Mike Stone Interview
Priscilla's ex-partner, karate champion and author talks about his amazing life
- EIN Interview by Piers Beagley - August 2021
Mike Stone has had a long and successful career in athletics, in the
entertainment business, as an author, sports instructor, bodyguard and
personal fitness trainer.
Mike Stone was also a key figure in the emotional roller-coaster that described Elvis and Priscilla Presley's lives in the seventies.
Featured in multiple biographies about Elvis, as well as in Priscilla's own book, Mike Stone has now written his own autobiography and kindly agreed to an interview with EIN so that he can set the record straight on some key questions.
EIN is delighted to be able to finally talk with the man and find out more.
EIN's Piers Beagley asked the questions..
EIN: Thanks so much for taking out some of your valuable time to chat with us, Elvis fans will no doubt be fascinated.
Firstly can I ask you about being born in Hawaii yet by the age of 21 being crowned as the first 'Karate Grand Champion' at 1964's International Karate Championships, that's a unique achievement?
Mike Stone: I started taking my first karate lessons 6 months before the International Karate Championships and had won every match and tournament leading up to it. I was then invited to compete by Ed Parker, who was the promoter of the event.
EIN: You got to be friends with some amazing people including Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. It sounds like the start of a good joke, "Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Mike Stone walk into a bar"! When did you first get to know Bruce Lee?
M.S: After winning the International Karate Championships in 1964 that evening, Ed Parker, Elvis’s karate instructor, also the event’s promoter, invited Bruce Lee, Jhoon Rhee and myself for Chinese dinner. This was the first time I met Bruce Lee and we spent the rest of the evening talking about martial arts related topics.
Mike Stone with Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and James Coburn
EIN: Do you remember when you first heard of Elvis or saw any of his movies? Elvis obviously love Hawaii and its people.
M.S: I watched Elvis on television for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show. An impossible thought came to mind as I watched him perform. This weird situation happened two other time with famous singers I would later meet and become very good friends with strange synchronicity seeing him on TV. I also watched Johnny Mathis and Engelbert Humperdinck. In both instances when the camera cut in for a close up on their faces I knew instantly that one day I would meet all three of them in person. This was really strange as I was a young boy growing up on the island of Maui in the late 50’s with no thought of ever leaving Hawaii.
EIN: Is it true that Elvis and Priscilla first met you, or saw you fight in Hawaii, as back as 1968?
M.S: No, I did not meet Elvis or Priscilla that evening. They were invited by Ed Parker, who also promoted that event in Hawaii. I believe Elvis and Priscilla were in Hawaii on vacation and Ed Parker invited them to watch the event. They came into the arena a few minutes after it started and left a few minutes before it ended to avoid the stampede which would have happened if they stayed. I took their decision to leave early as a gesture of thoughtfulness and consideration for the athletes, if they remained the focus and attention would be on them and not the fighters who would have been honored with an awards ceremonies for their efforts and accomplishments. I thought Elvis was cool for his consideration of others.
EIN: Did Elvis or Priscilla make any impact on you at the time?
M.S: Yes, I along with everyone else there, I thought it was a big deal for them to take time out during their vacation to stop by. I realize that Elvis decided to stop by because he loved karate and out of his respect for his karate teacher, Ed Parker.
EIN: What led from you being a Karate Grand Champion to working for Phil Spector as a bodyguard?
M.S: Well, Phil Spector was actually in attendance at the International Championships in the1964 event, and saw me compete. He asked his karate instructor, Emil Farkas, for my number and contacted me to ask if I would be willing to work with him as a bodyguard. I worked off and on for nearly 5 years, mostly to travel with Phil when he left California. Like to New York and England where I met the Beatles and even got to sit next to John Lennon at the piano during a recording session of ‘Instant Karma’.
EIN: Was it through working for Spector that you went to see Elvis perform in Las Vegas?
M.S: Yes, RCA executives wanted to entice Phil to produce a single for Elvis. Phil took advantage of RCA’s generosity by taking his wife, Veronica, myself, and George Brand, Phil’s full time bodyguard to meet Elvis backstage after his show.
John Lennon and Phil Spector at the 'Imagine' sessions
EIN: In 1971 Spector was going through a very successful phase of his career, including co-producing John Lennon's Imagine album. Did RCA really think that Spector should work with Elvis?
