Elvis' twelfth film was "It Happened At The World's Fair" (MGM, 1963) and was set at the Seattle World's Fair. Earlier working titles for the film were "Take Me Out To The Fair" and "Take Me To The Fair."
Joe Krein :Mr. Fisher. were you an Elvis fan? Did you like his music?
Albert Fisher: Well no. I wasn't a fan when I met him. But he turned me around as far as my personal perception of him. Then I became a fan years later. But I'm not a fanatic fan.
What did he do ,or what did he say that turned you around?
Just his demeanor. how gentlemanly he was and just general nice to the people around him. I mean here was one of the biggest stars in the world and he was treating everybody as equals . very considerate .I was very impressed with that.
Was he even then surrounded by the "Memphis Mafia" ?
Sure! My photographs are filled with Joe Esposito and Billy Smith. All those people. I became very close to one of them, Bitsy Mott.
I had gone down and visited him a few times in Tampa. They were all very present. As was the Colonel .
I think he kept them close to keep himself grounded.
Well yes that and for the Seattle State Fair, he wanted familiar faces around him protecting him. The crowds there were just tremendous When a local radio station announced that he would be there. Shooting his latest film. "It Happened at the Worlds Fair". The attendance doubled. Because everyone wanted to come and catch a glimpse of Elvis.
Was there any problems? Did anyone try to get close?
Not that I was aware of. There were three different security forces . There was the Worlds Fair police, Seattle police, and then there was Elvis' own entourage. And the people that came were always respectful. They were always waving ,screaming ,and shouting at him. All trying very hard to get his attention. It wasn't pushy like they are with some of the stars now.
Can you tell me a little history about yourself?
I was born and raised in New Orleans. Was working in Television. A friend of mine went on and became the head of promoting for the Seattle Fair. He called me up one day and said I need someone to run television and movies . Would you like the job? I said sure. The next day I was on a plane flying to Seattle. I just knew it was a opportunity of a life time. Every thing that has happened to me ,has happened because of this event. I had made so many contacts.
Did you know that Elvis was going to be there?
No ,that didn't come about until maybe early June or so. That's when we new it had been finalized , and the shooting took place mid August.
Were you lucky enough to meet any of the writers?
No , the script was well written by the time that they had come out. But I became very close friends with the director of photography , Joseph Ruttenberg. He was a 4 time Academy award winner. plus I became friends with Preston Ames who was the Art director. They both became life long friends. They're both deceased now. Joseph Taurog the director I had talked to a little while during the filming , but he was just so preoccupied with his job as director that I never really had much of a chance to get to know him. The Colonel I got to spend some time with him . But I new the Colonel indirectly with my New Orleans upbringing. Before Elvis happened he was selling a tonic medicine called "Hadacol". He had this thing called the "Hadacol Band Wagon". it was sold thru out Louisiana and Mississippi. It was like a traveling medicine show. But he would bring people in like Bob Hope to perform . Then he would sell this patent medicine ,that was nothing but 15 proof alcohol. All these tea toddles who lived in the middle of the bible belt would take it and feel better .
What did you think of the colonel?
I thought he was a smart man. He took this kid from Tupelo. Helped develop him into a house hold name. Not saying that Elvis would not have become a star without the colonel. Who to say. But the colonel being the master showman as he was ,he knew how to promote the guy.
I mean look at when he was Tommy Sands manager before Elvis came along. Tommy Sands was a big deal. Then the colonel dropped Sands and became Elvis's manager ,and Tommy Sands popularity plummeted. That was all because of the colonel no longer being his manager.
You know Tommy Sands has even said he was the one who told Parker about the young Elvis. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
Do you have anything negative to say about Parker?
No No I mean the guy was funny , I have this great photograph of the colonel and myself. while Elvis was busy doing the movie ,the Colonel set up a table and was selling photos of Elvis!
That is so the Colonel.
what was your job?
My job at the Fair was the head of Television and Movies. so that means when a television show was going to originate from the fair. I would help them set up at location. I would set up security needs and take care of the stars. Plus I would also take care of visiting television producers and celebrities and take them around the fair. I would do my best to promote the fair , so we could talk them into doing stuff from the fair and about the fair. I did the same job at the New York fair in 1964.
So I am sure everybody wanted to take care of Elvis.
Can you tell me anything that happened while Elvis was there?
I remember that the little actor that they have kicking Elvis was Kurt Russell. You know they had put a pad on Elvis with a little chalk mark on his chocolate brown pants. So Kurt would kick him in the right place. Elvis was very concerned about that.
And how was the small Kurt Russell?
Well no one new him then, he was just a little kid. so no one paid him much attention. He didn't even get film credit.
I do have some film and photographs of him. You can see it on my new DVD.
Did you get any autographs or gifts from Elvis?
