Friends Remember Elvis Presley
November 30, 2007
With us, Linda Thompson, the King's one-time girlfriend, Joe Esposito, Elvis' friend, bodyguard, road manager, best man at his wedding. And from Graceland, Jerry Schilling, close friend of the Presleys. He rarely does interviews because he finds it hard to talk about those 20 years of private memories. And George Klein, childhood friend of Elvis, introduced him to Linda Thompson. And Elvis was best man at his wedding.
Larry King: Jerry, what is the Jungle Room?
Jerry Schilling: Well, you know, Larry, when I first went to work for Elvis back in '64, it was a screened-in porch. And Elvis had it converted to like a den, where we used to watch football games. And one day, Vernon Presley, his father, came back and said, 'Elvis, I just saw the ugliest furniture in the world at the goldsmith's, or somewhere'. Elvis went and bought it and here we are, the Jungle Room.
Larry King: And George Klein, you are in the living room at Graceland, is that correct?
Tell me about -- any history to that room.
George Klein: Yes, Larry, there's a lot of history in this room. This is the room where Elvis would receive his guests. This is the room where I met Jim brown, number 32. It's the room where James Brown came to pay his respects when Elvis passed away. Carolyn Kennedy came, when Elvis passed away, to this room. Elvis would always receive his guests here. One of the greatest nights I ever witnessed happened right in this room. It was a jam session with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis on the piano behind me.
Larry King: Now, George, Linda Thompson, he introduced you to Elvis? Tell me what happened.
Linda Thompson: George, you look great, by the way.
George Klein: Thank you, Linda.
Linda Thompson: Back in 1972, I was Miss Tennessee at the time and George was, and still is, a very popular D.J. in Memphis. And he asked if I'd like to come to the Memphian Theater to meet Elvis. And my girlfriend, Miss Rhode Island, was with me and she quickly said yes. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have met him.
Larry King: Wouldn't have wanted to go?
Linda Thompson: I probably wouldn't have. I was a little stultified, I think, in my approach to life.
Larry King: And what was it like? George said, 'Elvis, this is Linda'.
Linda Thompson: Yes, actually, George kind of facilitated the meeting. And we hit it off right away. We were very much kindred spirits. You know, I'm from Memphis as well and we grew up very much the same way, with the same religious fervor, the same appreciation of the same cuisine.
Larry King: How soon before you were living with him?
Linda Thompson: Not until about -- I met him in July and we were fairly inseparable. Joe memorized my number because he kept trying to reach me, I went out of town for a couple of weeks.
And I guess we began living together about in September.
Larry King: Joe, you met him in the army, right?
Joe Esposito: Yes, I was fortunate enough to be drafted the same time he was.
We became friends in Germany ...
Larry King: What made you go to work for him after that?
Joe Esposito: He invited me to go to work for him.
He asked what I was going to do when I got out of the service. And I said, 'Well, I'm go back to Chicago and go back to my little job I had'. And he said, 'No, come to work for me'. And that was it.
Larry King: And your job was?
Joe Esposito: I was more or less the right-hand man, his right-hand man, took care of everything, made sure everything was taken care of and done. And then, back on the road, I became his road manager.
Larry King: Jerry, what was it like to be part of the entourage?
You lived and traveled everywhere with him. What was your role?
Jerry Schilling: Well, you know, I started off Larry -- well I met Elvis actually in '54, the same week he recorded his first record. And I was in grade school. And for ten years, because he didn't have enough people -- he was so unpopular, Larry, that he couldn't get up six people to play football. So they let the grade school guy play.
And within two or three weeks, the record came out. You couldn't get on the football field. And I think he kind of remembered I thought he was cool before he was popular. So for ten years, I'm going to high school and hanging out here and you know, going to college. And then my senior year, he asked me to go to work and it was like -- you know, I left North Memphis and we take a bus trip, and I wind up in Bel Air with swimming pools, we're on movie sets and it's every dream that I could ever thought of Elvis made possible for me.
Larry King: What was your job?
