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Sunday, June 06, 2010
Elvis' Kiss Got Nuns All Shook Up
By Rick Nathanson
Journal Staff Writer
Two women attending this week's 50th reunion of St. Vincent Academy technically would have been part of the 1960 graduating class — if they hadn't been expelled.
Thank Elvis Presley in part for that.
Carla Hale, Nancy Kozikowski, who's hosting the reunion at her Albuquerque home, and other St. Vincent girls saw Elvis at the Armory in April 1956.
After the show, the rising young star doled out appreciative kisses on the cheek, including to Kozikowski (then Nancy Hebenstreit). But Hale (then Carla Singer) got the surprise of her life when Presley embraced her, slightly bent her backward and gave her a full-on kiss on the mouth.
Presley was 21 and the two St. Vincent eighth-graders were 13.
The next morning a local newspaper reporter interviewed Hale, who offered that her Elvis kiss was qualitatively better than the modest peck classmate Kozikowski had received.
The next day, the story was plastered on the front page and a scowl was plastered on the faces of the nuns. "My mom, who had taken us to the concert, was called in to the school and they asked her how she could 'let that man kiss your daughter like that?' My mom said the only reason she had to be mad was that Elvis 'grabbed her instead of me.' "
The nuns were not amused. Hale was expelled.
Despite that, Hale says she enjoyed her time at St. Vincent Academy. "I appreciated the nuns, they were good to us, although some were a little strict. But sometimes you need strict, especially when you hit seventh or eighth grade."
Kozikowski was off the hook, but not for long. Just weeks later during a family vacation to Las Vegas, Nev., Presley was performing across the street from her family's hotel. Kozikowski struck up a friendship with him at an arcade outside his hotel. The two posed for pictures together and even made a talking record there. A jealous boyfriend later destroyed the record, she says.
Kozikowski, now a tapestry artist and painter, was preoccupied then with sketching pictures of stars, including James Dean and of course, Elvis.
"I also laced my shoes the opposite direction, tying the bow at the bottom instead of the top, and I put the school emblem upside down on my uniform. The nuns thought there was some rebellious meaning to it."
It was all too much for the school, and Kozikowski was dismissed from St. Vincent Academy, she says.
She says she was devout at the time, going to Mass each morning — though she confesses that after morning prayer she'd walk to a small cafe "to have coffee and cigarettes."
"I may have been too curious and questioning of authority, but I had huge respect for the nuns," she says. "They just didn't get me, not that I got me, but I was pretty shocked that they didn't get me."