The Airplanes & The King - Interview

with Carlos Varrenti & designer Robert Van Beek

- EIN Interview by Piers Beagley - November 2021

'The Airplanes & The King' - As promised a few months ago, the extremely well-received spanish book 'The Airplanes & The King' by Carlos Varrenti is now being republished as an English version.

Not only that but it has now been expanded to an amazing 400 pages with a lot of unreleased material from Elvis Files' vaults!

The English version is printed as a High quality Hardback book.

Printed and distributed by The Elvis Files Team, EIN has seen some preview pages and it is an absolute stunner.

EIN is delighted to be able to talk with the author Carlos Varrenti - as well as Elvis Files designer Robert Van Beek to find out more.

EIN's Piers Beagley asked the questions..

The Airplanes and The King - author Carlos Varrenti

- English edition Editor / Designer Robert van Beek

EIN Declaration: Having been impressed by the original version in Spanish I offered my help with some fact checking and proof-reading of this new English version of the original book.

EIN: Thanks to you both agreeing to the interview and while I have not seen the final print, let me congratulate you on what looks like could well be the most fascinating Elvis book released in 2021. It is such an interesting topic and somewhat of a surprise that it has never been covered in any detail in the past.

Carlos, first let me ask you; With most fans concentrating on Elvis’ music, movies, fashion, or lifestyle how did you come to be so fascinated in Elvis and his airplanes?

Carlos Varrenti: First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you Piers and Nigel too, for the opportunity to do this interview and for promoting the book in EIN.

Well Piers, aviation is part of my life. As an Aeronautical Engineer, I not only work with airplanes daily, but I also teach aviation at the University. Let’s say I'm passionate about the Aeronautical world as I’m fascinated by Elvis world. Those two lifetime loves and passions made me look closely at every little detail about Elvis and his relationship with aviation.

EIN: How long have you been cataloguing your Elvis aviation collection and how big a collection do you have?

Carlos: I have been an Elvis fan since I was 12 years old when I started collecting Elvis material. I’m 37 now… So, let’s say 25 Years!!! You can say I have 25 years buying Elvis stuff!

EIN: Where did you grow up and how did Elvis impact your life?

Carlos: I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the mid-80s, and started listening to music in the mid-90s. I was at school and we had to take a piece of music to our music class to listen to and to share it with the rest of the class, I think it was a nice way to motivate the little ones to know some music. I didn’t have anything special, but a friend took “The Essential Collection (1994)”. I remember the cassette player started playing “Heartbreak Hotel” and… Wow! That had huge impact on me! The Argentine slogan "Elvis in the 90s sounds better than ever” was totally true! But, you know, I was a kid … I didn’t know much about who I was listening to.

A couple of weeks later I saw and listened to this guy again, this time seeing him on TV, on MuchMusic. He was dressed in white, with a red handkerchief around his neck, singing with strength and passion in front of a name, the same name I had seen written on my friend’s cassette: “ELVIS”. I think it’s very easy to be impressed by “If I can Dream” even if you are a young boy! This was my second taste of the King. I started asking my mom and dad questions about this guy named Elvis, but they didn’t know him very well. They liked other kind of music, my father for example is a Sinatra kind of guy.

But once, while watching TV we saw a spot with “All Shook Up”, I asked: Dad who is singing? He answered: “Elvis,The King” (Actually, it was Billy Joel :-) ). But you know Piers, this activated more and more my intrigue about this guy: was he a king? king of what????

The third contact was crucial: One Saturday, my mom asked me to buy some groceries. When I entered the market, I noticed the owners were listening to some old music. The two (husband and wife) asked me: Do you like this music kid? I answered: Yes! I Like Elvis! (I actually didn’t even have one cassette, but I did have those experiences I’ve already told you) and they answered: "Well… If you like Elvis you must listen to the radio tonight, there is an Elvis Program!”.

And there it was, the program started with "King of The Whole Wide World”. Wow! This guy had an incredible voice! It’ was Carlos R. Ares and Claudia Leon's program on “Radio el Mundo”. The program was 1 hour of pure Elvis! I think that since day, there hasn´t been a day in which I did not listen to the king. Meeting Elvis Shop Argentina was the next step. All you can ask about the King was there! The rest is history.  

EIN: Carlos, Most fans reading this would know of the US or European fascination with Elvis and his music. How do you think that differs in Latin America?

