Larry Geller (August, 1940) Geller became Elvis personal hairdresser in 1964 after he got a telephone call requesting that he go to Elvis Bel Air home to attend to the King needs. Larry Geller was hired as Elvis personal stylist Before long Larry became more than employee after he introduced Elvis to spiritualism, parapsychology, religion and the supernatural.
Once hooked, Elvis began building a huge library of books, and calling Larry his “guru” and soon bought him a white Cadillac. Colonel Parker always suspicious of any influences other than his over his protégé made sure that someone else was present whenever Larry cut Elvis’ hair. Parker finally had Geller sacked, all Elvis collection of books were taken out and burned.
YOU HAVE WRITTEN 3 BOOKS ABOUT ELVIS, WHY WAS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO HAVE YOUR TIME WITH ELVIS PUBLISHED?
It was only one month after Elvis died that Ed Parker called me at home in Los Angeles urging me to write a book with him. I declined. A couple of months later two members of the group (one a family member) phoned to ask me to join them in putting a book together. In both calls the subject of religion, spirituality, Elvis’ books and his inner search, years of conversations and experiences were brought up, and how my participation would be invaluable. For several sensitive and personal reasons I innately felt that I would have to decline their offer. In fact, I was in the process of writing a book on health and hair care, which Elvis endorsed, but I scrapped even that project after his death.
During those first few months I was absolutely numb, frozen in time, attempting to heal and recover from the overwhelming shock of Elvis’ death, then preparing his hair at the mortuary and finally…his funeral. Very, very slowly I struggled to breathe deeper, hoping somehow I would eventually thaw out from my psychological stupor.
Actually, the deep residue and emotional scar tissue remain to this day right below the top layer of my personality. This is something that never leaves. As I eventually gained some semblance of balance, I knew that somehow, some way I had to tell Elvis’ story from what I knew to be true. And what gave me the motivation, the courage and the green light was Elvis himself. There was no doubt, and no turning back, not after all that Elvis went through, not after all that he meant to his fans, the world – and the solemn promise I had made to him only months before his passing.
Little did I suspect that afternoon in April of 1977, in Elvis’ suite at the Hilton Hotel in Detroit while we were on tour, where our conversation would eventually lead. Briefly and to the point, while we were talking in his bedroom, Elvis became very serious, he spoke of his nagging health problems: his spastic colon, glaucoma, hypertension, insomnia, sore throats and his fluid retention and bloated condition. He was fully cognitent of all the pills and prescription drugs he was taking, and his unhealthy eating habits. He actually said that it was a miracle he was still in one piece. Elvis was very concerned how the fans might be judging his appearance and he expressed in no uncertain terms his desire and definite plans to change his lifestyle and career. Then Elvis put his hands on my shoulders, looked squarely in my eyes, and with his typical sense of drama declared that we had a ‘special’ task together. He asked for my help, and said he wouldn’t ask any one else. He said he needed to know if I was behind him in this, that if I didn’t help him tell of his spiritual quest, his books, the vision he had in the Arizona desert, his total belief in God, his struggle to remain healthy, even his medications – then his real story and the truth of his life would never be known.
Elvis spoke of writing a book; he wanted to call it Through My Eyes, hoping to offset and balance what he knew others were planning at that time. Elvis felt that his image was what most people related to, and he really desired that his fans and the general public learn more about his inner life, his values and what he was aspiring toward.
After further discussion I promised him I would help him write his book, and “tell the world the truth.” We shook hands and hugged to seal our mutual vow. Looking back, I really feel that even if Elvis hadn’t asked me, I probably would have written a book anyway. I have a lot to say and I’m very passionate about it. Not knowing where to turn, I remembered the author Jess Stearn, who specialized in writing books about spiritual matters, whose reputation was exemplary, and who lived close by in Malibu. After we were introduced and he heard what I had to say, he agreed to write a book. I became his chief source of information; I disclosed to him reams of my writings, and we engaged in hundreds of hours of conversation. Book for Sale on eBay
I brought Charlie Hodge and a few other people who had been close to Elvis to meet Jess. Naturally, they all had a lot to say and also contributed their own feelings and personal anecdotes. Jess Stearns’ book The Truth About Elvis came out in 1980 (the cover saying “with Larry Geller”), and the same book was republished by another company in 1982 under the title, Elvis – His Spiritual Journey. This time only Jess’ name appeared on the cover of the book. In Jess’ books, he brought out and conveyed information that’s only hinted at in other books, basically because no one else had the information I gave him.
