In this long interview with EIN, Sonny talks about:
His then new book, Elvis:
Still Taking Care of Business
- Where fans
could meet him during Elvis Week 2007
- The Sonny
he, Red and Dave Hebler wrote Elvis:
experiences of life around Elvis
Elvis have a self-destructive personality?
film offer by Barbra Streisand
last contact with Elvis
- Elvis and
those racism rumors
- Elvis and
- Elvis and
up those in Elvis' inner circle
real reason why the Colonel worked Elvis so hard
- Elvis post
16 August 1977 - the conspiracy theories and claims by Dee
Still Taking Care of Business
Sonny, great to talk with you! Are you looking forward to this
year’s huge Elvis Week?
I am. That is always a special time for me as it is when fans
worldwide honor him and pay their respect to him. It is a time for
me to reflect on what he meant to me.
will be in Memphis promoting your new book, Elvis:
Still Taking Care of Business.
Where can fans find you during Elvis Week?
will be in Memphis August 11 th through the morning of August 14th.
I will make the first appearance at Bill Burk’s Elvis World luncheon
on August 12th from 1:30 to 3:30 pm. Later that day, I should be at
the Days Inn at 3839 Elvis Presley Blvd. in the Lobby from 6 pm to 8
pm for a book signing, then at the Crossings (Tent area across from
Graceland) sometime around 9 pm to say “hi” to my dear friends,
Danny McCorkle and Christopher Drummond, and the fans.
has been a long time since 16 August 1977. Did that make it easier
to write your new book?
matter of fact, it did. For several years after I lost him, I didn’t
think about another book. I had a rough time getting over that
terrible tragedy. But eventually I began to think that I had to
write another book, to contribute to his legacy along with the
others that had written about their life with him. I certainly knew
What Happened could
and would not be my contribution to that end. I have stated that had
Red and I been working for Elvis until the end, EWH would never have
been written. It was written precisely to prevent what happened. No
way would we have written that book after his death. The book that I
have out now would have been the one that I would have written, but
I am not sure when that would have been.
Also, I would like to point out that a recent excerpt from “another
book” by Joe Esposito, stating new revelations of his being honest
and “straight up” about everything. (really?) It also states at one
time or another we were all fired and had we just waited, everything
would have been alright and we would have been brought back into the
fold. First of all, this book was not a “revenge or get even”
attempt at Elvis over our firing which seems to be the thoughts of
some of the other guys in the group.
same ones which have spoken out against us for doing the book were
denying at the time Elvis' prescription drug habit was true. Today
they have all written books, done interviews, stating now what we
stated while Elvis was alive. We know what our motivation was when
we wrote our book about his addiction problem. The question is what
is theirs for writing it today? The reason given by one of them is
he has come to the decision of finally wanting to be “straight up”
in reference to Joe’s statement of his thoughts at the time
regarding Elvis’ reaction to the book as being “a mountain he may
not be able to climb.” That was not the mountain. Elvis was already
on that “mountain that he may never climb” and it was much bigger
than the one Joe was inferring. I am referring to Elvis conquering
his addictive nature as his mountain to climb. Our book was meant to
be a catalyst to begin climbing that mountain, and Elvis could have
if he had just recognized the fact that he needed to.
There have been so many books about Elvis released. How does Elvis:
Still Taking Care of Business differentiate
itself from others?
feel that I have tried to give a more personal insight to Elvis that
the fans want to know, and feel I was successful in doing so. Of
course, that will be up to the readers to decide. So far that has
been the case for the ones that have commented about the book to me
and on postings in the Elvis world. It is my memories of my life
with him, the ups and downs that occur between friends in a span of
over 16 years. Of course, one of the “friends” being Elvis Presley
does indeed play a big part of why people want to read books written
by those close to him.
else would you like to tell our readers about Elvis:
Still Taking Care of Business?
is written with a deep love and respect for someone I spent most of
my young adult life, protecting and giving everything I had to make
his life better and safe as I could.
new book has been on sale now for a few months. How are sales going?
seem to be going very well. I haven’t heard any numbers from the
publisher or anything like that, just that many people have told me
of the bookstores running out of copies and ordering more. Sales
figures usually aren't released until six months after its initial
recently appeared with an Elvis Tribute Artist, Pete “Big Elvis”
Vallee, to promote the book. A number of fans were surprised at
this. What was your thinking at the time?
know, I am surprised that question and the reaction of people out
there to even come into play. I heard of some fans on chat rooms or
postings about that event. The judgmental fans out there that came
up with questioning my thoughts of appearing with a young man that
has a weight issue, and has been working very hard over the last few
years to correct it, is something that really irritates me. He has
succeeded in doing so by losing over 300 pounds. Who do they think
they are? I am not questioning their rights to think about issues, I
am questioning, that after doing so, they come up with thoughts that
should have been eliminated by a reasonable process.
Vallee is a fine young man, very respectful of Elvis’ memory and his
act is a tribute to him. He has a very good baritone voice that is
strong, and he uses it to it’s finest in singing Elvis’ music. Some
of the fans (most of them) are the same ones that have been
“bashing” me, Red and Dave for 30 years. Fine, that is your
prerogative. But to exercise that right regarding a person like Pete
who has not done anything to offend anyone is WRONG! I tell you
this, folks. Elvis would have none of it if he were here today.
About Sonny West
Before we talk about Elvis, we’d like to find out more about Sonny
West the person. Who is Sonny West?
Sonny West is Sonny West. Like many others my age, who grew up in
the depression era, the ‘50s era, we feel fortunate to still be
alive and in this world. I was born in Memphis and raised to be
respectful of my elders and to be considerate of others. I grew up
in a very rough neighborhood, with the “toughest gang” in Memphis, a
government housing project called Lamar Terrace. I have always
disliked “bullies” and protect others from them when the opportunity
presented itself. I was raised in a large family of six children and
I was the first born son, but the fourth child. When I left high
school, I went into the Air Force, got out and came back to Memphis.
I got a job with Ralston-Purina Company then changed jobs and went
to work at Ace Appliance Company, repairing appliances, which is
where I worked until I went to work for Elvis in April of 1960.
Apart from promoting your new book, what is Sonny West up to today?
Executive Producer on a proposed reality series for television that
is in the developmental stage right now for a pilot. Hopefully it
will be on the air next year. Our target date to begin taping is
sometime late this fall or early next year. I believe it will be
highly entertaining family show and one that people around the
country, as well as around the world will enjoy watching.
also do shows with different promoters around the world, telling of
my life and times with Elvis, and working with Elvis Tribute
Artists. I personally believe they really help project the image of
Elvis and help introduce new fans to him. There are many that do a
nice tribute to him, and as long as they realize who they are, and
who Elvis is, I don’t have a problem with them. But once they are
off of that stage, don’t try to talk or act like him. I won’t stay
around and listen to it.