M.S: Yes, because they really wanted Phil to work with Elvis. Phil had expressed before making the trip to Vegas, that he had no intention of working with Elvis, but acted “as if” he was interested but was more interested in having RCA pay for his weekend and wanted to add to their expenses by bring his wife, Veronica, George Brand and myself, plus free center stage view, the bonus was to go backstage and chat with Elvis.
This was one of the occasions I met Priscilla, this occasion was only for 10 seconds.
EIN: While we all know the terrible outcome, did you ever see any disturbing side of Phil Spector when you worked for him?
M.S: Do your followers have a few hours to listen to only a few of the stories I have of Phil’s outrageous behaviors? Let me share this, it will answer your question. I was at home, in the Philippines, listening to the news I heard that Phil was arrested for the murder of an actress, shot in his mansion. The first thing I said was, “Guilty as charged.” During my time working with Phil I can account for a half dozen situations in which a gun or threat of a gun was used. In my autobiography I share many of these stories in great detail. I created a habit of writing down all my encounters and situations when I worked with Phil. Why? Because my first day on the job when I arrive at Phil’s mansion at La Colina Dr. Beverly Hills, I was greeted by George Brand, his bodyguard who warned me, “Be careful Phil will get you killed.”
EIN: Wow, that is a scary story. So working in L.A. you must have seen some memorable concerts or met some other interesting stars. Are there any artists that particularly impressed you personally, or in concert?
M.S: Well, after the first couple of years working and meeting many celebrities and stars I have come to the conclusion I should never have any expectation about who they are as people. Expectations only produce disappointment and unhappiness. It doesn’t take long before you can separate the performer, actor from the person they are. They are like everyone else, in a sense, they may have special gifts and talents, but alone, at night, in the dark, we are all just people who want to be loved, respected and listened to. What is most important is not so much who they or you think they are, but it’s how they treat you and make you feel that’s important.
Elvis on stage, Las Vegas January 1971
EIN: What was Elvis like when you saw him perform and how did Priscilla happen to get your attention?
M.S: Well, first of all, I was always a fan of Elvis and his music, how could anyone not be? He is the best stage performer I’ve ever seen. Elvis had “IT”, attitude, charisma, presence, energy, everything.
When I first met Priscilla backstage there was nothing about her which got my attention. Later in our relationship whenever we went out in my area, Orange County, no one really recognized her as Priscilla but just a very beautiful woman. In the book I also mention a few funny incidences which happened to us in public where people would approach us recognizing me as a celebrity with a beautiful girl by my side, which I know irritated Priscilla, as she wanted to be known for who she was, not who she was with.
EIN: In her autobiography Priscilla wrote that [by 1971] "our marriage was now part time". Do you think it was a coincidence that she started becoming involved in outside interests like Karate at that particular time?
M.S: No, because her interest in karate may have started from Elvis’s passion for it. Priscilla was also taking karate lessons from Ed Parker as well. Actually Elvis exposed her to it at these few events we talked about. So, they were not really “outside” interest. It was interested they both shared with many other people.
EIN: Did you feel she was looking for something new when you started to get to know her?
M.S: Yes, she may have been, but aren’t we all looking for new things in our life especially when we feel, stuck, trapped, not able to breathe, and move about freely? At that particular time in her life, maybe that is how she felt, like growing, learning, trying to find herself. Most of us will go through life never really knowing who we are…how much fun and freedom can that be for anyone?
EIN: Some fans suggest that there could be some fault on your part that caused Priscilla and Elvis to split. Knowing how unfaithful Elvis was all the time, how do you feel about those kind of statements?
M.S: I do understand how fans would feel that way, but unless you have walked at least a mile in someone else’s shoes, be grateful and humble you have feet.
EIN: That is a great answer. As both you and Priscilla were married at the time was it Priscilla that caused your marriage to end, in the same way that you might have opened her eyes to better times?
M.S: No, I feel that Priscilla and I did not share similar marital situations. In my case it was my selfishness, immaturity, and negative choices which allowed my situation to get the level that it did. My situation happened long before Priscilla came along. I can’t speak for her, of course.