Jerry Schilling: Well, you know, Elvis, I think, Joe will tell you, and George, you know, he didn't hire people necessarily for specific jobs. He hired people that he trusted because you lived with him in the same house. I started out, certainly security. Then I did some standing in and some personal public relations later on.
And it just kind of evolved over the years.
Larry King: George, what was your job?
George Klein: Well, early on, Larry, you know, I met Elvis in high school, 1948. And when I was in radio, I got fired once because they told me they didn't think Rock and Roll was going to last. The next day, I bump into Elvis, he says, 'You're going with me'. I said, 'Where are we going'. He said, 'We're going to Canada, we're going to Hawaii, we're going to Hollywood to make a movie called Jailhouse Rock.
So I signed on as merely a traveling companion.
I traveled with Elvis for about a year until he went into the army. When he went into the army, I went back into radio and television in Memphis. And then when he got out of the army, he wanted me to go back to work with him. But I said, 'Elvis, I'm too well established at this very moment'. He said, 'Don't worry about it. You have carte blanche. You can travel with me, you can be with me any time'. So I went to Hollywood with him, hung with him when he was shooting pictures. I'd go to Vegas with him when he was playing there in Vegas, or I'd go on the road with him. I just sort of had a carte blanche thing with him.
Larry King: And he paid you?
George Klein: Well, the only time he paid me, Larry, was the year I worked for him before he went in the army. They paid us $50 a week. And I said, 'Elvis, we don't need the money. You're taking care of all the expenses'. And he said, 'Well, Colonel Parker says I got to pay you something for tax purposes'. So I accepted the money.
The other times, I wouldn't accept anything from him.
Larry King: No, you did it gratis.
What was he like as a boyfriend, Linda? What kind of boyfriend was he?
Linda Thompson: He was an amazing boyfriend. He was inordinately affectionate and generous and kind and thoughtful, passionate. He was really a wonderful person. I never felt more loved than when I was with Elvis.
Larry King: But he saw other women?
Linda Thompson: He was not monogamous. He was the first year we were together.
Larry King: How did you take that?
Linda Thompson: You know, one little flaw and you got to jump on it, right? No, he was not the most monogamous of men, but he really was very loving.
Larry King: Did you get mad?
Linda Thompson: You know, I took into consideration that it was Elvis, and given the opportunity...
Larry King: Everyone says that.
Linda Thompson: Given the opportunities he had, he did pretty well. He showed a lot of restraint and he was very loyal in his own way. I never doubted how much he loved me and how special I was to him.
And, you know, I reconciled that somehow in my mind.
Larry King: How do you explain it? He played around more than you, right?
Joe Esposito: Well, yes, many times. But we all did. That's the thing about it. You know, it was really terrible ...
Linda Thompson: I've been meaning to talk to you about that.
Joe Esposito: That's why I got divorced, too. Because all of us guys were single and our wives were all married. So Elvis was -- you know, Elvis loved women. He always did. He related more to women than he did to guys, so he liked to be around -- not necessarily just for sex or anything like that. He just liked to -- he could relate, talk to them, and he could talk more about his problems to women than he could talk to guys.
Larry King: But he had a lot of guys around him.
Joe Esposito: Oh yes. He has friend. He liked loyal friends, that was very important to him. He like people that he could trust and know and they were going to be there for him.
Linda Thompson: And he was so sequestered with the same people around him all the time that, in an intellectual way, I tried to reconcile it in my mind. And he wanted the stimulation of conversation with people.
Larry King: When you went with Elvis, you went to 9:00 in the morning and got up at 6:00 at night.
Linda Thompson: Yes, we lived like vampires, very much like vampires.
Larry King: You didn't see daylight, much.
Linda Thompson: Didn't see daylight. And when you're young and malleable you it's not such a big deal. But when I started to fill myself up with my own self, and with my own ideas of how I wanted to my life to be, then, you know, it was more difficult for me to kind of adjust to that lifestyle.
Linda Thompson: He was as good a husband as the king of rock and roll could be. You know, he was also...
Larry King: Given that?
