AFTER DEATH, ‘IT WAS WAR’ : Even Elvis’ Coffin Made It to the Front Page
The sense of loss was echoed across the country.
The headline in the San Antonio Light ran above the masthead, in red type--complete with exclamation point. It read: THE KING IS DEAD!
Some banners had a certain, well, ring. Like the one in the Washington Post’s Style section: ALL SHOOK UP ON THE DAY THE ‘50s DIED.
Time magazine went with LAST STOP ON THE MYSTERY TRAIN.
The eclectic Village Voice had its readers reaching for the dictionary with THE WORLD’S MOST BELOVED SOLIPSIST IS DEAD.
The editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times was headlined: ELVIS: TIME FOR THE BLUES.
The Denver Post’s editorial declared: SUDDENLY WE FEEL OLDER.
From the Nevada State Journal came, simply: NONE BIGGER.
The passion continues.
This week alone, the headlines have included:
ETERNAL ELVIS--USA Today.
THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE KING--The Chicago Sun-Times.
ELVIS--TEN YEARS AFTER, THE LEGEND GROWS--Newsweek.
THE KING OF ROCK KEEPS ON ROLLIN'--People magazine.
THE KING OF ROCK ‘N ROLL LIVES ON--TEN YEARS AFTER HIS TRAGIC DEATH--National Enquirer.
WE REMEMBER ELVIS--US magazine.
IF ELVIS HAD LIVED--The Star.
Elvis Presley was lying in state in the seamless copper coffin in the doorway of Graceland’s music room. Family and close friends hovered nearby. On occasion, one would reach out to touch his face and caress his dark hair.
Charlie Hodge, Elvis’ longtime guitarist, kept a brush handy. “I’d fluff his hair back out, the way he liked it,” he remembered. “Elvis would’ve kicked my rear end if I hadn’t.”
Elvis’ death brought together the members of Elvis’ inner circle--known as the “Memphis Mafia.” Said Hodge: “We all just sort of assumed certain duties. Everybody had their jobs to do. Nothing appointed or anything. We just knew we wanted everything to run smoothly. When you think about the huge numbers of people--all the fans that turned out--you have to think it was all pretty dignified.”
Well, it was almost dignified.
Related Hodge: “If we’d known about Caroline Kennedy, we’d have done that different. That was one mistake.”
Kennedy--who everyone assumed had come to pay her family’s respects--was admitted to Graceland by Elvis friend and Memphis disc jockey George Klein. Klein remembered, “We’d gotten a call from the gate, saying that Caroline Kennedy wants to come up.
“Well, we were all impressed. We’d always been such Kennedy supporters, you know. Vernon (Presley, Elvis’ father) was especially touched.”
Soul man James Brown had already made an appearance. So had actor George Hamilton. “The bell rang, and I opened the door and said, ‘Caroline, come on in.’ She never let on that she was free-lance writing for Rolling Stone.”
Added Klein, “That was a cheap-shot way to get a story.”
Klein’s sentiments were echoed to a reporter by a spate of Elvis associates who met/saw Kennedy at Graceland that day. At the time, other journalists also made note of Kennedy’s visit in print, but they erroneously identified her as a visiting celebrity. In their book, “When Elvis Died,” Neal and Janice Gregory revealed that Kennedy was actually on assignment for the New York Daily News. When she missed her deadline, she sold her story to Rolling Stone.
Following publication of the Kennedy article, Vernon Presley confided to a journalist friend, “She not only insulted the memory of Elvis, she insulted her own family name.”
(There were no startling revelations in the Kennedy article. Instead, she delivered straightforward descriptions of those she saw in Graceland, including Elvis Presley, whose “face seemed swollen and his sideburns reached his chin.” And she included descriptions of the interior, such as: “Potted plastic palms surrounded the coffin and on the wall was a painting of a skyline on black velveteen.”)
A few would see the Kennedy piece as somewhat of a journalistic coup. Like reporter William Thomas, who covered the death for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis: “She used her name to get in, and then she got her story. Wouldn’t you have done that?”
He added, “You have to remember what Memphis was like at the time. Elvis just dropped dead, out of the blue. No one expected it. So the rush was on. It was the story. And everyone wanted it.”
Elvis Presley died 10 years ago this day.
Fans stopped their lives in order to make a pilgrimage to Memphis. The press descended like a flood.
