Thursday, September 15, 2011
A 26-year old Kentuckian received the award of a lifetime as Dakota Meyer's military heroics took center stage at a rare Medal of Honor ceremony held at the White House on Thursday. But, one Memphian can stand proud in knowing he had a big hand in making sure Meyer looked his best for the big moment.
Hal Lansky doesn't exactly know how his store was chosen for a top secret assignment from the pentagon. However, considering the storied history and the reputation of his family's business, he shouldn't be surprised why he was asked to help a hero look his best.
During his two year stint in the Army, Elvis Presley depended on good ole' Uncle Sam to provide his military wardrobe. Of course before and after his military hitch, the fancy duds the King of Rock N' Roll donned on stage were the custom-made eye-popping creations of famed Memphis clothier Lansky's. But, imagine Hal Lansky's surprise when weeks ago he got an urgent call for assistance from one of the most unlikely of places to find purveyors of fashion.
"About 4 or 5 weeks ago I got a call from the Pentagon. They said they need my help. So, I didn't know what they wanted, I kind of figured it might be something involved with clothing."
Through a series of cryptic top secret phone calls dominated by military time jargon, Lansky was ready when a group Marines arrived with a VIP in tow.
"They brought in Dakota Meyer... the Medal of Honor recipient."
Yes, THAT Dakota Meyer who on Thursday received the military's highest award from President Barak Obama. THAT Dakota Meyer who in September 2009 charged through a six-hour firefight with Taliban troops in Afghanistan to save the lives of 36 of his fellow soldiers, despite being shot himself. THAT Dakota Meyer who managed to stand still long enough for Hal Lansky to get out his measuring tape and create magic within military fashion specs.
"When we finished up we faxed the information and sizes to the Marine headquarters. I guess they have a uniform division that makes all the dress clothing and of course they wanted Dakota to look good for the Commander in Chief... I'll be looking at the news tonight and see if our measurements came out correctly."
To no one's surprise, it looked great. But, what would you expect from a Memphis institution dedicated to the idea of whether a King or a Hero, clothes still make the man.
The Delta Music Museum in Ferriday, operated by the secretary of state's office, has added more entertainers to its Hall of Fame. The Hemphills, a gospel group organized more than 40 years ago, was honored Saturday for its contribution to that music genre, and James Burton was inducted for his blues guitar talent.
The induction of Burton, a native of Dubberly, and Joel and LaBreeska Hemphill, who pastored a church for years in Bastrop, bring to 21 the number of individuals who have been tapped for the Hall of Fame, a tribute to musicians and singers from the Louisiana-Mississippi area.
Burton began playing professionally at age 14 and later joined the Louisiana Hayride, a Shreveport music cavalcade that featured the likes of Elvis Presley, George Jones and Johnny Horton. Burton has played with Ricky Nelson, Glen Campbell, Dean Martin, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Elvis Costello and Johnny Cash. Burton won a Grammy for best country instrumental performance in 2009.
The Hemphills have recorded more than 350 gospel songs, 27 albums and also have been inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Some of the past inductees at the Delta Museum ceremonies include Irma Thomas, Vince Gilley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Aaron Neville, Jimmy Swaggart and Conway Twitty.
This film from a 1957 concert by Elvis Presley at Memorial Coliseum was recently evaluated by Indiana University archive specialists.
Elvis footage is genuine, but short and silent
Frank Gray | The Journal Gazette
Indiana University Library film archivist Rachael Stoeltje and auctioneer Glenn Ellenberger view film of Elvis Presley at Memorial Coliseum in 1957.
He had his gold leaf suit coat.
He whirled his arms like a windmill.
He danced with the microphone stand.
Indeed, a film purported to be of Elvis Presley performing in a 1957 concert at Memorial Coliseum is what the label on the can claims: Elvis live, 54 years ago.
The film surfaced about two weeks ago when a woman who was planning to auction off her late husband’s huge collection of model trains pulled the old Elvis film out of the attic and suggested tossing it into the mix.
The auctioneer, Glen Ellenberger of Ellenberger Brothers Auctions in Bluffton, didn’t think that was a good idea. Toy train buffs aren’t necessarily Elvis fans, and vice versa.
So Ellenberger pulled the film out of the auction with plans to have an auction for the film alone, and he went on the hunt to figure out exactly what his client had.
The problem was that the half-century-old 16 mm film could be brittle. Viewing it on a projector could tear it to shreds in seconds, so Ellenberger contacted Indiana University’s film archives to have it properly evaluated – and finally get a look at exactly what was on the film.
IU’s film archives contain nearly 100,000 old films, about 1,000 made by Indiana University and the rest made by moviemakers and educational filmmakers.
Remember those corny movies you used to see in junior high school where you were lectured on how to behave on a date and the importance of cleaning your fingernails? Almost everybody eventually threw the old movies away – except, it seems, IU, giving the university one of the biggest hoards of old film around.
But we digress.
Rachael Stoeltje, the film archivist with the IU library, gave the old Elvis film a quick inspection and pronounced it in pretty good shape. It had shrunk by only 0.5 percent and it didn’t smell of vinegar, which means the film isn’t deteriorating.
It could stand to be cleaned, and an expert could treat it to increase its flexibility and reduce any brittleness, but its overall condition is good.
But there are some disappointments. The film has no sound. It is just a silent film of the King doing his act before a huge Coliseum crowd, most of them armed with cameras with flashes.
The film was also shot far from the stage where Elvis swiveled his hips. When run at 16 frames per second, which is the normal speed, there is about 4 minutes of Elvis strutting on the stage, singing, dancing and posing for the fans.
That’s not as much as Ellenberger hoped, but it’s a pretty good chunk of footage from Elvis’s early concert days. It never occurred to any of his managers or promoters to record any of his concerts themselves.
Meanwhile, IU is excited the film at least passed through its hands, if only for a few minutes. On Oct. 15, the university will have a home movie day at the IU Cinema, where it will show home movies by Hollywood director John Ford. The school hopes it will also be able to show the Elvis footage during that event, bringing a little attention to itself.
Meanwhile, Ellenberger hopes the showing will bring a little additional attention to his client’s 4 minutes of footage.
In reviewing the film, one of the school’s librarians speculated that the film might actually be a copy, which means there could be another film lurking out there somewhere, perhaps in a stack of additional film reels belonging to the deceased railroad collector.
For now, plans are for an auction, maybe in late October.