Linda Thompson: Yes. You have to remember, our life wasn't the normal life. We had, you know, all the guys that were around all of us. You know, he had already developed a lifestyle, you know, with guys hanging...
Larry King: Friends were important to him.
Linda Thompson: Friends were very important. People around him were very important. You know, he created his own life with all the guys around him and the guys' wives. We'd go everywhere together.
Larry King: You're also married to Bruce Jenner. You told the story before we went...
Linda Thompson: And I have a career, oddly enough. I'm a song writer, a lyricist.
Larry King: Tell them about being in a hospital with Elvis and seeing Bruce Jenner on television.
Linda Thompson: Yes, Elvis was hospitalized with pneumonia. And being the good companion that I was, I stayed with him the entire two weeks he was in the hospital. I had my own little hospital bed.
Larry King: They put your bed next to his?
Linda Thompson: They put a bed right next to his and we were tandem. I mean, if he lowered, I lowered. If he raised, I raised. Joe remembers. And the Olympics were airing and we watched Bruce cross the finish line. And, you know, Bruce was this incredible specimen of a human being, and an incredible athlete, gorgeous.
And I said, 'Wow, look at that guy. I'd like to marry that guy'. And Elvis said, 'Over my dead body'.
So, you know, truth is stranger than fiction. What can I say.
Larry King: You wound up marrying Bruce.
Linda Thompson: I did. I wound up marrying Bruce and had two wonderful sons with him.
Larry King: Why'd you break up with Elvis.
Linda Thompson: Why did I break up with Elvis? It was difficult to watch his slow demise. I loved him deeply, and to watch someone that you love that immeasurably slowly self-destruct.
Larry King: You mean the drugs?
Linda Thompson: I just knew that he probably wouldn't be around much longer.
I didn't want to be the one to find him.
Larry King: Joe Esposito, why did you let -- and you had a lot of influence -- let Elvis self-destruct?
Joe Esposito: Well, we all tried to help Elvis. But you've got to remember, Elvis is a very stubborn person, very hard-headed. You could talk to him about it and he'd agree with you at times. Other times he'd get mad and tell you to get the hell out of the room. But we all tried it. But, you know, Larry. You know that. If he doesn't want to do it himself, it ain't going to happen. He had to be the one to make the decision to change and he didn't.
Larry King: Do you know why he did it?
Joe Esposito: He was a very addictive person anyhow. Anything he ever did in his life, he was very addictive.
Larry King: Jerry, you wanted to say something?
Jerry Schilling: Well, you know, Larry, I do think there's an underlying -- and we've all talked about this before. I always thought that the drugs were the band-aids. You know, Elvis was not just a good looking guy with a great voice. He was very intelligent. When he started, he was on the leading edge. And I think he became so successful with that package that when he wanted to grow, business and everybody just wanted to keep him in the same -- 'Let's do another song, another movie with ten songs', and whatever.
And, you know, Elvis is wanting to do 'Becket'. And, you know, one day he went to Hal Wallis and said, who was producing a lot of his films, 'Mr. Wallis, when do I get my 'Becket'?' Because he read in the trade papers that, you know, Wallis said, you know, 'Elvis' films are great. I actually can finance my big movies with him'. So I think we would all agree that it wasn't just -- I think when you take a genius, and you give them mediocrity, there becomes boredom and I think that started the real downer unfortunate prescribed drug situation.
Elvis Australia Comment : 'It's time society realised people who have a drug problem are not necessarily bad people, they're hurting people'. 'Most of our behaviour is people just trying to meet their needs, because unmet needs produce emotional pain in our lives'. 'It's both scary and alarming what we'll resort to in order to escape our pain, even to the point of compromising our own convictions'.
'People need our love and understanding, not our condemnation. Doctors talk about addictive personalities - there's no such thing, It's how much emotional pain there is in a person's life'. 'The more pain there is, the more vulnerable and prone they are to get hooked on something that relieves their pain. It's time we realised that drugs are not the problem but a symptom of far deeper issues, both in people's lives and in our society'. - Gary Ablett - Former Geelong AFL Football player. (2007) Gary Ablett was one of the greatest players ever to play Australian Football. In 2007, his sons, Gary Jr. and Nathan played in Geelong's winning Grand Final team. In 2009 Geelong won it's second premiership in three years, playing in three consecutive Grand Finals.
