CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Elvis Presley Remembered
Aired August 26, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(VIDEO CLIP -- "ROUSTABOUT")
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, 26 years after Elvis Presley's shocking death, intimate stories about an American legend from people who saw it all up close, the additions, the divorce and more. Our exclusive guests, Elvis's two stepbrothers, Ricky Stanley and David Stanley. Plus the King's closest friend, Joe Esposito, who was best man at Elvis's wedding and at Graceland the night Elvis died. And Elvis's ex-girlfriend, actress Connie Stevens. Sharing private memories and personal stories with Elvis's family and friends next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He's been gone more than 25 years. The legend of Elvis Presley never dies. We have a special panel to discuss the late Elvis Presley tonight. In San Francisco is Joe Esposito. He was Elvis Presley's closest friend and trusted confidant for nearly two decades. He was best man at Elvis's wedding and a pallbearer at the funeral. He shared his personal memories and private photos on DVD, "Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers." In Los Angeles is Rick Stanley, Elvis Presley's his stepbrother. His mother married Elvis's father, Vernon, in 1960 after the 1958 death of Elvis's beloved mom, Gladys (ph). He's one of the last people to speak with Elvis before he died, and he's author of "The Touch of Two Kings." In Dallas is David Stanley, Elvis Presley's other stepbrother. He was at Graceland the day Elvis died, and he's author of "The Elvis Encyclopedia." And in Santa Fe, our old friend, Connie Stevens, entertainer, entrepreneur, who in the early 1960s dated Elvis Presley.
What's your memory, Joe, of Elvis's last day?
JOE ESPOSITO, ELVIS PRESLEY'S BEST FRIEND: Well, it's a tough one, Larry. You know, it's the day we were getting ready to go on tour that day, heading for Portland, Maine, and getting ready to go from the house. And I was supposed to wake him up at 4:00 o'clock, but a phone call came from upstairs at 2:00 o'clock from his girlfriend, Ginger Alden (ph), and we all responded, went upstairs and found Elvis in the bathroom. And I knew he was gone and went to the hospital with him. And as we know, 30 minutes after he got to the hospital, they pronounced him dead.
KING: Was he dead on the bathroom floor?
ESPOSITO: Yes, he was. I was -- hope there was some -- but he was -- he was gone for quite a while.
KING: Rick, where were you? RICKY STANLEY, ELVIS PRESLEY'S STEPBROTHER: Oh, actually, I had just come back. I had been with him the night before. And he called me and asked me to come upstairs, and I was bringing him a prescription, sleeping pills. And we talked for a while, and then I said good night to him. And then he called me back. And I went upstairs, and we sat and we talked. And he was a little bit bummed out because -- what's referred to as the "bodyguard book" -- he had it. And he looked at me and said, Ricky, what's my little girl going to think when she reads this? And I said, Well, you know, I don't know, Elvis...
KING: There was a book out about him?
RICKY STANLEY: Yes, sir. It was revealing to his public his private life.
KING: I see.
RICKY STANLEY: And he was a little upset about it. He wanted to know what Lisa would think and he wanted to know what the fans would think. And then we continued and started talking about my relationship, my being messed up on drugs and how I needed the Lord. And eight hours later, he was gone.
KING: How did you hear about it?
RICKY STANLEY: I heard about it when David came in, my youngest brother. And I said, David, Joe says we've got to get him up at a certain time because we're going to leave for a tour. And I'm going to run a few errands. So at a certain time, get him up. I ran some errands, and I was sitting in a restaurant, Larry, and I had this premonition -- I've never had this happen before -- that something was wrong. And before the food even came back, I got up and drove back to Graceland. There was an ambulance sitting out in front. And the first thing I thought, Well, maybe it's my grandmother, Elvis's grandmother, or maybe something's happened to my dad, Vernon Presley. But when I stepped into Graceland, it was kind of chaotic and...
KING: But you had a premonition?
RICKY STANLEY: Yes, sir. Yes, I did. And I've never had that before. I haven't since.
KING: Now, David, you were in the house?
DAVID STANLEY, ELVIS PRESLEY'S STEPBROTHER: I was in the pool room when Amber, a friend of Lisa's, walked in and said, Something wrong's with Elvis. I had a friend of mine named Mark White (ph), who was somebody I'd known for years. And I said, Mark, listen, I need to get you out of here. I didn't think anything bad. I didn't think the worst. Obviously, I mean, Elvis had been sick, but to think the worst was not my first thought. I said, Mark, I really need to take you home. So I buzzed him down the street, which was around the corner from Graceland. As I came back, an ambulance was pulling into the driveway. And I followed the ambulance up, and the ambulance went to the front door, and I went to the back, ran up the steps. And as I rounded the corner, Joe Esposito and Charlie (ph), Vernon Presley, Sandy Miller (ph), Vernon's friend, and some others were converged around Elvis. And they rolled him over, and it was obvious, as Joe said, that he was gone. And you know, the sight is one that haunts me to this very day because when I looked down and saw Elvis Presley laying there dead, I wasn't looking at a superstar or the king of rock-and-roll, I was looking at a man who had picked me up 17 years before and gave me a hug and welcomed me into his life. So it was a dark, tragic day.
