Sunday, July 31, 2016

Elvis Presley

Further evidence that “Madison is 30* square miles surrounded by reality," as Governor Lee Dreyfus proclaimed in 1978, is a small historical marker located at the northwest corner of East Washington Avenue and Highway 51 in Madison.

It's the spot where the King of Rock and Roll, dressed in a dark blue "DEA Agent" track suit over his sparkly performance jumpsuit and wearing aviator sunglasses, emerged from a limousine in the early morning hours to confront two boys who were harrassing and assaulting another boy.

Elvis Presley had just arrived at the old Four Lakes Airport, now Wisconsin Aviation, to a crowd of screaming fans after performing at a concert in Des Moines, Iowa only a few hours before that. He would perform at the Dane County Coliseum, now the Alliant Energy Center, later that night, which would end up being one of his last concerts ever, as the 42-year-old would die only 52 days later.

Only a few short minutes after his arrival and on his way to his hotel, when stopped at the stoplight at the intersection of Hwy. 51 and East Washington, he spotted a disturbance at the then Skylane Standard Service station at 1506 North Stoughton Road, and intervened.

The victim was 17-year-old Keith Lowry Jr., whose dad owned the service station, and one of the youths had recently been fired over suspicion of theft. "I told the guys working for me that I didn't want him around," Lowry Sr. said, and the fight started when they had showed up at the station and his son tried to kick the other two off the property.

When Elvis spotted them, he saw Keith on the ground being beaten up by two teens, and had his driver stop.

One can only imagine the look of bewilderment that all of the youths must have had on their faces when confronted by the King of Rock and Roll emerging from his limo in the early morning hours.

After the incident, upon returning to the car, Elvis was amused and said, "Did you see the look on those guys' faces?"
"On this site, the corner of Hwy 51 and East Washington Avenue around 1 am, on June 24th, 1977, Elvis Presley was riding in the 2nd of two limousines which had stopped for a red light. He was coming from a concert in Des Moines and had just arrived in Madison. Elvis noticed a young teen on the ground being beaten by two other youths here at the former Skyland Service Station. Elvis jumped out of his limo and moved quickly to the fight scene. They admitted later that they knew it was the legendary Elvis Presley who was standing in front of them in his classic karate stance saying "I'll take you on". After a few classic karate moves by Elvis, the youths recognized him, stood and shook hands, and promised to stop fighting. Elvis asked "Is everything settled now"? Elvis was on his way to the Sheraton and his last Madison appearance. He died 52 days later, on August 16th, 1977." - Elvis Presley Fight Scene plaque inscription
An old, poor quality clip of the news media coverage on YouTube shows scenes from the incident, as well as video from Elvis' show at the venue in Madison, and two articles about the incident were in the Wisconsin State Journal.

*As of 2016, Madison is considered 77 square miles, rather than 30 square miles.

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