Interview with Dr. Lester Hoffman : Elvis' Dentist
Q : When did you first meet Elvis?
A : I first met Elvis, it was just after he had come back from Hawaii, from making Blue Hawaii. It was my day out of the office, the girl called me and said, 'There's a phone call, somebody said Elvis Presley needs a dentist'. And I said, 'Well, it must be one of my friends playing a practical joke'. But, I said, 'I'll come on down'. And I came on down and sure enough Elvis came in the office. And he was sent to the office by George Klein. I was Elvis dentist from then to the time he passed away.
Q : You told me a story where Elvis mentally psyched himself up when you were gonna give him a numb.
A : Yes, we were doing a little dental surgery on Elvis. I was taking out an old broken root tip. And, of course I reached for the syringe to get him numb and he said, 'What's that?' And I said, 'I'm gonna get you numb'. And he said, 'Well, just give me a moment, a minute'. And, he went into sort of like a trance. And at the end of the minute he said, 'Ok, I'm ready'. And I reached for the syringe again. And he said, 'No, that won't be necessary'. He had gone into some deep meditation and I said, 'Come on, Elvis I said this..'. He said, 'You go ahead, if it bothers me I'll stop'. I went ahead and did the surgery, got the root tip out, sewed him up. He never blinked, he never moved. And when I finished I said, 'Elvis, I'm through'. He said, 'I never felt a thing'. He could put himself into this meditative trance, he was a student of meditation and he used it.
Q : What went through your mind after this happened?
A : It's the first and only time in my whole career as a dentist that somebody said, 'Go ahead and take out a root because I'll get me numb'.
Q : Can you tell us a little about Elvis generosity?
A : Oh yes, there was a couple of things that he gave me. One evening, he was in the office, we finished whatever we were doing. He was with Charlie Hodge. He said, 'Dr. Hoffman, come on out here. I want to show you something'. We went out of the clinic into the parking lot. And there was a brand new Cadillac Seville. And I knew he had gone a couple days before that and purchased some cars. I knew that he had given Charlie a new Seville. And so I said, 'Oh Charlie, that car is beautiful'. He says, 'No, that's not Charlie's' and he took the keys out of his pocket, 'That's for you'. And I made a dumb remark like: all the winners of the Irish Sweepstakes. I said, 'Elvis, I have a Cadillac, I don't need it'. He looked at me and laughed and he said, 'Listen, your wife's 50, she had a birthday last week, didn't she?' And I said, 'Yes'. He said, 'Well, get her down here if you can'. So the girl in the office called up my wife and asked her to come on down, she wanted to talk to her, presumably about her daughters wedding. My wife came on down. Elvis was standing behind the door, the big door to the entrance to the reception room. And then she walked through and he closed the door slowly, he turned around and gave her a great big kiss on the lips, took the keys, handed her the keys and he said, 'Your husband isn't gonna take this, but I'm giving this to you for your birthday'. And she looked at him and says, 'My God Elvis, what do you say'. He says, 'How about just a simple thank you'. And that's how we got a Cadillac from Elvis.
Q : What would you and Elvis talk about generally, what are your memories - we're trying to find out the man behind the myth here.
A : Well, for example, one time in the office he said, 'Listen, You have a daughter in California and I have a daughter in California. After I finish this tour he says why don't we hop in my plane, we'll fly out to California and take our daughters to lunch'. And he loved his daughter, he loved his family.
Let me tell you one thing about Elvis. I was Dr. Hoffman to him from the time I met him until the time he passed away. And I said, 'Elvis, I call you Elvis. Why can't you call me Les?' He said, 'No. Dr. Hoffman, you went to school, you got that degree and you earned it'. Until the day he passed away, I was Dr. Hoffman to him regardless of what he did.
Q : Elvis had a great respect. Do you have any memories of Elvis sense of humor, anything that might come to your mind, something funny?
A : I have one particularly funny story. We had an appointment with Elvis as the dentist in the evening. And it was in December. And, we set up the appointment for around 8 o'clock. And we got a call from him at 8 o'clock and he said, 'Dr. Hoffman, I'll be a little bit late'. And I said, 'Ok, I'll wait'. Eight-thirty the phone rang again and he said, 'I'll be a little bit late'. I said, 'Ok'. He finally showed up at 9 o'clock. He came in with a motorcycle, he and one of his buddies. They had taken the motorcycles out, came to the clinic, came in the back door. They had two girls with them, one I think was Miss Ohio and one I think was Miss Austria. They were here for the Miss Universe or some beauty contest. And they had sent them out from the studio to visit Elvis apparently for publicity purposes. And he was gonna pick them up at the airport. And boy they expected the limousine to pick them up. And he told them he had to go to the dentist. He put them on the back end of these motorcycles. They came into the office, they were so mad, they had spent four hours in the beauty shop waiting to get ready for Elvis. And if you sit on the back end of a motorcycle in December with the wind blowing, you could imagine what you looked like when you came in.
Q : What was Elvis like at Christmas?
A : Oh, he was great at Christmas. He always gave parties. He was so hospitable, so luke warm, so nice. And we were invited to his Christmas parties, we were invited to his New Years parties at Graceland. And he was just a perfect gentleman.
Q : How did the parties go?
A : Well, he had a lot of music. There was no drinking, there was no drinking ever. I don't ever remember Elvis taking any so called hard liquor. We had the music, there was dancing, he would sing a song. And, my wife just loved it. He was just a great host.
