Too Much Monkey Business | The story of Scatter, Elvis Presley's Pet Chimpanzee

By: Elvis Australia
May 25, 2022

In the early sixties, Elvis Presley's 'Memphis Mafia' (a bit of editorial license taken here) took on its most problematic and entertaining member, a forty-pound chimpanzee named Scatter.

However, before Elvis, Scatter was a TV star, on local Memphis station WMC-TV. The program hosted by 'Captain' (actually, he preferred it spelled 'Cap'n') Bill Killebrew - well actually he wasn't really a captain of anything, kinda like 'Colonel' Tom Parker, well except Elvis' manager was an honorary one!

Somewhere, somehow Bill acquired a cute little chimpanzee called Scatter, and he began to appear on the show, quickly becoming the star attraction. According to the Press-Scimitar, 'Scatter is presented in a variety of roles and situations - as a business executive, as a baseball player, as a banquet speaker - all designed to show how ridiculous some people business can be'. 'Scatter's World' was incredibly popular with Memphis audiences, and any children who wrote in could become members of the Scatter Club.

Scatter and 'Cap'n' Bill Killebrew.
Scatter and 'Cap'n' Bill Killebrew.

Monkey Business

Bill, who often told reporters, 'that monkey is smarter than most people I know', taught him all sorts of tricks, and one of his best-known stunts was to take Scatter driving around town - with the monkey 'doing the driving'. Bill, you see, would lie low in the front seat, while Scatter pretended to turn the wheel. As you might expect, it caused a commotion wherever they went.


After about a year, Bill Killebrew, who featured both Scatter (and his brother Chatter) on a Memphis children's show, wanted to pare down the act and approached Elvis about buying the chimp as a companion. 'I guess he figured Graceland was the kind of untamed place where a monkey would feel at home', remembered Alan Fortas, and Elvis, who'd adored Scatter's earlier incarnation, Jayhew, was an easy mark.

But being surrounded constantly by the guys who made up Elvis' retinue wasn't exactly the best environment for a growing monkey, and Scatter quickly developed bad habits. Scatter had many interesting and entertaining ways that if nothing else was going on everyone could always get a kick out of Scatter's antics. One of his favorite tricks was to hide in the bathroom when one of Elvis' female guests entered to use the facilities, which always created an ear-splitting scream from the female guests. Scatter also enjoyed lifting up female's skirts to peek under. Scatter loved beer and he liked whiskey just as much. Among other things, Scatter ripped up the curtains at Graceland, yanked up the skirts of Elvis' female visitors, and when he was in a really playful mood, tended to throw ... you know, things ... at visitors. Nasty things that made everyone scream and, well, scatter.

One day, the monkey bit Vernon Presley's new wife, Dee on the finger. When Elvis called Bill to ask if the monkey had his rabies shots, Bill retorted, 'Yes, Scatter had his shots. Does Mrs. Presley have hers?'


The chimp even went along when Elvis went to Hollywood, and that prompted Bill to complain to reporters, 'I've been on television for 11 years. That dad-blamed monkey was only on television for one year. Now he's in Hollywood, and I'm still a broken-down bread salesman. (A joke based on his show being sponsered by 'Hart's Bread'). It's just a monkey's world'. ('Kid Galahad' was Scatter's first trip to Hollywood).


Scatter and The Memphis Mafia

The story of Scatter the Chimp as told by Memphis Mafia members Joe Esposito, Marty Lacker, Billy Smith and Lamar Fike:

Joe Esposito: Elvis got a chimp. Elvis loved animals. There was this little baby chimp that this guy had a show on local Memphis TV. One of the guys told Elvis that this guy wanted to sell this little chimp. So he brought it out to the house and Elvis fell in love with it. His name was Scatter.

We kept it around the house, yes. We had a cage for him but Scatter was just not used to being caged and when released would play havoc with the ladies. Attacking maids at hotels. As much of a terror as Scatter was he was also capable of behaving like a gentleman, Alan Fortes used to love taking him for a drive in the Rolls Royce and buying him little suits and try to teach him how to drive.

After Scatter had bitten several of the Memphis Mafia members and no one was able to put him back into his cage Elvis decided to have a face to face with the chimp. Elvis looked Scatter in the eye and trying to keep a straight face, and said, 'You coconut head you'd better get downstairs in your cage, And you'd better not bite anybody anymore you hear'. With his hand folded in front of him, Scatter slowly walked down the stairs marched to the basement and into his cage. Elvis fell on the floor laughing..

