Elvis: What Happened? (1977) by Red West, Sonny West and Dave Hebler (as told to Steve Dunleavy)
If you’ve been keeping up with my bookshelf entries, you’ll recall that my June entry referenced a “2 books for .$50” thrift store deal I recently took advantage of…this was the second of those two books and, trust me, it’s worth a helluva lot more than a quarter.
It doesn’t take a medical degree to come to the conclusion that by the time Elvis was wearing capes, he was in pretty bad shape. According to these three bodyguards of Elvis’, by that stage of the game, he was in really bad shape. In fact, if one were to assume that only 50% of this book is fact, it’s still safe to say that The King was into some heavy, heavy shit. It would also be safe to say that it’s a credit to his constitution that he lived as long as he did, what with the daily bottles of Demoral, eating entire cakes in single sittings, bottle after bottle of uppers, an “insane diet” of banana-and-peanut-butter sandwiches deep-fried in whole sticks of butter, a huge problem with chicks who had big feet and an even bigger problem with Robert Goulet (?!).
Interspersed between sections documenting Elvis’ rise in music and his largely laughable movie career are stories about Elvis’ horrible temper, instability, unpredictability and irresponsibility. I was mesmerized by stories like the one where he shows off his hospitality skills by launching a pool cue across his game room like a fucking javelin at a female guest who simply asked if he could move his car. Not surprisingly, she ended up in the hospital. I was also shocked (sarcasm abounds) to learn that, instead of putting his karate skills to use, he asked one of his bodyguards to put a hit out on the guy Priscilla ran off with and phoned the bodyguard around the clock until it was arranged. Oddly enough, once it was arranged, Elvis lost his nuts and called it off, claiming he was just “testing” the bodyguard’s loyalty.
Nothing, however, could prepare me for the sections of the book dealing with Elvis’ obsession with guns. Apparently, Elvis was packing everywhere; in the bathroom, driving around, on fucking stage…Wherever Elvis was, he had a gun with him. In fact, according to Elvis: What Happened?, he even brought a gun with him to the table whenever he ate his breakfast (usually at 4 o’clock in the afternoon). “Why?” you might ask. Well, amigos, using all my powers of deductive reasoning, the best answer I could come up with was: “In case Robert Goulet came on the television.” As illustrated on page 80:
“Worst of all, he really hates Robert Goulet for some reason. I don’t even remember whether he had ever met him or not or whether he has seen him perform live. Anyway, one afternoon in 1974, he is eating breakfast and on comes Robert Goulet on the big-screen television set. Very slowly, Elvis finishes what he has in his mouth, puts down the knife and fork, picks up this big mother of a .22 and – boom – blasts old Robert clean off the screen and the television set to pieces. He then puts down the .22, picks up his knife and fork and says, ‘That will be enough of that shit,’ and then he goes on eating.”
In case you’re wondering, yes, all 332 pages are just as entertaining.
I rest my case.
The Smoking Cupcake, July 2010