What happened to Elvis
- A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE: Woman writes about her life as an Elvis fan
By Ann Barks
(Times-Picayune, April 11, 2004)
In 1956, Sandi Pichon was a bored 11-year-old girl sweating out summer living in Memphis, Tenn., when she got the idea to knock on rising star Elvis Presley's back door. Such was the beginning of her years-long friendship with one of the most famous entertainers of all time. Pichon, who now lives in the Bayou Liberty community near Slidell, is keeping her love for the King alive by writing a book, "Raised on Elvis," that details how her teen and adult years were impacted by Elvis. Pichon is president of an Internet-based fan club that is holding an event Saturday in Slidell to honor Elvis and his generous heart. ... She still marvels at the continual polish of his performances, and in her book she describes her feelings as she watched the drugs and health problems affect her music idol and friend. Her perspective on the more controversial aspects of his lifestyle at the time, she said, is tempered knowing that "he was sick and we could see it was a sickness and he was taking pills to help the pain" of bone cancer [sic]. While Pichon said she was told in 1974 that Elvis had the disease, it "only came out probably last year to the general public that he had bone cancer." ...
The last time she spent time with him was in 1976. Shortly after that, she moved from Georgia to Covington, where she had moved to be near a friend and open a shop with her in Metairie. A few months later, she went to see an Elvis concert in Baton Rouge. The change in the King was more than just physical; none of the Memphis Mafia she knew so well and who had been with him for so long were working for him anymore. It was the first time in five years that she had no inside connections, no front-row seat, no special invitation to visit before or after the show. She sat in her seat, watched him perform and knew something was wrong. "I was crying because he looked terrible," she said. She contacted several former inside people she knew but no one felt there was anything they could do. ...
- Meet the man behind the legend (book review)
By Stephen Saunders
(Canberra Times, July 16, 2003, Panorama section p. 5a)
Elvis. By Bobbie Ann Mason. Weidenfeld & Nicholson. 200pp. $[A]35.
For earthlings, Peter Guralnick's monumental two-volume biography is the gold standard on Elvis. This abridged Elvis would serve if you only had an hour to explain the Elvis enigma to a Martian. ... [In interview] Mason ... talked about the North-South and city-rural divides that hide within the dream. She articulated overcoming the Southerner's inferiority complex. ... Elvis, on the bottom rungs of society, felt a closer affinity with black people than he did with most whites of a higher status ...The short, sharp thematic chapters are meant to decipher the major progressions in Elvis's life and career, particularly the psychological factors that turned his "American dream" into a nightmare. ...Mason's novel Feather Crowns was triggered by a famous 19th century case of quintuplets in her local region. With that background and acknowledging the literature on the physical and psychological effects of twin-loss, perhaps Elvis's stillborn twin Jesse Garon is made to carry excessive baggage. ... Mason acknowledges that Elvis's destructive behaviour was also the logical outcome of living as a child-adult whose every whim could be accommodated. This stunting of personal and artistic growth is compared with living in an Elvisland, or having an addiction to being Elvis. ... The best achievement of this Elvis book is what you would expect of a gifted writer of fiction. That is, she demonstrates to a fault the grave importance of the ghosts we cannot see - hopes, dreams, fears, fantasies, desires and beliefs in shaping our actual true-life destinies.
- The King lives on
By Ron Cerabona
(Canberra Times, January 9, 2003, Times Out section, p. 3)
Yesterday the rock legend would have been 68, and this weekend the 2003 Elvis Revival Festival - in Parkes, in central west NSW - celebrates the life and music of the King, as well as its own 11th anniversary. ... [Canberran Susan] MacDougall believes that Presley probably suffered from Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a genetic condition inherited from his mother's side of the family, which contributed to his weight problems of his final years. Presley's mother Gladys suffered from fluid retention and looked obese towards the end of her own foreshortened life (she, too, died in her 40s). MacDougall believes that the condition was not well-known at the time but that it was a significant factor in the pain Presley suffered during his last two years. ... The Mafia controlled much of Las Vegas in the 1960s and '70s and MacDougall thinks that Presley's manager "Colonel" Tom Parker - "the worst thing that ever happened to him" - essentially sold his client to the Mob.
- Elvis had it all, was defenseless against fame
By Bill O'Reilly
(New Haven Register, August 24, 2002)
The mania surrounding the death of Elvis Presley 25 years ago is way over the top, but interesting nonetheless. More than 600,000 Americans visit his Graceland home in Tennessee every year, and The King still remain unmatched as a rock 'n' roll icon. But none of that is important. What happened to Elvis Presley is. Presley's appeal to working-class Americans was easy to figure out. He was basically a shy, polite man who loved his momma and his country. ...
But then fame got a hold of Presley and stalked him ... Elvis was totally unprepared for the godlike stature his fans thrust upon him ... Presley was gifted with a natural charisma and the ability to sell his act in a unique and stimulating way. He was an exciting showman who understood the theater of rock 'n' roll long before anybody else. ... Elvis had all the right moves until the curtain went down. Then he was lost. ... Presley found himself in a forest of emotional chaos and could find no way out.