Carlos: The market is smaller in Latin America, for sure. Elvis made a huge impact all around the world, but in some cultures, it was more powerful especially due to the language, history, geography and some traditions. Some overseas music was better received in some places than others. For example, in Argentina there is a cult of the Beatles music because of our fathers (baby boomer generation). I think there are several key factors in this: Argentina was forged by European migrations which took place during the last part of 1800s and early 1920 and 30s… Most families have Spanish, Italian, German and English origins. There is a special connection between Europe and Argentina. There is a short phrase attributed to Jorge Luis Borges that synthesizes this: "Argentines are Europeans in exile”. So, the North American market was not so powerful as the European market (from my point of view). In addition, there were some local variations in Spanish language from North American music in the late 50s, early 60s. I think all those factors, contributed to a limited market which I think surprisingly expanded after Elvis` death. The international work from EPE after Elvis` death, with all those wonderful releases, and the local work from Carlos R. Ares helped for sure to keep the king alive and attracted new fans like me in the mid 90s.

EIN: How long did you take on writing the first book? Did you think there would be a big enough Spanish market for your Elvis book?

Carlos: It took me about 1 year to write the book. But it took me 25 years to compile all the information! To tell you the truth Piers, at first, it was not in mind to do this book, on the contrary, as every fan does, I was waiting for someone else to write it and then buy it! But it never came out... There are more than 2900 Elvis related books released but I never found any book talking about Elvis’ Airplanes and his relation to Aviation, his fears and conquers in the aeronautical world. Not even in Graceland! If you go to visit the planes, the little aviation shop does not have any book related to Elvis and his planes! So, I said to myself: “If no one does it, I think I can do it” :)     

Regarding the market, I never thought about that. I was writing a book for me and my friends in the Elvis world and in the Aeronautical world. But when I took a book as a present to Carlos Ares in the ELVIS SHOP Argentina, he loved it! And asked me to sell it in the shop! I was so honoured that day...   

EIN: Carlos, at which point did Robert and Erik Lorentzen’s Elvis Files become involved?

Carlos: I was trying to contact Erik to ask for permission to use some pictures from his wonderful books “The ELVIS FILES”. I asked my friend Kees Mouwen from Elvis Day By Day blog and he gave me Robert’s contact. Robert was so friendly, so helpful… We became friends instantly. He didn’t understand Spanish, but he saw some potential in the book as did my friend Kees. When the Spanish book was out, he told me that it would be a great idea to do it English. And that’s what we did! We worked very hard, side by side for months, but eventually we had it completed!


EIN: Robert, can I ask you a bit of your Elvis history, when did you first become a fan and how you became involved in expanding upon Carlos’ original book?

Robert van Beek: First of all, hello and thanks for this opportunity to promote Carlos' work through EIN. I've been an Elvis fan since 1973, the Aloha show made a huge impact on me as a little boy at six-years-old. Nothing was ever the same musically. Elvis was everything to me, then and now.

Carlos sent me an e-mail with the question if I could do something as webmaster of TEF for his book "Los Aviones Y El Rey." The book was near its end but Carlos wanted to add a few things. Erik Lorentzen has a photo collection which is a mile-or-so long and I am the first link to Erik's photo archive. We corresponded together and exchanged information. Out of curiosity I asked for some pages of Carlos' book which was not yet ready for printing. What I saw blew me out of the water. I am a collector of photos and printed matter myself and I have been a member of fan clubs since I was 10 years old. Never have I seen such a neat book with so many facts about Elvis and his planes. Gee, I never knew you could write a book about this subject. While Elvis’ car collecting hobby has been written about, Elvis and Aviation was a topic that has never been addressed before. Carlos, damn. . . . "we have to do this in English dude," was my first thought. I was so enthusiastic about this that Carlos could not reject my offer. This book, truly, is a revelation for any self-respecting Elvis fan. I translated the entire book into English and after completion a former English high-school teacher of Carlos checked it and finally more proof-reading by you! Piers, you did such an amazing work, thanks man.

Our relationship started right there and then so to speak. We became instant friends from day one. I contacted Erik Lorentzen to see if he could get as excited about this project as much as I did. At first Erik was a bit hesitant because this is a completely different concept than what he is used to over the many years of publishing. After I had received the complete book from young Carlos in Word format, I was convinced. This MUST be translated and expanded. Erik gave his blessing but with a few adjustments - the size (25 x 30 cm), and the amount of pages. It was a very busy period for Carlos and me, expanding it from 198 pages to 400 but without deviating from the original core concept.

