|Elvis Express Radio News
|NEGLECTED ELVIS FIGHT MARKER VANDALISED
December 05, 2017 - Journal Sentinel / Elvis Express Radio
|As 40 years have passed, people sometimes use words like legend or myth about the time Elvis Presley jumped from his limousine at a Madison intersection, assumed a karate
stance and halted a fight he spotted at a gas station.
"It really did occur. I was an eyewitness," said Bruce Frey, who was 20 years old on that night of June 24, 1977. Now he's 60 and a retired Madison Police Department detective.
While searching online for something else, I stumbled on a strange roadside marker showing where Elvis saved the day. This is a story I somehow had not heard before.
So I drove to Madison, to the busy crossing of E. Washington Ave. and Stoughton Road, and there I found the small, grave-like monument near the sidewalk.
Bruce Frey went to see Elvis Presley perform in Madison on June 24, 1977, and took this photograph. Presley had stopped a fight in Madison earlier that day, which Frey witnessed.
The singer's death came just 53 days later. (Photo: Courtesy of Bruce Frey)
It's not in good shape. A metal plate bearing a description of what happened that day has been pried from the stone and taken away. But an image of Elvis, guitar in hand and a
thank-you-very-much sneer on his lips, remained on the marker, suggesting to passers-by that he did something at that spot.
I tracked down Frey after finding his name in a 1977 Wisconsin State Journal article headlined, "Elvis in town in time to halt East Side fight." Using his police skills, Frey has become
something of an expert on what happened that day, interviewing other witnesses and even Elvis' bodyguards and backup singers. They say The King was proud he could help out.
Elvis flew into Madison for a performance at the Dane County Coliseum, part of his final tour. The missing plaque says he and his entourage were in two limousines that stopped for
a red light around 1 a.m. at the fateful corner where Skylane Standard Service used to be.
Elvis noticed two young men pummeling a teen on the ground and his martial arts skills started twitching. What he was seeing was Keith Lowry Jr., son of the gas station's owner, in
a fight with a disgruntled former employee and another young man.
Frey, who had gone to the airport with his sister to get a glimpse of Elvis arriving, later found himself on Stoughton Road right behind the limousines. He saw Elvis get out, a bit
pudgy by 1977 standards and dressed in a running suit that said DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) staff. (Elvis had met President Richard Nixon in 1970 and expressed a
desire to be a drug warrior.)
Bruce Frey, a retired Madison police officer, was 20 years old when he witnessed Elvis Presley jump from a limousine and stop a fight outside a gas station. He saw the singer
assume a karate stance and say, "I'll take you two on." (Photo: Courtesy of Bruce Frey)
"I followed him up to the fight and I heard him say, 'I'll take you two on.' I saw him in a karate stance when he issued that remark," Frey said.
The fighters were so surprised and thrilled to see Elvis that the fists stopped flying. "Is everything settled now?" the 42-year-old superstar wanted to know. Frey said he then shook
the singer's hand and told him he had tickets to his show in Madison. As a crowd began to gather, Elvis got back in the car and headed for the hotel.
The marker has been at the spot for just 10 years. It was dedicated as part of the 30-year anniversary of the event. Frey recalls that a local TV station re-enacted the fight and the
way Elvis leapt into action.
The roadside marker showing where Elvis Presley broke up the fight, before it was vandalized. (Photo: Courtesy of Bruce Frey)
It was not the city or any historical group that put up the monument. It was the car dealer on that corner, Suburban Wheels of Madison, that thought it would help bring people to its
door. The gas station was closed and demolished a decade ago.
The dealership is now Schoepp Motors Northeast. The manager there, Nathan Delmore, told me, "We'll randomly have people stop in and ask where it's at." Delmore didn't know
when the marker was vandalized or if it will be fixed.
I vote yes for at least replacing the descriptive plaque on the stone. This is one of Wisconsin's funkier landmarks.
Elvis was a peacekeeper with perfect timing that night. And 53 days later, he was dead.
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