Legend: Elvis and Priscilla, at
the wedding ceremony of Sonny West to Judy, on 28/12/1970.
has life changed for you and Judy since Elvis’ death?
are good. We have continued to travel and see parts of the world
that probably would not have been possible if not for my life with
Elvis. I recognize that, and am very grateful to him for that.
have you been doing since 1977?
and I bred and showed Arabian Horses, had a business making Western
costume jewelry, did a movie together, titled The
Disc Jockey. We
had our second child in 1981, a daughter who is the light of our
lives. A year later I became Director of Security for an RJ Reynolds
Tobacco Co. tour with the popular country group Alabama, and single
acts, Mickey Gilley, Johnny Lee and Juice Newtown in 1982-83. I
learned the talent booking business and did that for awhile in
Nashville, which is when I moved my family to the Nashville area in
August of 1984.
wife and I owned a construction cleaning service for a few years. It
was hard work, but the money was good. Health issues on my part
forced us to retire from that industry. I was also a disc jockey at
an AM radio station, WMRO in Gallatin, Tennessee for three years. I
was the host of The Doo Wop Show, playing songs from the
'50s, '60s and a few from the '70s. It was a lot of fun. It was an
oldies but goodies format.
Legends: Sonny with Judy, in
May 2005 (when everything was okay) and Sonny with Judy, in October
2016 (when he was already fighting against a lung cancer and Judy
with a breast cancer).
does Sonny West do in his spare time?
spare time?! (LOL) Elvis still, in his own way, keeps me pretty busy
with personal appearances and my shows. I spend time with my family,
play a little golf, and I mean a little. I get to spend some time
doing nothing, which really feels good at times.
Besides Elvis, who are your favorite singers?
absolutely have a favorite in Celine Dion. I have stated in my book
that I believe she would be one of Elvis’ also, if not his very
favorite. The first time I heard, The
Power Of Love, I
was driving my daughter, Alana, to school, and I turned the volume
up. When the song ended I told her that song was going to be a big
hit, along with the lady that sang it. She still remembers that to
this day. Of course, there are others I really like, Shania Twain,
Tom Jones, Elton John, Roy Orbison, Frankie Valli, Jackie Wilson and
Connie Francis. Actually, there are really too many to list all of
your favorite actors?
Hackman, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Russell Crowe,
James Woods, Kurt Russell, Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Sidney
Poitier, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Christopher Walken
and many others. Then there's the immortal James Dean that was my
favorite in the '50s.
Sonny West (supposedly from Lubbock, Texas) recorded a couple of 45
rpms for Altantic in 1958 including Rave
On . Some
information books have suggested that this might be you. What do you
know about this other Sonny West?
is a songwriter/singer that I know little about other than we have
the same name. There have been more than a few people that have
asked me if I was the same guy, to which I sing a line or two, and
then they know that I am not. Just kidding! No, but really, I don’t
know anything about him.
you traveled much outside of the US?
have traveled to England, Germany, and Australia. I look forward to
returning to England and Germany this summer. Also, I hope to travel
to Denmark and Switzerland this fall in October, and possibly other
countries in the future.
are some of your favorite places?
wife, Judy, who travels with me, and myself enjoy all of the places
we have traveled to, and look forward to new places. They are all
favorites of ours. Hawaii is definitely one of our most favorite
places in the world.
marriage to Judy has lasted for nearly four decades. What is your
is the secret. She has had to deal with a lot during our years
together, and she has handled it with flying colors. She is the
you considered patenting it?
She is the patent. I am sure there are others out there that have
the same patent pending.
Elvis: Still Taking Care of
of course your second book about your time with Elvis. In 1977 fans
were overwhelmingly critical of Elvis:
What Happened? In
2007 many now see the book in a different, more accepting, way. How
do you look back on its publication?
still upset that what we were trying to do was misinterpreted as a
“get even” with Elvis for firing us, or “we did it for the money”.
Neither could be further from the truth. Simply put, we knew Elvis -
the people who criticized us did not. Elvis lived up to every
challenge put to him and over came them. We thought he would do it
again. While working for him, we had access to him to confront him
regarding what he was doing to himself. Once we were fired, we had
no access. The book was to try to show him, in no uncertain terms,
what he was doing to himself and to those around him who loved him.
Regarding the things told in the book about what he did in the '60’s
was also said for the same reasons. When he was taking diet and pain
pills that played with his emotions, including his volatile anger,
he did or said things that he normally wouldn’t do.
Elvis became someone else under the influence of certain
medications, including cortisone, which is a steroid and can make
you irritable and somewhat aggressive in your behavior at times. But
none of these were written about with compassion or understanding or
concern. The writer, Steve Dunleavy, was assigned to write the book
by World News Corp., whom we had signed the contract with for the
book. He wrote for The Star weekly
publication, which was owned by World News Corp. at the time. He
felt none of the emotions I previously mentioned when writing, so
they didn’t appear in the words as he wrote them. More than once, we
had to take breaks as we were brought to tears at the sometimes
painful thoughts of our remembrances.
Legends: The book that caused
so much controversy; and a photo of Dave Hebler, Red and Sonny West,
Arguably the biggest element in derision of Elvis
What Happened? was
its highly sensational, tabloid style. Steve Dunleavy obviously
molded the style of the book. If you had the time over would you
have gone with a different co-author?
explained this in the previous question. And if we had had a choice,
we would have absolutely gone with another writer.
think that I have picked the best co-author in Marshall Terrill for
my second book. If we had had a choice back then and he was
available at the time, which he wasn’t (as he was only 13 at the
time) would have been my choice, and I think that Red and Dave would
Sonny, you say in Elvis:
Still Taking Care of Business that Elvis:
What Happened? was
largely a failure. What do you mean by this?
the intention of the book didn’t happen. Elvis did not meet the
challenge. If he had, we would have been made to look like liars.
But, in order to do that, Elvis would have had to stop what he was
doing, get off of the drugs, and show the fans that he was not under
the influence of prescription medication. He did that in Las Vegas
one time when a bellhop said the Elvis was “strung out on drugs.”
statement got Elvis very mad. He straightened up very fast and put
on some great shows with the energy that his fans were used to
seeing from him. He also threatened the guy while on stage, what he
would do to him if he found which bellhop said it. That statement is
actually on a CD that is out there in the Elvis world, and many of
the fans have heard it.
