Gone.... But Not
As the years go by, our memories become
like a dense forest through which we make our way along
familiar, well-trodden paths. Unnoticed smaller paths
branch out, often leading to half-forgotten memories. I recently
came upon such a path and began thinking about incidents with
Elvis about which I've rarely spoken, incidents with a common
thread: Elvis' generosity even in small matters.
Of course Elvis’ generosity is legendary. During his lifetime he
gave away houses, cars, motorcycles, jewelry, furs, clothing and
money as if it were going out of style. His generosity knew no
bounds. He gave to the poor and the needy, but he didn’t
discriminate against the wealthy. He once took a thirty-thousand
dollar ring off his finger, and gave it to singer-comedian Sammy
“Nobody thinks of giving a rich man anything,” he explained.
“They’re people too. They like to think somebody thinks enough
to give them something.”
Once he got the impulse to give there was no stopping Elvis. One
afternoon on the Paramount lot during filming of “Easy Come,
Easy Go,” we were walking towards the soundstage. A salesman
rolling a large suitcase filled with an assortment of jewelry
yelled out as he ran up to us, “Elvis wait up; I got something
you can’t pass up. You gotta see this.”
Out of breath he exclaimed, “Just check this beauty out,” while
he opened a drawer pulling out a diamond ring which he handed to
Elvis. Elvis admired it, putting it on his finger, and almost
immediately told Joe Esposito to give him a check. On the set
Elvis proudly showed off his newest acquisition. After lunch, he
was standing around, waiting for the cameras to be set up,
occasionally looking at the ring and smiling.
David Winters, Elvis’ choreographer, walked over and Elvis
showed him his new ring. David’s eyes lit up. “Elvis, man,
that’s beautiful; I love your ring.”
Elvis pulled the ring off his finger and handed it to him. David
slipped it on his finger. “It fits great.” “Try it on,” he said,
“and see how it fits.” Elvis took one look at his radiant face.
“It’s yours,” he said, smiling as he turned and walked away from
the stunned choreographer.
The example of Elvis’ generosity that most recently came to mind
was an event that occurred one late afternoon in 1965. We were
in the Dodge motor home, driving through the Arizona desert on
Route 66, approaching the sacred Hopi mountains.
Elvis had been at the wheel as usual, until he had a profound
vision, an experience that shook him to his core. It was a
spiritual jolt and a turning point in his life. After that he
was too exhilarated and distracted to drive, so he asked Red
West to take the wheel.
Elvis motioned for me to follow him to the bedroom in the back
of the vehicle, where we sat for awhile in silence. Then as
night began to fall we began talking about what had just
occurred as we continued on the road towards Flagstaff.
Eventually, we both nodded off – when we were abruptly awakened
several hours later by shouts of “We’re on fire! We’re on
fire!” We snapped to, and Red quickly pulled over to the shoulder
of the road and stopped. Jerry Schilling, Red West, Billy Smith,
Elvis and I jumped out to see what was happening. The back axles
and the undercarriage were aflame. All of us immediately scooped
up sand and gravel from the desert with our bare hands and
managed to extinguish the fire. The vehicle was a total wreck
and wouldn’t start. Luckily, we were only a few miles outside of
Needles, California, in the Mohave Desert. The five of us pushed
the RV into town, where we checked into a motel.
“Let’s just get some vehicles, Larry, and go home,” Elvis said
wearily. “Go hire some cars. Here’s my wallet.” His wallet
was crammed with an assortment of credit cards, but no cash;
Elvis never carried cash. I started walking in search of a
car-rental agency. It was eight or so in the morning, I hadn’t
slept, and I needed a shower and shave. I must have looked
pretty disreputable, an assessment confirmed by the wary look on
the face of the man behind the counter.
“Yes sir, I’d like to rent two cars. I’m with Elvis Presley.
He’s down the road at a motel.” Thinking it would help, I handed
him the wallet. Flipping through the cards, he asked, “What are
you telling me? Elvis Presley?” “Yeah,” I answered.
