Al Dvorin

Announcer who dashed fans' hopes with the phrase 'Elvis has left the building'

You might think that Elvis Presley's fans would have rioted at the sound of Al Dvorin saying at the end of a concert, "Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and goodnight", but they accepted it as a signal that Presley would not be giving an encore and that their hopes of an autograph were dashed. Dvorin's message, which over the years became a catchphrase, was little more than an order to clear the showroom.



Al Dvorin, tour manager and announcer: born Chicago 1923: died Ivanpah, California 22 August 2004.



You might think that Elvis Presley's fans would have rioted at the sound of Al Dvorin saying at the end of a concert, "Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and goodnight", but they accepted it as a signal that Presley would not be giving an encore and that their hopes of an autograph were dashed. Dvorin's message, which over the years became a catchphrase, was little more than an order to clear the showroom.

He was almost certainly not the first to use the phrase, although he was the one to make it famous. On 16 December 1956, earlier in his career, Presley made his final appearance on the country music radio show Louisiana Hayride. It was a benefit concert for the Shreveport YMCA and at the close of events, the announcer Frank Page told the screaming fans, "Elvis has left the building."

Dvorin, who was born in Chicago in 1923, had become involved with country music in the early Fifties as a talent agent. On one occasion he booked the country star Hank Snow, and befriended Snow's manager, "Colonel" Tom Parker (he had bestowed the military title upon himself), who introduced Dvorin to his protégé Elvis Presley.

When Presley began making hit records, Parker asked Dvorin to supply the supporting acts and work as tour manager. For some unknown reason, Parker liked to place his rock'n'roll star alongside lack-lustre vaudeville acts - comedians, jugglers and acrobats - rather than among his contemporaries. At one concert early in 1956, Presley could be heard saying "Fuck you very much" to Dvorin as he realised how appalling the side acts were.

At one concert in Chicago, Parker realised to his horror that he had agreed to a 20-piece orchestra backing Elvis. He dutifully hired the musicians but ordered them to mime and told Dvorin to conduct them with his lighted cigar.

In 1958 Dvorin's agency sponsored the talent contest in New York which was won by Ral Donner, who became the first, and arguably the best, Elvis impersonator.

Just before the filming of Blue Hawaii in 1961, Colonel Parker asked Dvorin to organise a special benefit concert in Honolulu for the 1,300 sailors who had been killed on the USS Arizona as a result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The concert raised $67,000 and a memorial was erected.

After a score of mindless films, Presley returned to live appearances in Las Vegas in 1969 and a US tour followed. In November 1971 Parker fell out with the tour announcer and Dvorin asked for a replacement. Dvorin recalled,

The Colonel said, "Al, I have a replacement." I said, "Great. Who?" He said, "You." I said, "I've done everything you asked me to do: concessions, band leader, security, lighting, sound, advance work, cheque writing. I'm not qualified to work as an announcer. I've got a voice like a sewer backing up. I'll make a fool of

myself." He said, "Al, who's the boss?" I said, "You're the boss." He said, "And you're the announcer."

True to form, Parker often booked weak and relatively cheap opening acts. When Jackie Kahane's humour failed to ignite the audiences, Dvorin was told to introduce him as "a personal friend of Elvis" and then all was well. Dvorin can be heard on several of Presley's concert albums, notably Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis (1974). He would never accept any criticism of Presley and said, "I don't think Elvis could ever do a bad show." He was more concerned about Parker's monumental losses at the roulette table.

After Presley's death in 1977, Dvorin did not want to jeopardise his friendship with Colonel Parker, but when Parker died in 1997, he became associated with Elvis tribute shows. Last Saturday night he appeared with the American Trilogy show in California. He spoke on stage, and fans cheered as he said, "Elvis has left the building." He was killed in a car accident in the Californian desert the following day.

Spencer Leigh

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