LARRY KING (January 14, 2005) Remembering Elvis Presley with the Memphis Mafia Lamar Fike, Elvis’ tour manager, so close to Elvis he even tried to go into the Army with him, but couldn’t. Jerry Shilling still finds it hard to discuss all the time he spent with Elvis.
Anita Wood who dated Elvis seriously for years in the 50’s, even lived for a time at Graceland. It’s hard to believe it, but Elvis Presley would have been 70 years old, had he lived. His birthday would have been last week. So, we have got an outstanding panel, others joining us later, we’ll also include your phone calls. Let’s go around first with the Mafia members. Marty Lacker is in Memphis who first met. Where did you meet? Junior High School?
Memphis Mafia Gang
Marty Lacker to be honored by receiving a Beale Street Blues Note, the equivalent of a Hollywood Walk Of Fame Star Lacker started his entertainment career in radio in 1957 and a few years later his former high schoolmate, Elvis Presley, asked Marty to work for him. Marty was with and close to Elvis for 20 years and served as his right hand man as well as being his Best Man at Elvis Presley wedding.
LACKER: Odd. He was sort of loner. The thing we had in common, because we weren’t that close, I had just moved from New York. And Elvis dressed in very flashy clothes, which was different than the kids back then. Most of the guys back then wore crew cuts and Levisand t-shirts. And Elvis wore flashy clothes, wore his collar up, his hair was a lot longer than the rest of the people. And basically, I dressed the same way, coming from New York. And the kids used to kid us about who was going to out dress who the next day.
KING: Was he singing then?
LACKER: He sang in a couple of talent shows in Memphis. But I mean, at the school. But it really wasn’t known back then except for people who were close to him.
KING: Patty, how did you meet him?
KING: Lamar Fike was a member — a close personal friend. You directed all the concert tours, Lamar?
LAMAR FIKE, ELVIS PRESLEY’S TOUR MANAGER: No, not really. I travelled with him, Larry. It was a case of — I did most of the lights in Vegas. And when we went on the road, I’d do some of it. But, you know, we were there mainly to kind of keep everything together. At times we didn’t but it was still fun trying.
KING: What was he like to work with?
FIKE: At times, very difficult, but most of the time, he was a lot of fun. You know, you’re around somebody like him 24 hours a day, and you have to watch what you’re doing because you become a little too familiar and you say things you shouldn’t and sometimes you get in arguments. And it was a constant amount of pressure. It never really stopped. It kept you on your toes.
KING: Jerry you were a close family friend. Did you call yourself a Memphis group, or are we calling you the Memphis Mafia?
JERRY SCHILLING: Well, it came about, Larry, I think years ago, we used to go to Vegas and wear Mo hair suits and carry guns. And the press kind of affectionately started calling us the Memphis Mafia is back in town. And we kind of liked it. We were young guys.
KING: How many people were involved in the Memphis ?
SCHILLING: Normally six to seven at one time. Probably over the years, there’s been about 12, 13 guys.
KING: Did you hang out together?
SCHILLING: Oh, we lived together, Larry.
KING: Were there hangers on? Did he support you guys?
SCHILLING: Well, you know, it kind of looks that way from the outside. But on inside it was very important — first of all, he didn’t go out and hire people because they were an accountant or a tour manager, he hired people that he trusted and then you worked into the position.
KING: Oh, so you learned on the fly?
STANLEY: Oh, yeah. Are you kidding? I mean, I got a lot of attention being driven to school in a pink Cadillac everyday. I mean, when Elvis is your big brother, he was more like a father figure. He was 20 years older than I was. He taught me everything. He taught me music. He taught me how to be cooling. If there’s any cool there, it came from Elvis. He taught me about girls. He taught me about spiritual matters. And all the other individuals involved. It just wasn’t Elvis. You know, we’re like those veterans, like World War II or Korean Veterans or Vietnam Veterans, we all experienced this unique thing. And like I said, it’s so cool to get together and communicate on the level that we can about somebody we knew and loved so well.