“There were so many reporters, you couldn’t get a story,” said a reporter who covered the death for the Gannett newspaper chain.
The hundreds of reporters fought for rental cars and hotel rooms (and rooms rented out by Memphians who took advantage of the onslaught). Adding to the congestion of people were 16,000 Shriners in town for a convention.
One former National Enquirer reporter, who played a part in that paper’s acquisition of the famed “last picture” of Elvis in his coffin, remembered: “As a war correspondent, I had covered the war in Bangladesh and two wars in the Middle East and a revolution in Ethiopia. Well, covering Elvis was a war, too. A journalistic war. Other reporters were the enemy--and they were ruthless without using bullets.”
There was a virtual scramble to interview anybody who had known Elvis.
As legendary rock ‘n’ roll producer-pioneer Sam Phillips put it: “Oh, honey, all hell broke loose.”
Phillips, who produced Elvis’ first records (this after a search to find a “black sound inside a white boy”), received so many calls that “you couldn’t begin to count ‘em.” They came from all over the world--including England, Australia and Japan.
Over a soft drink in the family room of his comfortable Memphis home (“God, Elvis spent a lot of time here”), Phillips explained that “luckily,” the calls he received “were from people who wanted to eulogize Elvis.” He added, “You know how you feel about a hero? Well, God Almighty, when it came to Elvis Presley. . . .” He shook his head. “With those calls, I said to myself, ‘What in the hell would Elvis like to have been said about him?’ ”
Of those things Elvis might not have liked said about him, Phillips mused: “Honey, listen, Elvis Presley was as full of faults as any damn human being walking on this earth. That was one of the things about the dude. He was ordinary in so many ways.
“Except when it came to what you hear on those records. There’s something so damn special there . . . “
As it turned out, Elvis’ death generated more than tributes. Among the stories that appeared across the country in the days following his death were those about:
Obsessed fans. Like the Memphis woman whose house included an Elvis shrine, complete with stained glass portrait of Elvis and a red velvet altar. On learning of Elvis’ death, the woman had dressed her house in mourning and spent the night on her knees in prayer.
The Elvis tour that never happened. Elvis was to have begun a 12-city tour on Aug. 17, 1977. His death left promoters with a financial dilemma: How could they reimburse fans for tickets worth more than $600,000 if the fans refused to return the tickets (which became collector’s items)?
Public viewing of Elvis’ body. More than 20,000 fans endured oppressive heat (temperatures in excess of 90) to await their turn to pass through the gates of Graceland and enter the mansion. For three and a half hours, fans filed by the open coffin to catch a glimpse of Elvis, who was dressed in cream-colored suit, blue shirt and striped tie.
A tragic car crash outside Graceland. It happened in the early morning hours when a driver (later charged with manslaughter and drunken driving) charged into a crowd of mourners. It left two dead, a third critically injured.
Instant Elvis exploitation. Like the bumper stickers that read, “Elvis Lives. Long Live the King.” They were hawked for $1 at the cemetery where Elvis was laid to rest.
A run on sales of Elvis records. The RCA plant in Indianapolis worked 24 hours a day.
The crush of floral displays. More than 4,500 separate floral arrangements (some shaped like guitars) were ultimately picked bare by the very fans who’d sent them. This after the family decided that a flower should go to each fan who hadn’t been able to view the body. Some fans left the cemetery with chunks of grass ripped from the ground near the mausoleum.
The alleged plot to steal Elvis’ body. Three men captured in a stakeout near Elvis’ tomb were accused of attempting to steal Elvis’ body and hold it for ransom. The men were later released, and charged only with trespassing, after police determined the scheme may have been a hoax.
Then there was the controversy concerning the death itself.
Officially, Elvis’ death--at age 42--was attributed to “cardiac arrhythmia” brought on by an irregular heartbeat caused by “undetermined causes.”
In initial interviews, Elvis’ personal physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos, denied any drug problems. But, he stated, Elvis did suffer from “a medication problem at times.”
(Nearly two and a half years later, in January of 1980, Nichopoulos would be charged with “overprescribing” drugs. The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended his license for 90 days and put him on three months probation.
Contacted by Times about the comments he made a decade ago. Nichopoulos--speaking by phone from his Memphis office--declined to talk, explaining, “I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth from being misquoted.”)
In October of 1977, the Shelby County medical examiner would announce that 10 drugs were present in Elvis’ bloodstream when he died.
