Original video and audio of Elvis Presley’s haunting last performances, shot in Omaha, Neb., and Rapid City, S.D., shortly before his 1977 death, will be auctioned July 26 and 27 at the Mecum Celebrity Items Auction at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar.
The trove consists of 27 songs and four-and-a-half hours of professionally filmed, multicamera concert footage, unedited, along with intimate backstage scenes, candid dressing-room footage and hallways shots of Elvis, girlfriend Ginger Alden and his dad, Vernon Presley.
“It was shot on Elvis’ final tour for a one-hour CBS-TV special, Elvis in Concert,” says Alanna Nash, author of the definitive books The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, Elvis and the Memphis Mafia and Baby, Let’s Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him.
“The special, which aired two months after Presley’s death in August 1977, was immediately controversial, mostly for the ethics of shining the spotlight on a man so shaky and obviously ill, whose performances ranged wildly from embarrassing and sad to brilliant and triumphant. Elvis Presley Enterprises chose not to release it on home video, though footage has been available on bootlegs for years.”
The auction stipulates that the half-inch reels are “not for reproduction, broadcast and/or publication.” Adds Nash: “It’s not immediately known if they contain material not already seen on pirated versions, [but] the four-and-a-half hours, even in black and white, would certainly be integral to those intent on deciphering the last days of a once and future king.”
Also auctioned will be Presley’s 1972 Cadillac Custom Estate Wagon, 1958-1960 U.S. Army Induction and Discharge Papers, rare autographs from the late 1950s and early 1960s, slides of Presley at Graceland in 1958 and photos of Presley in the Army in Germany and at play with the Memphis Mafia in Paris.