Elvis Festival returns to the fairgrounds

The 13th annual event honoring the King takes place Sunday and is themed the "Magic of Elvis." Those who knew him will be speaking.

August 23, 2012|By Heather Youmans
  • Jimmy Velvet, left, and Elvis Presley.
Jimmy Velvet, left, and Elvis Presley. (Daily Pilot )

The 13th annual Elvis Festival, themed the "Magic of Elvis," will honor the king of rock 'n' roll Sunday at the Orange County Market Place in Costa Mesa.

California's only Elvis festival will commemorate the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, Aug. 16, 1977.

Presley's "Blue Hawaii" co-star Darlene Tompkins and lifelong friend Jimmy Velvet will make their first Orange County appearances during the festival's We Knew Elvis Q&A at 12:15 p.m.

The pair also will be at the festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with memorabilia, signing autographs, posing for photos and talking about Elvis.

At age 15, Velvet met Elvis backstage at a Hank Snow and Carter Family show in Jacksonville, Fla. In the 1950s, Velvet went on to tour as Presley's guitarist. He has also worked with many other rock 'n' roll stars, including Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.

Throughout five decades of tours and appearances, Velvet said he took more than 9,000 photos of 100 stars.


In 2007, he published 1,090 of the photos in a 288-page coffee table book, "Inside the Dream." Velvet's book, which will be available at the festival, covers his experiences touring with Presley in his early days and includes radio station charts, posters, 45s and his memories.

At the news of Presley's death, Velvet gave up his music career to start the first-ever Elvis Museum, which he opened across from Graceland in 1978.

"Elvis, his memory needed to be there," Velvet said in a phone interview. "And my main reason was because of his unbelievable generosity. This man would give anything to anyone whether he knew you or not. He was so generous not only with his money, but with his time."

Velvet started out with 21 of the King's possessions that he and his family gave him. At one time, he owned 21 cars, 21 guns, 40 pieces of jewelry and 11 jumpsuits — the largest collection in the world, he said. Since then, he has sold most of it, but continues to keep Presley's memory alive.

"My stories may differ from some of the other guys, who have these awful stories to tell for one reason or another," Velvet said. "They got paid a lot of money to do a book.

"He was just the most special human being you could ever meet, and I have nothing bad to say about him."

Tompkins, who appeared in two films with Presley in the 1960s, will also be on hand.

"He was unreal," Tompkins said in a phone interview. "He was so gorgeous in the movies. I wasn't expecting him to be more beautiful.

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