Elvis would wait until the den was filled with girls and everyone was real comfortable then yell, 'Okay boys let him out' At about four-foot tall Scatter loved the girls. Alan had taught Scatter to look up the girl's dresses.

On the first night, Patty Perry was a guest and she didn't know about Scatter who made a b-line for her. His arms waving and screaming and trying to look up her dress. She told him to stop. But Scatter was determined to get his way with Pat. She told Scatter 'You do that one more time and I'm going to knock the hell out of you'. Well, naturally Scatter did it again. And Pat got on her knees and hit the Chimp under his chin.

Scatter did a backflip and landed on the couch - dazed. He looked a her in disbelief and ended up with a bump on his head the size of the golf ball.

Marty Lacker: Scatter was with us on my first trip cross-country. We had him in a cage in the back of the Chrysler station wagon. One night, we checked into a motel in Flagstaff, Arizona. The chimp stayed in Alan and Lamar's room. All night long we heard Scatter going 'Ba-dum, Ba-dum!' just running back and forth in the room. The next morning, Lamar said, in this real quiet voice, 'You need to come in here and see this'. Scatter had gotten up on the drapes and started swinging on them, and they were partially pulled down. And he'd shit all over them. Oh, God, it was a mess. Lamar said Scatter was just throwing everything he could find. He'd even shit in his hands and throw it on the walls. I said, 'How do you think we're going to get out of here without paying for this?' Lamar said, 'Don't worry about it'. So we closed the door and went and had breakfast at the restaurant across the way.

Scatter with Elvis Presley.
Scatter with Elvis Presley.

Lamar Fike: Just about the time our food came, I looked out the window, and I said, 'Oh, my God!' The Mexican maid was knocking on the door. We all jumped at the same time and tried to yell at her, but it was too late. Before we could even gt out of our chairs, she'd walked in and closed the door to start making up the room. It was early in the morning, and the room was dark.

Well, you can picture what it was like for a Mexican maid to open a motel room door in Flagstaff, Arizona, and find a chimp inside. Scatter ran across the room and latched onto her, and she went bananas. She started screaming the most blood-curdling yell, I've ever heard. We ran over there, and God, That was the funniest sight. That maid came flying out of that room with Scatter wrapped around her like a damn boa constrictor. He'd jumped on her back, and fastened his legs around her waist, and put his hands over her eyes so she couldn't see.

We peeled Scatter off of her, but then he bolted out the door and went tearing out across the porte cochere which ran over the shed in front of the hotel. He went right up the drain-pipe and over the top. The maid was still screeching. And Scatter was on the damn roof, just dancing up a storm--laughing at us.

Alan said, 'What are we going to do?' I said, 'Go get in your car, and I'll go get the station wagon. I'll leave the back door open and the windows down, and the door to the cage ajar. Just slowly drive off'. Well, that car hadn't rolled ten feet when Scatter was on that sucker. He thought we were going to leave him. He stuck so tight he looked like adhesive tape.

Marty Lacker: We'd paid when we checked in, so we took the keys and threw them on the front desk, and just took off before anybody discovered how bad it was.

Lamar Fike: As much of a terror as he was, Scatter was also capable of behaving like a gentleman. Alan used to love to take him for a drive in the Rolls Royce. He'd buy little suits for him, and sometimes he'd stick a chauffeur's cap on him and balance him on his lap. When they'd meet a car, Alan would duck down to make it look like Scatter was driving. One guy drove right off the road.

Marty Lacker: We came home one night on Bellagio Road and found that Scatter had bitten Jimmy, the butler, real bad. Elvis was furious. Jimmy and Lillian were all upset and yelling and threatening to quit if Elvis didn't get rid of him.

Scatter was upset too. We kept him in the basement, underneath the steps, and Alan tried to get him to go downstairs to his cage, and he wouldn't.

Elvis finally calmed down, and he walked up to Scatter and he stood over him. Scatter was on top of his cabinet, and he looked up at Elvis with those innocent eyes, and all Elvis did was stare at him, trying to keep a straight face.

Finally, Elvis said, 'You coconut-headed little mother fucker, you'd better get downstairs in your cage. And you'd better not bite anyone anymore, either'.

Scatter hopped off the cabinet, and he slowly walked downstairs like a man going to the electric chair, with his hands folded in front of him. We all followed him. Alan put his hand out for Scatter to hold it, but he wouldn't do it. He had too much pride. He just marched down to the basement and right into the cage. We came upstairs, and Elvis fell on the floor laughing.

