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The cover for Elvis' 'It Happened At The World's Fair' record. (

The cover for Elvis' 'It Happened At The World's Fair' record. (Photo: Wikipedia)

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Elvis Comes To The Seattle World's Fair

Feliks Banel

October winds up the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. Over this past summer we've looked back at highlights from the Century 21 Exposition, from the space age wonders to the exploding music scene.

Now, we hear about a famous visitor, a visitor who attracted about as much attention as the fair itself. Reporter Feliks Banel has the story.


To get a sense of what it felt like to attend the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, you can visit a museum, surf the Web or maybe even read a book. Or, you could just watch an Elvis movie.

Elvis Presley: [Excerpt from "Take Me To The Fair."] "Take me to the fair, take me to the fair, don't know anywhere I'd rather be."

The film made mostly in Seattle in 1962 is called "It Happened at the World's Fair." It's a typical Elvis movie, with lots of singing and pretty girls, and not much in the way of plot or character development. But, amidst all the Hollywood glitz, the little glimpses of Seattle during the fair make for a high–end home movie of the most important party the city has ever thrown.

Trailer: "Yes, the Space Needle rocks… and the Monorail rolls, in an eye–popping riot of explosive hilarity!"

Albert Fisher: "Actually, we're walking up the ramp right now to the Monorail. And in 1962, on the exact piece of pavement that we're walking on now, I walked up this ramp with 'The King' — with Elvis Presley and his entourage — and we were shooting a movie for MGM, 'It Happened at the World's Fair.'"

Albert Fisher was doing public relations for the fair when the moviemakers hired him away as a technical advisor. His job? To help make the movie version of the fair look as close to the real thing as possible.

The scenes at the fair were filmed over a 10–day period in September, 1962. The fairgrounds were packed and noisy, and Elvis drew crowds wherever he went. Somehow, Fisher and the crew were able to shoot several key scenes on the actual fairgrounds without incident.

But one very important location just had to be re–created on a Hollywood soundstage.

Albert Fisher: "So they built a portion of the Space Needle restaurant on a soundstage, and then the art director, Preston Ames, had his team create a huge canvas mural of the view from the Space Needle and they set up the cameras and while Elvis is singing to Joan O'Brien, the members of the art department are pulling this mural along behind them so it gives the appearance that they're in a restaurant that is revolving; that was actually just the opposite. They were stationary and the scenery was revolving. "

In the film, Elvis plays a crooning crop duster named Mike who comes to Seattle looking for work as a pilot. Mike babysits a little girl named Sue Lin, and the two spend a day at the fair. Along the way, Mike flirts with a pretty nurse and Sue Lin eats a lot of Belgian Waffles — and too much popcorn.

[Excerpt from "Take Me To The Fair."]

Sue Lin: "Come on. We still got lots to see! Popcorn, Mr. Mike?"

Mike: "Are you sure?"

Sue Lin: "Mmm–hmm."

Mike: "Two popcorns."

Vicky Cayetano: "I sound like a munchkin! (laughs) Oh, what memories."

'Sue Lin' is all grown up now, and she owns a business in Hawaii, where she's also married to the former governor. Her real name is Vicky Cayetano, and she was just six years old when she played Sue Lin. As for Elvis, little Vicky didn't really know much about him.

Cayetano: "I knew he was very famous. I don't think I realized the magnitude of his, you know, fame."

During filming of one scene with Presley, little Vicky just couldn't get her lines right. For take after take, she just couldn't do it. The director got impatient, and poor Vicky started to stutter. That's when The King stepped in.

Cayetano: "And I remember Elvis saying, 'That's a cut, you know. I'm gonna take the little lady and we're gonna go eat.' And he took me to dinner and I cried and told him how homesick I was and he was just really very sensitive and he gave me a box of chocolates, and we had a wonderful dinner on top of the Space Needle. And the next day we did the same scene and I got it down."

Sue Lin: "Oh Mike, I knew you'd come! I knew it!"

Mike: "Do you know you got half of Seattle looking for you?"

Sue Lin: "I didn't mean to be bad, Mike, but don't let them take me back again, please?"

Mike: "Okay, okay, honey. We'll play it your way. Let's get out of here. Come on."

A half–century later, it's clear that working with Elvis on "It Happened At The World's Fair" made a big impact on the cast and crew.

For Albert Fisher, it was the start of a long career in Hollywood. You won't find his name anywhere in the credits, but he's there in the movie's impressive grand finale: Elvis dances across the fairgrounds, a marching band plays, happy crowds cheer and a vendor gives The King a cluster of colorful balloons.

Fisher: "And he lets loose the balloons and the camera follows the balloons up past the Space Needle. And it freezes on the Space Needle and the words 'The End' come up. Well, if you look at the movie, I'm the balloon vendor. That was my little cameo in the movie."

Vicky Cayetano doesn't remember much about Seattle in 1962. She was only six, after all. And she's never been back in 50 years. But she does remember Elvis.

Cayetano: "He was as interested in everyone who was just an ordinary person as he was in the people that were so–called 'important' in society. That's the memory I really take of him. He's just really special, and he was really handsome. Looking back, I wish I had been 26 and not six. (Laughs)"

The movie came out in 1963, long after the fair had closed. It wasn't a big hit, and it didn't launch any memorable songs. But the film does give Seattle — and especially Seattle Center — certain bragging rights that most other places just don't have.

The colorful images of the fairgrounds, the Space Needle and the Monorail let the city lay claim to a little piece of one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century. And, rather than only "15 minutes" of fame, Seattle's moment in the spotlight has lasted more than 50 years.

I'm Feliks Banel for KUOW.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW