Elvis Presley, whether he knew it or not, was an icon for many young Americans and he did touch their lives in some way.
Linda Deutsch is a legal correspondent for the Associated Press, who has covered such high profile cases as Charles Manson, OJ Simpson, and Robert Blake, and told The Early Show that she credits Elvis with starting her off on a successful career in journalism.
Her Elvis obsession flourished since she was 12 years old and first heard "Heartbreak Hotel" on the radio in her family's apartment in Asbury Park, N.J. The DJ promised his listeners something "unusual," but the song, says Linda, "stopped me dead in my tracks." It took her a while to find the record — Elvis was new — but she's been hooked ever since.
This was 1956, and rock 'n' roll was a new phenomenon. Linda and her friends loved Elvis but not everyone agreed with their tastes. With two friends, Linda decided to create a fan club —The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club, of Asbury Park — and began a newsletter, "The Elvis Times." This she printed on the mimeograph machine her father used to publish his Lions' Club newsletter, mailing it to fans around the country. The synergy is important to her as she looks back. Deutsch considers that newsletter the beginning of her career in journalism.
Deutsch's career as an Elvis fan is as long and varied as her run as a journalist. She recalls sending him a papier-maché crown she and her friends made and decorated with gold sparkles. Most significantly, she recalls the letter she wrote to the Asbury Park Press in 1958, praising Elvis for joining the service. Worried about Elvis's career while he was off serving his country, Deutsch started a petition, asking Dick Clark to devote an entire episode of American Bandstand to Elvis, in honor of his 24th birthday.
In the end, the petition was 16 feet long, signed by 3,500 fans and presented to Clark himself by Deutsch and a friend. Clark granted her request, and Linda herself later worked for the Asbury Park Press. She remembers the whole experience as a sort of coming of age. "I was a timid, unsure teenager," she says. "In many ways, Elvis gave me confidence."
She was crushed when a snowstorm prevented her from greeting his plane when he returned from his stint in the army, in March of 1960. But when she became an entertainment reporter later that decade, Deutsch didn't try to meet her idol. "I guess I was afraid of spoiling the image of him in my mind," she says. "He was a very different person by then, and so was I."
In 1957, though, Deutsch and her friends saw the King, live and in person, at the Philadelphia Sports Arena. Seated way up in the bleachers, Deutsch saw Elvis as a "teeny-weeny wiggling speck" on the stage but the energy was tremendous — the "closest I'd ever felt to an earthquake."
Deutsch 's friend Carol turned to her with tears streaming down her cheeks. Her explanation: "He looked at me!"
That, says Linda, "was the magic of Elvis. Everyone thought he looked at them."