Off Beat: Elvis hammed it up with governor at 1962 World’s Fair




The photograph shows former Washington Gov. Albert D. Rosellini and Elvis Presley, standing in front of the Seattle Monorail, holding a ham.


“Off Beat” pieces typically take on a local angle, but, come on: That half-century-old Associated Press photo we ran on June 14 warrants a moment’s consideration.

The caption does not indicate when the photo was taken. Let’s remedy that with a Google search of “elvis ham monorail” and see what comes up.

Yup, there it is: World’s Fair in Seattle on Sept. 12, 1962. Elvis was in town to film “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” a musical-comedy in which he plays “Mike,” a down-on-his-luck crop-duster pilot who romances a nurse.

And when he came to Washington to film, the King brought the governor a ham.

According to information from the Elvis History Blog, the governor was apparently flummoxed by what might be called Elvis’ ham-handed gesture.

Rosellini said he sent the ham to the state capital, adding a new wrinkle to the political practice of distributing pork.

After spending 10 days in Seattle, the crew wrapped up shooting at the World’s Fair and completed the production at MGM’s Hollywood studio. Six months after the fair closed, MGM finally released the film, filled with singin’ and kissin’ and kickin’.

The kickin’ was a plot device: When the character played by Elvis wanted an excuse to see the nurse he was romancing, “Mike” paid a kid to kick him in the leg.

But there is a nice little twist to that scene. The 10-year-old actor was Kurt Russell, who was nominated for an Emmy in 1979 for his biopic portrayal of Elvis.

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.