Originally created 01/16/97

Old tickets to Elvis event in Savannah questioned



SAVANNAH - The only tickets available are a pricey $75 apiece, and there's no chance you'll be able to catch even a glimpse of the headliner.

But none of that matters when you're talking about the King of rock 'n' roll.

"Demand will probably exceed supply," said Steve Sav, whose Pennsylvania-based rock memorabilia company is engaging in an unusual form of scalping - selling what it contends are authentic tickets to a 1977 Elvis Presley concert at Savannah Civic Center that never took place.

"The 20-year anniversary of his death (on Aug. 16, 1977) is coming up, and this is going to be his year," Sav said. "Our phones already have been ringing nonstop" for the tickets, which come with Elvis photos in commemorative frames.

But proving the authenticity of the tickets could be as great a mystery for some as verifying that Elvis actually died. After two decades of cheesy impersonators and black velvet renditions, nothing involving Elvis comes free of controversy.

"We're not saying anybody is lying, we're just saying we can't find any paperwork in our files" to prove a Savannah concert date had been booked, said Todd Morgan, director of creative resources at Elvis' Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tenn.

"He had 10 different dates in August (that were canceled because of his death), but we keep hearing about official dates in September and beyond," Morgan said. "People involved in Elvis' road shows say there were some, but we've not found any paperwork to confirm it."

Elvis played a sold-out concert in Savannah in February 1977. Officials at the Savannah Civic Center contend an Elvis concert also had been booked for Sept. 28, 1977.

According to the Aug. 17, 1977, Savannah Morning News - the day after Elvis' death - the Civic Center was set to announce the September concert, but tickets had yet to go on sale.

"We were one of the few dates that they had booked before he died," said Cynthia Brinson, who went to work for the Civic Center in 1987 and was named its director in 1994.

Brinson - who coincidentally has a dog named Elvis - said she's confident the tickets being sold by Sav's company are authentic. The Civic Center verified for the company that the tickets contain Civic Center seat numbers and are the type that would have been sold there.

She also said concert promoter printing tickets well before they go on sale to the public is not unusual.

Sav said his company, Musicom International of Havertown, Pa., obtained the tickets from a concert promoter, but he wouldn't say how many he has to sell. Sav identified himself as Musicom marketing manager.

Musicom has been running advertisements for the tickets in the Morning News.

"Some are usable and some aren't," Sav said. "Some might have gotten water damage or whatever (over the 20 years). We don't want to put something in a frame with a picture of Elvis that's shoddy."

But retired Savannah police Lt. Robert E. Henry, who headed security for the Civic Center from 1974-92, said he's certain the tickets never were printed. Henry said the Civic Center was booking the September Elvis concert but hadn't actually inked it at the time of Elvis' death.

"It wasn't actually booked; you can't print tickets until you book it," Henry said.

For Morgan and others at Graceland, the controversy surrounding the Savannah Elvis tickets is the beginning of what they expect to be a year of Elvis hoopla.

"We know of about 20 books coming out this year (to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Elvis' death), so we're ready for them and we're ready for the crazy tabloid stories," Morgan said. "We quit trying to explain it years ago - there's some things you just accept.

"We often joke that we don't know what we would do if Elvis really were alive and did return to go back to work," he said. "We're so busy now, we don't know how we would handle it."

Authentic or not, Brinson said the Civic Center will honor the 1977 Elvis tickets if the King returns to go through with the concert.

"I think if Elvis shows up, everything would go," she said.