LACKER: I was two years younger than him. We both were born in January. I have got to say this about hangers on. We’ve been called every name in the book, but we’ve been called those names by people who have no understanding what our relationship was about.
KING: What was it?
LACKER: It was a close brotherhood. Elvis didn’t have one best-friend, he had about 9 of them. And those were basically the guys from the early years. And we grew up together. We were like brothers. The people who make statements like that, I mean, we just smile and laugh, because they have no idea what it was all about.
KING: Was he difficult, Lamar? Could he be difficult?
FIKE: Yes. That’s probably the nicest thing you could think of. When he got hard nosed, you knew he was there. He could make it hard on you. It’s just like I said, it’s hard to really separate the lines. You’re friends and you’re an employee and you’re all the above. My thing was we just fought all the time. And I always lost. I got fired about 500 times. But it’s all part of it.
KING: That’s weird to be a friend and yet a worker as well.
PRISCILLA PRESLEY: Remember, he was with a bunch of guys at the same time. So they’re all looking in the audience. And there was certainly a lot of fans out there.
KING: That’s another thing about Elvis, he was a guy’s guy.
P. PRESLEY: He was a guy’s guy.
KING: Well, we know with all the women and everything, but he liked hanging around with the guys.
P. PRESLEY: Yes, he did. And that was difficult for a woman, especially a wife. You know, they were still trying to live a single life, and I was just trying to, you know, have a family life. He wanted the best of both worlds.
KING: He was extraordinarily?
SCHILLING: Very generous. The home I live in today, he bought me in ’74. You know, I think, Larry, this is how sensitive he was. He didn’t talk about it. But I think he knew that I lost my mother when I was a year old. We grew up in the same neighborhood, poor part of Memphis. And in 1974, he said, you know, you never had a home, I want to be the one to give it to you. And nobody knew about it. The guys knew about it, but you know, it wasn’t for publicity. And I still live there and I’ll always live there. There’s another thing to this that’s really important, is that he also gave you time. You know, you hear about the gifts, you hear about the monetary. But you could have a problem…
KING: He would spend time with you.
SCHILLING: He’d say, do you want to talk about it? He’d come in your room. I mean, he was really a friend.
KING: Who helped him with his problems?
SCHILLING: That’s the problem.
KING: All right, David, was he generous to you?
KING: Marty, was he generous with you?
LACKER: Oh, definitely. But I’ll tell you something that, because Elvis was a complex and contradictory type of person. I mean, he had many sides to him. Elvis could not really bring himself to say I’m sorry to anybody. If he got mad at them or did something that he knew he shouldn’t have done, and he’d get over it in 30 minutes. But…instead of saying I’m sorry, instead of saying I’m sorry, he’d buy you something The only time I ever heard him say I’m sorry, is he said it to me because of an argument, the one and only argument we ever had. And it shocked me when he did it, because he just didn’t do that. He’d go buy you something.
KING: Lamar, despite all the arguments, was he generous to you?
FIKE: To say the least. I went through a lot of cars. You know, you — it was, you know, he got on a motorcycle tear. You know, I had a motorcycle and ran it under a bus. And you know, things like that. And we — you know, it was like — it was like a big playground that really got serious at times, but you know what? Somebody asked me the other day, said, would you do it over again, I said, when do we start?
KING: Is it true he would keep movie theaters open all night and take all you guys to see movies?
SCHILLING: Three movies a night. We’d go at 12:00 o’clockafter it closed. We would talk out loud. It was interesting, Larry, because I think about now, and how you sat in the movie theater with Elvis was the relationship at the time. Is that right, guys?
SCHILLING: It was never spoken, but it just kind of worked that way.
SCHILLING: Elvis studied those movies. I used to wonder, why are we watching this for three times, you know, and then he would see some little eclectic thing that he picked up from that movie in his next movie.
LACKER: One of the things about him, is he’d hardly ever watch one of his movies.
FIKE: We never watched it.
LACKER: Well, he did a couple of times, but only about two or three that I knew of over 20 years. He just — he didn’t like to see himself on the screen.