This was information integral to Elvis’ story, without which, as Elvis himself recognized, a gaping hole would exist; structurally the most important elements of his life would be missed. Yet despite all this, in my heart I knew I would have to write my own book to fulfill my pledge. There was so much more to be said and conveyed. Coupled with the onslaught of the Goldman book and others, and the plethora of material that wasn’t even touched upon in any of them, a book based on my personal journal, If I Can Dream, came to life, a book that I wrote and over which I had a considerable amount of control. In 1998, Jess asked me to help him write an updated version of his book, with new stories and fresh insights. It was published as Elvis’ Search to God.
ELVIS KEPT CONSOLE WITH VERY FEW PEOPLE WHY DO YOU THINK HE OPENED UP TO YOU? In my very first meeting with Elvis, at his Bel Air home on Perugia Way, in April of 1964 where I came at his request to style his hair, we engaged in a deep conversation concerning religion, spiritual growth, Elvis’ early life, his mother and father, his twin brother, the church he attended in Tupelo and other very intimate subjects. This was surprising and significant, considering we had just met – and he was Elvis Presley, and I a stranger who had been referred to him for professional reasons. Well, during that conversation something clicked between us. I was fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time, and not only could I style hair, which Elvis required, I was also interested in and had studied subjects that were close to Elvis’ heart, subjects that related to his inner desire to learn and grow spiritually. He was more than eager to expand his horizon, and a combination of forces came together that afternoon that eventually changed both our lives. For reasons that are beyond me, I was privileged and honored to be associated with him from that time forward in a very meaningful way.
DO THINK THAT ANYONE BUT HIS BELOVED MOTHER EVER REALLY GOT TO KNOW ELVIS BEHIND THE IMAGE? From my point of view, I’ve read and heard so many distorted stories, and gross judgements concerning the people Elvis surrounded himself with. Naturally in any group, especially people who are connected with a person of power and wealth, there are people who are shallow, who are yes men, and in plain terms users. When you consider we’re talking about Elvis Presley, the greatest star who ever lived, of course that existed to some degree around him. And I’m particularly critical of a few people. On the other hand, Elvis did have some genuine friends, a few who knew him beyond the image, who related to him as a human being, not just “Elvis.” They would have given their lives for him. Of course, we all perceive and relate to one another according to our capacity and our own individual evolution as human beings. What I’m saying here is that some were closer than others, and some knew and understood him on a deeper level than others.
WAS ELVIS’ QUEST TO UNDERSTAND WHY HE WAS “CHOSEN” EVER REALISED? Elvis was such an intelligent person, light years beyond his world-wide persona. He had an inquisitive mind, always probing, always digging, attempting to understand his place in the universe, and above all, his unique role and position in this world, and just exactly how “Elvis Presley” fit into the scheme of things. For years he struggled with this dilemma. He was so sincere, always aiming to do his best. He would be the first to admit that he was flawed, had weaknesses, and fell many, many times, and in ways that most people couldn’t conceive of. But to me, what truly distinguishes a winner, a person of true character, is that he picks himself up, and fights against his basest nature, striving to do good.
Elvis did exactly that. He finally realized why he was chosen. It seems so simple, yet sometimes it’s what is staring us in the face is what eludes us. Elvis attributed his talent and success to pure blessings from God. For quite some time he didn’t know how or what direction and form that should take. He recognized as a three year old sitting on his mom’s lap in church, that he wanted to sing. He would want to jump off her lap, run down the aisle and join the choir and sing his heart out. Elvis said “Singing and entertaining people, making them happy and bringing some joy into their lives is what I’m all about.”
He knew that was his mission in life, his ultimate destiny. At one time he thought maybe he should preach or teach, only in his heart of hearts, he knew who he was. During the last years of his life he realized this, and was also planning on expanding his career to acting in real dramatic roles, and producing movies that had real content and would inspire people. He also was moving consciously into charity work and we spoke of this often, especially toward the very end.
DURING THE SEARCH OF HIS SPIRITUAL SELF, WHY DID ELVIS NOT CONFRONT ADDICTION TO PRESCRIPTION DRUGS? I always speak of Elvis in glowing terms, he was such a fantastic person and always strove to help others. His talent and what he left us made a mark unlike any other. Yes of course he had faults, he was human. His vulnerability and his humanness only added to his charm and appeal. I become critical when it comes to Elvis’ blind spot: his body; what he put in it.