Losing one's anonymity is perhaps the most stressful thing a human being can endure. ... It is impossible to relax knowing that every move you make and every word you say is the subject of scrutiny and comment. Sleep abandoned Presley early, as it does many famous people. That's why so many stars numb themsleves with intoxicants, and that is what Elvis eventually did. He also, according to eyewitness accounts, became paranoid. Constantly dealing with people who want something from you takes perception and skill. ... The unfairness of it is that Presley was destroyed by a demon he never understood. ... was completely defenseless against a power he couldn't see, didn't understand and could not confront. The demon Fame beat him and wore him out.
- ELVIS' FATAL FLAW: CALL HIM A WOUNDED HEALER, NOT A FLABBY FALLEN IDOL
By Robert Priest
([Toronto] Now Online, August 15, 2002)
LIKE THE ANCIENT GREEKS, WE PREFER our heroes to fall tragically, undone by Fate, character or both. Elvis's story, 25 years after his death, apparently fits the bill. But don't be fooled by the standard tale of the "white trash" kid who becomes a fabulously wealthy superstar and stumbles to a grotesque and tragic denouement. There's a new, more uplifting Elvis epic -- one that notes the spirit and strength of a man who struggled against the genetic odds. ... Elvis died very close to the anniversary of his mother's death. And what was the cause of Gladys Presley's death at the young age of 44? The truth is none too startling. Gladys Presley died of a heart attack. When we see pictures of Gladys at the end of her life, we see an obese, depressed-looking woman. A glance back at a famous photo of Elvis as a toddler with his parents shows us a quite different, much more handsome and thinner woman. So Gladys shared more than a death date and cause of death with Elvis -- she suffered from the onset of obesity in her 40s.
Is it possible that mother and son suffered the same genetic illness, an inborn tendency toward arteriosclerosis? This is in fact the truth. The man who had been dealt such great talent was also dealt a distinctly deadly genetic inheritance. ... Elvis's whole family is reported to have endured insomnia and sleep-walking. This is why, when he died, there was Valium in his system. He was plagued with insomnia all his life. He also had a history of cluster migraines. Any one of these ailments -- all of which were quite likely to have hit him whether he was a truck driver or a pop star -- would have been enough to severely disable any man. Yet Elvis carried these burdens while keeping up an exacting regimen of live performances and extensive travel. ... It is obvious, then, that room must be made in the common consciousness for a reconstructed Elvis myth: the story of a man who rose to superstardom, and there, despite inherited ill health, managed to remain and contribute until his painful dying day. This is the story of an Elvis who, despite his ravaged body, gathers the strength to continue performing.
- Elvis is dead, and this is why
Medical briefing by Dr Thomas Stuttaford
(Times Online, August 15, 2002)
Even while Elvis Presley's daughter was marrying the actor Nicholas Cage, radio and TV were commemorating the 25th anniversary of her father's death. The programmes were heralded by a documentary on Elvis's life on BBC1. This exposed his generosity, kindliness, and old-fashioned Southern manners, while exploring his successes and excesses. His reclusive nature was in contrast to the hysteria he excited in his fans, just as the adoration he inspired in a generation of teenagers was balanced by the feelings of horror that his lifestyle engendered in older people, whose sensibilities had yet to be tempered by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. ...
His identical twin died at birth; this is a catastrophe that is often associated, for one reason or another, with later psychiatric problems for the survivor. It may have contributed to Elvis's disturbed psyche, but his life was chaotic. His wife left him, preferring the company of a karate teacher to enjoying the riches provided by an absentee and philandering Elvis while the King of Rock. ...
The cause of Elvis's death is only interesting because his fans and critics try to tease out some particular habit that was responsible for it. There is no mystery - Elvis was merely an example of the rule that a life of excess is as likely to kill rock stars as bankers, industrialists, or even doctors. ... The Colonel took Elvis Presley's boast that he could survive on four hours' sleep too seriously. They were both wrong. Research has confirmed the anecdotal evidence that those who work too long die too young. Even two nights a week of fewer than five hours' sleep can triple the risk of a heart attack - Elvis performed night after night in Las Vegas and the notion, now proved, that more than 60 hours work a week doubled the heart attack rate had escaped the notice of the Colonel and Elvis. ... The lesson of Elvis's death for City workers, as well as stage stars, is that playing hard and working hard as an admirable recipe for a long and fruitful life is a myth.
- Doctor Feelgood
(Guardian unlimited / The Observer, August 11, 2002)
In 1977 alone, George Nichopoulos wrote Elvis prescriptions for 10,000 doses of uppers, downers and assorted narcotics. He tells Adam Higginbotham he did it because he 'cared' ... It's just gone seven years now, since they finally took his licence away from him. But everyone still calls George Nichopoulos 'Dr Nick'. People have been calling him that since he qualified at Vanderbilt Medical School in 1959. And nobody seems ready to stop - even now, since that last run-in with the Tennessee Medical Board, that he's not a real doctor any more. ... Dr Nick doesn't really care for interviews any more. What with one thing and another, he doesn't feel he's been very well served by the media. ... A few years ago, Dr Nick re-examined a selection of x-rays taken of Elvis at the Baptist Hospital during the 70s. Now, he thinks, Elvis must really have been feeling a lot of the pain they thought at the time was a junkie stunt: he may have been suffering from degenerative arthritis.
