Interview with Sonny West
Source: Elvis Australia
June 13, 2002 - 11:37:00 AM
Elvis Articles, Elvis Interviews
Q: Sonny, why have you decided to write a second book on your relationship with Elvis Presley, more than 25 years after 'Elvis: What Happened?', a book you co-authored with you cousin, Red West and bodyguard, Dave Hebler.
SW: The second book, tentatively titled, Taking Care of Business, is based on my life with Elvis and all the wonderful memories that I have of those years (1960-1976). I think that I need to get on record the love I felt for Elvis and my total commitment to him, which the first book didn't do a good job of doing.
Q: What was the purpose in writing the first book? Many people have speculated you did it for the money. Some speculated you did it out of revenge because Elvis fired you, and some have speculated that you did it to issue a challenge to Elvis to get off drugs because you loved him. Can you set the record straight?
SW: The reason for writing the first book was 180 degrees from the reason for writing a second book. The first was written as a challenge to Elvis to change his prescription drug habits. He was in total denial and could not see where he was headed. As far as writing it as a motive for revenge for getting fired, I was fired on a couple of occasions prior and never even considered writing a book. If I wanted to do it just for the money, I had an opportunity, as did Red and Dave. We were contacted during the first few days of writing it, by a private detective named John O' Grady, representing Elvis, to come up with an amount for not writing the book. We never even considered a figure, because it would have made us just like those that were giving him whatever he wanted. It would have been much simpler to accept the money, and there is no doubt it would have been a substantial amount, because he didn't want the book written.
Q: Looking back, are there any regrets with your involvement with 'Elvis: What Happened?'
SW: I do have some regrets on the book. Not writing it, but the way it was written by the author assigned by World News Group, whom we signed a contract with to write the book. The book is true, but the sensationalism was used so blatantly, that it took away a lot of the sincere message we were trying to send Elvis. In fact, I was supposed to go on a tour to promote the book, but was canceled because of my press conference the day after Elvis' death, for my being very critical of our author, Steve Dunleavy, who was on 'Good Morning America' acting like an ass with another ass, Geraldo Rivera. They were more interested in conveying their dislike for each, than discussing the sensitivity of Elvis' tragic death.
Q: What will be the focus of this new book?
SW: There isn't really any centralized focus that I am trying to convey in the new book. It really will be just a book about this wonderful, talented and warm human being that I shared most of my young adult years with for 16 years. If I just tell my story the way I want, you will have a lot of things brought into focus.
Q: What will you say in this book that you didn't say in your first book?
SW: I plan on researching my mind in such a manner as I have never had the opportunity to do before. There wasn't a day that went by, that something didn't happen that was interesting, or comical, or very touching. There are so many other areas too numerous to mention right now, but will be in my book.
Q: What new insights will you give into Elvis Presley?
SW: There will be some things that have been written before, by me and/or others, but I hope to give you a different insight into them. As an example: Elvis' pre-occupation with death was not why Elvis had an interest in going to the funeral home after closing hours to view corpses. It was an interest in how morticians were able to take a somewhat disfigured face and prepare it in such a manner as to enable there to be an open casket funeral so their loved ones were able to view them in a reposing manner to say their good-byes. He was also interested in the technique used to prepare them physically for burial.
Q: What do you think Elvis Presley Enterprises and Priscilla Presley will have to say about your new book?
SW: I would like to think they would be supportive of the book, because my love and devotion to the man will be evident in every word I write. But, regardless of their support or non-support, I am writing this book from my heart and I hope they will read it. I think it will give insights to Lisa Marie that she may not know about her father that will make her even more proud, if there is space for more pride. As for Priscilla, I think she is pretty much aware of how much I loved Elvis and how I protected him not only from physical harm, but emotional situations in all areas I was able to do so.
Q: What is the one thing you miss most about Elvis Presley?
SW: There isn't really any one thing I miss most about Elvis. There are so many things to miss about him. His sense of humor, his warmth, zaniness, zest for life, music and friendship, but not necessarily in that order. In my book, I plan to bring out those feelings just mentioned and share them with everyone.
Q: What is the fondest memory you have of The King?
SW: Once again, I can't come up with my fondest memory because there were so many. Once I have put all of them in my book, I might, just might, be able to pick out one that has the smallest edge to the others.
Q: Why do you think Elvis Presley is bigger 25 years after his death, than he was when he was alive?
SW: I think it is a bit unfair to Elvis and his fans worldwide to say he is bigger today 25 years after his death than he was when he was alive. Who knows how big he would have gotten if we had him these years that he has been gone. New songs, new styles, new movies, etc.. It is true he has picked up many new fans, but why can't we accept the thought that he would have even picked up many more if he was alive all of these years with new products being released to the fans. It goes without saying, Elvis' fans are the greatest, most loyal fans in the world, and have proven it over the years to the extent of being the reason the statement, "bigger today than he was when he was alive" is being said.
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