Editor's note: When Elvis Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, he left a worldwide legion of music fans in mourning. It was no different on Long Island, where "the King" had been scheduled to perform at the Nassau Coliseum a week later. As many as 700 fans had camped out overnight to buy tickets to the concert, which sold out quickly, with a top price of $15. On Aug. 22, the night the concert had been scheduled, over 5,000 fans gathered in the Coliseum parking lot for an impromptu tribute to Elvis that lasted two hours. Of the 16,700 tickets that had been sold, only 1,250 had been returned for refund at that time.
This story was originally published in Newsday on Aug. 17, 1977.
Kathy Corlis of Coram, who waited 25 hours to be first in line for tickets to Monday's Elvis Presley concert at Nassau Coliseum, plans to buy another ticket today. This one will take her to Memphis, Tenn., where she will mourn the man she calls the "King."
"I have been crying all day and I will be crying for months to come," she said. "It's going to cost $190, but it's worth it because I feel that it is just something that I have to do."
There were pained reminiscenses all over Long Island. Some went public. In Oceanside, for example, dozens of members of the Long Island Rod and Custom Association assembled in a parking lot with their cars and Presley memorabilia.
In Lynbrook, eight fans gathered last night at the home of Richard Hess, a vice president of the Kings' Court, a defunct metropolitan-area Elvis fan club, to mourn and comfort themselves over the passing of Elvis. They pulled out mementoes from past Elvis concerts and refreshed old memories. They made and received calls of condolence from others around Long Island, who like themselves had been struck by the charisma of Elvis.
"I know it sounds crazy," said Hess, 35. "Here I am, a married man with two kids and a business. But to me, he was the greatest man alive. He was my thing. My little world. It's all over now. I guess my adolescent period will pass and I'm going to have to grow up."
Hess, who has pictures of himself with Elvis, said that he has visited the singer's Graceland mansion twice and had attended more than 100 of his concerts. "He was our hobby," said Hess' wife, Angela. "Other families are involved in things, he is what we shared. He was our excitement and our involvement."
John Farro, 28, of Dix Hills, said he once waited in line three days to buy a ticket to a Presley show. "Elvis was the greatest," he said. "His passing deeply saddens me. I felt like I lost a brother." Laura, his wife added, "It seems that death just takes the wrong people from us."
"He was a great man, not just the superstar and singer," said Michael Minuto, 27, of Malverne, who met Elvis five years ago. "He was a real regular guy."
Dottie Brach, 29, of Bayport, said she had two $15 front-row seats for the Monday concert [and] will put the tickets with her collection of Elvis records and tapes. "I've been walking around in a daze," she said. "Like, I can't believe that this could happen to the King."
Stephanie Canale of Lake Grove, a 35-year-old mother of two, said she would always cherish a sweat-stained scarf Elvis threw her two years ago at the Las Vegas Hilton. "It was March 21, 1975," she said. "I can even tell you the minute and hour. I have always held and treasured that scarf. Now that he is gone, there's not enough dollars that could ever get it from me."
Ed Orgon, director of public relations and advertising for the Nassau Coliseum, said tickets can be returned at the point of purchase or, if purchased at the Coliseum, mailed in for a refund. Orgon said that the county expected to make about $25,000 on rent and another $10,000 on parking and concessions. "Elvis fans were big spenders and usually tried to make a night of it," he said.