Hebler only worked for Elvis for a couple of years 1973 -1976. Did
he have the right to participate in Elvis
What Happened? when
he only had bad things to say and no reference to the early years of
the good times with Elvis?
know, Dave has been maligned, I feel, by people because he was
around for such a short time. But you need to think about that short
time, and when it happened to be. It happened to be when things were
starting to slip a little bit. Dave cared very much for Elvis, and
not being around for a long time doesn’t mean as much as a lot of
people think. You did not have to be around Elvis long at all for
you to be touched by him in such a way that it changed your life
look at the fans that never met him, or even saw him in person and
look how their lives have been so profoundly touched and changed by
him. You may not have heard the years that Red and I had with Elvis
in Dave’s words, but not being there in the early years didn’t mean
that he didn’t have some wonderful memories of some good times when
he was there. Dave expressed, maybe in an analytical way, but
certainly in a caring way, some issues that concerned him about some
of Elvis’ behavior. All of us had different personalities, and Dave,
for those of us who know him pretty well, has a very analytical
mind. I consider him a dear friend and one that I would like to have
covering my back. As far as having the “right to participate in
EWH”, it had nothing to do with “the right.” It had to do with the
fact that he was there and was concerned about Elvis' declining
health. He participated in trying to help Elvis. Period.
Life Around Elvis
were with Elvis from 1960 to 1976. This is a substantial part of
your life. How did you handle news of his death?
was a substantial part of my life, and one that I truly enjoyed
living. I didn’t handle the news of Elvis’ death well at all. I was
devastated and just fell apart. Other than my cousin Red and his
wife Pat, I didn’t talk with anyone that day except my wife. I
couldn’t. I cried most of that day and into the night. I wandered
from room to room in our home, asking why, thinking only about the
good times that we had shared over the years. The hope that he was
going to get straight was lost. It wasn’t going to happen and I just
felt so empty. I didn’t sleep that night, and then the next morning,
watching the show, Good
Morning America, with
Dunleavy and Geraldo Rivera on the show, going after each other with
personal attacks, and then both giving their comments about Elvis
enraged me. Neither knew the man.
Dunleavy only knew the things we told him and Geraldo stated that he
had met the man on several occasions and that “he was as straight as
anyone in this room.” He then stated that he was sure “there was a
flirtation with drugs, as it is the nature of the business
(entertainment) but, to call him a junkie, is just a lie” I believe
is an accurate quote. As it turned out, Geraldo admitted in his
book, Exposing Myself, he met Elvis only once, and that was a
10-minute backstage interview at Madison Square Garden. That hardly
qualifies him as an Elvis expert, don't you think?
never called Elvis a junkie and I put in a call to our attorney to
see if he could get a press conference held in his office later that
day, which he did. That is the one that Dave and I participated in,
as Red was working on a TV series. That is when Dave came up with a
statement that lays it on the line when asked by a reporter about
doing more to protect Elvis from taking drugs. Dave replied, “How do
you protect someone from himself?” One final thought on this
subject. A couple of years later, Geraldo used all of the resources
and power of a top-rated investigative television series,
exposed Elvis’ prescription drug problem on one of their weekly
segments. As far as I know, he still has never acknowledged that we
were telling the truth, and/or apologized for calling us liars.
Legends: Sonny with Elvis,
during the filming of It Happened at the World's Fair and
with Juliet Prowse and Pat Boone, during the filming of G.I.
you always travel with the gang to Elvis' films sets? How many films
did you appear in?
worked one way or another on most of Elvis’ films. Either with him,
as an extra, in a fight scene or as an actor. I don’t remember how
many films exactly. We had a lot of fun during those years. They
were my favorite years with him.
you ever spend time alone with Elvis and get to know him on a close
one-to-one basis? Did he ever confide his fears or loneliness to
had some times alone, as probably most of the guys did at one time
or another. A lot of our conversations occurred when it was just the
two of us in the car driving around. Sometimes at home when there
wasn’t anyone else around, which didn’t happen too often. I have to
tell you, he never spoke of his loneliness as something that was on
his mind. I will say though, that he could appear to be the
loneliest person in the middle of a large crowd. At times, there was
a feeling that he gave off that appeared to be very vulnerable. It
was at these times that I felt most protective of him.
I started to work for him, I was 21 years old and, though having
been In the Air Force, I was still a little wet behind the ears. I
looked at him as a “worldly” big brother, showing me what life was
all about. But near the end of our time together, I felt like I was
the big brother, looking out for my little brother. The biggest
concern, other than the death threat in Vegas, was losing his voice,
and not being able to sing anymore. That was a very big concern of
his in Las Vegas, where the condition referred to as “Vegas throat”
was because of the arid desert air would cause problems for singers.
night when he totally lost his voice while on stage at the Hilton in
Las Vegas, there was pure panic on his face. He was very scared, as
we all were, as we didn’t know what was wrong, or if it could be a
permanent condition, or what. After that incident, he did whatever
it took to keep his throat moist.
There was one time, regarding time alone with him, that sticks out
in my mind and means so much to me. It was a brief moment with him
in the kitchen of his home on Chino Canyon, in Palm Springs. My room
was next to the kitchen, and when I heard some noise in there, I got
up to find Elvis browsing around in there looking for something to
eat. I offered to fix him something, whatever he wanted, or go get
something for him. He stopped for a second, turned and looked at me,
then said, “Sonny…I love you man.”
simple statement from him touched me so deeply. I said, “Thanks
boss, I love you, too.” He replied, “I know that.” Then he turned
and continued to search for something, and said, “It’s one of those
times when you have a taste for something, but you don’t know
what…you know what I mean?” I told him I did, and continued, “Well,
if you decide on something that you want fixed, let me know, okay?”
He said he would, we exchanged good-nights and I went back to my
room. A few minutes later, it was quiet in the kitchen. I forgot to
ask him the next day, did he find anything to eat or not. He may not
have decided on anything.
Legends: Priscilla with Elvis
(1963) and Sonny with Elvis and Priscilla, in Las Vegas (1969).
did things change for you when Priscilla arrived at Graceland?
Well, not much at first, other than watching our language in case
she was in earshot. Also the content of our conversations changed
somewhat when she was around. But eventually, things began to
change, and in some ways, rightfully so. She wanted more time alone
with him, but it was hard to get Elvis to do that. He liked having
us guys around most of the time, and there were times that it was an
issue between them. She kind of blamed us for that, but it wasn’t
our doing. I think she realizes that today in retrospect. Not long
after they were married, about a year or so, they moved into a
smaller home on Hillcrest Drive in Beverly Hills. There was less
room for the guys to stay there, thoughts of giving her a little
more private time with him I suppose.
Legends: Ann-Margret, in a
promo shot and Elvis with Ann-Margret, on the set of Viva Las
did you think of Elvis' relationship with Ann-Margret? Were they the
perfect match or both too strong personalties? Did you have a
friendship with her?
have to tell you, I loved Ann-Margret. I thought her and Elvis were
great together and had a great chemistry, on-screen and off-screen.
They were very compatible.
was referred to as a “female Elvis” and it was true. Her sense of
humor and personality were so obviously in tune with his. They got
along great together, with no personality conflicts at all.
of the guys loved Ann-Margret and she liked for us and enjoyed our
company. She understood that Elvis wanted us to be around, and when
he didn’t he let us know and we were gone.
and Judy were permanent residents at the Monovale house in LA. What
are recollections of your time there?
