Elvis Presley and the Fireworks Game that he Invented – Ooh, Interesting! Fascinating Facts

November 10, 2017

Elvis Presley. One of the most famous musical superstars of the last century. Perhaps the most famous. Still able to get to the top of the charts today and still being featured on hit adverts every other year or so. Not to mention the many imitators and costumes that members of the general public can pick up today if they so desire. A hit at karaoke. A bouffant to envy. One of the few people ever to have lived whom is synonymous with his first name. In short, a very famous man indeed. But for all of his songs, there was a lot more to the man. Graceland, Cadillacs and yes, inventing dangerous games in his spare time.

For those who aren’t Elvis aficionados, we should probably start this particular story by bringing you up to speed on how Elvis used to live his life. He was a superstar from the age of 21 and this was an era in which celebrity managers didn’t really exist. There was nobody around to carefully cultivate your image and professional handlers or security experts simply hadn’t been invented. As such, Elvis was on his own at a time when television and radio gave rise to the cult of celebrity.

After becoming the most well-known male entertainer in the world in 1956, Elvis was drafted into the US army for two years in 1958. Upon his discharge in 1960, he found himself just as famous as before, morphing from being a music icon to appearing in films as well. There seemed to be no end to his success and no end to his fame. Everywhere he went, his choice of transport was mobbed. Cameras followed his every move. Thankfully, he practically invented the idea of the entourage; various friends from his childhood and army days made up the ‘Memphis Mafia’ and Elvis went everywhere with this carefully chosen troupe.

Being a celebrity with an awful lot of money, Elvis was well known for sometimes being over the top in how he spent his cash. A lover of rollercoasters, he couldn’t ride his favourite one in Memphis - Zippin Pippin - due to his fame. The solution? Rent out the entire park to enjoy it in peace. He did the same with the Rainbow Rollerdrome in Memphis, a venue that – as the name suggests – was a place where you could roller-skate to your heart’s content!    

The Rainbow Rollerdrome was also the location at which Elvis invented not one but two games. Brace yourself for this because it’s utterly ridiculous on every level. The first of these games was called War and there were two teams. The object of the game was to knock over as many members of the opposing team as possible, by any means necessary. Such invention! The second of the games is even more ridiculous (if you can believe such a thing).

Again, the Memphis Mafia and Elvis divided into two teams – a red team and a blue team. Elvis’ idea of a good game was that the more dangerous it was, the better it was, which goes some way into explaining just how this game came into being. Simply titled Whip, they would walk into the roller area with up to $15,000 of fireworks (adjusted for inflation, a smidge under $100,000 today). Rockets, fire crackers, chasers… You name it, they brought it with them. The object of the game was to simply light the damn things and throw them at anybody on the opposing team. If you got hurt, you’d obviously done badly. There’s no word on exactly how the game finished or how it was judged but we can only assume that it came to a conclusion once the last firework had been thrown.

Naturally, chucking fireworks at one another is a stupid thing to do and Elvis and the Memphis Mafia knew this so insisted upon a strict dress code of air force jumpsuits, gloves, helmets and goggles. Even so, Elvis still attained a large scar to his neck from one firework, whilst a close friend was lucky not to lose an eye after one particular game.

So there you have it – Elvis invented a game that you are never likely to try… On the plus side, you don’t need to worry about being permanently scarred due to playing it.  


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By Henry Fosdike