Larry King: How loyal was Elvis to his people?
Jerry Schilling: Oh, very loyal. Definitely. He was very -- if anybody had any problems, he was always there for you. I don't care what it was, a personal problem, a financial problem, or anything.
Larry King: George, Jerry said he was brilliant. Would you call him that?
George Klein: Yes, I've known three geniuses in my time, Larry.
Sam Phillips, who started Sun Records, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis was a genius in his own right. Immensely talented guy, had a great ear for music, had a great take about what went on the stage. He knew how to go on stage, how to work out on stage. Knew how to get off stage. He knew when the timing was right. He had impeccable time, he had fantastic rhythm in his voice. He was a genius in his own way.
Larry King: But he lived a life, Linda, almost like a hermit, right?
Linda Thompson: He did, but he read voraciously.
You know, he was a self-taught man. He finished high school but didn't go to college. And he was incredibly intelligent and had intellectual curiosity which, I think, defines a genius or an intellectual person.
Larry King: And he was interested in, like, the civil rights movement?
Linda Thompson: He was interested in everything.
Larry King: In the ghetto, he performed over the Colonel's objection.
Linda Thompson: Right. And Sammy Davis Jr said he couldn't sing that song because he hadn't lived it.
But Elvis had lived it. He lived in abject poverty in Tupelo, Mississippi, and he really understood what the lyrics meant and was able to translate it to the public.
Larry King: Jerry, how do you account for this continuing fascination with him worldwide?
Jerry Schilling: You know, Larry, Elvis had a way of getting to people on a personal level, whether it was the same language, or it was a different language, a different country, whatever. Elvis has this -- you feel when you watch him or listen to his music, that he's talking just to you.
I mean, this group of people right here, every one of us in our own way felt we were the most important person in the world to Elvis. And he had a way of doing that with the world, Larry.
Larry King: Do you agree, Joe?
Joe Esposito: I agree 100 percent.
Linda Thompson: And the sincerity, as well. Elvis was sincere and he was, he was so loyal. And he was so homespun. He loved his mother, he loved America. You know, he loved his fellow man.
He had a great humanitarian philanthropic sense.
Joe Esposito: I think he's so popular still today because of his music. His music's great music. It makes people feel good when you hear his music. It's not like the music you hear today.
Linda Thompson: It didn't hurt that he looked like a Greek god.
Larry King: George, there are those worrying that Graceland is going to undergo changes with the sale.
Are you worried?
George Klein: I'm not worried Larry. I think it's all for the best. I think Mr. Sillerman can probably take it to the next level. Graceland had reached a peak and this guy Sillerman knows what he's doing. And I think it's going to be really great. I think you'll see a lot more Elvis everywhere as opposed just to regional areas and different parts of the United States. I think you'll see him worldwide. I think it's a good deal for everyone concerned.
Larry King: Do you think, Joe, he'd be surprised at this, 28 years later?
Joe Esposito: No, he definitely would be surprised.
I don't think Elvis realized how much power he had. We didn't, even among ourselves. You know, when Elvis passed away, we could not believe the amount of people that came to that funeral and how it affected them.
Larry King: Where were you when he died, Jerry?
Jerry Schilling: Well, when he died, Larry, I was getting ready to do my first tour as the Beach Boys manager. And I got a call -- and Joe called and sent the plane back for Priscilla, his wife, and me.
Larry King: Were you totally shocked?
Jerry Schilling: More so, Larry, than any shock I've ever had in my life. As long as Elvis was around, since I was a young teenager, I always felt nothing could happen to me. And when that happened -- and things were going great for me, but that was the biggest shock and the biggest disappointment I've ever had in my life.
Larry King: George, where were you?
