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Dateline: May 1959 - Elvis Movie Causes Mexican Riot

May 1959: While Elvis Presley’s popularity in the U.S. was arguably at its all-time peak, Mexico was in the midst of a huge anti-Elvis backlash.

Tijuana tabloids called him a racist and homosexual, after the singer reportedly told gossip columnist Federico de León "I'd rather kiss three black girls than a Mexican." A Mexican woman in the same column was quoted saying "I'd rather kiss three dogs than one Elvis Presley.”

Image Mexican Radio Exitos read de León's column over the air and spearheaded a boycott of the "insolent artist," while the powerful student group Federación Estudiantil Universitaria (FEU) held public record burnings.

Image When Elvis’ movie King Creole screened in May 1959 at the Américas Cinema in Mexico City, newspapers who’d advertised the film under the title Melodía Siniestra (Sinister Melody) reported a “riot” occurring.

Mexican counterculture novelist Parménides García Saldaña wrote a short story, "El rey criollo," about the screening where several hundred gatecrashers reportedly shredded the seats and threw lit papers onto patrons from the balcony.

“Before the film began,” wrote Saldaña, “it was pure chaos, a f-ing riot as they say more vulgarly. The different gangs shouted ‘Here the Guerrero [neighborhood],’ ‘Here the Roma’ ...And then some chicks come in with leather jackets with swastikas painted on them, pony tails and bobby socks, real rock and roller like…a group of guys gang up around them [and shout] “‘Dance!’”

ImageImage Mexican reporters suggested Elvis’ hip-wiggling and mannerisms proved he was either maricón (homosexual) or actually a woman in reverse-drag.

Image

The movie Los chiflados del rock'n roll, a musical spoof, was promoted with posters showing Elvis in drag, being shot by rifle-toting men in sombreros, under a banner reading “Die Elvis Presley!”

The book Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture (Berkeley: University of California Press, c1999) claims the original Elvis quote was fabricated. According to author Eric Zolov, “Herbe Pompeyo of Polygram Records in Mexico City claims that a high-up Mexican political figure wanted to contract Presley for a private party, for which he sent the performer a blank check to fill in as he wished."

"Presley, according to the story, returned the blank check, so the politico, extremely offended, invented the storyline about Elvis not liking Mexican women.”

Image Who could have imagined that, four decades later, Mexico would be producing more Elvis velvet paintings than any other region in the world…

Image …not to mention giving us San Diego's own “El Vez, the Mexican Elvis.”

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"Field Of Screens" -- Cover story 7-6-06: Complete theater-by-theater history of San Diego drive-ins thru the years, including interviews with operators and attendees, dozens of rare and unpublished photos, vintage local theater ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

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"Before It Was The Gaslamp: Balboa's Last Stand" -- Cover story 6-21-07: In the late 70s/early 80s, I worked at downtown San Diego's grindhouse all-night movie theaters. This detailed feature recalls those dayz, the death of the Balboa Theatre, etc., including interviews with operators, vintage local movie ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

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May 1959: While Elvis Presley’s popularity in the U.S. was arguably at its all-time peak, Mexico was in the midst of a huge anti-Elvis backlash.

Tijuana tabloids called him a racist and homosexual, after the singer reportedly told gossip columnist Federico de León "I'd rather kiss three black girls than a Mexican." A Mexican woman in the same column was quoted saying "I'd rather kiss three dogs than one Elvis Presley.”

Image Mexican Radio Exitos read de León's column over the air and spearheaded a boycott of the "insolent artist," while the powerful student group Federación Estudiantil Universitaria (FEU) held public record burnings.

Image When Elvis’ movie King Creole screened in May 1959 at the Américas Cinema in Mexico City, newspapers who’d advertised the film under the title Melodía Siniestra (Sinister Melody) reported a “riot” occurring.

Mexican counterculture novelist Parménides García Saldaña wrote a short story, "El rey criollo," about the screening where several hundred gatecrashers reportedly shredded the seats and threw lit papers onto patrons from the balcony.

“Before the film began,” wrote Saldaña, “it was pure chaos, a f-ing riot as they say more vulgarly. The different gangs shouted ‘Here the Guerrero [neighborhood],’ ‘Here the Roma’ ...And then some chicks come in with leather jackets with swastikas painted on them, pony tails and bobby socks, real rock and roller like…a group of guys gang up around them [and shout] “‘Dance!’”

ImageImage Mexican reporters suggested Elvis’ hip-wiggling and mannerisms proved he was either maricón (homosexual) or actually a woman in reverse-drag.

Image

The movie Los chiflados del rock'n roll, a musical spoof, was promoted with posters showing Elvis in drag, being shot by rifle-toting men in sombreros, under a banner reading “Die Elvis Presley!”

The book Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture (Berkeley: University of California Press, c1999) claims the original Elvis quote was fabricated. According to author Eric Zolov, “Herbe Pompeyo of Polygram Records in Mexico City claims that a high-up Mexican political figure wanted to contract Presley for a private party, for which he sent the performer a blank check to fill in as he wished."

"Presley, according to the story, returned the blank check, so the politico, extremely offended, invented the storyline about Elvis not liking Mexican women.”

Image Who could have imagined that, four decades later, Mexico would be producing more Elvis velvet paintings than any other region in the world…

Image …not to mention giving us San Diego's own “El Vez, the Mexican Elvis.”

RELATED ARTICLES:

ImageImage

"Field Of Screens" -- Cover story 7-6-06: Complete theater-by-theater history of San Diego drive-ins thru the years, including interviews with operators and attendees, dozens of rare and unpublished photos, vintage local theater ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image

"Before It Was The Gaslamp: Balboa's Last Stand" -- Cover story 6-21-07: In the late 70s/early 80s, I worked at downtown San Diego's grindhouse all-night movie theaters. This detailed feature recalls those dayz, the death of the Balboa Theatre, etc., including interviews with operators, vintage local movie ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image

Image "Pussycat Theaters: When 'Cathouses Ruled California" -- for the first time, the inside story of the west coast Pussycat Theater chain of adult moviehouses, which peaked in the '70s but later died out. Company head Vince Miranda owned and lived part time at the Hotel San Diego, operating several other local theaters downtown and in Oceanside, Escondido, etc. Told by those who actually ran the theaters, with a complete theater-by-theater encyclopedia covering every Pussycat that ever screened in CA -- http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image

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Comments
2

Funny how some of the reporters were so offended by the alleged bigotry of Elvis, yet didn't find it hypocritical to call him a maricon - ultimately, being bigoted toward LGBT's - ahh, and the epithets go round and round.

Interesting article Jay, thanks

May 22, 2013

Why would that be "funny," Mr. Decker? You have to put things in perspective. This was 1959 and homosexuality was only whispered, rumored or kept pretty much underground, EVEN in the US entertainment industry, with the obvious exceptions of people like Librace, etc. But that would be too much for you to comprehend.

March 10, 2015

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