But the Elvis autopsy report was never made public--at the request of his family. And since his death, huge amounts of money have been offered to persons who could come into possession of the document.
What set all the drug talk in motion was a tell-all paperback, published just 15 days prior to Elvis’ death. As one Elvis colleague surmised, “That was what opened everything up.”
The cover copy for “Elvis: What Happened?” read: “Three of his closest companions tell a shocking, bizarre story.”
Published by Ballantine Books, the book included reports of Elvis’ infatuation with guns, his drug use and his alleged efforts to have the then-boyfriend of ex-wife Priscilla executed.
Events in the book, as detailed by former Elvis employees Red West, Sonny West and Dave Hebler (as told to Steve Dunleavy), “fired up the coverage (of Elvis’ death),” said reporter William Thomas.
The book’s timing also resulted in a then-staggering order for 2 million copies.
Not that the book was taken that seriously.
According to Peter H. Brown, who covered the death for the Pensacola, Fla. News-Journal, “The main attitude at the time was one of awe. Nobody wanted to delve into the seedier side.”
Brown--who would later work for the National Enquirer as its “Elvis expert,” and who these days writes about celebrities for books and newspapers (including The Times)--added: “To this day, I keep thinking, ‘If only we’d all asked more questions.’ ”
Red West remembers tuning into a Geraldo Rivera report on “Good Morning America” the morning after Elvis’ death and hearing “Elvis: What Happened?” branded a lie.
“It was like we were defectors--nobody wanted to believe what we had to say,” said West, who now makes his living as a character actor in Hollywood.
He smiled grimly, pointing out that almost two years later, Rivera would do a “20/20" show about Elvis’ misuse of prescription drugs.
“Wouldn’t you say that’s kind of ironic?”
It’s also ironic that since the death of the very private Elvis, there has been a veritable blitz of books about Elvis.
Elvis’ road manager, Joe Esposito (who has not written a Elvis book), summed up the mania this way: “There’ve been books written about Elvis by close friends he never knew he had.”
There are also magazines and newsletters devoted to Elvis, some of them offshoots of the many Elvis fan clubs.
It is nearly impossible to find an Elvis story that has not already been related, somewhere. Some Elvis associates are “interviewed out,” they said.
Still others have penned their own memoirs. As one interview was proceeding for this article, the reporter was told, “You don’t need to take notes. All this stuff I’m telling you is in the first couple chapters of my book.”
Other Elvis sources have grown accustomed to receiving money for their memories. After calling Elvis kinfolk in Mississippi, the reporter was asked, “What kind of money are we talkin’ about for this interview?” After explaining that she couldn’t offer payment, a reporter never got a call back.
But a decade ago, prior to all the talking, Elvis was a veritable mystery man. Equally puzzling (and still the subject of story after story) was the Elvis phenomenon.
Reporters sought the answers among the people who had known him.
Some went to startling lengths to get “the truth.” Like the National Enquirer writer who faked a toothache (“which was ridiculous, since I’ve always had perfect teeth”) in order to get an emergency appointment with the dentist Elvis had visited the last night of his life.
Some had “scoops” fall into their laps. Like Bill E. Burk, reporter/columnist with the now-defunct Memphis Press-Scimitar. Burk had long had dealings with Vernon Presley, but he wasn’t expecting to get a call from Elvis’ former girlfriend, Linda Thompson, after Elvis’ death.
Burk, who now edits the Elvis World newsletter (with his wife, Connie Lauridsen Burk), wrote about his Thompson interview in his book, “Elvis Through My Eyes.”
He detailed the account for a reporter, anyway, over lunch during a rainy afternoon in Memphis. According to Burk, he’d figured his reporting of the death was finished. He had taken his kids to their dentist when he chanced to call into his office for messages. Learning that Thompson had tried to reach him, he promptly called her back on the dentist’s phone, “never thinking we’d be talking for an hour and 40 minutes.”
He surmised: “I think I was a shoulder to cry on. There are portions of that talk that I’ve never printed--and I never will.”
Meanwhile, over at the Commercial Appeal, Lawrence Buser managed to land an interview with Elvis’ final fiancee, Ginger Alden (who was also interviewed by the National Enquirer). And the Commercial Appeal’s Jim Kingsley interviewed Vernon Presley, who thanked the world’s fans for their tributes.