Scatter with Elvis Presley.
Scatter with Elvis Presley.

Lamar Fike: Elvis hit him with a cue stick one night. He hit him so damn hard that chimp just saw stars. And then he ran up the curtain. I said, 'God Almighty!' I came downstairs with a gun. I said, 'Elvis if you'll lead him about two yards, I'll shoot him'.

Lamar Fike: Another time, the damn monkey had bitten me, and caused me a lot of problems, and tried my patience every which way but loose. So I went out and got a Hot Shot, a kind of cattle prod. I knew chimps hate water, so I ran a tub full and forced him into it. And he landed in that water, and he started going, 'RUUUUUH!' I said, 'Okay, you little bastard', and I jammed that cattle prod into him, and I promise you, every hair on his body stood straight up.

Everybody came in, and Elvis said 'You're trying to kill him!' And I said, 'Yes, I'm going to kill the son of a bitch right here!' I hated that damn chimp.

Marty Lacker: Elvis used to wait until the den was filled with girls, and everybody was real comfortable and having a nice time. Then he'd whisper, 'Okay, boys, let him out!' We'd open the door from under the steps, and Scatter would come out whooping like crazy and scaring a couple of people so bad they almost had a heart attack. Because he could make some noise. He was about three and a half or four feet tall, and he made an impression. And he would just naturally gravitate towards the girls.

Billy Smith: Alan taught him a lot of things, but he learned some on his own. When a woman got up to go to the bathroom, for example, he'd run and hide behind the bathroom door. And in a minute, we'd hear this godawful scream and this frantic grabbing of the doorknob. It was like jerking the door off the hinges. The girl would bolt out of there screaming her head off, and Scatter would come waddling after her.

One time, this big, tall girl named Pat Parry was over at the house. Well, she didn't know about Scatter, and this sucker made his entrance. He comes in with that screeching and with his hands up, and she thought he was going to attack her. He didn't, but then he kept trying to look up her skirt. She told him to stop, and then when he wouldn't, she said, 'You do that one more time, and I'm going to knock the hell out of you'. They were both in front of a couch by the bar. Well, naturally, Scatter did it again. And Pat came off the floor and hit that monkey under the chin, and he did a backflip and landed on the couch, dazed. He looked at her like he couldn't believe it. He had a head like a bowling ball, and she put a dent in it.

Marty Lacker: One of Scatter's favorite pranks was to line on his back on the edge of the couch, so he was half on the couch, and half of. And when a girl walked by, he'd crook his finger under the hem of her skirt and stick his head up there. He really had a thing about that. You can imagine how it went over.

Scatter with Elvis Presley on the set of 'It Happened At The Worlds Fair'.

Billy Smith: We knew a woman named Brandy Marlow who'd come to the parties. She made her living as a stripper, but she didn't come to the party as one. She was just a guest. But she liked to play around with the chimp. She thought he was fascinating.

One night, the monkey got in her lap, and she had on a low cut blouse. And Scatter kept running his finger down her cleavage. Elvis said, 'Is he bothering you?' She said no. So Elvis said, 'Well if you don't mind, see how far he'll go' And the monkey went to unbuttoning with both hands.

Scatter started off with somebody's drink one night. Turned out, he was a damned suds-head. He liked beer, but he could down a fifth of liquor before you knew it. He'd get so damn drunk that he would fall off the couch onto the floor and just slide.

He got loose in Bel Air once, and the next-door neighbors were real upset. The final straw came when he went over there again. They were having a fancy cocktail party, and Scatter went roaring through their house with his hands up and all the hair standing up on his back. He went, 'Whoo-whoo-whoo!' Loud as a freight train, you know.

When he screamed, God, it would just send chills down your spine. And it scared the hell out of the party guests, especially when he ran towards 'em. He just wanted attention, really. They didn't know that once you saw him, he'd let down and go on about his business. But, man, they went nuts! They said people went up on the back of couches and on the tables. He cleared the house. So that did it. Scatter was banned from Bel Air. We had to take him back to Memphis.

Billy Smith: When we took Scatter back to Graceland, the maids had to feed him because we were gone so much. One day, a maid named Daisy went out there, and she had her wig on, and that damn chimp grabbed that wig right off her head. It scared a couple of years off her life. We always thought she poisoned him. And it wouldn't surprise me. Because not long after that the monkey came up dead.


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