We did put him on the gurney. We carried him down the steps. We put him in the back of the ambulance. Joe did jump in the ambulance (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Dr. Nick (ph) pulled up soon and jumped in the back of the ambulance. I ran through the house. I saw Billy Smith (ph). He said, What's wrong? I said, Something's wrong. Elvis -- I believe Elvis is dead.
We drove to Baptist Hospital. We got there about 10 minutes after the ambulance did. And we walked in, and there was a small room and several were in there -- Joe and Charlie, Al Stratas (ph), a couple of the others. And as we stood there, there was -- you know, there -- we just really didn't know until the doctor walked in and shook his head and said, He's gone.
And it was a very eerie feeling. It was like -- it was like the Kennedy assassination. It's ironic I say that. I'm here in Dallas, Texas. What it was like to be the first five people in the world that knew the news that would shock the world? And it was a very sad day, a very tough day for all of us.
KING: Connie Stevens, where were you when Elvis died?
CONNIE STEVENS, DATED ELVIS PRESLEY IN EARLY 1960S: I don't know exactly where I was, but it was catastrophic and it really stopped me dead in my tracks because I was very fond of him and had such great memories. You know, it was such a long time ago. But I always had an affinity to caring what happened to him. His well-being was very important to me. And I wished that I could have been there. I really -- that was one of my things. I said, Oh, I should have been there. I maybe could have helped.
KING: How did you hear about it?
STEVENS: Like everybody else, saw the news and friends of mine called and said, Did you hear, so forth. And I just don't know. Maybe it was just meant to be. It just seemed to be a path that he was taking towards the end because we did reach out. We all, at one time or other, tried to reach out. And sometimes the time goes by so fast, you know? It's important for us to latch onto the people that we love.
KING: When you dated him, was it serious?
STEVENS: Well, I don't know how serious it was, you know? It was serious to me, let's put it that way. I go back...
KING: Were you in love with him?
STEVENS: I go back to the early days -- yes, I loved him, in a way. But you know what happened to us? We were like two bombastic meteorites at that particular time. My career was taking off. And the one thing I knew was that he was destined for something that was just beyond where I was going, and we came from two different worlds. And as much fun as I had with him, it was a frightening experience to know about his life and where -- although there were no drugs. No, you know, it was a very innocent, lovely, delicious time. But I knew that he was destined for something just enormous in the world, and it was a little scary.
KING: We'll be right back with our panel discussing the late Elvis Presley. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - FEBRUARY 11, 2003)
PRISCILLA PRESLEY: I was on my way to an appointment, and I...
KING: In LA?
PRISCILLA PRESLEY: In LA. And Joe Esposito had gotten ahold of my parents and said that he needed to talk to me. They reached my sister, and my sister met me at the appointment and told me that something was wrong, that Elvis was ill and in the hospital. And I went back home. The phone was ringing, and it was Joe on the phone, who said that he was sending a plane for me to come to Memphis. It was serious and...
KING: He didn't tell you he was...
PRISCILLA PRESLEY: He did. He said it was serious and that Elvis died.
(VIDEO CLIP - "GI BLUES")
KING: We're back. Now let's discuss first meetings with our outstanding panel, by the way. Joe, how and where did you meet Elvis Presley?
ESPOSITO: Well, I got drafted in the Army same time Elvis did, in 1958. And I went to Germany, and Elvis came to the same base I was stationed at in Friedberg (ph), Germany. And I was invited to go play a touch football game with him on the weekends because he used to play touch football on the weekends to keep himself -- he loved to play football, big football fan. And that's how I met him. I was introduced to him by this guy named Wes Daniels (ph) in the service with him, and for some reason, there was a connection between the two of us and I became friends. And we hung out together, went on leave to Paris for a while and came back. And before we left service, he asked me to go to work for him, and my whole life changed from that day forward. KING: Did you hit it off right away?
ESPOSITO: Yes, we did. There was something about his little smile on his face and the aura around him, the feeling, I knew we'd hit it off right away.
KING: Rick, now, you're his stepbrother, so you have the same father, right?
RICKY STANLEY: No, actually, Gladys Presley passed away in '58. My father and mother were divorced in '59.
KING: So how's -- what's the relationship...
RICKY STANLEY: What happened is July 3 or 1960, after my mom, she'd divorced my father, she married Vernon Presley, Elvis's dad. I didn't...
KING: That's what I mean. You have the same father.
RICKY STANLEY: Yes, stepfather. We had been in a foster home, and Vernon picked us up. He was a very loving, caring, gracious stepfather. And we drove to Memphis, and all we heard about was Elvis -- me, Billy and David. I didn't know who Elvis was. I was...
KING: You were how old?
RICKY STANLEY: I was 6. I'd been in a foster home and left there and went to Graceland, walked in Graceland, and it looked like the magic kingdom to me, as a little boy. And went in, and the guys were there. I don't know if Joe, but a lot of the guys were around and -- well, I met -- well, I knew Joe since I was 6 years old, so a long time.