- Crowning Elvis 'King' Led To Downfall Of Star
(Texas A&M University, May 5, 2002)
Crowning Elvis Presley "The King" may have been the equivalent of a death sentence, forcing the troubled star to constantly wrestle with who he really was and what America wanted him to be, says David Rosen, a Texas A&M University professor of psychology, psychiatry & behavioral science, and humanities in medicine.
Analyzing Presley's complex life through Tao, the divine principle of Taoism - the oldest Chinese religion, dating back to the sixth century B.C. - Rosen, a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst, is examining the often overlooked ual side of Presley. Rosen, the McMillan Professor of Analytical Psychology, says the discrepancy between Presley's "true self" and "false (king) self" caused him immense pain and agony - evidenced by his extremely despondent nature and the fact that he sought refuge through multiple drug usage.
America lacks an actual king and queen and the mythology linking people with the divine, Rosen notes. The United States also lacks unified spiritual leadership, so this deep archetypal need is projected onto our heroes and heroines, particularly rock and movie stars, he explains. It was easy to project this king image onto Presley, whose "heroic feats" foreshadowed the sexual revolution and women's liberation, and as a nonconformist, his style of civil disobedience broke down racial barriers in the music world, Rosen notes.
Rosen's latest book, "The Tao of Elvis" (Harcourt, Inc.), uses 42 Taoist concepts - one for each year of Presley's' life - to shows how the Tao was and is operating through Elvis. It attempts to answer why Presley is so omnipresent in society so many years after his death, Rosen says. On the list of sight-seeing destinations, only the White House receives more visitors than Graceland, and this year - the 25th anniversary of Presley's death - an estimated 80,000 people are expected to attend the candlelight vigil and visit his grave at Graceland, Rosen adds.
The Tao is concerned with soul, acceptance, humility, healing, nonviolence, compassion and balancing opposites - all relevant to Presley's life, Rosen says. "No matter how he was cast - as a savior, a sinner, an idol or a has-been - Elvis was a deeply spiritual man," Rosen says. "His life was one long quest to balance opposites, from obscurity to fame and from innocence to addiction." The duality of Presley's life was present even in the beginning of his fame, Rosen explains. What critics saw as immoral and vulgar, Presley saw as merely different - not the expression of raw sexuality, but something closer to spirituality.
"People everywhere struggle with the same thing that Elvis struggled with: the conflict between good and evil and their true and false selves," Rosen says. "The rise and fall of Elvis reflects what has happened or can happen to each and every one of us," he adds. "We can follow a healing path or we can choose a self-destructive path as Elvis did, which ended his life prematurely. "Elvis reflects everything good and bad about America."
- Elvis's death nothing to do with diet, says new research
(Ananova, January 31, 2002)
Elvis Presley's death may have had nothing to do with eating junk food in later life, according to new research. It says his low birthweight and poverty-stricken childhood made him a prime candidate for heart problems. Elvis died in 1977 aged 42, after being found unconscious on his Memphis bathroom floor. His cause of death was said to be 'cardiac arrhythmia,' though he was obese and on dozens of prescription drugs. British researcher George Davey-Smith told The Australian: "Elvis had a very low birthweight, being the survivor of twins, and was raised in abject and grinding poverty. "We also know that people who have a low birthweight and low childhood weight who become obese in later life are at substantially greater risk of cardiovascular disease." He claims a UK study has shown poorer people are up to three times more susceptible to heart disease, stroke and many other diseases. Heart Foundation medical director Andrew Tonkin added: "I don't know you could say Elvis was destined to die from a heart-related problem, but certainly the dice was loaded. "We do know from our own research in Australia that there is a strong link between disadvantage and ill-health."
- Dice were loaded for Elvis's heart
(BBC News, January 31, 2002)
It wasn't just Elvis's love of fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches which put him at risk of heart disease. A UK researcher says low weight as a baby and child increased his risk of cardiovascular disease. The King of Rock and Roll died on August 16, 1977 aged 42 after being found unconscious on a Memphis bathroom floor. The cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, a condition where the normal rhythm of the heart is disturbed. At the time of his death, he was obese and was taking dozens of prescription drugs. But in a paper for Australian and New Zealand heart specialists, Professor George Davey-Smith, an epidemiologist from Bristol University said Elvis's childhood problems could also have contributed to his heart problems.
Professor Davey-Smith told The Australian newspaper: "Elvis had a very low birthweight, being the survivor of twins, and was raised in abject and grinding poverty." "We also know that people who have a low birthweight and low childhood weight who become obese in later life are at substantially greater risk of cardiovascular disease." Professor Davey-Smith also told the newspaper that poorer people were up to three times more susceptible to heart disease and stroke. ... Andrew Tonkin of the Australian Heart Foundation told the newspaper: "I don't know if you could say Elvis was destined to die from a heart-related problem, but certainly the dice was loaded."