Flinging the wallet at me, he screamed, “Get the hell outta
As I retreated and headed back to the motel, it occurred to
me that the easiest way to get from Needles to Los Angeles would
be by cab. When I got back to the room I phoned a local taxi
service, and the people there were only too happy to help.
Within minutes, two cabs were at the motel, and we were ready to
We loaded all the luggage into one cab, then Jerry, Red, Billy,
Elvis and I crawled wearily into the second. As we rode down the
highway, our young driver couldn’t stop turning his head around
every few minutes to stare at Elvis, or look at him in the rear
view mirror. That was understandable, but when he hit a cruising
speed of ninety miles an hour and still couldn’t keep his eyes
off Elvis, I yelled, “Hey, man, slow down! You’re going to kill
us. Yes, this is Elvis Presley. Just calm down or I’ll have to
take the wheel.”
All the way back our driver was visibly nervous. When we arrived
in Bel Air about four hours later, the other guys who’d lost us
on the road during the drive were lined up in front of the
While everyone was dealing with the luggage Elvis asked me how
much the fare was. I told him a hundred and sixty dollars for
both cabs. He then asked how much cash I had on me. I checked my
wallet. “Little over five hundred bucks.”
Elvis said, “Hey, these guys probably never even leave Needles,
and they sure don’t get customers like us every day. They work
hard, and could probably use a break. Just give ‘em what you
have there, I’ll pay you back later.”
I may not have told this story much over the years – but I bet
those two cab drivers have told it over and over to anyone who
REHEARSALS AT RCA:
arrived early, having not run into any traffic, and he arrived
late (typical). While we were waiting for the main car,
the musicians began to arrive, as
did other fans who gathered at the gas station across the
street. Soon Joe arrived and motioned us to go to the side door
were we were let in and led to a small room. Not long after
that, the rest of the group, and Elvis came in. After some small
talk, which included talking about the bright yellow Vette
sitting outside they started "warming up." Elvis did a mock
Do-Re-Mi scale purposely making himself go horribly off key!
Charlie joined in equally off key and darn if they didn't burst
into the most horrible rendition of It's Now or Never that I've
I'm sure we had stupid looks on our faces at this point! When
they finished they both took a bow and applauded each other and
Elvis announced "Damn - we're good" At this point Jann looked at
him and said "practice makes perfect" -to which Elvis announced,
"well then - it's time for a coffee break -" (we'd only been
there about 10 minutes!!) Most of the evening, no - ALL of the
evening was spent horsing around, being rude to each other and
talking about current Hollywood gossip and in a few cases they
just tried to embarrass us, which isn't difficult to do.
Elvis spent the better half
of the evening trying really hard to get a song the way he
wanted it. After about an hour, he excused himself, went down
the hall, came back, sat on his stool, picked up his mike and
belted out "Welllll, it's one for the money........" in a HIGH
helium induced voice (I'm presuming that's what it was - sure
sounded like it) It came as a big surprise to everyone and
hysterical laughter followed. After he calmed down he claimed it
was caused by some woman who tried to grab his crotch near the
restroom. Never a dull moment.
to RCA at 7 - just about the same time the station wagon pulls
up. . No one else comes for an hour or so, so we just hung
around inside waiting . Joe arrives, Sonny, etc. and the rest of
them...then Elvis comes in saying "damn, must be 50 people out
there. I told them I'd come out during break (guys groan) When
it's time for break he keeps his word and heads outside. Red and
Sonny go with him. Jann asks him when he returns if it ever
bothers him to have to go out there. He answers that he doesn't
HAVE to, he WANTS to!
The rehearsal only goes to about 10 - Elvis wasn't feeling 100%
- he kept sneezing. There were no kleenex around so I gave him
one of my hankies..nice little yellow one with lace around it.
Elvis kinda raised an eyebrow, looked around the room and took
it then made eye contact with everyone in the room and said
ANYONE MAKES ANY COMMENT AND YOUR A---- ARE HISTORY.
Charlie wants to run thru one more song they're having trouble
with and I was staring off in space so Elvis whacked me on the
top of my head with his microphone and says "pay
attention"....hard to do when you have brain damage Presley!