And I went downstairs. And the first time I met him, he was standing there and he was listening to gospel music. And he was just kind of leaning against the wall, singing these gospel songs. And when I walked in, he just kind of snapped his head. And I kid people, Elvis didn't walk, he seemed to glide. He was the only person I ever met who could strut sitting down and...
KING: You kept your father's name, then, Stanley, right?
RICKY STANLEY: Yes, sir.
KING: You didn't take Vernon -- you didn't take the Presley name.
RICKY STANLEY: No, we didn't.
KING: Even though he was your stepfather. You weren't adopted, then.
RICKY STANLEY: No, we weren't.
KING: OK. RICKY STANLEY: We wanted to -- we wanted to keep it because, you know, we have great respect for our father. But Elvis walked up and said, I've always wanted little brothers, now I have three. And that's how it started for us.
KING: David, what are your memories, first meeting with Elvis?
DAVID STANLEY: Well, like Ricky, when I walked in -- I was only 4 years old at the time. And people ask me all the time, David, what was it like when you first met Elvis? What was it like growing up with Elvis Presley? Well, you got to understand, Larry, I didn't know what an Elvis Presley -- I didn't know what a hounddog was when I was 4 years old.
DAVID STANLEY: I was just this little kid walking in with my two older brothers. This is our new home. But I tell you what I do remember. Not long after we moved in, Elvis was showing us around his house. And the boys went to sleep that night, and the next day, we went out in the backyard, and there were three toys that every -- that any kid would ever want to play with. And as I said, I didn't know what a hounddog was, but I knew who Santa Claus was. I just didn't know he had sideburns.
DAVID STANLEY: So this was my first experience being showered with all these gifts. And Elvis was -- you know, he -- I didn't comprehend rock-and-roll. I didn't comprehend stardom. I didn't -- I didn't have a clue. And I didn't have a chance to walk out or -- I didn't have no choice. Me and Ricky and Billy were -- I don't like the word "victim," but we were victim of circumstance. Mom married Vernon. This is your house. This is your brother. And it was the best 17 years of my life.
KING: Generous to a fault, correct, David?
DAVID STANLEY: Oh, always giving. I mean, Elvis -- I've never seen an individual or have since Elvis Presley give as much as he did -- his time, his love, his money. A pat on the back from Elvis Presley was good for another 10,000 miles. You could rule the world when Elvis was in your corner.
RICKY STANLEY: Elvis also had the ability, Larry -- he recognized the look of longing. That's what I called it. The kid grew up in abject poverty. He never had anything. And so when he became successful and affluent, he started giving. And I believe it was a gift. He really enjoyed making...
KING: Some people grow up poor and are tightwads. He was the opposite.
Connie, what was your first meeting?
STEVENS: Well, I was doing "Hawaiian Eye," and he was a fan of the show. And somebody put him on the phone, and I said, yes, sure, you know? And it was Elvis, and they were going to have a party or something. And he said, Is it all right if I pick you up? I said, Well, OK. So he came over to the house and -- I love this story because everybody in the family, they heard -- you know, whoever was at the house knew that Elvis was coming over, so they were hiding behind the curtain. My father was out watering the garden.
KING: Where was this?
STEVENS: This was in LA, on Deervail (ph) Drive. And he pulls up, a little pea cap -- remember that, Joe, those little sailor caps he used to wear? And my father was watering, and I'm looking through the window. And he's standing there. And within five minutes, he and my dad are laughing and talking and joking. And I thought, Wow, you know, what's going on out there? So I'd walk out there. And I stood around for five or ten more minutes while they chatted. And we went to the party that night.
And he would always ask me to sing, and he'd want to sing harmony. And it was all very exciting, and all the guys were there, and so forth. And to the day that Elvis died, my father said, That's the boy you should have been with. Interesting. That was his favorite.
KING: Did he ever ask you to do a movie with him?
STEVENS: No. No, he didn't. I don't think we did things like that in those days, did we? I mean, you know, he was just enamored to be acting. He was very nervous about acting. He wanted to do good. I remember going on location, "Kid Gallahad," and he was so nervous about what he was doing, you know?
KING: He was a good date, though?
STEVENS: Lot of fun. Oh, he was great date and he was a great kisser. And he -- it was just that face. That face! He'd give you the lip and the eye, and you were a dead duck, let me tell you!
KING: Joe, why is it that even the people who he cheated on, Priscilla, Linda (ph), his girlfriends, they knew he cheated with other women, they knew he had this -- as Linda said, Why not? Why do they still care for him?
ESPOSITO: Because you had to understand Elvis. You had -- if you met him, you would understand, knew what he was like. He had this warm feeling about him, you know? And Elvis, as we all know, loved women and women loved Elvis. I mean, there was something about him. They liked to mother him, you know? It was something about him.
ESPOSITO: No matter what he did or said to somebody -- I mean, we know he made a lot of mistakes with women and all that, but they still love him today. And it's nice to see Connie talking about him because they had a great relationship. She was very funny. They had a lot of laughs together.
ESPOSITO: And I think they remember all those good times, you know, but...
KING: And they excuse the other?
KING: They excuse the other?
ESPOSITO: Yes, they do. A lot of them did. Let's face it, I know a lot of them...