I have a nice photo of Elvis that I had taken that he signed for me. You see at the time the name of the movie was "Take Me To The Fair" so he signed it saying it was good working with me. So I have that and I have things from Joe Ruttenberg , and press packs and other things promoting the fair and the movie.
I guess one of my favorite memories is ,that I got to go on a double date with Elvis. Elvis was dating my secretaries daughter. well I don't know if you could say it was dating ,but he was seeing her. her name was Sue Walters I believe. So Elvis had invited me to go with them one night. So I went to the hotel and I met him in the suite there. I had no idea where we were going. We went down thru a back area thru the kitchen. Because there were lots of fans in the lobby of the hotel. They picked us up in a dark station wagon so not to draw attention. So we got into the wagon. I did not know where we were going . So it turns out we went to the movies. The movie that was playing was Elvis's "Kid Galahad "
Wow ,you know they say Elvis did not like to see his movies.
I think it was because his date wanted to see it. It had just been released. We went to the local theater there. The Memphis Mafia guys went in and purchased the tickets. They had bought the last two or three rows in the back of the theater. We waited until the movie had started and the movie house was dark. Then we left before the house lights were brought up So no one ever new he was even there.
Where were you and how did you feel when you heard Elvis had passed away?
I was working for NBC at the time , and was in Cleveland Ohio. I was just floored like everybody else was. It really took me by storm to think that a American icon like that had gone so soon.
Did you ever work on another Elvis project?
No that was the only time and I never had contact with him again.
I was also thanked by Elvis and the crew, they sent me to LA . They put me up at a real expensive hotel. In a beautiful suite. They then named me the Technical Adviser for the film as a thank you. Every morning a limousine came out and picked me up and brought me to the movie set. It was then the MGM lot. I would walk on the set and I would say . Yes this looks like the Worlds Fair.
I remember they built the whole sequence ,when Elvis and Joan O'Brien are having dinner in the Space Needle. They did not shoot that in the Space Needle, They built the Space Needle restaurant in the sound stage. I did have work involved in that to make sure it was accurate. The Space needle was a revolving restaurant ,and what impressed me was . The restaurant part where he set was a fixed permanent set , and they built this huge diorama of the whole skyline. that revolved around the restaurant. So it gave the appearance that the restaurant was revolving but it was really the other way around.
Can you tell me the story about what Colonel Parker did to you?
Oh yes ,I was heart broken with that. I was told I was going to get the screen credit as the Technical Adviser. So by the time the movie came out in 1963 , I was working on the original "Original Amateur Hour " in New York. I became the Associate Producer and Head Talent Scout for that show. So when I saw that the movie was going to be released , I invited all my friends to go with me to the first screening that morning. I remember it was playing at the "Lowe's Capital Theater " in New York. So I took everybody to go see it ,so they could see my screen credit. So it comes up Technical Adviser "Colonel Tom Parker". I slumped down in to my chair. I was so embarrassed. The Colonel had stolen my film credit, but I was later told that I had not been singled out . That the Colonel was always given that title and it was nothing personal. I never had a contract with them, it was just that I was always told it was my title, and that I would get film credit for it.
I am sure everyone was asking what happened?
It was awful. I wanted to be anywhere but there.
what do you think about Elvis' on going popularity?
Well it just goes to show , talent will out. his popularity stems from the fact that he was truly gifted. Plus he was there at the birth of Rock n Roll and because of his untimely death.
Were there any other popular projects that you worked on?
Oh sure . I did the Merv Griffin Show and I was also the producer of "Candid Camera "
That was one of my favorite shows while I was growing up.
In recent years I still do a lot of shows for all the different Discovery net works for Science and Travel Channels. Home and Garden Television ,I have had a series on there network since there first launch, 10 years ago.
Oh so you still work?
I am still very active in the industry .
You need to have a show on collection, super collectors.
Actually one of my longest running shows on the Home and Garden network ,I created, produced ,and write is "Flea Market Finds " with the Kovels. Which is all about collecting. I am a big collector of Worlds Fair memorabilia .I have one of the largest private collections in the country.
So how are you doing with your DVD?
Very well ,thank you.
Well it is a very cool product. I think its a great addition to any Elvis collection. I will put a link to your site at the end of this interview for any one that is interested.
I remember at the time that the producer wanted to show Elvis as a real cloths horse. So they dressed him in very fine cloths. So for the time it was.
Yes he looked very sharp in that movie.
So after this was all done ,did you go out and buy Elvis music? Because you now liked the man?
Some ,when ever I listen to him I remember my time with Elvis. I do know that all my success has been a direct result of working on "It Happened At the Worlds Fair"
Well thank you Mr. Fisher for being here for this.
Your welcome and thank you Joe .
January 28 th -Albert Fisher will be our chat guest at 8 pm . Mr. Fisher was the Technical advisor for "It Happened at the Worlds Fair. He can only stay for about an hour so don't be late. Should be a very interesting chat.