Oh, if only he had taken care of himself as well as he took care of others. If he did he would probably be here with us today. He ate the unhealthiest food, and broke all the nutritional laws. He was for many years in denial of his pill addiction that only grew worse until his body bore the full brunt, as he really began to suffer, and eventually pay the ultimate price. It wasn’t as if Elvis was in the dark, and didn’t know the facts. He was aware, he read a variety of nutritional books I brought him over the years, from many of the leading health authorities. We had many discussions about diet and health.
He had a doctor’s manual listing all the drugs and their horrible side effects, and he read it. But there were many forces at work, pulling him down. First and foremost was his dependency, and the overwhelming fact of being Elvis – superman – and his public image. You have to remember these were the days before celebrities went public concerning their substance abuse. These were the days before the Betty Ford Clinic, and there weren’t many places to go for help, let alone the aspect of disgrace and embarrassment.
What made the situation even worse in my opinion were his doctors, and the lack of actual, genuine care. Even his manager looked on and did absolutely nothing. I was there and witnessed abject neglect, enabling, and a general feeling that nothing serious was taking place and all would be just fine. He was Elvis wasn’t he? Elvis came to some nitty gritty realizations the last six months of his life. He began to wake up from a deep sleep concerning these issues, and many more.
A new vision for his life was emerging, his attitude was showing signs of renewal. He spoke with me about changing his life outside and in. From new management, to paring down considerably our group, stop touring for a year, go to Hawaii and rest, get off all medications, eat a balanced, proper diet, exercise and meditate, to coming back and find some real dramatic roles and re-enter movies. Two opposite realities were paralleling one another, life and death. Elvis’ health was rapidly declining, yet his outlook was positive, being fed excellent ideas to alter and reshape his life and career.
On top of the world, perched on Mount Everest looking down, Elvis surveyed the landscape below; he knew the hard and bitter truth – that his very life was at stake. From ongoing turmoil with young Ginger Alden, worries about a forthcoming book, physical problems gnawing and draining his strengths, to a dozen other difficulties and dilemmas that constantly reared its perplexing and ugly head, Elvis was determined to go forward no matter the cost and no matter where it led him.
He was scared, and knew without a shadow of a doubt what had to be done. He said several times that sometime in September of 1977 he was going to finally get rid of Colonel Parker, and initiate some other changes. He told his father and Charlie Hodge the same. I don’t know what he told Billy Smith, but he most likely mentioned some of this to him, as well as possibly going public in a concert in Memphis concerning his health and all those damn pills. To me the real tragedy of the story is that Elvis waited. He was facing horrific situations that he was planning on dealing with – head on. He was hesitant, nervous and facing the unknown, but if only he had acted instead of waiting…who knows?
UNCOVERING THE SECRETS OF MYSTICS DID ELVIS BELIEVE HIMSELF A GURU TO HIS GENERATION? Elvis always remained Elvis. He always stayed true to his past, his roots, and never attempted to be something he wasn’t. He deeply felt he had a lot to offer the world, but was always extremely careful never to preach, or influence the public with his own personal philosophy and religious outlook. He did consider himself blessed, and for a while he wasn’t sure just where destiny would lead him. He definitely felt that God had given him the great gift of his voice to use as his instrument for reaching out and inspiring people.
In one way, Elvis was like a little boy, wanting to please everyone and be all things to all people. Towards the very end of his life, he was trying to think of ways – producing inspirational movies, getting more deeply involved with charities, etc. – to expand and to grow in his impact on the world. Before each show and each night, Elvis would pray, asking God to guide his life, as he was always concerned that his own ego not get in the way. At least, that’s how he saw it in his humility.
WAS ELVIS VAIN ABOUT HIS APPEARANCE WHEN NOT IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE? Elvis was very aware of his appearance, and he knew he had the face of King David. I’ve been around some of the top stars in Hollywood as a hair stylist, and I can tell you this for sure: Elvis wasn’t nearly as vain and self-centered as most of them. Of course he knew he was admired by men and desired by women not only for his talent but for his extraordinary good looks, so it would have been hard for him not to think of it. Elvis did let his image down, so to speak, when it was just the guys – but even then Elvis was never “funky” in his appearance. TLC, Larry Geller.