ESPOSITO: ... that still love him, yes.
KING: We'll take a break and be right back with more of our terrific panel discussing the late Elvis Presley. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - FEBRUARY 11, 2003)
(VIDEO CLIP -- "BLUE HAWAII")
PRISCILLA PRESLEY: I'm also looking at the girls around. Who's sitting in front? You know...
KING: Who's throwing themselves at him.
PRISCILLA: Who's throwing herself at him? Who's around after the shows? I mean, I'm looking at it from a wife's point of view. I'm not looking at it to enjoy the show!
KING: That's what I mean. Did you enjoy the show?
PRISCILLA PRESLEY: No! I didn't enjoy the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - "ROUSTABOUT")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Estelle!
ELVIS PRESLEY: Who's that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably my boyfriend.
ELVIS PRESLEY: You don't care?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not if you don't.
ELVIS PRESLEY: Oh, I don't. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Estelle?
ELVIS PRESLEY: What does he do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a knife thrower.
ELVIS PRESLEY: Honey, I think I care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with a friend, close friend, former girlfriend and two stepbrothers, as we look back at the life and times of Elvis Presley. Why, Rick, did he need an entourage? Why did a lot of people have to be around?
RICKY STANLEY: Well, I refer to it, Larry, as E-World because when you stepped into E-World with Elvis Presley, everything changed. It was a completely different way of looking at life.
KING: He couldn't lead a of solitude?
RICKY STANLEY: Well, he could when he would go up to his room. He could get up in his room and...
KING: Yes, but I mean, he couldn't just be with one person and go out to dinner?
RICKY STANLEY: No, he didn't like that. You know, people have said to me over the years, Ricky, if he could have gotten out around people, how much happier he would have been. And well, that's not the case because if you're a big deal and you go out in public and people don't make a big deal, you're not that big a deal. So he enjoyed people getting excited about him coming around. He had the guys there because he could really be himself. He could really let down, and if he got -- throw a temper tantrum, it wouldn't go anywhere. We loved him, mistakes and all. We would cover for him. We would do anything for the man. So it was like -- it was a close-knit family.
KING: David, did he have that need for people?
DAVID STANLEY: Yes, I think Elvis needed people around him. He didn't like to be alone, like Ricky says. He just -- you know, I mean, Elvis was very picky about the people around him. And he liked to have a good time. And I think, for Elvis, it was very much of a trust factor. You know, the only person he really trusted was his mother there early in his career. And when he lost her, all he had was the other guys around him. I mean, you know, Joe and Lamar (ph) and Red (ph) and Sonny (ph), those guys were around for a long time, long before we came along. And you know, they developed a trust towards one another. And working for Elvis, as we traveled and spent time with him, you could see that loyalty was the most important thing, and trust was key.
KING: Now, Connie, you say when he came to pick you up, he came alone. STEVENS: Well, I don't know. I think -- I can't remember. It's so long ago. Maybe some of the guys were in the car, but he came to the door by himself.
But you know, talking about -- there was a certain shyness about Elvis that a lot of people didn't understand. He was almost -- in the younger years, he was a little afraid of strangers, of what kind of situation he'd be put into. And when we were dating -- Joey will remember this -- I said, I just can't take having dinner with 11 guys every single night.
STEVENS: So could we just go to the movies? So he went, She wants to go to the movies. And I tell you, it was an enormous deal. Joey had to put money in his pocket and get him all dressed up, and we went, and we went in after the movie started, and we went in after the movie started and we left before the movie ended. And I thought, This is a hell of a way to date. I don't think I like going to the movies like this!
KING: Joe, why -- that sounds -- I remember Gleason telling me once that he gave advice to Elvis, Go out. Go to dinner. Don't get lost, or you're going to be a very lonely guy. Why didn't Elvis listen to that?
ESPOSITO: Well, because he didn't feel comfortable out in the audience, out in public, really. You know, but talk about being -- having people around him, Larry, is because -- my opinion is, you know, Elvis, when he was young, he had no friends because he was always the strange guy around and nobody would be a friend of his. So I think when became famous and he was able to have friends that he wanted them around him. And like Connie said, he was very shy, believe it or not. A lot of people don't realize that. And he felt comfortable around his friends. That's why he didn't go to Hollywood parties. He didn't do that stuff because that didn't make him comfortable. So he liked being around his immediate group.
KING: He didn't do interviews, did he, Rick?
RICKY STANLEY: No, he never did interviews. I saw him one time, he -- Joe, remembers in Memphis, he won the 10 Outstanding Men of America awards. It was one of the first times that I had ever seen him get up in front of a group of people. And he was really, really scared.
KING: Not to sing, but to talk.
RICKY STANLEY: To speak. And he made that speech about "To have a dream." He had every dream -- Ron Ziegler had just won one of the awards for 10 Outstanding...
KING: Nixon press secretary.
RICKY STANLEY: Yes. And he felt so awkward doing that. It's just like Joe said, Elvis was a very shy person. Elvis -- he didn't let down around very many people. Elvis was not popular in school. He was not -- Elvis was the kid that people would give a hard time.
KING: How, then, do you explain, Rick, that enormous charisma on stage?
