Screaming and fainting were only two of the activities yesterday by people reacting to Elvis Presley's death. Merchandising and analyzing were occupying many others, all over the country.
The computer at RCA Records in New York broke down under the pressue of orders for Presley records, so the amount of the demand was not known. But the company's plant in Indianapolis was convered into a chiefly Presley-producing operation, turning out 250,000 alburns and 200,000 singles each day by working around the clock to meet a demand estimated to reach 100 million.
"The problem is not in pressing the records, but in getting the paper for their covers," said Vince Penn, regional representative for RCA's East Coast division, who said that the entire East Coast, including "every record store in Maryland, Washington and Virginia," is sold out of Presley stock. "We probably won't be able to replenish the stock in some stores for at least another week."
A UPI survey indicated that record stores across the nation had an unprecedented demand for Presley music.
New York RCA spokesman Stu Ginzburg said that RCA is trying to be "as low-key and tasteful about this tragedy as we can, "but is planning to return out-of-print Presley movie soundtracks to the catalog. A future promotional campaign is planned.
"The reaction in Georgetown has been incredible because you'd think Elvis wouldn't have a big market here," said the manager of Kemp Mill Records, Stanley Rooks, whose store was "wiped out" of Presley stock. At Record and Tape, Inc., people bought "anything with his name on it," grabbing "handfuls at a time." said John Matthews.
Specialty record stores in the area reported that they were "absolutely mobbed" by Presley fans seeking old records and memorabilia. Roadhouse Oldies in Silver Spring, which advertises itself as a center for "1950s r'n'r, r'n'b and blues records" collectors, says that 85 per cent of its sales the last two days has been Presley material at Joes Record Paradise in Takoma Park, the figure was 80 per cent.
"Elvis was a dead product at this store until he died," said an employee of Joe's Record Paradise. Now, however, the store has a waiting list for Presley albums, singles, LPs and photos that's two pages long "People will pay anything," says Les Moskowitz of Roadhouse Oldies. "We've been selling some of the 78s for $15 and $20 a throw.
"People I've never seen in here before are asking for Elvis records. We had offers of $100 for some of the Sun singles like 'Good Rocking Tonight' and 'Baby Let's Play House,' even before he died, but I'm not going to sell those. I'm going to wait a couple of weeks and see what happens.'
The Record Bar in Memphis sold 35 albums, 12 eight-tracks and 20 singles in 10 minutes flat; Chicago's Rose Record Stores named as a typical customer a legal secretary who bought 14 albums for $122.14 because she "just admired him very much as a person."
Presley's most recent album, Moody Blue," was No. 26 on the Billboard listing of hit album before his death. The first 250,000 copies of it were pressed in blue vinyl, instead of the usual black, and these are now being sought as collector's items.
Presley impersonators found themselves in sudden demand. Bill Haney, who calls himself "almost Elvis Himselvis," said that his "telelphone has been ringing off the wall since yesterday" because "millions of fans . . . love Elvis and they have no live Elvis to worship anymore.
"The only way his fans can remember his legend is to be able to see somebody do his material in good taste, do it well and do it justice. I hope I can do it well enough so that people will come out and remember Elvis through me," said Haney, who was making $50,000 a year doing Presley's material before the singer's death.
Rick Saucedo, who canceled his Wednesday night show of Presley impersonations in Chicago but resumed Thursday's said his career could now "go either way. For all I know, my career could be over."
In the T-shirt business, a licensing problem is holding up production. Foto Lith, producer of the Charlie's Angels and Kid-for-Rent hit shirts, is negotiating with lawyers in Memphis to make an official, heat-transfer Elvis shirt. Winterland Products of San Francisco is searching the right to produce a silkscreen version, requested by many large record store chains.
One Brooklyn firm which refused to be named has a memorial T-shirt in the works, with a picture of Elvis, a record cover, "King of Rock 'n' Roll" and his dates. They had previously had an Elvis T-shirt, but "it never was a Jaws or Farrah Fawcett" when he was alive.
Day of the Unicorn, a Mt. Vernon, N.Y., wholesaler, had only 100 of its black shirts with Presley's name and face in stock at $7 retail each, and "they flew out," said Val Manokain, who hopes to have more in by next Wednesday.
Spencer Gifts in Springfield Mall was selling Elvis transfers to be put on their T-shirts, but are now sold out of these and posters. Their Tyson's Corner store reported five Elvis posters left by yesterday evening.
Meanwhile, others, from President Carter to Presley's colleagues to pop culture scholars, were turning out analyses of Presley and what he symbolized.
"His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture," said the President's statement. "His following was immense and he was a symbol to people the world over of vitality, rebelliousness and good humor of his country."
The Soviet government newspaper Izvestia depited him as a victim of "sharp business operators (who) turned Presley into an 'idol of rock 'n' roll,' placing his talent and reputation at the service of profits.
Contrary to the legend, the riches and fame did not bring happiness to the King of Rock 'n' Roll, but emptied him and wrecked him and prematurely turned him into a cripple," the paper said.
Staff writers Larry Rohter and Mindy Fetterman also contributed to this article.