60 year-old Joe Makowski is probably the biggest Elvis Presley fan in all of Palm Harbor, possibly even Florida.
Makowski says he saw Elvis in concert a total of 81 times from 1971 through 1977, “He never disappointed me, I think he was the greatest entertainer, with the greatest voice of all time,” he said.
Makowski's fascination with Presley began at the age of 13. He remembers the day well. December 8, 1964 Makowski went with friend to see the movie, "Roustabout" starring Elvis Presley.
Makowski says he was immediately struck by Elvis' charisma. He couldn’t take his eyes off the screen. “I wanted to be just like that guy,” he said, “He was so cool.”
The teen became hooked on Presley movies. He saw many of them multiple times. His favorite was Flaming Star. “He was a great singer of course,” said Makowski, “But he was a fine dramatic actor as well. Flaming Star and other dramatic roles such as playing Danny in King Creole proved this.”
From that point on, Elvis became his hobby and passion. “If Elvis appeared on the cover of a fan magazine, I would buy it,” said Makowski.
“I bought all his new records and slowly bought the older ones when I had the money.”
Soon he had all of Elvis’s records in his collection.
“It was contagious,” said Makowski, “I got all of my friends hooked on Elvis too.”
The hobby continued into adulthood. As a postal worker, this die-hard Elvis fan would schedule his annual vacations around Presley’s concert schedule, “I saw Elvis perform in 15 different cities,” he said.
“One year in Las Vegas, I went to his concerts at the Hilton seven nights in a row. Each night, Elvis added something different and exciting to the show.”
In 1975, Makowski had the honor of meeting Presley after a New Year's Eve concert. At around 3:30 in the morning, Elvis arrived at his hotel with his entourage.
“I was waiting for him in the lobby.” said Makowski . “I called his name and told him I came all the way from New Jersey to see him. Elvis turned around and said ‘Thanks a lot man, it’s you fans that make all this possible.’ He signed an autograph for me and went on his way. I will never forget that moment.”
By early 1976, Makowski says he could see something was wrong with Elvis. His concerts were becoming erratic and the King of Rock and Roll did not always look well.
“At times he looked bloated and pale. When I got to shake his hand, his fingers were swollen and his face was puffy. It made me very sad,” said Makowski.
On June 25, 1977, Makowski went to an Elvis concert in Cincinnati, Ohio. The concert was videotaped by CBS-TV for an upcoming live album and television special. At the end of the concert, the CBS film crew interviewed Makowski about Elvis. The interview wound up being included in a TV show that was broadcast across the country.
The next day Makowski boarded a bus to Indianapolis to attend what turned out to be the last concert of Elvis Presley’s life.
Makowski continues to remember the King of Rock and Roll and recently made a trip to Graceland in Memphis to commemorate the August 16 anniversary of his death. He was among the first in line outside Graceland and told an associated press reporter, "The biggest thing I get out of it is seeing the young fans that weren't even born until years after he passed away."