For New Year’s Eve 1975, I took Elvis Presley to Pontiac, Mich., for a concert at the Silverdome, which is the 80,000-seat stadium right outside Detroit.
I ran the concessions, which always did fabulously well. When Elvis sang, he used to take his scarf and give it to girls in the audience. He would change scarves 10 times in a single show: sweat, wipe sweat off his brow, give the scarf to some girl, and she would smell it and faint. I decided as a new item, in addition to all the key chains, pictures, and everything else, I was going to get scarves made. So I went to India, China, somewhere, and bought 35,000 scarves with his picture on them. When I arrived at the football stadium, my concessionaire came to me and said, “We got a big problem. The scarves you bought? Nobody’s buying them. You’re going to get stuck with 35,000 scarves.”
Oh, my God, I thought. What a stupid mistake this is! Now I’m going to have to ship these things back. Why the hell did I do this?
I was sitting backstage with a frown on my face, which is very, very rare for me. And in comes Elvis and his entourage. He walks up to me, and says, “Are you OK? You look terrible.”
“No, I’m not OK,” I said. “I made a terrible mistake.”
“I bought 35,000 scarves and nobody cares about them.”
He said, “What are you talking about? You got 80,000 people, you’re probably making $1 million tonight. What are you carrying on about?”
But I was still down. So Elvis said, “If I fix this for you, will you smile?” And I said, “Sure, but I don’t know how you can possibly fix it.” Well, he went out there and did the first two numbers, then he stopped and said, “Turn the lights on, I can’t see you.” So they turned the lights in the stadium on, and Elvis said, “I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to take a break, get a Coca-Cola. If you go out to the concession stands, do me a favor and buy a white scarf. And then when you come back, wave it at me, and I’ll be able to see you.” He went off. I sold 35,000 scarves. I was upset I didn’t have another 35,000.
I’m right much more than I’m wrong, but in that case I was really wrong.
So I guess the lesson here is: don’t buy 35,000 of anything unless you have Elvis Presley to sell them.