KING: We’ll ask in a minute what you each think might have been his strangest habit. Quick Elvis Presley story. I never met Elvis, but met Colonel Parker. Elvis Presley worked in Miami Beachonce, at the Miami BeachConvention Center. He flew into MiamiInternationalAirport, a helicopter brought him over to Miami Beachat the helipad. A limo picked him up at the helipad and drove him 10 blocks to the convention center, where he performed. He got back in the limo to go back to the helicopter. When he got back to the helicopter, he said to the limo driver, “do you own this limo or do you work for the company?” And he said, “I work for the company.” And he said, “you now own it.” The limo driver’s tip was the limo. We’ll be right back.
KING: Were you very close to your father?
LISA-MARIE PRESLEY: Yes.
KING: It was a daddy-daughter kind of thing?
LM. PRESLEY: Yeah, very much.
KING: What was he like as a father?
LM. PRESLEY: Very adoring, very sweet. Very — I mean, I knew that he was crazy about me.
KING: Did you know what he was to the world at 9?
LM. PRESLEY: Yeah. You know, in some weird way I definitely got sort of grooved into the whole idea early on. So I don’t know how that happened. It just kind of — it just was — that was my life. I didn’t know any different.
KING: Joining us now is Anita Wood. She’s in Jackson, Mississippi. She dated Elvis for several years from 1957 to 1962. In fact, it was Lamar Fike, one of our other guests, who arranged that, is that right, Anita, for you to meet him?
ANITA WOOD: Yes. Lamar called me, he did, for Elvis.
KING: And what did he say?
WOOD: Well, I was working on a teenage show there in Memphis. And when the show was over, Lamar said, Elvis would like to meet you tonight. Well, I had a date, and so I wouldn’t break it. And Lamar went ballistic. I will never forget that, Lamar. You won’t go with Elvis Presley? Break your date. But I couldn’t do that. So I didn’t go. And I didn’t think I would ever hear from him again, but I did.
KING: What was the first date like?
WOOD: Well, it was a little unusual. There was Lamar and George and Allen Fortess and Cliff Glaves, and Louis and they were all in the car. George Klein came to the door and the lady I lived with at the time made Elvis come to the door and pick me up. We were a Southern family. You know, so he came to the door to pick me up. We went out in the limousine. And Elvis was driving.
And we drove around Memphisa lot, we stopped by a hamburger place, and sent Lamar in for I don’t know how many dozens of hamburgers, Lamar, lots of them, and they ate every one of them. And then we went to Graceland. He had just bought Graceland, and he wanted to show me Graceland, and we went out there.
KING: Did he try to lure you the first night? Did he make a move?
WOOD: He tried. He wanted me to go upstairs and see his bedroom and his big magnificent bed, which I did. And we walked in the bedroom. And it was a huge bed, I mean, the biggest bed I’ve ever seen, bar none, even now. A huge bed. And then he tried to make a little move on me. And I said, no, really, I have to go home now. So he took me home. And that was the first date we had. He was a gentleman about it. He took me home.
KING: What was it like to be in love with? I imagine you were in love with him?
WOOD: I was. He was my first love. I met him when I was 19 years old, and I came from a very conservative family and I’d never gone steady or anything. So of course when I met Elvis, I did fall in love with him, and he did with me. We had a wonderful time, great fun together. I loved the guys. And it was just a great, like a family. You know, and I remember when David and Ricky and his brother, Billy, came there. I was there, and I remember all about that. You all were just so little back then.
LACKER: Larry, I got to tell you that Elvis’ mother wanted Elvis to marry Anita.
KING: Why didn’t it happen, Anita?
WOOD: He went to Germany and while he was there, of course he met Priscilla, who was a beautiful, l pretty young girl at 14. But when he came back, we still continued to date. And of course, you know, Elvis could make you believe anything in the world, so he had me believing that she was just a friend and her daddy was in the Army with him, and there was nothing to it whatsoever.
KING: Elvis cheated on every woman he was with. Both of the women we interviewed who were with him talked disgusted, he had one woman in one hotel and another one next door. And they all loved him and they all understood. So, Lamar, you explain that to me.