After the murders of actress Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring (whom Elvis
knew), which were later found out to be committed by the Manson
Family, Elvis told Priscilla to look for a larger home because he
wanted me to move back into the house. She found the home on
Monovale Drive and Judy and I moved in with them. Then our son,
Bryan, was born a couple of years later lived there until he was
almost a year old and then we moved into a home that was only about
fifteen minutes away. By then, Charles Manson was in prison and so
were his drugged out disciples who murdered for him, and things had
settled down a little.
are your greatest memories of your time with Elvis?
There were so many, it is really hard to pick out a few. There were
certain ones like meeting President Nixon, Muhammad Ali, just
hanging out with Elvis and celebrity friends of his on the movie
sets, in Vegas, Tahoe, and while on tour.
you have any regrets about your time with Elvis?
being able to reach him when it counted most near the end.
Otherwise, it was great just being around him.
the mid-'70s Elvis’ psychological and emotional state was erratic.
Why do you believe he lost his way on a personal level?
believe Elvis was getting progressively more apathetic towards life
off the stage beginning in 1975-76. He loved performing, but doing
other things that he once enjoyed so much seemed to fade away. His
interests in activities just wasn’t there. In that last year or so,
he only spent time with his cousin, Billy and his wife, Jo, and of
course Ginger, or another woman when she wasn’t there. My last
really good time with him was in January of 1976 when we went to
Vail, Colorado for 10 days or so and celebrated his 41 st birthday.
the time Barbra Streisand offered Elvis the co-starring role in A
Star Is Born ,
was he really in the right state of mind to handle the role?
at the time she met with him, but he could have gotten in to the
right state of mind if he had made the commitment to do so. It would
have been very challenging for him, but he could have done it. He
was very convincing when he told us that he was going to do the
movie, and shook our hands on it to show his sincerity. But two or
three days later when he started making little snide remarks about
dealing with Barbra Streisand on the movie, and a remark about Jon
Peters, her partner, some of us knew he was not going to do the
movie. Red and I looked at each other and just shook our heads as we
listened to him. He told Colonel Parker he had changed his mind and
to get him out of it. The Colonel did just that, then took all the
heat was on him, which stopped Elvis from doing the movie. It was
just another time that the Colonel was blamed for something he
supposedly did to harm Elvis’ career.
Sonny, did Elvis have a self-destructive personality?
He did some challenging things in his life, but nothing to me that
indicated a self-destructive disorder. He knew when to back down
from a situation that could get him into a place that he didn’t
really want to go. I really believe the only problem Elvis had was
an addictive nature. You could see that sometimes in other parts of
his life. If he had not had that addiction he would have been just
fine. He just couldn’t beat it. My brother Billy was a very strong
individual, and I mean strong. He was president of a motorcycle club
in Memphis for many years and ran that club with an iron fist. But
he had an addiction to gambling, and he couldn’t beat it, and it
cost him his life.
was the scariest experience you ever had around Elvis?
he had a death threat in Las Vegas. It was an extortion attempt, but
at the time it was a very real threat, and the FBI was called in on
the case. They did a profile on the person, and considered him to be
a disturbed individual that would very likely follow through on his
threat. They said he would want to get caught for his claim to fame.
Well, wouldn’t you know, that while I was in a strategic place on
the stage, there would be somebody that fit the profile in my area
of responsibility in the audience. He was dressed in a dark suit
with sunglasses on and was constantly looking around, paying little
attention to Elvis on stage.
did not applaud one time when others in the audience did. I thought,
that’s got to be the guy. I was very intense the whole show,
watching him closely. I can not tell you how scared I was, thinking
the whole time, if it is him, will I be able to get to him before he
can get a shot off at Elvis? The end of the show finally came and as
he stood up with the rest of the audience, he reached for his coat
pocket, and I was a split second from diving on him from the stage,
when he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow.
Man, that was intense.
found out that he was just a “high-roller gambler” whose wife had
made him sit with her at the show instead of letting him be where he
really wanted to be, which was in the casino. He was obviously not
an Elvis fan like his wife. Also, that feeling of what to do, even
if you are carrying a gun yourself, when a gun is already in
someone’s hand and pointing at Elvis. I began practicing a fast draw
until I felt that I was fast enough to be successful in drawing it
fast enough to possibly save his life in the event it should ever
the most satisfying experience?
Again, a very hard thing to claim as there were many. One that does
stick out was when he gave an electric wheelchair to an elderly
black lady that lived in the same general area where he grew up in
North Memphis. There was an article in the newspaper, which Marty
Lacker read and brought it to Elvis’ attention. Elvis read it and
simply said to find out where she lives. He and several of us guys
and Priscilla, took it to her home and Elvis’ presented it to her.
There were tears all around. I have to tell you, the way he was with
her, so respectful and warm, it was a wonderful time to see what
Elvis was really all about as a caring and decent person.
know of Red's final phone conversation with Elvis. What was your
last contact with him?
last contact with him was on my birthday, July 5, 1976. It was in
the foyer of Graceland after we had just done a show at the
Mid-South Coliseum to end the tour we had been on for the last 12
days or so. I said goodnight to him and for him to get some rest and
I would see him in a few days. As he began going up the stairs to
his bedroom he said he was and then said “Happy Birthday” to me. I
thanked him and told him Judy had baked a cake for me and did he
want some? He answered, “Oh yeah. Linda’s going to bring some up.
Goodnight.” I never saw him or spoke to him again.
called his home in Palm Springs, I believe it was the next day after
Vernon had notified me of my dismissal but he wasn’t up yet,
according to one of the guys I talked to that answered the phone.
The next day when I called back and the number had been changed. A
few days later, Dave Hebler found out that Elvis had left Palm
Springs and gone to Las Vegas to stay at Dr. Ghanem’s home.
doctor answered the phone and I asked if Elvis was awake yet. He
said yes he was, and that he had just finished eating. I asked him
to ask Elvis if I could talk with him for a moment, which he did,(I
suppose). Dr. Ghanem came back and said Elvis didn’t want to talk to
me. I suggested Elvis might be thinking that I was going to ask for
my job back, so I asked the doctor if he would explain that wasn’t
the case at all, I just wanted to know the real reason that I was
fired. I even told the doctor he could ask him and tell me Elvis’
answer, that Elvis didn’t need to talk with me if he didn’t want to.
Ghanem got back on the phone and told me, Elvis didn’t want to talk
about it. I told Dr. Ghanem, “Well, please tell him I won’t be
calling back.” I have to tell you, I was hurting.