RICKY STANLEY: I attribute Elvis's charisma as -- it's a God- given gift.
KING: And he just had it when the light went on.
RICKY STANLEY: He had it -- he had it, well, in childhood. I've met some people that went to school with him when he was a child, and they would tell me about him singing at school and things. And then when he walked on that stage -- and Joe could tell you more about it, he was around then -- the air was there, the electricity. But Elvis perceived his ability to sing as a God-given gift.
KING: Joe, what was it?
ESPOSITO: Well, I think, Ricky's right. It was an aura that Elvis had around him. Like I say, the very first time I met him, when I shook his hand, I felt there was some kind of warmth there in this man. And I think all the fans I've talked to over the years, they feel the same way. It's not an explainable item. You can't just explain why it happens, just that when they're in the audience of 20,000 people out there, they think Elvis is just singing to them. There was an attachment that Elvis had that other people didn't have. I got news for you, it bothered Elvis. He didn't know what it was, either.
KING: David, so he was shy offstage, but certainly not a shy performer.
DAVID STANLEY: Well...
KING: In fact, gregarious.
DAVID STANLEY: Well, I mean, Elvis -- you know, that was his element. That's -- you know, everybody has their space, and that was Elvis's space. He was one of those cats that just came along at the right time with an incredible gift, an incredible presence, an incredible magnetism that just dominated the entire rock-and-roll world. I mean, people say he's one of the most influential rock-and- rollers of the 20th century. I'd go a step further. Because of all these elements, Elvis Presley was one of the most influential men of the 20th century.
KING: Let me -- let me get a break. And when we come back, we'll ask another entertainer, Connie Stevens, to explain Elvis, the entertainer, as well. Lots more to talk about. Elvis is gone now over 25 years. Don't go away.
(VIDEO CLIP - "FUN IN ACAPULCO")
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KING: How did you deal with all the attention of his death?
LISA MARIE PRESLEY, ELVIS PRESLEY'S DAUGHTER: That was a hairy one in terms of, you know, not -- probably going through many different phases of that. That was a bit odd because it was, like, definitely happening, but there was so many masses of people mourning.
KING: That's what I meant.
L. PRESLEY: Yes, in front of me, fainting and carrying on. And I remember watching, you know, as the casket was there, they were coming through. And there was a line. And I just remember sitting on the stairwell, not knowing what to do with that, you know, because it was so massive that I couldn't do it on my own yet. You know, I was kind of in shock.
KING: You didn't have time to grieve?
L. PRESLEY: Not at that point. It was too massive of a situation. And I was kind of shocked at all that was going on. It was sort of, you know, it all happened very quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley passed away. He was just 42 years old.
Our panel -- in San Francisco is Joe Esposito, Elvis' closest friend, shared those personal memories and private photos in a wonderful DVD called "Elvis' Best Friend Remembers."
Rick Stanley, who is a minister now. He is Elvis' stepbrother. They have the same stepfather, Vernon, and he's author of "The Touch of Two Kings."
In Dallas, David Stanley, the other step brother, author of "Elvis Encyclopedia" -- "The Elvis Encyclopedia."
And in Santa Fe, the wonderful entertainer and entrepreneur and old friend Connie Stevens, who dated Elvis in the early 1960s.
All right, Connie. As one performer to another, what was -- we know -- I mean, Paul Anka told me the other day that he thought Elvis was one of the great singers ever. He had a great range and a great voice. What did he have as an entertainer?
STEVENS: I personally -- you know, I personally, think that he had never peaked. And that happens to some performers.
KING: Never peaked?
STEVENS: No, he never peaked, because I think he was one of the best actors. He was coming into his own. He wasn't getting the right material. There weren't enough people to hover over and say, Don't do that, do this. That sort of thing. It happens to a lot of people. But in a -- I would like to explain to the audience, identify a little bit of what happens. When Elvis would go on stage -- and I can identify with it -- there are no telephone calls, there's no dogs, there's no kids, there's no nothing. And if you are one with the audience and the music is right, it becomes -- it turns you on. It's a magical happening. And then when you try to feed that, when you come out of it, you want to stay in that arena. And to be able to do that with so many shows all the time and so many demands, you start needing a little help. And that's where a lot of entertainers get into trouble.
STEVENS: Because you start to manufacture that -- that energy, that you want to -- you want to give everything you've got. And it's very, very difficult. And I think that's where it started to go wrong. He was worked -- overworked.
KING: Joe, was he unhappy?
ESPOSITO: At times, yes. Many times he was. He was a human being, like all of us are. We all get unhappy. We get happy, you know, it just goes to show that Elvis was not a God that people made him to be. He was human like us. And he got his feelings hurt when people said bad things about him. And he was depressed at time. But the majority of the time he was in great mood, he loved having a good time, he loved having people around him and he loved to have fun.
KING: All right. In your opinion -- we'll get the whole panel's opinion -- what did he need the pills for?
ESPOSITO: Well, the pills, like Connie said, eventually sometimes you work real hard, and you go to sleep late, and you've got to get up in the morning, so you have to take something to keep awake, and that keeps you awake too late, and then take something to go to sleep, because in the morning you have to shoot the movies, so that becomes a vicious circle. And we all know, they're very addictive.