FISK: Larry, it’s called the lure!
KING: It didn’t bother people.
FISK: Look, can I tell you something? There was a lot to go around. You know, he wanted to keep everybody happy. But it was the lure, Larry.
KING: It was the lure. He obviously did.
The panel will be completed by Kathy Westmoreland, who also dated and fell in love with Elvis, even wrote a book about it called “Elvis and Kathy.” And she’s got — we’re going to talk about Elvis’ passing away as well, and again I’ll get back to strange things about Elvis.
KING: Cousin Elvis would have been 70 years old. Our panel. In Memphis , Tennessee, Marty Lacker, Memphis Mafia member, best man at Elvis’ wedding, first met him in high school. Lamar Fike, another member of the Memphis Mafia, close personal friend of Elvis, directed all of Presley’s concert tours, did the lighting, he was the man. In L.A., Jerry Schilling, Memphis Mafia member with Elvis through the King’s during happy times and at the sad as well. In Dallas, David Stanley, Elvis Presley’s stepbrother. Here in Los Angelesis Patty Perry, honorary member of the Memphis Mafia, the only female who knew the King for 17 years and was one of her best friends. Anita Wood has joined us from Jackson , Mississippi. She dated Elvis for several years, stayed at the Graceland for a time.
Joining us in Los Angeles, Kathy Westmoreland. Kathy dated and fell in love with Elvis, wrote a book about their relationship called “Elvis and Kathy.” Why did you break up?
KATHY WESTMORELAND, SAYS SHE SLEPT WITH ELVIS PRESLEY: I didn’t have too much of a say in it.
WESTMORELAND: A B flat! Someone asked me to give them a B flat. I dated him for about six months on a regular basis. Then it became obvious to me that there were other women. It just — you know how that is.
KING: What was he like as a date?
WESTMORELAND: He was fabulous. Oh, it was fun. He was very thoughtful. Almost motherly.
KING: He didn’t sleep, right?
WESTMORELAND: No. He suffered from insomnia. He was very much — I think a lot of geniuses are like that, just can’t turn it off is what he would say.
KING: Miss him?
WESTMORELAND: I miss him terribly.
KING: Let’s discuss eccentricities. What, Jerry, was different about — what was weird about Elvis? All great men have eccentricities.
JERRY: I met Elvis when I was 12 years old, he was 19. It was before he even had a hit record in Memphis. There was five older guys — this is how unpopular he was — trying to get off a football game. So they let the kid in grade school, they let me play. I remember walking to the huddle. I was really into James Dean and Brando, I walked into the huddle. He looked so — he was them and everything else. It was just the look. It was like he was a rebel but he had a lovable smile. He was like a lovable rebel.
KING: What, Patty, to you was eccentricity?
PERRY: Everything about Elvis was an eccentricity. He was a baby boy, he talked baby talk, loved his mommy.
KING: Marty, what was weird for want of a better term.
MARTY LACKER, ELVIS PRESLEY’S SECRETARY: I’ll tell you something that was weird about him. If he watched a football game on TV, he wore a helmet. If he watched the guys on TV riding motorcycles, he would have his motorcycle helmet on. You’d walk in and it looked funny. I mean, you walk in, Larry, he’s sitting with a football helmet on. You say, good lord, Elvis, what are you doing? I’m watching the game.
KING: Lamar, would he have been a good guest on this show?
LAMAR FIKE, ELVIS PRESLEY’S TOUR MANAGER & LONGTIME CLOSE FRIEND: He’d have been hilarious. If he had had the group around, that’s when it really got funny. He needed that sort of support. When he had it, it was every man for himself.
KING: What, Lamar to you, was eccentric?
FIKE: I think the most eccentric thing about Elvis is the way he treated people. He treated everybody equal. There was no up or down with him. It was essentially, you know, like, I think like God loves a buzzard as much as an eagle and I think it was a case Elvis treated everybody like that. I’m almost positive that was it. If it’s an eccentricity, I don’t know.