Elvis and racism was a recurring (and important for the wrong
reasons) theme throughout Elvis’ career. In fact it continues to
persist even in 2007. What is your view on the controversy?
don’t know where that stuff came from. He was accused of prejudice
towards black people, Jews and Mexicans. None of this was true.
hurt him when it got back to him that these things were being said,
and none of us could figure out how it got started and by whom.
plagued Elvis throughout his life, and it couldn’t have been farther
from the truth. I feel that there are conspiracies by individuals
and associations that generate statements such as this and somehow
it makes its way to the media.
Elvis was a private person regarding his politics. Why do you think
this was, particularly as by the late 1960s many movie and rock
stars were very public about their political views?
Elvis was very private about his political views, but was passionate
about them in private with those of us and friends that he could
trust. He just felt that people in positions like he and so many
others in the entertainment field were in should not influence
people with their opinions and influence them to do something just
because of who they were. He would not like what is going on with
the hateful, vicious verbal attacks on our President today by those
that disagree with his policies.
Taking this issue a step further, there were signs of a ‘political
Elvis’ expressing himself in 1968-69 with his two hit singles,
If I Can Dream and
In The Ghetto. Was not
progressing the lyrical theme in these songs a lost opportunity for
Elvis to connect with a ‘new and politically aware’ record buying
don’t believe Elvis ever looked at it that way. I wasn’t there when
he made the special in 1968 so I can’t comment on the song,
If I Can Dream, but I
was there when he recorded In The
Ghetto, which he thought long and hard about recording. He loved
the song, but he tried to avoid most controversial issues, in
talking, singing, in just about anyway of expressing what some may
think was his personal feeling on the matter. Both of the songs are
great pieces of music and I am certainly glad he recorded both of
There have been some suggestions that Elvis may have had the bipolar
depressive disorder. Known symptoms are difficulty sleeping,
impulsive, quick tempered, overly emotional, sometimes morose,
easily distracted, poor concentration at times. Do these symptoms
describe Elvis? Do you think he was actually bipolar?
know, this is an interesting question because even though I am more
familiar with the subject now than then. It is true, most, if not
all of those symptoms you listed above in your question were present
in Elvis. But many if not all of those symptoms are also known to be
associated with medications that have effects on people. But I
really don’t want to go any further on this subject as I am not well
enough informed to make comments one way or the other.
The Memphis Mafia
Memphis Mafia has its own iconic status. By many accounts it was a
rollicking, fun time. Is this an accurate account?
was a fun time. We got the name in 1962 while spending a lot of time
in Las Vegas wearing black mohair suits and dark sunglasses. I am
not quite sure who got it into the press, but someone supposedly
remarked one time when we pulled up in a limo in front of one of the
hotel/casinos in Las Vegas and when we exited the car to enter,
someone asked if that was the Mafia, and another person answered,
“Yeah, theMemphis Mafia .”
I'm pretty sure it was James Bacon, an entertainment columnist with
the afternoon paper, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, who
put it in his column and the name stuck. I would say it is an
accurate account to say the name represented a lot of fun times.
People often describe the Memphis Mafia as "hangers-on" or even
"sycophants" who should have been more honest to Elvis telling him
the truth for his own good. You have yourself stated that, "We would
always nod our heads and agree with him." Was it really that hard to
challenge Elvis? Deep down do you feel that you could have done
First of all, I would like to go on record as saying that we were
not “hangers-on.” Do any of you that are salaried employees with
assigned duties and responsibilities consider yourselves
“hangers-on” to your boss? Of course you don’t. Do you consider your
friends that don’t work for you but spend time with you visiting or
going out or whatever, “hangers-on”? The answer to that is no. We
were not groupies. Is it because we worked for Elvis Presley, the
superstar of superstars, that we should not get any respect as
people that do their jobs and have fun doing it because their boss
wants it that way? Come on, the same people who say that about us, 9
out of 10 of them would trade places with us in a New York minute.
And friends, that IS FAST! Seriously, I don’t think it is fair to
judge us as something so different from anyone else who has a
salaried job. It just so happened that we had a great boss who liked
to have a lot of fun on the job, and he wanted us to be there every
step of the way.
for telling Elvis the truth and being honest with him, there were
some of us that did that. In 1961 I stood up to him just a year
after I went to work for him. He made threats to me, I told him that
wasn’t going to happen. I compared him to a Gestapo officer because
he seemed to have developed an arrogant and mean spiritedness of
sorts. I told him that he had changed, that I didn’t like him
anymore and didn’t want to be around him anymore. I ended the
conversation by telling him I quit and was leaving. It got me a
punch to the jaw, which hurt my feelings much more than physical
pain. I turned and I left.
Please, I would like to know in what context and what the subject
was when I might have said that, “We would always nod our heads and
agree with him”. I was talking about when I might have said that
statement. So, whomever asked that question, I would like to know
from them when, where and what subject matter I was discussing when
I said it. I'd be glad to clarify that statement if you can produce
you still remain in contact with all the old Elvis gang such as
Larry Geller, Marty Lacker, Joe Esposito? What is your relationships
with them nowadays?
remain very much so in touch with Marty Lacker, Lamar Fike, Billy
Smith, Dave Hebler, and, of course, my cousin, Red West. I have not
spoken to or seen Larry Geller since 1972 when he came to one of
Elvis’ shows in Las Vegas with Johnny Rivers. He left that night and
did not come back around until after I was gone in July of 1976. As
for Joe Esposito, I did not speak to or see him until May of 2003,
in Palm Springs at an event there that we both were invited to
participate in. Well, things worked out okay, and I thought it best
to just move on and leave it behind me.
Then, in 2006, Charlie Hodge, who also was at the show in Palm
Springs, suddenly passed away. His widow, Jennifer, asked me to
speak at his funeral, to which I agreed to do. Then she asked me if
I would call some of the others and ask them if they would like to
say something. They could have written it down and I would read it
for them at the service. I contacted a lot of them, including Joe,
who said no, that someone else was going to speak for him, Priscilla
and some others. I do know that he arranged that after I had written
him an email, and when I didn’t get an answer, because of the time
frame, I called him. At that time, he told me no, he had made other
arrangements for someone else to do it. I know that he made those
arrangements after he received my e-mail. That's Joe for you.
Also, I would like to point out that a recent excerpt from “another
book” by Joe Esposito, (the same Joe that once said “They’ve all
been told” when asked by a fan to tell a story that hadn’t been
told) stating new revelations of his being honest and “straight up”
did that 30 years ago, while Elvis was alive, when he could have
challenged us, or at least refuted what we said with words or deeds,
but Joe has decided now is the time to be honest, when he can not.
