Image 1 of 2
Al Fleming of Lake of the Woods (right) this year in NBC pilot “Smokewood, Nevada” (with actor Robert Davi).
Image 2 of 2
Al Fleming in 1961 at 17, meeting Elvis Presley (right) while Presley was filming "Follow That Dream" in Florida. Fleming became a stand-in and stuntman for the superstar, then accepted an invitation to work for Elvis in Hollywood.
By Patric Hedlund
This month marks the 50th anniversary of an event that changed the life of Lake of the Woods resident Al Fleming.
In 1961 Fleming was 17 years old, resident of a little Florida town an hour north of Tampa. That year, superstar Elvis Presley came to film the movie Follow That Dream.
Fleming was running a boat rental shop, offering scuba diving and water skiing lessons. Presley stayed in a cottage across the dock from Fleming’s shop at Port Paradise, while scenes of the feature were being filmed around the area. The teen rented boats to the Hollywood group. He hit it off with Presley and the entourage.
Here’s an excerpt from the story as reported by Keith Morelli in the Tampa Tribune:
The filming of Elvis Presley’s Follow That Dream in Citrus and Levy counties 50 years ago this summer led Al Fleming to follow his own dream—and the King—to California, where they became lifelong friends.
Fleming was a 17-year-old Crystal River High School senior who was renting boats at Port Paradise Motel when he first spotted Elvis across the canal from his docks. Elvis was in town to film the movie and stayed at the Port Paradise in Crystal River.
Fleming had heard the King was coming to town. He was a big fan and even looked like Elvis, with the long sideburns and slicked-back hairstyle.
One day, Elvis yelled hello across the canal as Fleming was bailing out some boats.
“I was trying to be cool,” Fleming recalled this week, “but all I could do was stutter and stammer.”
They ended up becoming friends and when filming stopped each day, Elvis and some of his entourage rented boats from Fleming, now 69 and living in the mountains of California. Fleming took them on tours of the pristine Kings Bay and up and down the river.
One day, Fleming’s mom asked him to invite Elvis and some of the guys over for some homemade fried chicken.
Fleming did, and to his surprise Elvis – one of the biggest stars in the world at that time – accepted. They managed to escape the throng of fans camped out in front of the Port Paradise and headed to Homosassa Springs.
They ate fried chicken, Fleming said, and played music on the family piano and organ late into the night.
“Those are some of my fondest memories,” Fleming said, “To me it was real exciting. I had always been an Elvis fan and here he was, sitting in my house, eating chicken, playing the organ and singing gospel songs.”
The friendship blossomed and when the filming was over, Elvis asked Fleming to come with him to California to hang out as part of his entourage. He looked enough like the King to be a stand-in and do stunts.
“I said ‘Heck, yes,’” Fleming recalled. “I went home and told my mom I was going to Hollywood with Elvis and she said, ‘Like hell you are.’”
Fleming had gathered a large collection of Indian artifacts he had found around the shores of the river and without his mother knowing, sold it to a neighbor for $300.
“I packed up my stuff,” Fleming said, “and hoofed it out of Crystal River without my mom knowing.”
He worked with Elvis for more than two years, performing as a stand-in and stunt double in several movies. He soon tired of the work, though, and quit in the mid 1960s. He didn’t want to be among the many who always had their hands out.
“I got sick of being a flunky,” he said.
Still, he and Elvis remained friends and kept in touch over the next decade and longer until Elvis died.
Excerpt printed by arrangement with the author. Fleming’s mother was Mae Roy, who had Mae Roy Realty in Lake of the Woods since 1963. She was a LOW and Pinon Pines developer and realtor.
This is part of the August 05, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.