KING: He also was extremely liberal in the ghetto, amazingly progressive black-white songs. I heard. Color-blind, right? What was strange to you, Anita, about him?
ANITA WOOD, DATED ELVIS PRESLEY FOR YEARS: Patty mentioned a little bit, the baby talk. My nickname was “little” because I was real small at the time and he called me “little.” I had real small feet. He loved my feet. I don’t know what it was but he liked small feet.
KING: Did all of you know about the drug problem? Did anyone try to help him? Did you see it coming? Why did he let himself go so much, though, the weight?
FIKE: Think that goes back to what I was saying a minute ago, Larry. Watching Elvis be Elvis. Many times in Elvis’ life, he felt he didn’t deserve the money and fortune and fame he got. Sometimes as a result of that he went into that self-destructive spirit. The prescribed medication is what it was absolutely. But that medication eventually caught up with him.
KING: Marty, did you ever say to him, Elvis, you’re gaining a lot of weight, you’re losing control.
LACKER: Let me be honest with you. I was almost as bad as he was, as far as the pills. And the fact of the matter is, is that you know, you mentioned the weight. The weight really came just in the last year. And that had more to do… with his body, illnesses, than anything else. Of course the pills contributed to it.
KING: He got sick a lot?
SCHILLING: But, Larry, I think you have to go to the cause, not just the effect. And Elvis Presley was a real genius. He was the most underrated producer in music history. He really wanted to do films. I sit in a walk-in closet with Joe Esposito, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand and John Peters for three hours when she told him about that film, and he wanted to do that film.
KING: “Star Is Born”?
SCHILLING: “Star Is Born.” He accepted to do that film.
KING: No kidding?
SCHILLING: Oh, absolutely. And they take — they take those things away.
KING: What happened? Why didn’t he do it?
SCHILLING: Well, you know, if it doesn’t coming through, management, there’s…
KING: Did he work on the production of his own records? What killed him doing “A Star Is Born”?
FISK: Colonel Parker killed that deal.
KING: Marty Lacker knows my father-in-law, Carl Anchorman (ph), worked with him on producing records. Kathy Westmoreland knows my mother-in-law, Gerri, worked with her, right?
WESTMORELAND: Wonderful person.
KING: You have thoughts about Elvis’ passing?
WESTMORELAND: Yes, I do, well, because of what he told me and what doctors who saw him while I was with him told me… he told me that he knew exactly how much time he had, that he thought he was going to die at the age of 42, close to the age of his mother, her — it was in her family, her father, grandfather, her whole family is not — they were born with a heart that was twice the size on one side as it was on the other, and he also told me that he had bone cancer.
LACKER: He didn’t have bone cancer.
WESTMORELAND: And he…
KING: He didn’t?
LACKER: No, he didn’t have bone cancer. Let me tell you where that came from. After Elvis died, there was a lot of stuff being leaked out of Graceland . And Elvis’ father asked Billy Smith to tell a couple of the guys that Elvis had cancer to see if it came out. And that’s what happened. And I believe that’s where Kathy…
KING: But she said Elvis told her he had it.
WESTMORELAND: He told me when I first met him.
LACKER: Elvis had a good imagination, Kathy.
KING: By the way, tomorrow night we’re going to repeat the Kevin Spacey interview on Bobby Darin, and Jerry told me that Elvis was a big fan of Bobby’s?
SCHILLING: Elvis was a huge fan of Bobby Darin. In fact, when Bobby changed his style there, Larry, as you remember…
KING: Became a folk singer.
SCHILLING: Elvis met with Bobby, and said, Bobby, that’s not you, man. Man, I want to hear “Mack the Knife” when I see you. I want to see you on stage. And Bobby went back. I don’t know if it was right after that, but it was amazing.
CALLER: My question is, do you think Colonel Tom Parker had Elvis’ father buffaloed, and if so, who do you think Elvis’ father would have rather had manage his son?