(Kingsley, who now works the police beat, is a longtime chronicler of Elvis and Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ legendary manager. As such, Kingsley scored a coup earlier this year when he accompanied the Colonel on a Mother’s Day weekend visit to Graceland--the Colonel’s first return to Graceland since Elvis’ death.)
A decade ago, however, not all of Elvis’ associates would talk for the record.
George Klein, a friend since the eighth grade (“We had all the exact same classes, all through Humes High School”) ducked interview requests for a year following the death, “because I had to get things in perspective.” Well, there was a single exception: “This CBS newscaster got me as I was on my way to the funeral.”
Klein has since become an accessible Elvis source--one who speaks reverently and carefully about his friend. Of Elvis’ problems with drugs, Klein stressed, “They were prescription drugs--not illicit drugs.”
Not that he didn’t have colorful exploits with Elvis. Like the time he accompanied Elvis to California for the filming of “Jailhouse Rock.” Klein shook his head and recalled, “It was awesome. We lived at the Beverly Wilshire. Elvis had the Presidential Suite. I had the Penthouse. Can you imagine what all went on? The Beverly Wilshire didn’t know what was happening, man.”
Of those Elvis associates who did concede to meet the press 10 years ago, some admit that they did so with great care.
Explained Joe Esposito, “We’d always protected Elvis--OK? We respected his privacy, no matter what. I was with him for 17 years so, for me, protection was an automatic thing. That’s the way it was.
“So, when he died, I guess you could say we also protected him.
“Part of that protection was not talking about the drugs. We automatically didn’t say anything about them.”
Because of his longtime tenure with Elvis, and because Esposito was initially credited with finding the body (reports would later clarify that it was fiancee Ginger Alden who first made the discovery), he had dozens of requests for interviews.
“There was no way I could do them all,” said Esposito, adding, “so I said, ‘Gimme two guys.’ So, there was a pool, and I did an Associated Press and a United Press International interview.”
Funny thing is, said Esposito, “they never pressed about the drugs, but if they had, I guess I might have lied about them.”
Explained Esposito, who today lives in Sherman Oaks and manages singer Karen Kamon, the Los Angeles group Charm School and record producer Davy Johnstone (Elton John’s lead guitarist): “The thing about the drugs is that everyone around Elvis took pills, too. You know what I’m saying? We took uppers to stay awake and sleeping pills to get to sleep. We were going, going, going.
“But as everyone knows, Elvis did everything in excess. That’s what happened with the drugs.”
He added: “You know, sometimes I think that if Elvis were alive today, everything would be OK. Now it’s no big deal to have a drug problem--people are open about them.
“Maybe, with the fans and everyone behind him, Elvis could have gotten some help. Though you really don’t know. He was so shy about admitting he even had a problem.”
Maurice Elliott used to be assistant administrator at Memphis’ Baptist Hospital and, as such, oversaw public relations duties. The job escalated each time Elvis Presley checked in.
He was hospitalized four times, from 1973 prior to his death. He was also at the hospital when his father suffered a heart attack and when his daughter, Lisa Marie, was born.
Seated in his office at Methodist Health Systems (just down the street from Baptist Memorial), where he is now executive vice president, Elliott recalled that on the day Elvis and Priscilla left the hospital, carrying newborn Lisa Marie, “There was a face pressed against every single patient window of the 20-story hospital building.” Mused Elliott, “I always found that pretty amazing.”
It wasn’t easy work having Elvis as a visitor: “A little Elvis went a long way.”
His stays came complete with entourage, girlfriends and orders to tin-foil the windows so that he could sleep during the daytime hours. For security reasons, Elvis was always ensconced on the end of the 18th floor.
Such visits meant fielding phone calls from fans, processing increased mail (“He always got lots of teddy bears”) and, of course, responding to the press.
The excitement of those visits, said Elliott, never prepared him for the events of Aug. 16, 1977.
They began with a phone call from a nursing supervisor in the emergency room. Recalled Elliott: “She called and said, ‘We’ve just gotten Elvis Presley in respiratory distress--and it doesn’t look good.’
“Well, that floored me. I’d gotten accustomed to Elvis Presley coming into the hospital and, well, checking out again. I was dumbfounded.”
Elliott bolted to the emergency room (“I didn’t wait for an elevator--I took the stairs”). “There were a lot of people there, working on Elvis Presley. . . . From a layman’s point of view, the first thing I remembered thinking was, ‘This fella’s dead.’ ”
It was Dr. George Nichopoulos who broke the news to Elvis’ friends.