George Klein: Larry, I was working in Memphis in an office doing some public relations work and freelance work. And I get a call from my morning disc jockey and he says, 'G.K., there's a bulletin that just came across the wire, Elvis passed away'. I said 'Oh, man, that happens all the time. It happened three weeks ago'. He said, 'Well, could you check on it?' I said, 'I'll check on it and I'll call you back'. Well, I hung up the phone. The next line lit up. It was another station in Memphis calling me. Then the third line lit up, it was CBS television calling me.
They said, 'George, I knew the guy'. They said, 'We got it from a reliable source'. I said, 'Well, wait a minute, let me call Graceland'. So I got on the next phone and I called Graceland. And Vernon Presley's girlfriend, Sandy, answered the phone. And I said, 'Sandy, this is George. Is it true?' And she says, 'George, it's very true and you need to get out here as fast as you can'. So I jumped in my car and I drove about 100 miles an hour to Graceland and I busted in the house. And Larry, it was the saddest scene I've ever seen in my entire lifetime. Everybody was crying. Mr. Presley, Elvis' father, went up and grabbed me. He says, 'George, we've lost him. We've lost him. I've lost my son'. I felt so horrible, like Jerry. It felt like someone just stuck me with a hot iron or something. Little Lisa was walking around, she wasn't aware of what was going on. But everybody in the house was in turmoil. Everybody was breaking up, everybody was crying.
It was a tremendously sad scene and I was in shock myself, somewhat.
Larry King: Priscilla What was the funeral like?
Priscilla Presley: My gosh, I don't think I've ever seen witnessed a funeral like that. It was -- it was unbelievable. I mean, people were all dazed, first of all, in disbelief. But to see the public, I mean, come to Graceland and line the streets. It was unbelievable the lineup of people. It was paths and paths of people.
Larry King: Where were you, Linda, when you learned?
Linda Thompson: I was in my apartment in Los Angeles, and Lisa Marie called me.
Larry King: She was what, 9 years old?
Linda Thompson: Nine years old, and had the presence of mind to pick up the phone and call me. And she just said, 'Linda', and she was breathless, and she would call me once in a while anyway. We were very close. And I said, 'hi, honey'. And she said, 'it's Lisa'. I said, 'I know who you are, little goobernickel'. And she said, 'my daddy's dead, my daddy's dead'. And I said no -- and I remember throwing the phone across the room. I just said 'no', then I looked at the phone lying on the floor and I thought, you know, this little girl has the presence of mind and the care for me to call me to share this with me. So I reached for the phone and I said, 'honey, are you absolutely certain?' And she said, 'yes'. And I said, 'he's not just sick, they didn't just take him?' She said, 'no, no, he's dead, he's dead'. And I just tried to comfort her by saying, you know, how much her father loved you and, you know, his love will never die and he'll always be with us. In the meantime, I was devastated. So many strange things happened that day. All the lights went out in my apartment, inexplicably only in my apartment. You know, Elvis was a keen believer in phenomenon like that, and it was very, very strange, that all the lights in my apartment went out and stayed out for the duration of that day.
Larry King: Lisa, did she also call her mother, or was her mother there?
Linda Thompson: I'm not certain. Her mother was not there. I'm sure she probably did call her mother.
Larry King: Joe, how did you learn?
Joe Esposito: Well, I was there when it happened.
Larry King: That's right, I remember.
Joe Esposito: I was there. Larry King: You went up to the body, right?
Joe Esposito: I went upstairs, yeah.
Larry King: Who called you upstairs?
Joe Esposito: Al Strada. Our wardrobe guy, he went upstairs, because Ginger, the girl he was dating at the time, called him and said, 'Elvis fainted in the bathroom'. So he ran upstairs. Then Al called downstairs, he asked me to come upstairs. 'I need your help', he says. So I ran up there, and I found him on the floor in the bathroom. Turned him over, and... The minute I touched him, I knew he was dead. I didn't want to believe it, but yes, I did know it, and I picked the phone up and called the ambulance, and they came out.
And I jumped in the back of the car with him to go to the hospital.
