The date of November 22nd in Toledo is remembered for a variety of news items that have made headlines over the years, not the least of which was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on that day in 1963. It was cold drizzly rainy afternoon in Northwest Ohio and anyone older than 55 probably relives that terrible afternoon and the following days with acute recall. Ironically, one of the biggest news events of our times did not make headlines in the Blade that day because the Toledo Blade workers were on strike and the presses weren’t rolling.
Another major event that was to take place the same day was the long-awaited opening of the DiSalle Bridge over the Maumee River setting into place one of the key pieces of the I-75 corridor. But as the tragic events unfolded in Dallas that Friday afternoon, Toledo’s community leaders opted to cancel the plan for that ceremony.
ELVIS ALSO MAKES HISTORY IN TOLEDO ON NOVEMBER 22nd
Another memorable event that took place on November 22nd in Toledo’s history was the first appearance of Elvis Presley on a Toledo stage. The year was 1956, and this was a special Thanksgiving Day show at the Sports Arena as part of a four city tour that Elvis was making just one day after he ended his music contract with Sun Records in Memphis and signed with RCA. Elvis historian Alan Hanson writes that Elvis’ fame had been increasing in the weeks leading up to the Ohio tour after making his second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. He had just filmed his first movie in Hollywood and the night that Elvis arrived in Toledo, “Love Me Tender”, which had been released that day, started a run at Toledo’s Paramount Theater. According to the newspaper ads, Presley was booked for two shows at 2:30 and 8 p.m. He’d be preceded by six opening acts, and he would appear for just 30 minutes. The Arena held 7500 seats and promoters were hoping for a sell out. They didn’t make that goal, but they did manage to sell over 13,000 tickets for both shows combined with ticket prices at $2.00 and $2.50. The gross take was $28,000, breaking the Sports Arena’s previous record of $24,000 dollars that had been set by a Bob Hope show. Toledo Blade reporter Charles Gilmore would write that Elvis looked bewildered when he came out on stage to greet the screaming fans and he also took note of Presley’s controversial torso twisting or “bumps and grinds” and the noise in the arena “rose to a higher pitch” as Presley moved his torso in rhythm with the beat. Gilmore wrote that at times that the screaming of the Toledo fans reached a level of hysteria and when Elvis went into the show closer with “Hound Dog”, the kids broke from their seats and rushed the stage and the aisles..as 20 security guards watched helplessly.
PRESLEY’S TOLEDO APPEARANCE TRIGGERS A BRAWL
Reporter Gilmore apparently did not share the young crowds enthusiasm for the “Hillbilly Hellcat” and his words of disdain for the music and the show drew a flood of angry letters to Blade editor’s in the days that followed. Another angle to the story of the Elvis Toledo visit focused on fight incident involving Elvis at the Commodore Perry on the day that rock and roller and his entourage arrived in the city. While sitting in the Commodore Perry’s Shalimar Room bar, Presley was confronted by 19-year-old Toledoan Louis Balint, who shouted, “My wife carries your picture but doesn’t carry mine.” According to “The Blade” a “free-for-all” followed Ballint’s accusation and was eventually broken up by Toledo Police who found Presley earnestly punching Balint who was trying to toss one of the musicians, Scotty Moore, over a railing. Balint, a local sheet metal worker, was carted off and later sentenced to seven days in the Workhouse because he was unable to pay the $19 fine.. Balint would later claim that the fight had been staged and was fake, saying someone had offered him $200 to punch Elvis and claim that he was jealous because his wife carried Elvis’ picture in her wallet. He also says he was supposed to say that he was just 19 years old instead of his real age of 22, because the Elvis promoters thought it would appeal more to Presley’s fans if his accuser was still a teenager. It has never been proven whether Balint was telling a tall tale to save face, or whether the Elvis Presley promotion machine had in fact staged the fight. Whatever the case, it is a part of the “King’s” rough and tumble, tough guy lore.
It should be noted that while there are stories about Elvis appearing sometime later in his career at the Civic Auditorium in Toledo, there is no written record of such a show ever taking place. The only other time Elvis did appear in Toledo was in April of 1977. In that last Toledo appearance, the 42-year-old rock icon filled Savage Hall at the University of Toledo. Four months later, Elvis would die of a drug induced heart attack at his Graceland home in Memphis.