“People were crying,” said Elliott, “and then Joe Esposito made the point that everyone should pull themselves together, so that when they left the hospital no one could see them like this.”
Then came a request from Nichopoulos: He wanted to drive to Graceland to break the news to Vernon Presley. “He didn’t want him to have to hear it announced over the TV or radio,” explained Elliott. This meant the hospital had to postpone announcement of the death for at least 30 minutes.
But word had already gotten out: “They were on to us,” said Elliott, “because Elvis had come into the hospital in a fire department ambulance.” For the next 30 minutes, the hospital fielded “a deluge” of calls from reporters.
“We were in a tough situation--because we knew Elvis Presley was dead, but we also had an obligation to his family. So we kept telling reporters that he was in respiratory distress--and we were working with him.”
After the hospital finally received its call from Graceland, where Vernon Presley had been told about his son, it was decided that Joe Esposito would officially announce the death to those members of the press (“maybe 30 or so”) who had already gathered at the hospital.
But when Elliott and Esposito walked into the hospital’s administrative library, set aside for the press, Esposito, said Elliott, “choked up and said, ‘I can’t do it. You do it.’ ”
So Elliott made the announcement: “And, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure what all I said at the time.”
What followed was “sort of a mad-dash-to-the-phone type of thing.”
The mood was to continue for days.
To that time, the only Elvis-related feature that the Commercial Appeal’s Thomas had ever done was about a determined fan who had mailed herself to Graceland in a large box.
That all changed. “When Presley died, as far as our editor was concerned, nothing else in the world happened that day,” said Thomas. “Virtually every person from every beat was assigned to cover Elvis. It was the story for the next two weeks.”
For Thomas--whose coverage of Elvis’ death included getting into the mausoleum, where the body was first entombed--covering the story began with a visit to Graceland.
“I’ll never forget it. I ran into this guy who worked in a drugstore in Detroit. He was just sitting there, outside the gates, with a day’s worth of beard, and this strange look on his face. It turned out he’d told his boss he’d see him in a few days. Then he just got in his car and headed for Memphis.
“So, of course, I asked him ‘Why?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Well, man, it’s the king.’ Just like I should know.”
It was a funeral fit for a king.
That is: “It was as if the whole city of Memphis got together and worked to produce Elvis’ final show.”
That’s how Bob Kendall described the largest funeral ever held--anywhere--for a private citizen.
Now the district manager for the state of Tennessee for Guardian Plans Inc., a division of Service Corp. International, Kendall oversees agents who sell prearranged funerals.
Ten years ago, he was the funeral director for Memphis Funeral Home.
It was late afternoon on the 16th when he got a call from Baptist Hospital’s chaplain, telling him he’d soon be receiving a call from an Elvis associate.
In the hours that followed, Kendall was faced with locating a copper casket similar to that which had been used for Elvis’ mother (there was no such coffin in Memphis, so one was flown in from Oklahoma City) and rounding up a fleet of 17 white Cadillac limousines (there were only three in Memphis).
He was so busy that he didn’t have time to respond to the reporters who kept leaving messages with the funeral home office.
When reporters for the National Enquirer, based in Lantana, Fla., boarded a specially chartered private plane for Memphis, they knew they had to get something that no other publication would have.
One of the reporters (who has since gone to work for a major newspaper--"so please don’t use my name, because now I’m ‘respectable’ ”) recalled the epic events: “We knew we had to be the best because, if you’re with the Enquirer, you really are the best. You really do go for ‘the untold story.’ Also, remember, we were competing with major daily newspapers and TV newscasts in the country. And we weren’t going to be out for two weeks. (The Enquirer was then published biweekly.) By that time, we knew people would have read a lot about Elvis. So we had to get something no one else had.
“That’s why we immediately wanted the coffin shot.”
According to sources within the Enquirer--as well as members of Elvis’ entourage--it was a cousin of Elvis’ who, armed with a $300 Minox (given him by an Enquirer reporter), snapped that last portrait.
The fee for this exploit was--depending on who one talks to--somewhere between $35,000 and $75,000.
Enquirer editor-president Iain Calder wouldn’t comment: “How would anybody know those things? It’s a secret. It’s the same with our photos of Gary Hart and the girl on his knee. Everybody, quote, knows who took that picture. But they don’t really.”
The photo helped to sell more than 6.5 million copies of the Enquirer--its top-selling issue ever.
