👑 Back to the Future

Back to the Future is an iconic 80’s movie. We see things clearly in the present with only a cursory glance to the clouds in front. But somewhere in the misty focused viewfinder of tomorrow, next week, next year, next lifetime, there are outcomes and scenarios as yet to be known or experienced, most beyond our imaginary boundaries. We may draw the outlines today, sometimes with a bold marker, but the coloring in can’t be done in advance. The box of plentiful rainbow crayons may seem within arms’ reach but until that moment of color to paper, apricot and indigo are both still viable choices. We look and we imagine and we dream of a kaleidoscope of color and design. It’s called hope.

While the future is in the design stages, the past has a clear blueprint. The template has been set. It has been a while since I’ve seen BTTF but if I recall correctly, 1980’s Marty McFly is thrown into the 1950’s past by a science experiment gone awry. While there he encounters his past once removed, the teen generation of his parents, a place he’d likely seen in photographs or heard in simplistic tales. The problem with historic story telling is it’s often either embellished or picked to the bones. We may know how our parents met or where our grandparents lived but the real meat of the story is who they were and how they felt. Marty was given the firsthand opportunity to visit a second hand tale.

In the case of our man Elvis, his history is one told and retold. For every specific scene or happening, there are countless accounts and narratives. A single word can change an entire meaning. The portrayals are as varied as the storytellers themselves. Add in a generational difference once removed and the truth is somewhere in there, trapped in the mind of “he said” and “I heard”. The demarkation of absolute has been erased. Unless on tape or video, one must assume most all is historical fiction. No one can totally fault the narrator. Memories pressed between the pages of their minds, sweetened through the ages just like wine – memories are lovely things. You and I can both attend an event and to recount it after can include marked differing genres. Neither are wrong, but neither are complete.

Like most students of all things Presley, I find the accounts and true life stories fascinating. When I hear the portrayal and commentary from a firsthand person, I listen a little closer for there is likely to be a bit more truth stirred in. Yet even while they were in attendance, their personal viewpoints skew the results. Who doesn’t want to seem more important or significant and essential than perhaps they were? Isn’t that human nature, to absently elevate oneself, even unintentionally? In the many romantic accounts, I find this especially to be true. The one to set the record straight without contention, cannot. So we take it all with a grain of salt for it’s intended purpose, whatever that might be, usually monetary gain. Personally, in the case of girlfriends and romantic liaisons, I fail to see the point of such personal, detailed, unable to be disputed tales of 40 plus years ago. To me, these stories tell more about the author than the subject, and not always in a positive light. The more in depth and personal, the more I question their validity. Some of these are way too personal in my opinion. But who am I to say? There are those that see little point in what I write as well. That’s fair.

As in the case of Marty McFly, to return to the 50’s, and 60’s, and yes, even the 70’s, and be a living testament standing shoulder to shoulder with the man, would be the only absolute definitive look at the life of Elvis Presley. The only perfection would be the ability to look through his eyes, impossible, but interesting to think about.

Can you imagine you are walking down Union Ave in Memphis in the early 50’s, stopping at 706, standing by the neon flashing sign of the Memphis Recording Service? As you approach, a beat up truck appears, slows, and stops. A young man, immaturely handsome and a bit unique for the time period, jumps out, paces the sidewalk, then enters the building. Curious, you stand just out of sight but within earshot.

Fast forward a few more years, Sergeant Presley steps back onto U.S. soil, in March of 1960, home from his two year tour of duty serving his country as a regular G.I. This wild eyed boy Presley had caused a national sensation with his misunderstood rock and roll music, outraging parents, religious leaders, and decent society, a truly envisioned menace. Imagine the flight home, walking with him side by side as he leaves the tarmac a soldier and re-enters the building as a civilian. He was keen to re-engage in his music career, still slightly unsure of the changes while away out of the public eye. Imagine the conversation shared on the flight home, the feelings, the excitement and anticipation and uncertainty.

Scenario after scenario, we can place ourselves right alongside him in our imagination, the movie years, personal milestones, marriage, fatherhood, divorce, recording sessions, concert tours. All because of the stories and descriptions of others, we can often get pretty close to the truth of actual happenings. Conversations recounted tell of the probable mindset and possible feelings. But it seems the further removed we are from the actual events, the more diverse and varied the stories become. Is it just that individuals’ memories change? As fascinating as these stories are, if I could place myself anywhere, it would be beside the ordinary every day breakfast lunch and dinner Elvis Presley. To know what he thought about and how he felt, his ideas, his real dreams and hopes, not the supposed accounts of those who elevated themselves within his circle, but to hear the ramblings and mindset as he went about his 24/7, his human moments not his star moments. To me, this would be a back to the future make a wish moment in time. It’s this and only this that could come closest to truth.

Elvis, for all his joys and tribulations, was a fascinating and complicated man. His rise was like no other, but so was his descent. He was propelled into a musical legacy he set early in his career but steered wrongly at times by his lack of focus and his surrounding set of yes men. Don’t you wonder how he felt about this? Why did he allow it? Did he see it? Why did things happen the way they did? What prevented him from taking back the reigns he’d held tightly to in the 50’s? Did he feel himself slipping and resign himself to it or was he truly on the cusp of a giant turnaround, readying to reinvent himself? Personally, my rose colored glasses want to see him rise from the ashes of the last few years of less than stellar appearance and gather himself. Surely the boy of the 50’s, the Hillbilly Cat, had it within him. He didn’t become King by birth but by reign and determination. It had to be there. All the speculation, blind adoration, or inescapable ability to see truth can’t deny facts.

Unlike BTTF where they knew it was dangerous to change the past, I wish in the case of Presley, it could have been done. To change the past would have affected a future far beyond the reality. Imagining an Elvis of the 80’s and beyond, a maturing man who was able to pull himself up, take hold, make solid decisions and grow with the events but also paving a career path never equalled. Imagine a man who found love again, a true and honest love, a man who enjoyed his children and grandchildren, musically surviving the disco era and delving a little deeper into his country roots while keeping the blues and rock close to him. Others have done it and so could he. An elderly Elvis, sharp and focused still, loving life and mentoring others, intent on making an impact beyond himself – I can envision it. I know history cannot truly be rewritten nor would it be wise to do so. I’m simply thinking out loud.

As fans, we love this man so dearly, mistakes, poor judgement, unwise counsel – because we can see his heart and his soul and know he was deserving of good things. Somewhere out there there is definitive truth beyond bodyguards’ books and girlfriends’ fairytale romance stories. His daughter was too young, his ex-wife too far removed, his inner circle tied up in their own stories, his manager looking out for himself only, others close but self serving with only a compulsory side dish of Presley to foot all the bills.

To me, imagining a different outcome is an act of love. I know it changes nothing. While it needed to be human, it didn’t have to be tragic. He deserved better and we were all robbed of a beautiful Presley future. While there is still beauty, the joy that could have been is endless. But I still remain ever so thankful for the joy that is.

About the Author: Janet Bostic has been a fan of Elvis since the age of 5 (maybe before that!) and has studied his life as long as she can remember. She saw Elvis four times including once in 1976 when she received a scarf and enjoyed a kiss and some conversation with him. Janet has taken 4 trips to Graceland, with her earliest being in 1976 when Elvis lived there. She is visiting Graceland again in the Spring of 2019. Her favorite Elvis song is “Love Coming Down.” She is the mother of triplets and (just like Elvis) her only daughter’s name…is Lisa. Elvis has always been a huge part of her life.