Ed Sullivan's TV show on Sunday nights was a family affair. Sullivan was so worried about Elvis Presley's reputation for sexuality that by Elvis' third appearance, in 1957, Sullivan allowed him to be shown only from the waist up. That meant the TV audience couldn't see Elvis' gyrating hips, but Sullivan couldn't do a thing about the King's sensuous lips.
Elvis' lips were as important to his romantic rebel image as were his bedroom eyes, the unruly shock of hair on his forehead or the drawl. Girls could almost feel what it would be like to kiss them, especially that full, soft-looking lower lip. Elvis' mouth was not especially large. But the way he used his lips was as important as how they looked. They quivered. They sneered. He emphasized the Cupid's bow shape of his upper lip, raising it to show his teeth at appropriate times.
It's no accident that Elvis' 28th movie, the 1968 film "Live a Little, Love a Little," was based on Dan Greenburg's novel "Kiss My Firm but Pliant Lips," which was even the film's original working title.
Even today, more than 30 years after his death, there are Elvis categories such as "best curled lip" in Elvis look-alike contests. There are also Web sites offering to teach people to draw Elvis caricatures, with detailed instructions for his distinctive lips.
Read about what may be the most famous pair of red lips ever on the next page.