Nice timing for your “revelation of honesty and straight up”, Joe.
goes on to say that the book EWH was written for “revenge and to get
even with Elvis” for our being fired. He knows that it was not, but
maybe it leaves him with the image of being one of the good guys
that stayed loyal to Elvis. One thing that might be interesting in
his new “straight up” and honest revelations, if he really is, will
be the story he tells regarding the truth behind the racquetball
fiasco that Elvis got out of because of feeling he was being used
and conned by some in the venture. In Elvis’ own words to Red in
their last conversation with each other, Elvis was fed up with the
whole issue of the racquetball deal and stated he was not going
through with it. From what I understand and heard it ended up
costing Elvis a lot of money.
were the highlights of being a member of the Memphis Mafia?
the feeling of being one of the guys traveling and working with a
great boss . It was a great ride!
the low lights?
There were none for me.
Close to Elvis
Sonny, how would you sum up the following people in a few words:
Minnie Mae Presley: Some
one I dearly loved and spent a lot of time with, just talking about
her life and times. Her least favorite topic which I would kid her
about sometimes was her ex-husband. I met him once on tour when we
played Louisville and when I told her that, she really lit in to
him. He was quite the ladies man, and that had been the problem
between them. She was very wise about life and it was great to talk
to her, on just about any subject. Her favorite subject was talking
about how fine a young boy Elvis was when he was growing up and how
proud of him she was of the young man he had grown up to be. They
were very close.
Priscilla Presley: Someone
that seems to be determined to keeping the name Presley as a last
name. Elvis told us there was a clause in the divorce decree that
the lawyers had put in, stating she was not to use the name Presley
for a career. And she didn’t until after his death, and then she
took the name back and began a career in acting. Many TV hosts and
columnists refer to her as Elvis’ widow instead of ex-wife when they
speak of her.
Marie Presley: I
am sure, she won’t like hearing this if someone tells her about
this, but I feel her dad would be sad about some of the decisions
she has made in her life and extremely angry at others. She has
berated some of us as having taken his dignity away and hurting his
memory, but obviously does not take responsibility for some of her
own actions. (I am not talking of her four marriages). She was 9
years old when Elvis died. She did not know his thoughts as an adult
on the subjects I am speaking of in her life, or maybe she wouldn’t
have done them.
know that she wouldn’t have done any of them if her dad was alive. I
don’t like the idea of speaking of her in a negative way, but it is
very difficult knowing what she has said about me in all forms of
the media, TV, radio and print and not say anything. There are so
many things that I could point out about certain things she says,
but I refrain for obvious reasons. She is Elvis’ daughter, and out
of respect to his memory, I remain silent.
Legend: Colonel Parker with
Colonel Tom Parker: The
most maligned person in the Elvis Presley World. He cared about
Elvis, he used a brusque manner at times when a situation seem to
warrant it. He wasn’t right all the time, no one is, but he was most
of the time. He deserves a much better hand than he has been dealt.
In my book, I correct a lot of misconceptions about Colonel, most of
which were made by people that simply did not know the truth of the
matter, even some members of the inner circle of Elvis’, or others
that seem to have an axe to grind.
cousin, a tough guy with a big heart and my life with Elvis was
because of his introduction. He had a very special relationship with
Elvis from the beginning. I am very proud of what he has done in his
life with his songwriting and acting. He has a lot of talent in both
Marty Lacker: Marty
is one of those people that is honest and very capable of getting
things done, and did so for many years for Elvis. He was foreman
when Joe was gone and shared those duties with Joe when he came back
until Marty left to spend more time with his family. He was Co-Best
Man at Elvis wedding. A crusty guy that will tell you like it is,
sometimes to a fault. But you accept him and love him, or you don’t.
I love him.
Lamar Fike: A
funny guy with a quick wit and loves being the center of attention
in a fun way. He will get you wound up in a minute. He is a
well-read and informed person on a lot of issues in this world, and
can speak with you in a knowledgeable way on almost any subject
matter. He is fun to be around.
Billy Smith: Elvis’
cousin that he raised like a little brother. In the last year or so
of Elvis’ life, Billy spent most of the time with Elvis along with
Billy’s wife, Jo, and usually Ginger Alden. Billy shared many
thoughts with Elvis and spent much of that time in conversations
with him. They ran the gamut on how Elvis felt about a lot of
subjects, including Red, Dave and myself, and Billy has shared many
of them with me. I feel Billy and his cousin Gene Smith (earlier)
were closer to Elvis than any of his other male cousins with Harold
Lloyd next in line behind them. He was very close with his cousin
Patsy, who was his only double first cousin.
Legend: Elvis with Joe
I fist met Joe in 1960 I liked him and we became roommates at
Graceland, sharing the opposite front bedroom next to Elvis’.
Actually, I liked him for all the years we worked together with
Elvis. Not long after he arrived in Memphis, we all went to Ellis
Auditorium to see the show, Holiday
On Ice and I kind of hung close to Joe, telling him this
was where a lot of rock and roll shows played, and who some of the
the years there were spats and disagreements between some of the
guys, including me, but I am speaking of the ones that I wasn’t
involved in. I had my opinion of who was wrong or right when and why
they happened, but for the most part they didn’t really affect me,
so I stayed out of them. What formed a division between Joe and me
was what he said after I was fired in 1976 and the new statements he
is making now.
needs to slow down and see where he is coming from and where he is
going with this revisionist history before he continues and gets
into some serious issues with most of the rest of the guys. We
resolved our issues in the old days without going public with them.
I think we need to do that now and in the future, but then again, a
lot of exchanges have taken place over the many years, so it
probably won’t happen. I am also guilty of doing this in retaliation
to what is being said about me by others.
started with us when Elvis started touring again. He was fine until
Red, Dave and I were fired. At which time he bragged about how Elvis
wanted a better grade of security and had fired us so as to make him
chief of security. I know I have stated that Elvis never told me why
I was fired, Vernon said it was a cut-back on expenses, others have
said because of too many lawsuits, (I had one only) but I can tell
you it was not because Elvis wanted a better grade of security and
wanted Grob to be it.
anyone really thought about it, why did Elvis fire us, if not for
what I have stated over and over again. I still have an issue over
his saying that. If he had disagreed with the book and our doing it
and stated that without the other statements, I could have accepted
that, as I did with others that made that statement. Even Joe has
been quoted of saying Elvis had great security with Red and myself
and we took really great care of him.
Legend: Elvis with Joe Esposito
and Jerry Schilling.
Jerry Schilling: I
have to say that I like Jerry a lot and we never really had any
issues between us for all the years we have known each other. But in
the last year with the release of his book, and the claims he
supposedly (since I haven’t read it) made concerning me. I won’t
list them as I haven’t talked with Jerry yet to see if they are his
thoughts or not.
until then, I will withhold any comments on those claims. I do
address one of his claims that I called him in 1976 after I was
fired to get him involved with Elvis:
What Happened? in
my new book, so that I could set the record straight. By the way,
Jerry's claim is absolutely false. Please note that I have not read
any of the books written about Elvis by anyone. In some of them, I
did read the statements regarding me on pages that were listed in
Charlie Hodge: A
small guy with a big voice. He idolized Elvis and his life was
totally connected to Elvis. Our lives revolved around Elvis, but
Charlie existed for Elvis. He just did not like to think of life
without Elvis. He was broken for sometime until he met his wife
Jennifer, who loved him very much and took great care of him. She is
a super lady.