The photo also so angered Elvis’ entourage that a private detective was hired to unmask the culprit--now said to be “a black sheep.”
Calder is insistent: “It was a terrific news photo at the time. After all, pictures are run of dead prime ministers and Popes and national heroes.
“Well, Elvis was a hero, too.”
As for stories that the Enquirer reporters riled reporters from other publications because they had “papered the town” by buying up “exclusive” rights to people’s stories--Calder said simply, “If the sheer force of money can give you what people want to read, you give them what they want.”
Along with its “last photo” of Elvis, the Enquirer snared “the last photo of Elvis alive,” which happened to be snapped by a fan’s $20.95 Instamatic outside Graceland at 12:28 a.m. on Aug. 16.
There is an odd footnote to the legend of the coffin photo: After it was run, the photo disappeared from the Enquirer offices. The police were called in. Ultimately, a small group of employees was charged with corporate theft--and actually led from the offices in handcuffs.
According to one source, “What we heard around the office was that (the photo thieves) had planned to have the Elvis photo reproduced on sweatshirts that they were going to market.”
The Enquirer may have had Elvis’ last photos, but the National Star (now known as the Star) had serialization rights to “Elvis: What Happened?”
“Read the book the world is talking about,” screamed the headlines.
Co-authors Sonny West and Dave Hebler also did some talking. West did a widely syndicated interview with Bob Greene. And both West and Hebler appeared at a press conference on the day after Elvis’ death.
Red West, however, chose to stay out of the spotlight.
West was in Indian Dunes, Calif., doing an episode of the series “Black Sheep Squadron” when he heard the news of the death.
West had already done a fight sequence and was in the midst of a scene that found his character, Sgt. Andy Micklin, incarcerated. That’s when the show’s stunt coordinator came running in to announce that he’d just heard that Elvis had died.
Filming stopped for half a day.
“If you know anything about how TV shows are done, you know that’s extraordinary,” said West.
He was joined on the set by his wife and two sons. He remembers huddling with them in his trailer, “where we cried like crazy.”
With a shake of his head, West added, “And the thing is, right off, I knew what had brought it (the death) on.” He nodded glumly. “I thought then--and I still think it today--what a shame. What a shame. . . .”
It was also grim timing that Elvis’ death had come just after the publication of the tell-all paperback.
As West noted: “The whole point of the book was to embarrass (Elvis), to try to make him come to his senses. When we wrote it, he was here to defend himself. Then suddenly, he wasn’t.”
So West opted not to talk. “I felt enough had been said. He was gone. I said, ‘To hell with it.’ ”
West said he had no regrets about having written the book. “But I do regret that Elvis is dead--I’ll always regret that.
“The thing is, the Elvis I knew in high school, and 15 years into his singing and acting careers, wasn’t the same Elvis I knew at the end.
“So I did what I did.
“It was my way of trying to help him, but, I don’t know--if Elvis had lived--if it (the book) would have made any difference. Because he was pretty far gone.
“When I saw clips of that very last show he did (in the movie, “This Is Elvis”), I just sat there and cried that nobody had had the power to snatch him out of there and get him cleaned up.”
In writing “Elvis: What Happened?,” West lost the friendship of some of the “Memphis Mafia.” And he is no longer in touch with Col. Tom Parker--with whom he had many disagreements over the management of Elvis’ career. Or with Priscilla.
But he reads everything he finds about Lisa Marie, now 19. Looking away from a reporter, he brushed away a tear. “I don’t know what she thinks of me, but she is the only thing left of Elvis. I think about her a lot.”
“Is this going to be a negative piece?”
Joe Esposito wondered if the reporter was going to mention “what a great friend Elvis was.” Said Esposito, “For all the things that have been said and written about him--and it seems as if there’ve been a lot of negative things--what about the fact that he was a good friend. Why do you think so many of us stayed with him for so long? Money only goes so far. . . .”
Red West also chided a reporter: “You should write some of the good things down.
“Why is it that everyone wants to know the ugly? What about the good? What about the time Elvis read about this colored lady in North Memphis. She didn’t have any legs--only these stumps which she had to drag herself around on. Elvis read that and got so upset that he had a top-of-the-line wheelchair bought and delivered. He sent it over in his limo.
“There were so many times like that, so many great things Elvis did. Those are the things I like to remember.
“I’m waiting for someone to write about those.”