The Bears, the Packers and the time I took Elvis’ wife’s picture at Soldier Field

The Bears, the Packers and the time I took Elvis’ wife’s picture at Soldier Field

(photo by Lee Bey)

The Bears victory 20-17 over the Green Bay Packers last night reminded me of Priscilla Presley. You know: Elvis’ wife.

In a September 29, 2003 Monday night game—the Bears’ first in the newly-renovated Soldier Field—the Pack laid a nationally-televised smackdown on the home team. I was watching the carnage with a group of city and Bears officials in a skybox. Brett Favre was at quarterback for the Packers. We had Kordell Stewart.‚ Packers led 24-6 at halftime.

Sometime late in the second quarter, then first-term Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his entourage burst into the skybox. “Look—he’s got Priscilla Presley with him,” the person sitting next to me said. I gave a quick look over my shoulder. “It does look a little like her,” I said, thinking my seat mate was pulling my leg.

“No, it actually is her.”

I turned around again and I was face-to-face with the King’s wife. She extended a small hand. “Hi, I’m Priscilla,” she‚ said. I shook her hand and returned the greeting. She introduced herself to everyone in the skybox—as did a boyishly-excited Blagojevich, who remarked about how good the stadium looked. Everybody knew Blago is an Elvis fan, so seeing Elvis’s widow in his crew wasn’t so surprising. But it was a little surreal. Especially when the governor and Miss Presley sat down and almost immediately started cheering for the Packers. She is apparently a Packers fan.

I almost always carry a camera with me, and back then I had an Argus C-4 camera from the 1950s that shot film. Could I sneak a shot of the governor and Presley together without getting beaten down by his security detail, I wondered?‚ Why risk it? So I asked: “Governor? Would you mind if I took a picture of you and Miss Presley?”

“Sure!” he said and leaned back to pose. But in the microseconds it took me to get the thing up to my eye, the governor had bounded from his seat and was standing next to me. I hadn’t seen scrambling that fast at a Bears game since Bobby Douglass played quarterback. “How about this?” Blago said. “How about I get a photo of you and Miss Presley together?” Damn! Not what I wanted, but how could I say no? So I sat in the governor’s seat and he took this photo (yeah, it’s blurry; the camera had manual focus, not autofocus):

(photo by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich—honest)

Then afterward, I took the photo of Presley that appears at the top of the post. She was 59 in these photos. They didn’t stay the whole game. Blago and company left the skybox during halftime. Later that night, I wished I had too: the Packers beat the Bears 38-23.