Minds are often made up long before facts have surfaced. Once a snowball barrels down a hill, there is little to break it’s fall, regardless of the terrain. It grows until it becomes monstrously large and consumes all in it’s path. The beauty of the winter wonderland mountains can bring great danger to the pristine sleeping valley below. Rumor is the snowball, Elvis is the valley.
In the childhood game of Telephone, called Chinese Whispers in other parts of the world, players form a line. The first person comes up with a message, whispers it once to the second in line, and so on. It’s amazing how distorted the final dialogue is compared to the initial phrase. There’s a valuable lesson here.
Information, or gossip, via word of mouth is often far from accurate. Something from a second or third sources can venture away from truth. It’s harmless in a game, but in real life there are negative implications. Think of it in our little Elvis world.
Someone recently asked me how I knew something pertaining to our man Elvis. Simple, you make time for and study that which is important to you. Because he is a favorite subject, many of us have studied him for years and much has been repeated endlessly. So much in fact, the lines are often blurred as to whether it’s from Elvis folklore or family folklore or from fairytale land.
How many messages have been passed down as absolutes that are untrue? Many are perfectly harmless, as in 1 billion people watched Aloha (not mathematically feasible) and Elvis sold out every single concert he ever played (untrue). Those can be dismissed easily because it doesn’t matter.
I see statements that I am 99.9% positive are in error, but I let it go. Especially if it is someone’s recollection, like what song he sang at what concert or the date and time an event occurred 50+ years ago. It’s not worth upsetting the apple cart or calling someone out.
But what about more important and damaging “truths?” What about character statements and he said, she said, that get passed down, as they break it, burn it, and drag it all around, and accept it as gospel? Most has to do with women who were in and out of his life by choice or relation, motives, intent and outcome. It’s there that the camps of allegiance are formed – some teams are quite vocal.
In the case of the men that surrounded him, the Memphis Mafia, opinions are as assorted as the guys themselves. Were they leeches? Did they abuse their position? Were they secretly on a covert mission to align themselves and boot the others? Did they have his best interest at heart? Like the players on a ball team, everyone has their MVP.
Except for the Colonel. There seems to be a wide consensus he remains a villain and public enemy number one.
I know I’ve said a lot and if you’ve followed this far, I thank you. But here is the truth I believe. Elvis Aaron Presley, through a perfect storm of both circumstances and choices, was his own worst enemy.
I love the man as much as anyone and I’ll gladly stack my “fandom” against anyone, but he was imperfect, flawed, and troubled. Loving him does not mean deifying him. His insecurity, his Peter Pan syndrome of being the boy who never grew up, his health issues, his desire to avoid confrontation, and his lack of accountability all contributed to his loss of security and self. He was his own victim, as many of us are.
He was also the greatest entertainer to ever live. He was handsome beyond belief. He had a generous nature and a tender heart – and yes, he was larger than life. Many only view the 1950’s rebel rocker or a 1977 white jump suited caricature of himself. That’s unfortunate. He was so much more. I prefer the whole man.
Spending time at his birthplace gave me a far greater understanding than any other Elvis related place I’ve experienced. It was simple and beautiful and peaceful. It was also a bubble unto itself, one in which most in those dire times and circumstances, could never imagine an escape. Generations had stayed put and the cycle repeated itself.
We speak sometimes of bad decisions and assign fault but there was one single decision that I believe shaped his life and his destiny more than any other – the escape from Tupelo and the move to Memphis. It was at a perfect formidable time in his young life. He was young enough to embrace a new portion of life but also old enough to always remember from where he came. It seemed to make the largest impression at the most opportune time and set the course for the remainder of his years.
Elvis the man remained always Elvis the boy. Elvis the lover was Elvis who sought love. Elvis the recipient was Elvis the giver. Elvis the father was Elvis the child. Elvis the husband was Elvis the needy. Elvis the star was Elvis the seeker. Elvis the friend, sought a friend, someone who cared unconditionally, who wanted nothing from him with no ulterior motives.
Can you name one from within his surroundings who fit the bill? Could he?
Why does any of this matter? It doesn’t. It’s speculation and conjecture and up for debate. Answers would change nothing. But I do ask in relation to Elvis, please seek out both opinions AND facts and use your brain. Don’t play Telephone with his life. Nothing will taint his legacy more.
He gave to us without fail and still does. Stand up for him and don’t take everything at face value. Our Elvis deserves the best we have to give him, always.