Had to go up to RCA alone
tonight ...J. out of town . Elvis comes into room, got a big
hug, everyone stands around chatting and setting up, going thru
Some impromptu songs with just Charlie and Elvis singing a few
lines. Elvis asks where J. is..told him in Ariz. for her
Grandmothers 93rd birthday. Hot damn he says and sings a line of
H.B. Then he goes into a rendition of what a 93 yr. old Elvis
would be like. Said "can you see me with all the young
whippersnappers in their' 50's trying to tear my clothes off and
I'd be grateful as hell." Then he sang a few bars of Hound Dog
in a crackly old man voice and did a bump and grind in slow
motion "hand me mah cane Chahlee....and don't forget mah warm
Dialogue as good as I can
So Elvis - are you gonna be bald when you're 93?
Will you still have your own teeth?
Elvis: I'LL HAVE SOMEONE'S
Will you wear glasses?
Really? They will make you look distinguished. Especially if you
have no hair or teeth says Charlie.
Elvis: "I'LL BE A GUMMY ,
BALD, DISTINGUISHED ROCK N ROLL ARTEEEST says Elvis.
Now Elvis asks Charlie what he's
gonna look like when he's old "Because you shrink when you get
old so Charlie's gonna be a midget. Also your nose and ears grow
bigger. "You're gonna be one ugly SOB Charlie" Everyone was
carried on for awhile longer just getting ruder and ruder with
each other. Finally Joe said to get going....time for them to
work, or whatever you call it. Fink!
Precious Memories by Carol (Vaughn)
was a fan who became a good friend to Elvis Presley. She shares
some of her treasured memories of the many times she spent
with Elvis at his Chino Canyon home.
Elvis kissed me and after he
kissed me, he said to
Joe Esposito who had my camera.
'Did you get that picture Joe?'
Joe said, 'I didn't know you wanted me to Boss',
then Elvis said, 'yes, I wanted you to, lets do it
again'. I said to Elvis, ' gee I never had a
audience before'. So Elvis took me into another
room, kissed me again and Joe snapped this picture.
Of coarse I didn't mind that at all!
But I have to say that my knees
felt like they were going to buckle and I'm sure
Elvis felt my heart pounding.
I still can't believe this girl
from a town of 3,500, and thousands miles away from
Memphis, got to meet Elvis Presley and become his
friend. It was a dream come true. I know I am very,
very lucky and I am very thankful.
Regarding the 'Aloha
Special'. It was originally shown in January via
Satellite around the world. Then they re-ran it in
the U.S. the following November. I was living in
Palm Springs at the time and Elvis just happened to
be at his Palm Springs Chino Canyon house during the
re-run. So I was very fortunate to be at the house
sitting next to him and watching it with him. There
were probably 8 people at the house that night. He
was telling all of the things that happened that we
didn't see on TV. Elvis was very tuned in on things
and he knew every spot where someone made a mistake,
such as the symbols at the wrong time, etc. When it
was over, we applauded and he stood up, took a bow,
and said, 'Oh, it was nothing!' (only shown to over
a billion people World-Wide and the first time a
show had ever gone via satellite!) but I loved his
sense of humor, It was one of the most becoming
things about him.
other time was at the Palm Springs house and it was
just him and me sitting on the sofa in his den. He
was in a sort of blue and in rather a quiet mood and
all of a sudden he just started singing, 'A Man
Without Love', a cappella. It was just beautiful and
very moving. I still get chills when I think about
it. I also spent time with him at two of his homes
in Hollywood and also in the suite in Las Vegas, but
we'll save a few of those stories for another time.
There are many wonderful memories.
We all know that Elvis had a
beautiful voice and a beautiful face, but I want
people to know that Elvis had a beautiful soul. He
was very intelligent, he had the most wonderful
sense of humor and he loved to have fun. But most of
all, he was a gentleman. It breaks my heart to hear
all of the horrible things said about him by people
that were close to him and knew better. They just
did it for monetary purposes because 'Good'
supposedly doesn't sell. I am thankful to you for
getting out the true stories of the 'REAL' Elvis.