Elvis and the Bowery Boy

Following is an excerpt from the Des Moines Register:

Budding actor Joe Aronow took the name Bobby Stone to honor his benefactor, Des Moines lawyer Irving Stone who helped the teen in his dream to be in the movies. The youth later said he had never had a business manager and credited his business acumen to his days of working as a carrier for The Des Moines Register. Stone's last screen appearance was in an Elvis Presley movie, "Kissin' Cousins"in 1964.

Bobby Stone was born Joe Aronow in Des Moines in 1922. He left for Hollywood at 16, obsessed with becoming an actor. He reached his goal and was best known for his performances in the popular "East Side Kids"/ "Bowery Boys" series of movies, playing a tough New York street kid.

When World War II came along, Stone served in the Army in entertainment divisions, mainly in the South Pacific. On returning to Hollywood after the war, he decided he would prefer to work behind the scenes rather than in front of the camera. That led to his longtime career as a casting director and production manager, primarily for director Sam Katzman, who had created the "Bowery Boys" films.

Aronow says Stone loved his work "he had a ball" and was particularly proud of Katzman "better-quality films" such as "Your Cheatin Heart," about country singer Hank Williams, and two Elvis Presley movies, "Harum Scarum"(1965) and "Kissin Cousins"(1964). For the latter, Stone cast himself as the driver of an Army jeep and can be seen briefly on screen.

Aronow says his brother was known for his sense of humor, but when Colonel Tom Parker, Presley's manager, gave Stone a life-sized imitation gorilla, Bob kept it in a foyer of his home, using it to startle guests.

~Des Moines Register

A little known fact about Elvis was that he enjoyed The Bowery Boys and their movies, perhaps inspired by his acquaintance with former Eastside Kid and director, Bobby Stone. When Elvis would spend time in his bedroom at Graceland, he watched television and the old movies, including reruns of the Bowery Boys, which had again become popular in the 1960's when Elvis had first met Bobby Stone.

For those who do not know them, The Bowery Boys are again enjoying renewed recognition via You Tube and film festivals, inspiring yet a new generation of movie-goers. Even young musicians have named their bands for The Dead End Kids and The Bowery Boys. Their popularity seems to have increased with time as their film antics, wildness, and tough-guy good looks, remain timeless. Certainly, Elvis was impressed. Did Elvis impress The Bowery Boys? He surely impressed Bobby Stone. But what did Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall think of Elvis Presley, the up and coming King of Rock and Roll? While Sach and Slip hung out weekly at Louie's Sweetshop, Elvis was fast becoming a rock and roll legend.

The video, "Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar" puts Huntz and Leo together with country music greats, but...where is Elvis?

Huntz Hall once compared the arrival of the Dead End Kids(Eastside Kids/Bowery Boys)in Hollywood to the arrival in the USA of the Beatles." Sach" did you mean to say "Elvis!"

Lastly, this piece from "Western Clippings.com" the site of Will Hutchins, he tells an anecdote about director Sam Katzman who directed Elvis in his least favorite film, "Harum Scarum." Sam knew the Bowery Boys well, having created them, but what Elvis didn't know was that Sam did not use stunt men. Elvis gave in to him but Leo Gorcey..."no way!"

Elvis Presley once told me that “Harum Scarum” was his least enjoyable flick experience. “Jungle” Sam Katzman made him perform all his own stunts. Elvis said the sword fighting called for more rehearsal. Sam shouted, “Time is money!” Elvis collected his fair share of sword conks on his knuckles—ouchville! Where was the Colonel when Elvis needed him? Legend hath it that Leo Gorcey refused to do his own stunt in an Eastside Kids epic. “Jungle” Sam rushed to the set, “Come on, Leo, be a sport. The budget won’t allow a double. It’s just a simple, garden variety fall down a flight of stairs. They’re padded. Come on, tuck and roll!” This time Leo shouted—“No way!” and he stormed off the set. Later, Huntz Hall knocked on his dressing room door. “Leo, come on back. You gotta see what’s going on. You’ll never believe it!” Reluctantly, Leo snuck back onto the sound stage and stood back in the shadows. Now, the director shouted. “Rollem!” There, at the top of the stairs in Mugg’s costume was “Jungle” Sam Katzman in person. “Action!” “Jungle” Sam took a deep breath and then proceeded to tuck and roll all the way down the stairs and into motion picture lore.

Back to top