Q : I'd like to talk a little bit about Elvis last night. He came to see you, what was the problem with Elvis?
A : Well, the last time I saw Elvis it was just a routine visit to check him over. He was preparing a tour and, he had Ginger Alden with him. And his comments to me were: Dr. Hoffman, after you check me over if you could, please check Ginger over because I would like to get her teeth fixed and straightened. And, it was just a very, very enjoyable visit. As a matter of fact, that was the visit when he spoke about taking our daughters to lunch in California, flying out to California taking our daughters to lunch. And, that was the last thing I spoke to Elvis about was that. And I said, 'Elvis, when you come back from the tour, well talk about it'. And he said, 'Ok'. And he thanked me and he went about his business and he went home. The last time I ever saw Elvis.
Q : Was he in a fun frame of mind, joking around?
A : Oh yes, good frame of mind, good frame of mind, just normal. And when the news broke the day following when he passed away and I heard about the news, I didn't believe it. But as you know it was true.
Q : Did Elvis still not take anesthetics that night?
A : No, it was just a routine visit, a cleaning and a check up, that was all.
Q : What does Elvis mean to you personally?
A : Elvis. My wife and I have talked about it a lot. Elvis brought a touch of magic into our lives, that's the way we put it. But he passed away and I told my wife, I said, 'You know, the magic will now be gone'. But here it is all these years later and it is still there.
Above - The last known photo of Elvis Presley - August 16, 1977 returning from his visit with Dr. Hoffman.
Q : Some people have talked about Elvis charisma. Did you ever have any kind of feelings like that?
A : No, all I know is, we had a woman who supplied our house with cleaning utensils. And she just to give you an illustration of Elvis at the concerts. She came to me, she said, 'I got a ticket for my daughter to go to Elvis concert'. I said, 'Oh, that's great, she'll enjoy it'. The next time we saw her we asked her about it. And she said, 'My granddaughter she came home, she was so excited, she sat in the top row of the Coliseum,' the Coliseum holds 10,000 people. She said, 'And you know Elvis sang, and when he sang he looked right at me'. And this was the impression that people got when he was entertaining. It was like he was doing it for you and to you alone. It was an eerie kind of sensation, but that's she felt it. And we saw some shows and that's the way we felt.
Q : When Elvis would come for visits, were any fans able to crash in or anything?
A : They did the first time because it was a daytime visit and they recognized his car. And they crashed the office. So we kept our visits in the evening. And, he parked in the parking, you could walk right from the car into the clinic and he did. And we never had a problem with fans after that.
Q : Did Elvis ever tell you anything that has stuck in your mind?
A : Well, I can kind of explain all. Let me tell you a story about Elvis that might describe his character a little bit. He called me at the office and, this was one of his earlier tours. And, he called me and said, he said, 'Dr. Hoffman, can you come out to my house' he said I think 'I lost an old filling. I'm going on a tour and I would like to have a little temporary filling or something to put in there'. I said, 'Sure, I'll come out there'. So I packed up my bag, went out to Graceland, it was about 8 o'clock at night. And Elvis met me and he said, 'Come on upstairs'. And we went upstairs to his dressing room, lounge, he had a chaise lounge. And he laid down on the lounge and he showed me his tooth and he says, 'Can you take care of it?' I said, 'Sure'. I opened up my bag. And we got out all the materials and got it all ready and we kind of fixed up the tooth the best we could. I said, 'How's that?' He said, 'That's fine'.
Going up the stairs, as you circle the stairs, there was an organ and I said, 'Elvis, I didn't know you played the organ'. He said, 'No, that's grandma's'. He says, 'That's one of those organs that kind of plays itself'. I said, 'That's just what I'm looking for because I'm not a musician and I been looking at organs like that'. And he said, 'Oh'. And we went up and we fixed his tooth as I said. And when we finished he said, 'Would you mind talking to Ginger' he said 'I got to get ready for the tour' he said 'I'll be with you in a minute'. Well, I'm 60 some odd years old, I didn't have much in common with an 18 year old girl. But we sat there and we talked for about a half hour. And Elvis came back and he says, 'I'm not ready yet' he says 'go ahead and I'll be back in a little bit'. And he was gone for another half hour and Ginger and I kept talking. And this went on until about 11 o'clock at night. And finally he came up and he said, 'Dr. Hoffman, I'm all ready, I'll walk you out to the front door'. And we walked out to the front door, walked down the steps, walked down to the front door onto the veranda and, you know, with the pillars. And there was, an open brick truck, a half ton truck sitting there. And there was some guys and one of them handed him a flashlight. It's the only time in my life that I ever heard Elvis say, he said, 'What the hell is that'. And he shined the flashlight down into the truck. And he said, 'Hey Dr. Hoffman, come here, this might be interesting to you'. I walked over there and there on the truck was an organ, just like the one that was in his house. I said, 'Elvis, what is that?' He says, 'Well, you said you were looking for something similar'. I had them open the warehouse. They came on down, they opened up the warehouse, came on down' and he said, 'I want him to follow you home'. Typical Elvis, he loved to play Santa Claus and he wanted to be there. And I still have the organ.
Q : You have some wonderful stories and I really appreciate you being here.
A : I appreciate you asking me.
Q : It's been a great pleasure, Dr. Hoffman.
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Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.
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.
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.