It was December 21, 1970. I got a call from Dwight Chapin, who was one of my best friends on the White House staff. And he said, 'The King is here'. And I said, 'King who?' I looked at the President's schedule and said, 'There aren't any kings on the president's schedule'. He said, 'No, not just any two-bit king, the real king. The King of Rock--Elvis. He's right here in Washington and he wants to see the president'. And I thought that was just an elaborate practical joke. . . . We did those things in those days. I felt that this is just a joke, that this wasn't true. But he sent over a letter that he said had been written by Elvis Presley, asking to meet with the president to help him with the drug problem ...
In about an hour, through the OMB security office of the Oval Executive Office building I get a call saying that 'Elvis Presley is here with his two bodyguards'. And they came down the hall to my office and he really was Elvis Presley, dressed in a purple jumpsuit and a white shirt open to the navel with a big gold chain and thick-rimmed sunglasses. And he came in and I must say, I was very impressed with him. I had been a big fan of his during the 1950s. He proceeded to tell me about how much he felt for his country. He wanted to help the country, to do what he could. He felt he had an obligation because he'd been given so much. He talked about serving in the military, and felt that that was his duty.
And I thought, 'Well, you know, this guy seems to be saying the things that that Richard Nixon would like to hear, so let's see if we can't set up a meeting'. So I wrote a memo to the president suggesting some talking points and, and Dwight Chapin wrote a memo to then-Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, to get approval for this meeting. And it came back approved.
So I called back over to their hotel and said, 'The meeting's on. Come on over'. So he showed up about twelve o'clock. I got a call from the Secret Service telling me we had a little problem, because Elvis had brought a gun in to give the president, a nice Colt automatic with bullets in the display case. I had to go over and explain to them that 'No guns in the Oval Office' was standard policy around here. I hoped he'd understand. .... And he seemed to take that in good grace.
But anyway, we walked in a half an hour later into the Oval Office and the president got up. It was a little bit awkward at first, because I'm not sure that Elvis really believed that he was there. They had a really weird discussion about a lot of things that had nothing to do with the talking points I had written. Elvis was telling the president how difficult it was to play in Las Vegas. The president said, 'I understand, Las Vegas is a tough town'. And then Elvis said, 'And you know, the Beatles came over here and made a lot of money and said some un-American things'. And the president looked at me, like, 'Well, what's this about the Beatles?'
And then the real reason for the trip finally came out as Elvis said, 'Mr. President, can you get me a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs?' And the president looked and he said, 'Bud, can we get him a badge?' And I said, 'Well, Mr. President, if you want to get him a badge, we can do that'. He said, 'Well, get him a badge'.
Well, Elvis was so happy about this, he steps around the side of the desk and he goes over and he grabs him. And one of my abiding memories while thinking, 'This is probably the last thing I'll ever do in the Oval Office', was Elvis Presley hugging Richard Nixon, who's sort of standing there looking up, thinking, 'Oh, my God!' You know? (Laughter) And they parted. And then Elvis asked if he could bring in his bodyguards, to which the president said, 'Bud, do we have time for that?' And I thought, 'You're this far into it, why not finish it off'. So, I said, 'Yes, sir, you've got a few more minutes'.
So [his body guards] came in and, and the president shook hands with them and told Elvis, 'You've got some big ones here, Elvis'. And he said, 'Yes', and the president went behind his desk, and opened up the bottom drawer to give them each a gift. Well, Elvis just sensed that there was a lot of stuff in that drawer. So he went behind the desk and, as the president is taking out the cufflinks and the paperweights and the golf balls, Elvis is reaching in towards the back of the drawer and taking out the real gold stuff, the valuable presents--because they were sort of lined up in order of expense, or cost. The higher the roller, the more expensive the present.
So Elvis starts taking all these things out, and he says, 'Mr. President, they have wives'. And so he dived back into the drawer again and out come the presents for the wives. And they walked out of there--of course, this was four days before Christmas--with their hands filled with all of these presidential goodies. And after that, we got him a badge, which Elvis, apparently, carried with him for a long time. It's on display at Graceland. I went down there after I wrote a little book about this, and the wallet in which the badge had been carried was well worn. It showed that he felt that he'd been given more authority than the badge really suggested. This was just an honorary badge, but he took it like he'd been given a real agent's badge. We had to tell him that there were no federal agents-at-large. That's what he'd asked me about. But that remains one of the more humorous incidents of my time in the White House.
Also see ... When Elvis Met Nixon (Elvis' Letter To Nixon and more)