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ELVIS AT THE POLK
Preserving Elvis' concerts at the Polk
By Gary White, (www.theledger.com)


Though nearly 58 years have passed since then, the president of the Polk Theatre and two local
film-makers know that many memories of that day remain vivid. They want to record those
memories in a documentary.

The trio is inviting all who have stories to share about Elvis' appearance in Lakeland to attend an
open house at the Polk Theatre, this week. The event is a preliminary meeting to find interview
subjects for the planned documentary.

The documentary is the brainchild of Leslie Sikora, president and CEO of the Polk Theatre, and
the film-production team of
Shane Lawlor and Spencer Rubel. Lawlor and Rubel produced a
musical gathering, the British Invasion, last summer at the theater, an 86-year-old structure listed
on the National Register of Historic Places.

After that event, Sikora said the three talked about what their next project might be, and the
discussion turned to Elvis Presley. At first they talked of staging a cabaret show similar to the
British Invasion tribute, but Sikora said she would prefer to create something more lasting.

"So Shane came up with the brilliant idea of interviewing these people and putting them on film to
last forever before we don't have the luxury of interviewing these people,"
Sikora said.

Lawlor toured as a professional musician for years, leading such bands as
Electric Touch and
sharing stages with the likes of
Bon Jovi and Foo Fighters. Two years ago, the native of
England moved to Lakeland, where his wife, Laura Manning-Lawlor, had grown up. The couple
has a young son.

Lawlor, 36, said his wife told him about Presley's celebrated appearance in Lakeland before the
couple had even settled here. He said he was skeptical until Laura took him to the Polk Theatre,
an opulent movie palace restored in the late 1990s after falling into disrepair.As he talked to
Lakeland residents, Lawlor came to appreciate the exalted status Presley's performances at the
Polk Theatre holds in the local consciousness.

Rubel, 26, is a graduate of Full Sail University, an entertainment arts institution in suburban
Orlando. He worked as a production assistant on
"Sunlight Jr.," a movie starring Naomi Watts
and Matt Dillon that was shot in Clearwater.

Sikora said she has been meeting weekly with Lawlor and Rubel to refine the scope of the
documentary. Sikora said they have already made contacts with many people who either
attended one of Elvis' concerts at the theater or have relatives or friends who did.

She said former Lakeland residents living out of the area are invited to share their memories by
email (
corinnemast@polktheatre.org). Tuesday's gathering is intended only for people with direct
or indirect memories of Presley's time in Lakeland, Sikora said, and not for those merely curious
about the project.

"We're trying to find some stories that maybe have never been shared before," Lawlor said. "We
want to put them on the big screen so they won't be secret any more."

Lawlor said he expects the film to be 60 to 80 minutes long. He said the filmmakers tentatively
plan to finish the documentary by the end of this summer. Of course, a screening will be held at
the Polk Theatre.

"All three of us are so passionate about making this happen that it's a real deal," Lawlor said.
Above: Newspaper advert in the Lakeland Ledger on Aug 5th, 1956
one day before Mr Dynamite appeared at the Polk Theatre.

Below: The Polk's beloved Elvis Signature was on the wall in the      
third floor dressing room until March of 2008.
During a performance and heavy rains on the roof created a flood,   
damaging the walls and the signature was immediately rescued  
(wet but intact). The Polk Theatre is in the process of raising funds  
for restoration.
Lawlor said he and Rubel have no intention of making a general documentary about Presley, whose story has been told many times in various media.
Instead, they plan a film tightly focused on the intersection of Elvis & Lakeland. Lawlor said the Polk Theatre itself will be
"a protagonist' in the documentary.

Sikora said two sponsors whom she declined to name will cover the film's production costs. The film makers expect interview subjects to share their
memories without being compensated.

Among the enduring artifacts from Presley's performances in Lakeland is his signature on the wall of a third-floor dressing room. That wall sustained water
damage following a roof leak in 2008, and Sikora said she hopes proceeds from the film can be used to have Presley's signature treated by a professional
art conservator.
Elvis At The Polk Theatre, August 06th 1956 - (Left) Elvis heading up the stairs backstage to his dressing room. (Right) Elvis gets the show underway at the Polk Theatre.
(Middle) Sending the girls crazy with his Rockin' moves.6