Legend: Elvis with George Klein
on the day of his wedding to Barbara Little, on December 5th, 1970.
George Klein: Someone
I really liked, enjoyed being around. His greeting me as, “Buddy!”
(my nickname when I was a boy) always brought a smile to my face. We
had not spoken or even seen each other because of EWH, until a sad
circumstance brought us to the same location, the funeral of a very
dear friend of ours, Richard Davis. We were both speakers at the
service and I was sitting there quietly before the service was to
begin, thinking thoughts of Richard and what I was going to say
about him. George appeared suddenly beside me, leaned down and
hugged my neck and said and quietly said, “I love you Sonny West”. I
replied “I love you too George,” he straightened up smiling and went
back to his chair. I thought that was nice and by his actions it
meant the strained relationship was over between us. I came to find
out, it wasn’t. He has said and done a couple of things since which
shows me it isn’t, so I don’t trust him anymore.
Linda Thompson: Linda
Thompson was good for Elvis, taking care of him like she did. She
loved him very much, and tried to help him as to his prescription
drug problem, but ran into a stonewall also. She was responsible for
getting him out of a dangerous situation more than once.
felt sorry for her when Priscilla wouldn’t let her ride on the plane
with her to Memphis when Vernon sent the plane to get Priscilla
after Elvis’ death to come to Memphis.
Ginger Alden: Never
met her. Can’t say anything about her factual, just opinions on what
I have heard and read about her.
Esposito is often referred to as Colonel Parker's spy. He seems to
have been earning money from both Elvis and The Colonel while
feeding back the gossip about Elvis (and your private lives) and the
goings-on back to The Colonel. Did you feel at the time that you had
a spy in your midst?
We didn’t know, and I don’t think it was much about us at all that
he was reporting to the Colonel. It was about Elvis, because when it
comes down to it, Elvis is who the Colonel wanted to keep up with,
not us guys.
Larry Geller has told us the story of The Colonel seeing Elvis
semi-conscious in his hotel room before a concert yet saying ,"Now
you listen to me. The only thing that is important is that that man
is on stage tonight! Do you hear me? Nothing else matters." Did you
have any similar stories? Can The Colonel have really been that
First of all for the record, let me state that I don’t put much
stock in anything that Geller says as I already have heard too many
falsehoods that have been attributed to him. Like Joe Esposito, he
likes to try and revise history. He wasn’t around for almost 13
years as he claims. It was more like three and a half years, total,
which includes the last year when we were gone. Sal Orifice was the
person that got him the job with Elvis because Sal was leaving to
open his own salon. It was not Alan Fortas, which Geller has
claimed. So with that said, I don't put much stock in his statement
about The Colonel, because there was no love lost between the two
you there in September 1973 when Elvis fired The Colonel? Did Elvis
confide in you his plans for the future or his desire to tour
I was there. The incident that triggered that situation was the
firing of a waiter that brought up Elvis’ meals to the suite between
shows. He told Elvis about his being fired and it made Elvis mad. I
can’t remember the reason the guy gave for his being fired, but it
sure caused a big problem between Elvis and the Colonel. Elvis went
on stage that night and during the show he talked very badly about
Barron Hilton and others in the hotel, blaming them for the firing.
Colonel wasn’t at the show, but someone informed him of the things
Elvis had said and he showed up at Elvis’ suite shortly after we got
up there. He was visibly very upset and went into Elvis’ bedroom to
talk with him. We could hear the raised voices of both of them
coming from the room. We couldn’t make out all the words, but it
didn’t last long before Colonel walked out the door loudly
proclaiming he would call a news conference in the morning to
announce the end of their business association. Elvis yelled out
that was fine and he would call his own news conference tonight to
tell them. (This was around 2 a.m. in the morning) Colonel then said
he would figure out how much was owed to him and get the bill to
Elvis and Mr. Presley the next day. Then he was out the door and
don’t remember Elvis coming out of the room that night after that
situation was over, but I do remember the discussion all of us guys
had as to what had just happened, and the possible repercussions
that might follow. Names of different people that become Elvis’
manager were being tossed around by some while others just listened.
won’t name anyone, but one of the guys thought it might really be
over between Elvis and the Colonel. I told him I didn’t think and I
felt it would burn itself out and it would be business as usual. But
I must confess, it did last longer than I thought it would. It was a
couple of weeks or so later that Elvis had me put a call into the
Colonel at his office at MGM Studios. Elvis got on the phone, I left
the room to get some sleep, something I hadn’t had much of for two
weeks. Elvis informed me later when I got up that everything was
lot of fans also blame Colonel Parker for working Elvis to death.
Have you read Alanna Nash's very detailed book, Elvis
and the Colonel ,
and what are your thoughts about it?
have not read the book and refused her invitation to be interviewed
for it, and no, I have not read it. Again, the fans can only surmise
on their own, or read someone’s book or statements about something
like that and believe it.
truth is, Colonel worked Elvis a lot because, and they aren’t going
to want to hear this, the more time Elvis had between tours, the
more messed up he would get between tours. Sometimes to the point no
one was sure he was going to be able to go on tour. We started out
doing longer tours and having longer periods off, but like I said,
that didn’t work so good. The shorter time off worked a little
better, but not much. It was the only way to keep Elvis from having
too much time off to get messed up.
The Colonel need Elvis to keep working just to feed his gambling
Colonel had plenty of money and his losses have been greatly
exaggerated by many. He lost a lot ofmoney, but not more than he
could afford to lose. Colonel was aware at all times as to how much
he was winning or losing. Believe me, I was there a lot of the time.
the end Colonel Parker took more than 1/2 of Elvis' income which
meant Elvis had to keep on touring. As most managers take around 10
-15 percent how on earth could this have been justified?
First of all, myself, and most everyone else did not know all of the
Colonel’s and Elvis’ contract arrangements as there were many. One
was a percentage on his record sales and movies, one was on the
items of concessions that were sold, which was through a company the
Colonel had formed, and he and Elvis were equal partners splitting
the profits 50/50.
personal managers over here in the USA usually get 25 percent,
agents get 10 to 15 percent. You have to remember, most managers had
more than one client and they were getting a percentage of all of
them. Colonel turned down many artists that wanted him to manage
them, saying he only had time for Elvis, who got 100 percent of his
time in management and promotion.