As Carlos has already mentioned, we have toiled for months of blood, sweat and tears. But with good luck, since we managed to grow the original book to a good 400 pages. I have a lot of actual related articles and photos at my disposal and with Carlos' magic and dedication we put together a beautiful book. Erik Lorentzen was very satisfied with the result. To be fair: his contribution to countless unique photos has helped us a lot.

Off-topic: I would like to take this opportunity to thank Piers and Nigel for directing me via EIN to my website Thanks to EIN thousands of Elvis fans have visited my site. Two thumbs up guys.


EIN: Robert, fans will have seen your name on various Elvis Files releases including the magazines. Do you have a background in design?  

RvB: As a hobby I have worked on a number of fan club promo CDs, flyers for meetings, posters, etc. Designing is a hobby of mine when I am inspired. The subject has to suit me or it won't work. Elvis is the perfect subject!!
My collaboration with The Elvis Files books and magazines of recent years is a hobby that got out of hand. Erik approached me shortly after Fats Domino passed away, asking if he could use a publication I posted on my Elvis Facebook account. “Sure, why not?” I replied.  After that, the collaboration between me and Erik expanded very quickly and in the end I am the editor for all editions of Erik books and magazines from 2018. So far I think it is a fantastic pastime. Elvis, the man, the myth, the legend. There is so much to learn about this person and every day you will find new facts and titbits. It is of course not always easy because so much has already been written about Elvis, and many erroneous facts too. It takes a lot of time, love and effort but I do it with the most pleasure. I'm also super proud when a new release comes out that I've been working on. Reading your research in print ─ smelly papers, hmmm ─ it’s all wonderful.

EIN: Did you both realise that the book could be expanded to this new 400 page version, I think twice the size of the original. How did you split the work?

Carlos: OMG! That was hard work to do! Erik wanted that way to be part of the “Standard" of The ELVIS FILES collection (something I’m truly honoured about), but the expansion was almost too much! Fortunately, I had some info I hadn´t included in the Spanish version due to the lack of space. And some photos I hadn´t included since I did not have the permission from the owners (which I eventually got after the Spanish version was out). So, Rob and I worked very hard, he translated it and added some cool Elvis’ Photos. Then added some cool sections to the book I had wanted to add with some Appendixes essential to the Elvis and Aviation fan. I have a digital file on my Mac of hundreds of Elvis photos with his aircrafts that I’ve been collecting during the years. All with dates and places, Rob and Erik helped me with the HD photos from THE ELVIS FILES vaults and added some UNIQUE photos I had never expected to see!  

RvB: Carlos, how should I put it, has masses of energy and is very handy with MSwords. I, on the other hand, have a lot of imagination and am a detective in finding matching stories. Argentina Y Hollandia!


EIN: What more is included in this new English version over the original book?

Carlos: There is some information I didn’t have the chance to add in the Spanish version due to lack of space as I was limited to 200 pages to avoid bigger printing costs. For example I expanded the chronology from what happened after the '77 with Elvis Aircrafts. I also added all the newspapers clips I’ve been collecting during the years about Elvis Airplanes, added some detailed Appendixes and the huge number of photos in the English version has no comparison with the original Spanish version.

RvB: Many . . . lots of small details, more stories from those who were with Elvis and, of course, many superb photos. We added over 200 pages. Wow, we did good Carlos!

EIN: The arc of the story is pretty incredible, Elvis moving from someone who had a real fear of flying to finally owning his own aircraft. What stories surprised you most?

Carlos: The fact of Elvis being so scared of flying in the late 50s and 60s, and then being the owner of a fleet of airplanes in 1975 is really incredible. I think what I like the most has to do with Elvis trying to overcome his fear of flying in 1967. We are our own worst enemy, Elvis fought against his deepest fears and conquered them like a true King. No matter if he ran to the plane’s bathroom due to his nerves, he started a battle that he was not willing to lose, and he won it. By the time he bought the Lisa Marie, every excuse was good enough to jump on that plane. Not only to do the return flight to Denver to pick up the famous “Fool’s Gold Sandwich” but even sleeping in his plane instead of going to a hotel in the city. You can still feel his love for his CV880, the “Lisa Marie” when you visit the planes today.

RvB: From page 70 “Movie Years” onwards. So many cool stories here like Carlos mentioned before. For example the James ”Godfather of Soul” Brown quotes are so funny but also so many other ‘aviation’ memories added from friends, staff members and his inner circle.