SCHILLING: Well, I don’t think there’s anybody that can manage Elvis, when you really look at it, outside the colonel. The colonel did a great job, you know. And you know, maybe there was a few creative things, but he really — these guys loved each other, actually. And Elvis had respect. I mean, Elvis would have eaten anybody else up. He had…
KING: Was the colonel honest?
SCHILLING: I think so.
KING: Did you like him, Marty?
LACKER: No. No, I…
KING: Anita, did you like — did you know him?
WOOD: I did not like him, no.
KING: So far, we’re two to one.
WOOD: He was the one that stopped me from going to Germany.
WESTMORELAND: The colonel had — that was his thing. He loved…
KING: He had a hold on him?
WESTMORELAND: Yes, he loved to try to buffalo people. That was the way he operated. But underneath it, he was a really sweet…
KING: David, did you like him?
STANLEY: I liked Colonel Parker, and I think he did a phenomenal job. But I have to quote my brother, Ricky, who unfortunately missed out tonight. The great quote is this: “If Colonel Parker made Elvis Presley, then why didn’t he make another one?”
KING: Lamar, did you like him?
FISK: Off and on. You know, off and on. I can’t — I am being totally honest, sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t.
LACKER: I think we all felt that way.
SCHILLING: I enjoy visiting Memphis. Graceland is bittersweet. My best memories in life is living at Graceland . And I loved the way it is. But you know, it’s an emotional thing to go back there. And I loved Memphis, it’s my hometown. I came out here with Elvis many years ago. But I think they have kept Graceland just as it was when we lived there.
SCHILLING: Well, he leased homes out here, Larry, and over the years he did buy one in Palm Springs.
NARRATOR: Elvis Presley weds Priscilla Ann Beaulieu. And one of America’s richest teenage singing idols promises to love, honor and obey. The couple first met in Germany. Both are Memphisnatives, and Elvis, 32 gave Priscilla Ann, 22 a wedding ring with 21 diamonds. Why did the Pelvis desert bachelorhood? Said he, it’s about time.
KING: By the way, “Jailhouse Rock” we played it a couple times tonight. It was re-released in Englandin connection with Elvis’ 70th birthday. It’s the No. 1 song in England. And it’s his 19th No. 1 song in Great Britain. And Kathy was telling me he thought he wouldn’t be remembered.
WESTMORELAND: That’s right. He said no one — how are people going to remember me. No one is going to remember me. I have never done anything lasting, never done a classic film.
KING: Boy, was he wrong.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. I’m a big fan. My question is for the panel. I grew up with the Beatles, but I always had great respect for Elvis Presley. And I’m wondering if anyone on the panel thinks that his death, such as it was, could have been prevented?
LACKER: Yes. It could have been, but that would have been up to Elvis.
KING: Let’s find out what you do. Anita, what are you doing now?
WOOD: I am director of our kindergarten day-care at our church and I also teach in Pittsburgh , Mississippi. Larry! I want to tell you my name is Anita Brewer now. I’m married to fabulous football player, an ex-football player.
KING: Anita Brewer.
KING: Where did he play?
WOOD: When or where? He played for the New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns, Ole Miss first.
KING: That was Elvis’ favorite team was the Cleveland Browns. All right. Let me go around here, Patty?
PERRY: I’m semi-retired, but I work in Beverly Hills. I cut hair for mostly men at Salon on Cannon Drive .
KING: What are you doing, Kathy?
WESTMORELAND: I am appearing on January 29 in Parumph , Nevada, Area 51. So if I disappear anybody, I’m in an UFO. And I just finished an HBO special with Dick Dale, king of the surf guitar.
KING: Marty, what are you doing?
LACKER: I’m semi-retired and basically do some consulting work in the music business.
SCHILLING: I managed the Beach Boys and Jerry Lee in the past. Currently I’m doing a show for CBS on Elvis, called “Elvis by the Presleys.” It’s a family look at Elvis.
KING: And Lamar, what are you doing?
FIKE: I’m a consulting agent for a collector in the midwest who has Elvis memorabilia, and just everything else, presidential articles, everything. He has a big collection, so I’m happy.
KING: You’ve given us all a great hour, and I thank you very much.