Interview with Julie Parrish | Elvis' Co-Star in Paradise Hawaiian Style

By: Elvis Australia
April 11, 2021

Julie Parrish starred in several films, including 'Paradise Hawaiian Style', with Elvis Presley. In one of the most delightful moments of the film, Elvis sings to her in a helicopter, while she holds a group of dogs at bay. Julie was born, October 21, 1940, and passed away on October 1st, 2003.

Q: Tell us about 'Paradise, Hawaiian Style' with Elvis?

A: Well, I just remember the audition. In fact, I really wanted it because I had been a fan of Elvis for a very long time. When I was a teenager I was in every fan club that I could find of Elvis. It was a wonderful time. And he was this gorgeous creature doing this music that we weren't used to. And we went wow! And I was just mad for him - all my girlfriends were. And so the idea of doing a film with him was really thrilling to me. So I was crushed when I didn't get the part after the first test. And I asked if I could go talk to the producer and see if I could do it again. And he let me do it and I got the part. I guess I was kind of nervous when I met him. And he was holding me close and I know that my heart was beating really, really fast. He probably could hear it.

Julie Parrish, Elvis Presley - Paradise, Hawaiian Style
Julie Parrish, Elvis Presley - Paradise, Hawaiian Style

Q: Tell us how you first met Elvis.

A: On the set, just show up to work and there he was - it was just as simple as that. Sometimes people meet before hand but this didn't happen.

Q: So there was no trouble doing the love scenes?

A: No.

Q: From then how did your relationship with Elvis go?

A: It was over after the film was over. I didn't keep in contact with him.

Q: Did you ever get to talk to him about any particular subjects.

A: He was really neat when I got sick. Uh, we had been standing all day long and it was a production number and I was in the wrong shoes. They were high heels and they didn't really quite fit right and my feet were hurting, my head was hurting. All day long we had been having to do this scene from every angle and over and over. And I got sick, he came over and he picked me up in his arms and he carried me to his dressing room where he proceeded to try and do - tried to heal me by holding his hands above my body about two feet. He was into that sort of thing at that time. And I was scared of what people were thinking outside. I was stupid if I had it to do over - hindsight. Anyway, actually I'm glad I did what I did. I just said to him, 'I think we need to go back out there. I think people are wondering what's going on in here'. I guess we just talked about that and a little bit about life, about philosophy and - but between scenes on the set generally, then, the Memphis mafia had been instructed to distract him so that he didn't really get too close to people.

Q: Did you get to be friends with this Memphis Mafia?

A: Not really that much. We would talk to them and we would - anybody standing around talking, you know, we talked about stuff but it wasn't like I hung out with them.

Q: Did you think that Colonel Parker held him back from...?

A: Yes, most definitely. How can Colonel Parker - Elvis could have been a bigger star. I mean, and he is the king, he is a star in music. But in films, I think he really had a good chance. Jailhouse Rock and a couple of others did he did in the very beginning were good productions. He showed an awful lot of talent. But then the Colonel made the deal with Hal Wallis and he made this deal for these cheap movies. And, you know, they do have a certain charm but they are pretty formula. They're different locations, different faces but it's pretty much the same kind of stuff. And I don't know any single song in our film that was memorable.

Q: Was Colonel Parker on the set much?

A: Not that much, no. Just a couple times.

Q: What was your personal opinion about the Colonel and how he handled Elvis career?

A: He was an opportunist, he was a con man, he wasn't even living here legally in this country. He was a man who did a carni show by putting the - he had a dancing chicken act. He put this chicken on a hot stove and he jumped around and he called it the dancing chicken. What else can you say? He had an airtight contract with Elvis. He made sure of that. And he had a big gambling problem I hear. And he knew - Elvis, I'm told by the insiders, should never have done that last performance but he was pushing and pushing and pushing making him get out there and he was sick.

Q: When was the last time you saw Elvis?

A: Gosh, in person when I worked with him. I didn't go to a concert after that. In fact, I never went to a concert, I have to say. I'm embarrassed about that. I always said I'm going to go and I didn't because I didn't like Vegas very much.

Q: What do you think it is about Elvis that he is so big now, even more so than when was here?

A: Oh, the man sang from a place inside himself that we all recognize. He sang with passion and he had a beautiful voice. And he had incredible range, he could sing anything and make it beautiful, so...

Q: Any particular times when a love scene being shot?

A: A love scene?

Q: A rough scene.

A: No, the dogs were a lot of fun, they were trained. We had to push them, move them around to make it look like they were clumsy. We did the scene in the helicopter on the set because that's the way it had to be done. They had half of a helicopter and we sat them there and moved these dogs around. And I had just gotten out of the hospital. The day that Elvis picked me up I had gone to the hospital about a couple days after that. And that's what drugs can do. I - in the 60's the doctors didn't know what pain, you know, pain medication - but uppers, diet pills. So most of us actresses were on diet pills. And then we'd go out after working and have a few glasses of wine with everybody and then we'd go back upstairs and we had to be up really early so take a couple of sleeping pills. And that was - it wasn't diagnosed but my instinct from a gut level said: this is what it is. And so I never did another and I was all right. They thought it might be a slight stroke that I had. But I don't know - all I know is that I got all right.

Q: What is it about Elvis that you'd like to tell his friends?

A: He was a real good guy. And a lot of people - most of the fans know this by now because all the scuttle has been around. But he was a very giving, loving person. And a lot of the charity work he did no one knows about. And I think that's commendable - I bow to that.

Q: You know why Elvis touches so many people's lives?

A : Like I said, he sings from passion and I don't know, I think one of the most moving moments I have had is having been invited to Graceland and sat up on the lawn - the lawn is kind of on, it's a hill - watching as the people lit their candles and started that candlelight vigil walk up past the grave while his music was playing, his reverent songs were being played by a speaker system by the gate. And it was very, very moving that these thousands of people were there. And you walked off on the streets, it was a sea of candlelight and it went on all night long. And the stack of flowers and gifts that were brought to commemorate the date of his death, just piled high. You couldn't even see the place - the grave after a while.

Q: What is your most treasured memory of Elvis?

A: Oh gosh, there were several. I suppose when he picked me up and carried me in his arms into his dressing room. I think that was really cool of him.

Q: I hope you're with us for a long time Julie. Thank you, Julie.

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