“The anti-narcotics agent: Elvis Presley.” (page 248 onwards). Also the interview with Jerry Schilling by Timothy Naftalie is just amazing. The things that happened during that special weekend is PURE Elvis. What an amazing person he was. Humble, shy yet oh so very bold to pull off a thing like that.


EIN: There are so many photos that I have never seen before. Carlos, did these come from your collection and how did you track down so many impressive pictures?

Carlos: I’ve been collecting photos of Elvis with the aircrafts for so many years for my own pleasure. Every time a book came out since the late 90s, and I had the chance to get it, I scanned the picture and searched for the date and place. Rob and Erik helped me with the HD photos from THE ELVIS FILES vaults to then get them in full resolution. They also added some UNIQUE photos I had never expected to see! They have the originals and use full HD scans, so it was a privilege for me to be able to access their vault.   

EIN: Of all the photos in the book – and there are hundreds – which one would you each chose as your favourite - and why?

Carlos: No doubt about it! The one in the cover! Fort Worth, June 1976. When I saw that picture for the first time, I knew it was the cover of the book.


RvB: Every photo has a particular or special memory. You ask for a favorite. Hmm, I'm a real 50's fan of Elvis' portrait so I would choose the photo on page 46. The then 21-year-old Elvis standing next to a helicopter on the adjacent plot of land of his first real house at Audubon. 1956 was the breakthrough for Elvis and the money poured in. Everything that once was, was never the same. But this cool cat really enjoyed his success. May God bless his heart.

EIN: While there are a lot of stunning pages of Elvis on-stage, candid photos of him in airplanes or at airports, one of my favourites is the stunning Tom LeBoutillier colour shot of the Convair 880 (Lisa Marie model) taking off. Boy did those planes burn fuel!


Carlos: For aviation lovers, that photo is unique. It was the test fly of the CV880 and Gosh that’s a wonderful shot. It’s been around for decades; I have seen it in aviation magazines and books since I was a little boy. It’s a living legend.

RvB: No further comment – that indeed is an amazing photo. It is a beauty. On page 193 I like the small photo of the “Elvis Presley airline” (Lisa Marie and Hound Dog II) sitting idle next to another at Memphis International Airport - another favorite of mine. I have this one in high-res but we ran out of space. Any buyer of Carlos’ book can personal email ( me to obtain this photo. For free, of course.


EIN: Fans may think that this book might be just a list of Elvis’ airport travels and in that case rather a “dry subject” – but I was amazed with the loads of intriguing, connecting stories, the quotes from Elvis’ colleagues and the number of tales that had me either laughing or petrified. What of your new discoveries about Elvis did you find the most interesting?

Carlos: The one that touched my heart was the conversation that Elvis had with JD Summer when he bought the Lisa Marie. J.D was a star when Elvis was a little boy, and since he had no money to go and see him, he let him in to the stage without paying the ticket. Years afterwards he found himself working for Elvis and so they had a very special connection. A spiritual bound, very unique. When Elvis got his “Penthouse in the Sky” the "Lisa Marie" in 75, he took everyone to enjoy some days off in Las Vegas. When he was showing the airplane to J.D, he looked at him seriously and said: “J.D... That’s as much your plane as mine.”
That’s the heart of our idol, he never forgot his roots.  


RvB: Fans should definitely not think that this release is a boring one. I know the market a bit and this book "The Airplanes & The King” makes a real difference. It is absolutely not dry, fans will find it very entertaining. So many memories / quotes / tales and funny little stories are put together in this book it never gets boring no matter how many times you read it. Carlos has really put a lot of work into his original Spanish edition and the expanded English version is even better.

The book will be a great addition to every Elvis fan's collection. I am 100 percent convinced that fans will find their money very well spent - this is not a book that will go on the shelf after reading it once. With so many new stories, details and photos this is a book you’ll find yourself going back to. A great addition to anyone’s general Elvis knowledge. Carlos’ technical research is priceless, I only added the extra details to the subject.


EIN: Fans will all relate to Elvis’ own plane the Lisa Marie. But few realise that Elvis only started flying in it in November 1975 so only for the twenty months of his life. It is of course not the plane seen in ‘Elvis On Tour’. In general Elvis leased planes for touring through the early seventies. Why do you think it took him so long to buy a plane?   

