From the private collection of Mr. Ed Bonja
This badge and others like it were used as backstage passes on the Elvis Presley concert tours between 1971 and 1976. For security reasons, a different colour badge was used for each concert. After 1973, a variety of buttons were used for show members, while this type of badge with the words "BUILDING PERSONNEL" continued to be used for personnel other than show member whose duties required access to the backstage area. In 1975, I designed and made personalized TCB photo I. D. badges for show members only, which were used through the last concert tour in July of 1977. The photo I.D. badges are very rare, and the several variations of this badge are not easily found. After each concert tour, i saved the different backstage passes that had not been used. This is one of those badges
These backstage passes were part of the ELVIS-A-RAMA MUSEUM collection in Las Vegas.
The ELVIS-A-RAMA MUSEUM was later acquired by EPE/Graceland
Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1945, Ed moved with his large family to Los Angeles, California in 1952. Ed graduated from California State University, Los Angeles in 1970, majoring in Industrial Arts and French. A year of post graduate studies culminated in a California Standard Teaching Credential.
Ed first met Thomas A Parker (not Colonel yet) in Chicago in the late 1940's through his uncle, Tom Diskin, who was managing his sisters' singing trio known as the Little Dickens Sisters. Tom Parker and Tom Diskin met and became friends while their acts were performing on the same shows as they toured around the country. They often visited the Bonja home in Chicago and Los Angeles for Sunday afternoon Supper. The entire Bonja family grew up knowing Tom Parker and his wife, Marie, as Uncle (later Uncle Colonel) and Aunt Marie. Of course, the Bonjas were the first kids on the block to know about Elvis Presley and the Colonel made sure that they had all his records, photos and souvenirs. It was in June of 1964, while working as a secretary for the Colonel during the shooting of the movie, "Girl Happy", that Ed first met Elvis at a surprise birthday party Elvis gave for the Colonel at MGM Studios.
When Elvis and the Colonel made the decision to start doing live concert tours again in 1970, the Colonel asked Ed, his brother, Ron, Ed's cousin, Mike Williamson and a friend of the Colonel from Palm Springs, Rick Logan, to come along on those first two tours and "help out" in any way needed to assure the tours ran smoothly - from loading and unloading equipment from trucks and planes, to selling Elvis souvenirs at the concerts. The years following those two tours in 1970, would see two more of Ed's brothers, Mike & Jeffrey Bonja, many more cousins and several close friends added to the original list of helpers. The Colonel knew that Ed had just begun studying photography, and he suggested that Ed bring his camera on that first tour in September of 1970 and feel free to take all the pictures he wanted. Ed did bring his camera on that tour, and that was the start of his taking several thousand photographs of Elvis Presley over the next several years. Ed would take off from school for a couple weeks for a tour then return to his studies.
After completing his college post-graduate work in 1971, Ed went to work on a full-time basis as an assistant to the Colonel and as the Elvis Presley Show Tour Managaer and Photographer until April of 1977. During the 1970's, Ed's photographs were used for all the souvenir books, posters, buttons and publicity shots that were seen and sold at Elvis concerts and Las Vegas/Lake Tahoe Engagements. Ed's first record album cover was "Elvis as Recorded Live at Madison Square Garden", released in June of 1972. His photos appear on the covers of dozens of Elvis' LP albums, single sleeves and CD's. In the booklet with the 1970's box set (The Essential 70's Masters) RCA/BMG used twenty-six of Ed's photographs; and four of the five cover shots used for the individual CD's for that set were also Ed's work. Both the original covers and the remakes of the "Moody Blue" and "Raised On Rock" CD's by RCA/BMG feature several of Ed's photographs. Recently, Ed's photos have been featured in the FTD releases "I'll Remeber You", "Standing Room Only" and "Good Times."
Ed lived in Berlin from October 2007 through September 2008. He moved to Soest and began woirking as a consultant for Praytome Publishing Company in October 2008, where he divides his time between his home in California and Soest. For the past few years, he has been putting on photo exhibitions of his many beautiful pictures of Elvis throughout Europe.
© Ed Bonja
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