The Death of Elvis
Sonny, looking back over the past 30 or so years, if Elvis hadn’t
died in 1977 how different would your life be today?
know, that is a very interesting question. I am not sure if I know
the answer. In fact, I know I don’t know the answer, but I can only
speculate. I would like to think that we got through to him and he
beat his problem, and by doing so, we were back with him for as long
as he needed us. Hopefully, he would have gotten back into doing
some movies, but this time around, doing ones that he chose to do
rather than having to live up to a contract. I know I have said this
enough that people are probably getting tired of hearing it, but I
loved working for Elvis and I loved the movie business, and doing
both at the same time would make everything just about perfect.
if Elvis hadn’t died in 1977 how different would the world’s view of
his legend be today?
Another interesting thought. You know, if Elvis was alive today, I
am not sure if he would be as big of a legend as he is. I think a
legend becomes much bigger, if he is taken from us in his prime. He
would still be the legend of all legends though, as I don’t believe
any entertainer will ever be as big.
There are a number of important questions around our last two
questions. Firstly, why did Elvis Presley die?
don’t know why he died. I certainly don’t think he should have. I
know inside there were still some things that he wanted to do. Like
tour around the world, go places that he had only read about, or
heard about. The different cultures and ways of life that were so
different from ours was something he often talked about.
Secondly, did he have to die?
is a definite resounding NO! Why should someone so talented, with so
much still to offer the world in music and movies have to die so
early in his life with so much left to give. If that old saying,
“only the good die young” is true. Elvis is that personified.
Thirdly, before he died do you think Elvis had any inkling of his
cultural importance in the world?
Elvis knew there was something special about him being who and what
he was. He just didn’t know what or why. But I am sure he, just as
the rest of us, never expected it to be this overwhelming, and for
this long with no end in sight. It is truly something very special.
love to hate Dr. Nick often blaming him for Elvis' death. What are
your feelings towards Dr Nick and are the fans feelings justified?
know what it is for some fans to hate you firsthand, believe me. I
don’t think the hate is justified for me, and I don’t think it is
justified for Dr. Nick. Dr. Nick is not a bad man, or even a bad
doctor. He is in fact a caring man and a caring doctor. Maybe too
much so as a doctor. It was proven that Dr. Nick had over prescribed
for patients that were not rich or famous, so that shows that it
wasn’t just for monetary reasons. He was a soft touch for his
patients. And we are right when we say he shouldn’t have been, that
he had responsibilities as a doctor and should have not given in to
the pleas of his patients.
persuasive as Elvis could be when he wanted something bad enough,
Dr. Nick should have said no. But then, there were a lot of people
that should have said no to Elvis from early on, but found it just
as difficult to do as Dr. Nick did. I wish Elvis could have, would
have said NO to the cravings inside that were out to destroy him.
That is where the battle was that needed to be won. Those same
cravings are in a lot of people around this world, for different
things, and always will be. They just have to be fought and defeated
every day, one day at a time, and constantly be on guard against
them. I am not defending nor condemning Dr. Nick, I am just saying
what I feel in my heart.
about the other Doctors like Dr Ghanem & Dr Flash? Were they all bad
Flash and Dr. Ghanem were bad news. They gave Elvis what ever he
wanted, when he wanted it. Both were in Las Vegas. Dr. Ghanem had
some of us fooled for awhile, but he turned out to be like the other
doctors that were bought.
Elvis Post August 16,
Sonny, many argue that the media focuses too much on the overweight,
junk food Elvis, at the expense of the great music he has left for
generations to enjoy. What is your view on this issue?
think the stories concerning what Elvis ate, or that he was
overweight was something to sell their magazines. The name Elvis in
the headlines was all it took for the “rag-sheets” to sell. I used
to get irritated when reviewers wrote about his weight gain, rather
that review the show, the music and the voice of Elvis. There were
some that did review the music and how hard he worked to please the
audience, and it was a welcome change.
Elvis had lived he would be 72 years old. What are your thoughts
about the fans who cannot believe that he died in August 1977 and
still think he is alive?
know, there are some fans out there that really do think that Elvis
is alive, literally. I meet up with some from time to time, and I
just say a few things to them that makes most of them think a little
more about what they believe. I ask them, if Elvis really was alive
and in hiding, do you really think he would have remained so and
allow Lisa Marie to marry Michael Jackson?
Legends: Lisa Marie with
Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage.
ask that not as a racist question, but as a matter of fact that
Elvis would not have allowed, or at least been very persuasive, to
stop that wedding. He would not have allowed her to date someone in
the entertainment field, especially an “pop idol” like he was. Nor
would he have let her marry Nicolas Cage, again for the same reason
as Michael. No one in the entertainment business, as an actor,
singer, etc., would have been granted the privilege of dating Lisa,
much less marry her. Elvis could relate too much to them.
know a lot of people will say that Elvis would have been in the same
position as other parents were when it came time for their children
to do what they told them. Let me tell you something. You don’t know
Elvis and his strengths if you think his daughter would have done
what she wanted regardless of what her father thought. No way.
you ever read any of the conspiracy theories and do they make you
laugh or cry?
don’t know how many there are out there, and I know I haven’t read
them all, but the ones I have read are closer to the ridiculous than
a possibility. So I would say my answer to most of them is, I may
not laugh, but it brings a smile to my face.
de Barbin's daughter Desirée and all the other suggested children of
Elvis. What are your thoughts - and isn't it perhaps surprising that
a man who spent so much time spending nights with lots of
girlfriends doesn't actually have any secret hidden off-spring?
would say that it is very surprising and I am in total agreement
with that thought. But it is a fact, as far as I know, those that
say they are children of his, usually have been told that by their
mothers as soon as they could understand the words. I think it is a
shame that a mother would do that to their child, knowing that it is
false. And the ones that say they have certified documents of DNA
confirming their claims just isn’t true.
Stanley was in the tabloids telling rumors of Elvis being gay,
having an incestual relationship with his mother and other such
stuff. Was there any truth in her stories and why would she do
this? How did you get on with her when you lived at Graceland?
is a somewhat disturbed individual. She has said some very weird
things over the years, but she crossed the line when she said that
Vernon had told her that his wife, Gladys, and their son had an
incestuous relationship. She was trying to get a book deal by coming
up with something outrageous. I remember watching that show where
Dee, along with a man from the National
Enquirer, and JD Sumner, too.
man, I think was Calder with the Enquirer was seated between
Dee and JD. When JD lit into her verbally, very strongly and was on
the edge of his seat, Calder leaned back in his chair so as not to
be in the way if anything was going to happen. I really think he
thought that JD might possibly slap her or something like that. But
I must say, JD got out what he wanted to say, and it was right on.
remember when she, Marty Lacker and myself were on a show in Los
Angeles, called AM Los Angeles with Regis Philbin and co-host Cindy
Garvey. We were all on there to talk about our books. The show was
taped in Las Vegas though, where it was on location for a week. She
asked Marty and I to not say anything mean or cruel to her, of which
neither of us had any intent in doing. But this was years before she
made the statement about Elvis and his mom.