Carlos: I think there are several reasons for that: Elvis had some additional problems with other planes beside the famous incident in April 1956. He had an engine fire in an early flight after returning from the army and some bad experiences with a young pilot making hard landings in the late 60s. Elvis had to trust the pilots he wanted to be flying with him. Maybe in 69 and early 70s was too soon for that. In 69, when he flew the Kirk Kerkorian's DC-9 for the very first time he was impressed with a customized aircraft. I’m pretty sure that was the moment when he decided that he wanted a customized airplane for himself. He just had to be sure and get the right crew and the right machine. He wanted a four-engine plane, that’s a fact. He had a lot of problems with old two engines planes. His first choice was a Boeing 707, but the deal went down and the convair 880 was the next choice. The Plane was right, the Crew was right and the year was 1975.   

EIN: I love the fact that you managed to track down photos of the Lisa Marie before Elvis bought it (in 1969!) and also where a lot of Elvis’ planes ended up. How did you manage that?

Carlos: That’s pure aeronautical research. When you are an aviation fan you treat a specific aircraft like a person! Every airplane has a serial number and it’s unique, it can change the configuration and the airline paint, but the aircraft is the same. There are some websites with Aviation fans that upload and share his pictures of each aircraft they had the chance to photograph. I contacted all the owners of the Lisa Marie pictures when it was in Delta’s airlines fleet one by one and asked permission to use the most significant ones.


EIN: Elvis’ musical career can easily be divided into the 50s, 60s and 70s. Interestingly his relationship with airplanes and air-travel follows a similar trajectory. Elvis’ sixties low-point also happens to be the years that Elvis flies the least and sticks to bus-travel! Should we thank James Brown for pushing Elvis to get back flying?   

Carlos: You can say so! Maybe his pride was bigger than his fear! Hahaha - but I think the most important thing was Elvis’ strong determination to conquer his fears. Not everybody has the willingness to do it.

RvB: Yes . . . Elvis was a man, a very proud man with balls that you just didn't tell that he couldn’t have or couldn't do something. All hell broke loose at that point when James Brown made him furious. There are many examples in his professional career when he was also challenged as an entertainer like; The NBC TV Special, Las Vegas 1969 onwards, The Houston Astrodome, On Tour and, of course, the Aloha Show. The King reigned, he’d go bigger ─ do better and give the fans a hell of a show like he did way back in ’55. The ‘Hound Dog’ and the ‘Lisa Marie’ are examples of this. When Elvis has something on his mind and he's comfortable with the idea, he goes big. His idea was to set up his own aircraft company, how crazy is that.
Even crazier . . . . Elvis gave the Colonel a million dollar plane as a present because he red in the papers that John Denver gifted his manager Weintraub a $40.000 Rolls? And he made sure everyone knew about this.

EIN: When do you think this book will be available? Will fans get it before New Year?

Carlos: My wish is that this book can be in every Elvis Fan Christmas tree!!!!

RvB: Definitely December. I sure hope you fans have it before Christmas. Due to Covid-19 it is unpredictable. €115,- including shipping. That’s a steal. I wish everyone a lot of fun reading Carlos' wonderful book. Piers – Nigel thank you again for this opportunity.

EIN: Thanks for the excellent interview, it’s been great to discover even more about you and the book plus once again finding how ELVIS links fans up all around the world - Argentina Y Hollandia Y Australia!


Please note that the images used in this interview are only personal low-res screen grabs - so do not represent the image quality of the book itself.

Pre-Order NOW via The Elvis Files.

Check out more via the author's website - Airplanes & The King

Check out these YouTube Trailers - Trailer 1- and brilliant flip-through > Trailer 2

Interview by Piers Beagley.

-Copyright EIN November 2021
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network

(Interview) Carlos Ares talks to EIN: With his latest book, elvis@argentina 1963-1969 just published, Argentine Elvis world legend, Carlos Ares, took time out to talk to EIN’s Nigel Patterson about the book and other things Elvis.

In a wide ranging and fascinating interview, Carlos discusses how he first became an Elvis fan, his famed Elvis collection, how he moved from managing rock bands in South America to becoming an Elvis dealer (Elvis Shop Argentina) full-time, Argentinian Elvis records and  film posters, how the assassination of JFK affected popular music, the release of 'Elvis La Pelvis' and to make most of us jealous seeing Elvis live on stage, plus a lot more.

Read Nigel Patterson's interview with Carlos R Ares.

(Interview, Source:ElvisInfoNetwork)

EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Elvis Presley, Elvis and Graceland are trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The Elvis Information Network has been running since 1986 and is an EPE officially recognised Elvis fan club.















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