2010-01-06 / Columnists

Joanne Anderson’s PETS, PETS ,PETS

“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time. You ain’t never caught a rabbit and you ain’t no friend of mine.”-Elvis Presley to Sherlock the Basset Hound on “The Steve Allen Show” This week marks what would have been the King of Rock n’ Roll’s 75th birthday. It is hard to imagine that on July 1, 1956 Steve Allen tried to calm the storm that would become “Elvis” by having the rising star put on a white tie and tails while singing these lyrics to a real, live Basset dressed in a top hat and matching bowtie. Allen’s stunt didn’t stop the grinding, ground swell. Elvis exploded on “Ed Sullivan” two months later and the world was never the same. Actually the Elvis and Sherlock duo on “Steve Allen” was part of a TV ratings war begun shortly after a Wisconsin diocese contacted J. Edgar Hoover to warn that the young singer was a threat to national security. A month before during “The Milton Berle Show” Presley’s rendition of “Hound Dog” minus the guitar shield drew a huge audience but outraged the critics.[NY Times: “Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability”; Daily News: “popular music has reached its lowest depths in the ‘grunt’ and ‘groin’ antics.”] Allen wanted to attract viewers but needed to preserve his reputation as a family show, so he came up with the canine serenade as a way to tame Elvis. Supposedly Presley who had never worn a tuxedo before was not thrilled by this idea, but added a personal touch by putting on his blue suede shoes. The song lasted a little over a minute. Watch the episode on YouTube or by Googling the blog of another Basset named Lord Bassington. (What did we do before YouTube?) Suave Sherlock is the picture of decorum while Elvis grabs the Hound’s head and tries in vain not to dance. Many Bassets would have bayed right back at him. You can see Presley suppressing giggles, even though reports say he was embarrassed by the performance and complained that Sherlock slobbered and peed on the seat. (Slobber is a Basset given; the other offense, if true, debatable.)Later in the show Elvis appeared in a skit with Allen, Imogene Coca and Andy Griffith. The next day the still steamed-up Presley, officially recorded “Hound Dog” (which is a remake of the 1952 “Big Mama” Thornton/Buddy Guy blues classic). Allen’s NBC Presley show beat CBS’s Ed Sullivan for the first time, so Sullivan was forced to retract his words that Elvis “wasn’t his cup of tea” and book him for three shows, at the unprecedented fee of $50,000. On the September 9th Elvis debut, neither star was in the famous NY theater. Sullivan was recovering from a head-on car crash while Elvis was filming his first movie Love Me Tender. Subbing host Charles Laughton introduced Presley from his Hollywood studio. For most of the segment including two verses of “Hound Dog” the cameras panned on the top half of Elvis the Pelvis. At the end, Laughton quipped “Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast.” From then on, Elvis need only utter: “you ain’t”…and crowds would start screaming. So did Elvis ever own a Hound dog? Elvis loved animals and made up for the pets his parents couldn’t afford when he was a child. According to gracelandthenovel.com and goelvis.com, Elvis had a Basset named Sherlock but I can’t find proof that this Hound was his TV co-star. Presley gave his mother a small dog named Sweet Pea in 1956. He also shared Graceland with Baba, a Collie; Stuff, a black Poodle; Muffin, a Great Pyrenees; two Great Danes- Snoopy & Brutus; Getlo, a Chow and Edmund, a Pomeranian. Brutus appeared in a 1968 Presley movie, and died shortly after Elvis and Priscilla divorced. The other Dane, Snoopy, became the favorite of daughter Lisa Marie. Elvis once flew the Chow in his private plane to Boston for treatment of a kidney ailment. Getlo stayed there in ICU for three months but died shortly after returning home. After Presley’s 1977 death, Edmund the Pom became attached to his Aunt Delta. When Graceland opened for tours five years later, visitors often saw Edmund in the Jungle Room howling when Delta left him. I went to Graceland in 1988 where I got the overwhelming feeling that despite fame and fortune, Elvis was a prisoner in his own life. His aunt was still living in the part of the house closed to the public, but we didn’t see Edmund or any pets. We did speak with the letter carrier because we were fascinated at the notion of someone being the late Elvis’ mailman. I have his photo and one of a large ceramic Afghan Hound (of course, I would want that) in the Presley museum. You weren’t allowed to take pictures inside Graceland, so my silliest memory is the look of disdain from the rest of the visitors when my camera flash went off in my pocketbook while descending the stairs into Elvis’ basement. It was an accident. I swear. You’d think I had desecrated his white jump suit with a Slurpee. Speaking of gold-studded white jumpsuits, your pooch can celebrate the King’s 75th birthday in style. You can purchase a Las Vegas style outfit for dogs online. Some come with capes. Take a look. Now I know what my Edgar Afghan Poe will be wearing next Halloween. He “ain’t never caught a rabbit” either. However, our squirrels ain’t so lucky. For Adoption at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset: “Snickers” #814 is a Foxhound/Beagle who lost her home when the new baby arrived while “Luca” #800 a sociable tabby kitten has been growing up in the shelter lobby. More Dogs: “Simba” # 685-obedient Pit mix; “Radar”-Shepherd pup #770; female German Shorthaired Pointer #871. More Cats: “Ernest” #777 –handsome cinnamon polydactyl; “Sushi” #792- orange & white. **Last Hope Animal Rescue’s “Catch of the Day” to benefit the Fix- A- Feral program- Full course meal at Popei’s Deer Park on Sun. Jan 17th from 1 to 5 pm. Chinese auction with some feline theme prizes. Tickets $40. Call 516-220-6695. Since 2003, Last Hope has helped spay/neuter 8,000 LI feral cats with Fix-A-Feral funds.

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