KING: But other people do it and don't get addicted.
ESPOSITO: Right. Some do and some don't. But Elvis was a very addictive person. He did everything in extremes, he everything in the fullest. If one pill works, two's better. Well we know that doesn't work that way.
KING: Did doctors feed the problem, Rick?
R. STANLEY: I think they did.
KING: Again, you don't turn down a prescription for Elvis Presley, right?
R. STANLEY: No, sir. And I certainly didn't either. I was in the middle of it with him.
KING: You were gathering the drugs? R. STANLEY: Oh, yes. I was taking -- they were prescriptions. But I would take any and everything he had, stay right with him.
KING: Because he took it, you took it?
R. STANLEY: Well, I took it because I liked it. I enjoyed the feeling that I got.
KING: What kind of pills was he taking?
D. STANLEY: That's true.
KING: I mean, these were legal drugs?
R. STANLEY: Oh, yes, sir. They were prescriptions or diet pills, and then there was sleeping pills. And then occasionally, if he had twisted an arm or hurt himself riding a horse, a pain pill. And I actually went through a lot of his stuff myself. I want people to understand that I was in the middle of the cycle with him.
KING: What was it like for you?
R. STANLEY: Well, I enjoyed it, sir. I enjoyed the euphoria.
KING: And he enjoyed a lot of it, too, then?
R. STANLEY: Yes, he did. He enjoyed the euphoria he got from it. We did understand later on that it was getting out of control. And I think it was just the last few years that it got out of control.
KING: But you stopped, right?
R. STANLEY: Yes. I stopped October 16 of 1977, two months after Elvis' death, when I became a Christian. I walked away from it all.
KING: You were born again.
R. STANLEY: Yes, born-again Christian.
KING: David, were you hooked?
D. STANLEY: Well, yes, I took a lot of medications. I was more of a reefer head myself. And it was kind of funny, I smoked pot and Elvis would want to fire me. But yet Elvis would take his medications and it was OK.
You know, I agree with Joe. Elvis -- you know, he started out taking medications because of a grueling schedule. But, you know, casual use went to abuse. Two pills went to four, four to six, six to eight. And like Ricky said, in the last couple years of his life, you've got a guy with an addictive spirits that is taking massive amounts of tulinol (ph), secanol (ph), cabitol (ph) -- you name it. I mean, you know?
And Elvis just -- you know, people now -- people are watching this on television. People cringe when we talk this way. But they've got to understand, Elvis Presley was a responsible human being. You know, a lot of people talk about what really happened, why didn't you stop him, you know? It's been said, how do you save a man from himself? David, why didn't you stop him? Hey, when you're 17, 18, 19-years-old you don't tell a whole lot of people what to do, especially Elvis Presley.
But the tragedy of my life and the lives of these individuals who were around Elvis all the time, I'm sure for Joe and Ricky, was to watch this guy, this icon, this person that we loved dearly go on a self-destructive situation that ultimately cost him his life.
And to watch people today, it's amazing, Larry. Twenty-six years after his death, who killed Elvis Presley? Hey, did Tom Parker kill Elvis? Did Ricky kill Elvis? Did David kill Elvis? Did Dr. Nick kill Elvis? the tragedy is there, and the facts are undisputed. Elvis Presley killed Elvis Presley, and there was nothing any of us could do about it. The price of fame and the price that you pay for addictions like Elvis had will cost you your life. August 16, 1977, 42 years old, the greatest rock 'n' roll star became a human. The King was humanized and died of a drug overdose, and therein lies the tragedy.
KING: Connie, when you saw all the weight gain and everything, were you concerned?
STEVENS: Yes, I knew he was in trouble.
You know, we tried. I remember -- Joe will remember this -- Bill Medley and I were talking about it one night. And we said, Let's -- let's go get Elvis tonight. Let's take him to some little divey bar and the three of us will just hang out and laugh. And so we called Joe at the Hilton and said, We're coming up. And he said, Oh, great. That would be great. Get him out of here. And we went up some freight elevator, arrived, and we saw Elvis, and he was so happy to see us. And he loved the whole idea that we were going to run away. We were going to steal him. But it never happened.
STEVENS: He went into a room -- I'll be right back. I'm sure there are a lot of drugs taken, and it turned into an hour and a half, and he came out and said, I'm so sorry, and he looked totally different, gave me a big hug, and he said, "This is good. This is a good guy. And I love you a lot." Gave me a hug. And that was that. And I knew that he was gone. He was out of reach to us and made me very sad.
KING: Did anyone try to take control of this, Joe?
ESPOSITO: We all tried, Larry. We all talked to him many times, night on night. And you know, a lot of times you sit and listen. Other times he'd get mad and tell you to get the hell out of there.
R. STANLEY: That's right.
ESPOSITO: But you got to remember, Larry, people don't realize that Elvis Presley -- you know, now they learn that drugs are addictive, people are -- as hand-me-downs. In other words, you know, all on his mother's side, they were all problems. They all had alcohol problems, drug problems. They died very young ages. Most of his cousins, Junior Smith, Bobby Smith. So if somebody researched that, they'd realize this could happen to anybody.
