I write this on a chilly April day, and I can’t wait to finish so I can jump back into the hot tub. Hot tub? Yes, thanks to some family connections, I’ve been enjoying two nights at the WorldMark vacation home property in Seattle — which in this case happens to be in what was once the Camlin hotel. I’m in a penthouse suite. There are flatscreen TVs in every room (with joint VHS/DVD players), there’s a kitchenette with a dishwasher, and a fireplace with an automatic fire. I also have a balcony, which stirs memories of what it used to be like when this floor was the late, lamented Cloud Room, piano bar extraordinaire. They do still have a “Cloud Room” of sorts, a lounge you can access with your room key. Although you can only stay there if you’re a WorldMark member, at least the classic old building has been preserved. Too bad it’s too cold to use the pool.
My stay was a congratulatory gift in honor of the publication of my new book, Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback (about his “Comeback” period from 1968 to 1970), published by Jawbone Press. Elvis had relatively few connections with Seattle over the years. He first appeared here on September 1, 1957, playing before 15,000 fans (including a young Jimi Hendrix) at the old Sick’s Stadium. He returned in the fall of 1962 to shoot It Happened At The World’s Fair, decidedly one of his lesser efforts (can you name a hit song from that film? Well, “One Broken Heart For Sale” did reach #11).
He returned here for live shows in 1967 (at the Coliseum, now Key Arena) and 1970 and 1973 (both times at the Arena, now the Mercer Arena). For my book, I unearthed a review of the 1970 show from the Seattle Times that was surprisingly harsh: “The tone of the concert was strange, as Elvis clearly had the talent and ability to have been putting on a top-notch show. But instead of satisfying the audience with his music, he relied on blatant gimmickry to garner applause.” In later years, this kind of review became the norm, as Elvis’s career began to stagnate again, as it had during the ‘60s movie years. For all his influence, I find Elvis Presley’s story a sad one, a cautionary tale, about a man who ended being consumed by the fame and fortune he’d pursued with such dedication.
Of course I’ll be taking full advantage of the upcoming film festivities to wax lyrical about my book. I refer to the Seattle International Film Festival, of course, set to kick off on May 20 and running all the way through June 13. April 29 was press launch day, with the full lineup revealed. The quickest way to find out what’s up with SIFF is to check out their website, www.siff.net. This year, a number of the venues are within walking distance of the neighborhood, not only SIFF Cinema on the Seattle Center grounds, but also the
Pacific Science Center’s IMAX theater (June 11 and 12 only), along with the Uptown, Pacific Place, and, on opening night, Benaroya Hall. Other venues include the Egyptian, Harvard Exit, the Neptune, the Admiral in West Seattle, and, further afield, the Kirkland Performance Center, Juanita Beach Park (an outdoor screening on May 29), and the Everett Performing Center.
If you’re a SIFF member, you’ll be able to buy tickets starting May 6; May 7 for the rest of you. This year, there’s a SIFF Insider Preview that sounds similar to what they do at the press launch; they’ll show a bunch a trailers, and SIFF personnel with talk up the festival. The event will be held May 13 at the Triple Door’s “Musicquarium Lounge,” and there is a charge of $8 (it’s also a SIFF fundraiser, you see). Or you can simply peruse the website for free. Bear in mind though, there’s an additional charge to buy tickets through the website; you can save by buying in person. Another way to save is by buying a six-pack of tickets; suddenly that $11 ticket becomes a mere $9.50! On a 20-pack you save even more.
I’ve gleaned a few other tips over the years. It’s worth getting in line early if you want a good seat, unless you don’t mind sitting very close (and bring something to read). Even if a film’s sold out, there will still be day-of-event sales and you may be able to squeeze in that way. Matinees are cheaper. Children’s films are lighter on attendance and are usually of interest to adults as well. If you’re attending one of the post-film parties, be sure to bring extra cash, as drinks are not always free. And if you’re feeling flush — feel free to buy me one.