Larry King: What was that like for you?
Joe Esposito: It was tough, it was tough, but you know, I just clicked into a gear, I knew we had to get something done here real quick. And Dr. Nick showed up, he jumped in the back of the limousine -- of the ambulance, and we went, Charlie Hodge and me, we went too the hospital, and took him into the hospital, after about 30 minutes, they came out and told us that he had gone.
Larry King: Did you go to the funeral?
Linda Thompson: Oh, yes. My whole family was there. We were about the third car back.
Larry King: Why did you break up?
Linda Thompson: And the final fiber was a very good one. We broke up because it got to be too painful for me to watch his self-destruction. And you know, there were the other women. There was the convoluted lifestyle that I didn't want to choose to live that way for the rest of my life. So there were a myriad of reasons.
Larry King: And when you told him about it, what did he say?
Linda Thompson: Well, you know, he was who he was, and as Joe pointed out earlier, he was very set on his path of self-destruction. And he was very set in his ways. And you know, I was just this young girl that, you know, couldn't have that much influence on him.
Larry King: Jerry, how do you rate Elvis as a gospel singer?
Jerry Schilling: Well, you know, it's really interesting. I was a real rock n' roller as a kid, but walking into this house tonight, his gospel group, the Imperials, were in the piano room, singing for the Webcast for the vigil light service on the 16th, and boy, Joe and George and Linda will say so many times we heard the piano in this house, and the gospel guys, the Stamps, the Imperials, and singing. There was -- I've never felt a camaraderie like I felt here at Graceland or when you were with Elvis, and you know what? It was a big part. Back at that time, Larry, whether it was Sam Cooke, all popular singers came from gospel groups, and Elvis wanted to be one of the Blackwood Brothers. They went into rhythm and blues, and it came out rock 'n' roll and whatever, but gospel music was a huge part of Elvis Presley. And I know what the gentleman was saying who called.
Larry King: George, would you agree?
George Klein: Yeah, Larry. Elvis' legacy was his music.
That's what has perpetuated his lasting 28 years here. His music lives on. The greatest, most versatile singer that ever lived, Larry, because Elvis could sing gospel, he could sing pop, he could sing country, he could sing blues, he could sing rock 'n' roll. I don't know any singer living today that could hit a high note like Elvis hit in the song called 'Surrender' or 'It's Now or Never', a tremendous singer in his own right. And his first love was gospel music, like they alluded to earlier, but I do think, once again, that his legacy is his music.
Larry King: Do you agree, Joe?
Joe Esposito: Absolutely. Definitely. That's what I say. I talk to these young kids, little girls 10, 12 years old. I say, how did you get hooked onto Elvis? Well, my mom played an album for me, and there was something about him. I just love him. They play his albums over and over again, so he's getting new fans every year.
Larry King: You still get asked a lot about him?
Linda Thompson: Oh, all the time. He had an interesting philosophy when it came to gospel music, because so many Christian people would say, why don't you just become a Christian artist, why don't you just do exclusively gospel music? And Elvis' idea was that if he interjected one gospel song in a rock n' roll concert, he reached more people that way in trying to spread spirituality, not just Christianity but spirituality ...
Larry King: Would you describe him as spiritual?
Linda Thompson: Oh, he was keenly spiritual.
Joe Esposito: Oh, definitely. Absolutely.
Linda Thompson: He was on a spiritual quest in his life, absolutely.
Larry King: Priscilla, was Elvis very much into religion?
Priscilla Presley: Oh, my gosh, yes. You know, from the time he was a very young child, he was, you know...
Larry King: Was he a believer?
Priscilla Presley: A believer in?
Larry King: Did he believe in God?
Priscilla Presley: Oh, yes. That was really the foundation that he had in our family. His mother and father would go to church, the Assembly of God Church, and they would sing. It was just a -- it was a part of his life.
Larry King: Linda, Elvis looked good.
Linda Thompson: He looked great.
Larry King: What happened to Ginger Alden, the young lady that Elvis was dating when he passed away?