KING: So you think he inherited a chemical propensity?
ESPOSITO: Absolutely. I really do. Because he wouldn't drink because his mother would drink too much. But yet he went in another direction.
KING: We'll be right back with more on the life and times of Elvis Presley right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What to you was his greatness? What did he have that other people didn't have?
L. PRESLEY: I'd say his greatness was him coming through, his spirit came through his music, you know, in his voice. I think it was just him.
L. PRESLEY: And when you know him as a human and you know him as an artist, you can see...
KING: You mean his personality came through?
L. PRESLEY: His soul, his personality came through his music.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You were saying a true thing, Rick Stanley. Elvis Presley's death did for prescription drug abuse what Rock Hudson's death did for AIDS.
R. STANLEY: Right. Everybody in the '70s was into the prescriptions, and people in rock 'n' roll. As Joe said, it's genetic as far as his family's concerned, alcoholism. But when he stepped into eternity August 16, all of a sudden it was not -- it was no longer fashionable to do coke and take prescriptions. And it shocked the world. And then people felt very betrayed when they found out that he had a chink in his armor, because everybody thought, he's the guy, he's not like Hendrix and Joplin, and then they found out he had a chink in his armor, he wasn't perfect, and they felt betrayed. So it stopped the party mentality to a great degree when Elvis personally passed away the way he did.
KING: Boy, and where did this start, Joe? Elvis is alive. It wasn't him that died?
ESPOSITO: Some crackpot figured out a way make some money off of Elvis, you know, and they wrote a book and claimed they saw Elvis here and there, and tape recordings were all fake tape recordings, all to make a dollar, that's all it was, Larry. The sad thing about it, some people believe he's alive, and that's sad. I really feel bad for those poor people that are hoping, hanging on to that string, hoping he is alive. But he died. He's gone.
KING: David, it was, was it not, an incredible funeral?
D. STANLEY: Absolutely. I mean, you know, they placed the body in the courier -- in the foyer of the house, and literally thousands of people came through to view the body of the fallen rock star. Mail bags were stacking up and helicopters flying in the sky getting the best camera, flowers from all over the world. I mean, a king had died, and it was absolutely phenomenal.
I mean, and as we stood there, it was so surreal, I mean, because here was a group of guys that knew him, I mean guys that had known him for man years, long before Ricky and I came along, and in the years after. And then Ricky and I, being a part of his life.
And you know, walking up to that casket that day and putting my hand on his and saying good-bye to him was the most difficult thing that I've ever done in my life, because again, he was no king of rock 'n' roll, he was no superstar, he was a big brother. He was a guy that cared when he didn't have to. And you know, I miss him and I miss him dearly. He was the most influential person in my life.
KING: Was he a good brother, Rick?
R. STANLEY: He was the greatest, Larry. I mean, when I got in trouble, he didn't send somebody to pick me up. He personally came to the jail when I was arrested in '75 for narcotics. Elvis Presley came and got me. When I was in drug rehab, he would call. And every other night, a little nurse would come down and say, Mr. Presley's on the phone. And I would go down and get on the phone, and he would ask me, are you going to be OK? When are you going to be -- get out of there, Ricky? You get out of there and get it together. And I would try to get it together, I just couldn't, and then go back on the road with him.
But Elvis was -- he was the greatest man. When we saw those people go by that casket, Larry, there were 80,000 people over a two- day period. And Joe was there. And we were all kind of numb, because we appreciated the adulation of the fans, but this guy, to me and David, he was big brother, best friend, buddy, boss, everything. We come out of a foster home. And then all of a sudden, the greatest thing that ever happened is gone, just like that.
KING: What kind of friend was he, Joe? ESPOSITO: Great friend. You couldn't ask for a better friend. He really was. I mean, like the guys just said, you know, if you had a problem, he'd sit and talk to you about your problem. But the one problem he had, he wouldn't talk to you about his problems. He'd like to hear your problems, he tried to solve your problems. If it was a money problem, a personal problem, he would talk to you forever about it. So he was a very caring individual, that's for sure. But, you know, Elvis couldn't help himself. It's sad.
KING: What was he like in a relationship, Connie?
STEVENS: Well, he was delicious. You know, we lost contact, naturally. We went our separate ways, and marriages, children. But the thing about with others that I loved and that I treasure in my lifetime is that whenever I saw him or I got flowers or what have you, it was as if it were right back there. It was instant, and that smile and that feeling that you were part of him and that he was glad you were there was always there. And I'm sure that it was there all of his life, even in the sad times. And the people that loved him and the fans should know that, that he always had that magic, no matter what. And that's something that we all miss in our lives, you know, that there isn't somebody that can do that for us, or very few, let's put it that way.
KING: So that, true sincerity he had.
K. STANLEY: Oh, yes.
KING: He wasn't phony?
K. STANLEY: It was -- he reeked of authenticity.
K. STANLEY: He was just -- he was the real deal. And what I liked to try to point out is, Larry, he -- Elvis was a very spiritual man. He was a very spiritual man. He became a Christian when he was 10 years old. He was like a modern King David, though, he had so much temptation. He could do anything, anywhere, anytime, anybody. And that's dangerous living.
