

It was kinda like that in the auditorium. After I poured my guts out, a writer in the front row stood up and said the same thing had happened to her. She's now a New York Times best-selling author, and a friend, and she recently told me that since her books have hit the NYT and other bestseller lists, even more negative reviews crop up on Amazon for her books! She's a professional, keeps a cool head, never responds to negative reviews.

Another well-known author stood. She announced loudly to the auditorium that she, too, had received her share of bad reviews, including several 1-star reviews, and by the way, would I please tell the auditorium the title of my book so people could buy it? That's right. She invited me to tell everyone the book title. I did. She then told everyone she was going out to buy it right after the workshop was over.

Other writers did the same thing. I got to see, first hand, that bad reviews happen, even to successful NYT best-selling authors. It's part of the package of being a writer and putting your work out there. 

My Two Cents on What to Do When You Get a Bad Review

1. Buy the small bag of M&Ms.

2. Commiserate with other writers, friends, family. You're allowed to wallow in it for 48 hours. After that, put on your big-boy or big-girl pants and get back to writing.

3. Don't respond to the bad review.

Let's chat a bit about not responding to negative comments and other less-than-complimentary write-ups. I wrote an article about that ("Four Tips for Minimizing Bad Reviews on Google"). In it, I explain how replying to bad reviews on the Internet, or even clicking them to re-read (or forwarding the link to others to click on and read), sends signals to Google and other Internet browsers to bump up that review's ranking...which means it's easier to find on the Internet. You don't want that.

As Tony Soprano might say, it's best to fuggitaboutit.

Now get back to writing!