Larry King: Jerry, do you know? Jerry Schilling?
Jerry Schilling: George would know.
Larry King: George would know -- George.
Jerry Schilling: George would know, yeah.
Larry King: George.
George Klein: Yeah. Ginger Alden married an advertising executive in New York City. She's living up there. She got off into modeling, tried the actress route. It didn't work for her. So she got married up in New York, married an ad exec. And she has a child, raising a family, living in the eastern part of the United States these days.
Lovely young lady. Actually, she came into the group kind of young. A lot of the guys in the group, Larry, didn't understand Ginger. I understood her, because I introduced her to Elvis. And I could relate to Ginger.
She was very beautiful, very gorgeous, but she was quite a bit younger than us. And some of the guys in the group didn't understand why she couldn't understand what was going on. But I think she was a lovely lady.
Ginger Aldren first met Elvis when she was five years old. Her father was a Public Relations Officer in the Army in Memphis. When Elvis returned from Germany and was no longer in the service, Ginger's family was invited, by an uncle of Elvis', to join Elvis and a group at the local fairground. Elvis remembered Ginger's father and walked over to meet him and his family. Elvis was so kind and cordial. He shook hands with each person and patted Ginger on the head. No one never dreamed thier paths would cross again or that in 15 years Ginger would become engaged to Elvis! On the evening of November 19th 1976 George Klein called Ginger's sister Terry, the reigning Miss Tennessee, asking if she would like to meet Elvis. Terry was engaged at the time but thought, of course it would be nice to see Graceland and meet Elvis. She told George yes, but felt awkward going alone so she took Ginger along with her. When they arrived at Graceland they were escorted upstairs and in to Lisa Marie's bedroom. Ginger has said 'I know this sounds funny but when Elvis entered the room, I thought trumpets would sound. He looked so handsome. He quickly sat in a chair and started talking with each of us.
It turned out to be a truly wonderful evening as he took us on a tour of Graceland.
Later he sang for us and read aloud from some of his books about religion.
Larry King: Tell us about Elvis and Charity.
Jerry Schilling: Yes, you know, right here in this house, where George is sitting, actually, in that room, every Christmas, Elvis would come and Joe would have the checks and Elvis would write checks to like 50 charities, every year. And what was interesting about it, Larry, he didn't just write checks.
He wanted to know about each one. And they were not just for one type of charity, but they were for various religious denominations, various walks of life. And you know, what's great to see that his daughter is still doing that here in Memphis with a thing for homeless people called Presley's Place. But you know, the Presleys never were ones to brag about their charity work. But Elvis is probably one of the biggest philanthropists of all time.
Larry King: Linda?
Linda Thompson: He was, yes. And one of his favorite charity was the Good Fellows in Memphis. And one of the reasons it was one of his favorites is because he actually was the recipient of their goodwill when he was a little boy. Their family was so poor that he grew up in abject poverty, they didn't have Santa Claus, so the Good Fellows provided Santa Claus for him when he was a little boy. He never forgot that.
He was fiercely loyal. And did remember when someone was good to him and repaid in kind.
Linda Thompson: Graceland was a church before it was a home.
Larry King: Oh, was it?
Linda Thompson: Yes, it was a church converted to a home.
George Klein: You're wrong on that.
Larry King: Who's saying that, George?
Linda Thompson: I must have been mistaken.
George Klein: I'm saying it never was a church, Larry. What happened was, a famous doctor in this area had this home, and it was named after his wife, Grace, that's how it got the name Graceland.
But downstairs, what they did on Wednesday nights, they had church meetings. It was a church meeting downstairs in the basement. But the house -- the home, sorry, it never was really a church per se.
Linda Thompson: Elvis referred to it as a church.
Jerry Schilling: There was a church next door which is now the executive offices of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
Larry King: It's always mentioned how Elvis loved his mother.
Did he not love his father? And why isn't he mentioned in the same breath?
Joe Esposito: Well, I think he was very close to his mother more than his father. And I did not know his mother at all, so I can't tell you too much about that. George Klein was around him very much during that time.
