Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Autograph signing devolves into fisticuffs

A service station in Memphis, Tennessee, erupted into a brawl on Oct. 18, 1956, and when the dust settled Elvis Presley was cleared of disorderly conduct charges while two station employees were fined for starting the fight.

Presley, 21, was in his hometown briefly between tours and had stopped by the station of Ed Hopper to have him check the gas tank of his Lincoln Continental Mark II for leaks. While Presley waited, a crowd gathered at the station and he began signing autographs. The trouble started when the crowd began blocking traffic to the station, and Hopper asked Presley to move on so the station could get back to regular business. “I asked him three times to move, in a nice way,” said Hopper, 42.

Presley agreed to move his car, but dawdled to sign just a few more autographs. Hopper, irate at the delay (and apparently not impressed by Presley’s celebrity status), leaned into the car and slapped Presley on the back of the head, snapping, “I said to move on.”

According to witness Harvey Huff, the 6-foot 1-inch, 185-pound Presley jumped out of the car and landed a right cross on the smaller Hopper, leaving a gash near his left eye. Hopper then allegedly tried to pull a pocket knife on Presley. A policeman and another bystander broke up the fight, but station attendant Aubrey Brown waded into the fray and took a swing at Presley, who grazed Brown with another right.

All three men appeared in court the next morning, Hopper sporting a beaut of a black eye. Judge Sam Friedman fined Hopper $25 and Brown $15 for assault and battery, and Presley was cleared of disorderly conduct charges.

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