KING: You're not kidding.
K. STANLEY: So -- but we'll see him again in heaven. So that's good to know.
KING: By the way, you've been seeing some great clips tonight. We want to thank Paramount Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video for the many Elvis movie clips that you've seen throughout the program. These movies are available, by the way, on DVD and VHS. And Warner Home Video is re-releasing "Elvis: That's the Way It Is," which has great behind-the-scenes footage of Elvis rehearsing and performing in Las Vegas.
We again thank Paramount Home Video and Warner Home Video. And we'll be back with our remaining moments after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) good time, he's reading telegrams, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
E. PRESLEY: Here's hoping that you will have a very successful opening and that you break both legs. Tom Jones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
E. PRESLEY: Best wishes for a continuing successful Vegas show and I'm hoping to get a raise in the next six months. Joe Esposito.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joe Esposito, a name I haven't mentioned -- we have limited time left -- what was Colonel Parker's importance in all this?
ESPOSITO: Very important, Colonel Parke and Elvis. They were a team, believe it or not. I mean, yes, Colonel was not perfect, like I said before, but he was the best they could have done for Elvis Presley. i don't think anybody could handle his career any better. And he tried to help Elvis out, but Elvis was very stubborn and a very hard-headed being. But Elvis did what he wanted to do. And that's tough. That's a tough one. But he was good for him.
KING: Rick, did the Colonel try to stop the drugs?
R. STANLEY: Oh, the Colonel tried to -- you know, he would try to intervene or have somebody say something to him. But the thing with Elvis, Elvis had accountability and no authority. Elvis Presley did what he wanted -- Elvis Presley became Elvis Presley by going against the flow. He was different than everybody else. So he was very, very hard to get him to sit down and do something. I think Colonel did an exceptional job of taking care -- Elvis didn't have to worry about anything. Colonel took care of it.
KING: He understood, David, black music, did he not?
D. STANLEY: Oh, yes, he did. I mean, you know, when I listen to Elvis music today, there's a song called "Merry Christmas, Baby," you know, where he's just -- that cry me blues, you know, that he just -- you know, he obviously he picked that up from the South, in his roots. And, you know, that's where he transcended. Somebody Elvis singing back in the '50's and said, Man, this is a black man. And then he crossed over. And that's -- I think that, you know, singing that type music is what made Elvis Presley so famous. He had such a...
D. STANLEY: ..a wonderful southern rock 'n' roll bluesy sound.
KING: Connie, what do you make of this new recording's that's coming out that was never released?
STEVENS: Oh, I can't wait to hear it. I wish that we could have recorded things that were being sung around the house with just him on guitar and different people singing.
He told me once that his favorite singer was the -- I forget him name, in the Ink Spots. Yes.
KING: Oh. The lead singer.
R. STANLEY: He had a great appreciation for music. And the one thing that all of us have in common here, Joe, David and Connie, that voice. That voice. If you listen to that -- his music now, it's incredible. You listen to the gospel music he sang, he loved so much, it's so powerful, it's what I call anointed. It really speaks to people's lives.
I'm more of a fan now, Larry. Because when I was a little boy, it was the Beatles and the Stones and Led Zeppelin. Now I'm a huge Elvis fan.
KING: Joe, is he going to keep on being remembered?
ESPOSITO: Yes, he will. It's amazing. I never thought it would be 26 years later and we're still talking about him. But I think it goes on forever. Now a lot of new young people out there, new crowds, new people love Elvis. And I tell you what, Lisa Marie, I just saw her in concert last week in Springfield, Illinois, this girl is very good. She's going to go places, the more she works, the better she gets. Got a great voice, I'll tell you.
KING: And she sounds a little like him and has his mannerisms.
ESPOSITO: Has his mannerisms. Definitely. It just comes naturally to her. She has a deep voice. And I think if she keeps working hard, she's going to get -- keep Elvis alive, too.
KING: Connie, you think he'll always be remembered?
STEVENS: Oh, absolutely. You know, as the years go by, it seems to be larger and larger and larger.
KING: Yes. It's amazing.
STEVENS: You know, Lisa Marie and Jolie (ph) are a day or two apart. And one time in the park, when the nannies were there and they were in the sandbox, the nanny took the wrong kid. She was taking my daughter home. And we laughed about that a couple of times.
KING: We're out of time. I thank you all very much.
Joe Esposito in San Francisco.
Rick Stanley here in Los Angeles.
David Stanley in Dallas.
And Connie Stevens in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
To this wonderful remembrance of a figure who will never be forgotten, Elvis Presley.
I'll be back in a couple minutes. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Again, we want to thank Paramount Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video for the many Elvis movie clips you've seen tonight throughout the program. These movies are available on DVD and VHS. And Warner Home Video is re-releasing "Elvis: That's the Way it is," which has great behind-the-scenes footage of Elvis rehearsing and performing in Las Vegas.
We again thank our guests. We thank you for joining us.
Stay tuned for CNN around-the-clock, the most trusted name in news.
Thanks for joining us. See you tomorrow night. Good night.
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