Larry King: George, was he more -- was he closer to his mother?
George Klein: I've never seen anything like it. If his mother asked him to do something there was no arguments, there was no discussion, there was no debate. He said yes, ma'am. and he would do it.
A prime example was, once Elvis had rented a plane to fly to Nashville for a session. He was running late on concerts. The plane made an emergency landing in Arkansas. It was a fuel situation. Elvis called and told his mama, she said, son, please, please, don't ever fly anymore. And Larry, for those many years, we never flew.
We traveled in limousines, we traveled in buses, we traveled on trains and ships, but Elvis wouldn't fly.
As I said, he loved his mother dearly. I'd never seen anything like that. Whatever she said, that was it.
And also I'd like to clear up something, Larry. They said she used to follow him to school to make sure he didn't get into trouble. That wasn't it. Elvis moved up to Memphis from Tupelo 1948. And she wanted to make sure he went to school. He came from a very small school. We were in a school of 2,000 people. So she would follow him to school to make sure he got to school. And she always gave him everything that he wanted.
I'll never forget when she passed away, he said GK, he said, everything I've made, all of the gold records, Graceland, everything I did for my mom and now she's not here to enjoy it with me.
He was devastated when his mom passed away.
Larry King: Is this going to go on for 50 years, Linda?
50 years from today, they are going to be playing, Linda. Playing Elvis shows, Elvis songs?
Linda Thompson: Probably longer. You know, he's a timeless icon.
And will be remembered for all of the positive...
Joe Esposito: Maybe you'll have us back, this 50th anniversary.
Linda Thompson: I'll bring my walker.
Larry King: Jerry, do you think so? Do you it'll be 50 years, they'll still talk about him?
Jerry Schilling: I met him 50 years ago this July. And who thought they would be talking about him two years from then. And absolutely, Larry. He left us with such a great body of work that there's still things that people can produce. And of course, that music just doesn't get old. It stands up to time.
Larry King: He'd be 70 now, right? George, guess, what would he be doing at 70?
George Klein: If Elvis was alive? He would be still performing in Vegas, Larry. He'd be on the road, not as much, but would be on the road. He loved live audience. He probably would be producing his own motion pictures, and maybe starring in a few now and picking the scripts. I think he would still be in show business. He probably would be off into the business world doing something of that nature.
But I'd also, Larry, like to say, a P.S. to what I was talking about his mother, and I will say this, and I've said it many times, if Gladys Presley was alive today, Elvis Presley would be alive today.
Larry King: Would he have written an autobiography, Linda?
Linda Thompson: I think he would, yes. He very much wanted to have his side of the story told.
Larry King: And he would have laid it all out?
Linda Thompson: He would have laid most of it out. He might have fudged a little bit. Not all of it.
Joe Esposito: There's certainly things you'll never hear from us.
Linda Thompson: Absolutely. And you know, he's also remembered for the human being that he was, as well as what he did professionally and how he revolutionized music. He absolutely is remembered...
Larry King: It shows tonight in the loyalty of all of you. Thank you.
Edited by David Troedson.
(Marty Lacker, Lamar Fike, Jerry Shilling, David Stanley, Anita Wood, Kathy Westmoreland and Patty Perry remember Elvis Presley with Larry King).
Interview with Linda Thompson
Interview with Joe Esposito
Interview with Jerry Schilling
Interview with George Klein
Interview with Lisa Marie Presley
Married at 21, Priscilla Presley Recalls Her Time With Elvis
Interview with Anita Wood
Elvis Presley and Racism : The Ultimate, Definitive Guide
Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali
Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali : Two Sides of the Same Coin
Elvis Presley and Sammy Davis Jr
Jackie Wilson and Elvis Presley
Lionel Rose and Elvis Presley
How Did Elvis Get Turned into a Racist? By Peter Guralnick
Elvis' musical style, as a musician and impact as a vocalist and stage performer
Ernest Withers : Eye on Elvis : Camera Captured Pictures Of Early Elvis
No part of any article on this site may be re-printed for public display without permission.
Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.