EIN: Did you still continue your Karate school during your time with Priscilla? How did you juggle both work and play?
M.S: I continued to teach and promote events for about two years before I sold my schools about the time we moved to Summit Drive..
EIN: How do you feel about the Elvis quote (from Priscilla’s autobiography) that he told Priscilla, "Mike Stone's a real badass. I like the cat's style".
M.S: Sorry, I have not read Priscilla’s book so I am not familiar with Elvis making that comment to her. In either case, I don’t get it. Was it meant to be a slur or compliment… I take it as a compliment.
EIN: Priscilla noted that it was a 45 minute drive to and from your Karate school. How on earth did she justify all that time away from home to Elvis or her friends?
M.S: Great question, I thought about that a lot in the beginning, until I asked her about it. During that period of time I believe Elvis was spending a lot of his time in Memphis, or traveling around with the “gang’ doing other things.
EIN: How long was your affair kept secret?
M.S: For almost a year. It was Priscilla’s decision to tell Elvis, when she felt confident and secure in our relationship to tell Elvis.
EIN: That must have been difficult with the paparazzi following Elvis' ex-wife looking for clues.
M.S: Of course neither of us were out there flaunting our new relationship, but we were not really hiding. Well, if you lived in Huntington Beach during that period it may be considered hiding, because the paparazzi didn’t have a clue where my karate school was, they did not want to admit it so they claimed we were keeping a big secret.
EIN: How did Elvis eventually find out about your affair with Priscilla?
M.S: Priscilla felt confident and did not wish to keep it a “secret’ anymore. So, she flew to Vegas and told him.
EIN: There are lots of rumours including the one that Lisa Marie told Elvis she saw you two "wrestling" on a camping trip!
M.S: You are right that it must be a rumor because this is the first time I have ever heard that one. If it was the truth I would have heard of it before this moment. WOW.
EIN: While I don't want to dwell on the topic, it is well-known that Elvis thought you might be to blame for 4 South-Americans attacking him on stage in Vegas. This then led to Elvis going crazy about you and asking Red West to put out a "hit" on you. Linda Thompson says that they had to sedate Elvis at the time. Was there really any threat?
M.S: I must confess to you and your fans that there are a few things here that I am reading for the very first time. I have ever heard these comments and accusations. I must have been living in an altered reality. This story about the South-Americans attacking Elvis on stage… is this truth?
EIN: It is the truth, and there is even a concert recording of it happening with four men attacking him on stage on Sunday February 18, 1973 in Las Vegas.
M.S: Well, I am not aware or have ever been told that this is the reason Elvis went crazy and put a “hit” out on me. I read in the book ‘Elvis What Happened’ that Elvis went crazy because he was told that I was the reason Priscilla wanted a divorce.
EIN: Did you know anything about it at the time?
M.S: No, never. I understood that Elvis was angry because of Priscilla telling him that she wanted a divorce, she never told Elvis who the person she was seeing. Chronologically I don’t know the actual time frame of these revelations.
EIN: Did you have a lot to do with Lisa Marie's growing up? Did she relate well to you?
M.S: No, I didn’t have a lot to do with Lisa Marie growing up. I do really know how well anyone could expect a 6,7,8 or 9 year old to relate to a different man in her life who is not her father?
She was always respectful and polite, a bit quiet and shy, but so was I at that age without the trauma and drama in her life. These are questions best asked of Lisa Marie now that she is a grown woman.
EIN: There is another rumour that Elvis was angry with you since you stopped Lisa Marie from talking to him or seeing him at times?
M.S: I have answered this stupid question before and you can find my reply in my recent you-tube interview. I stand by it.
EIN: There are photos of Elvis and Priscilla at the official October 1973 divorce finalisation. Were you there at the time? Was that a big relief for Priscilla and you?
M.S: No, I was not physically present at the steps of the courthouse. Of course, you would have to ask Priscilla how she felt at that time, as for me, I felt a big relief when my divorce papers were finalized.
EIN: Where did you and Priscilla live all those years?
M.S: The question makes it sound like we were together for 12 years but it was about 4 plus years. We lived in Marina Del Rey for about a year then two plus years on Summit drive.
EIN: Did you think the relationship would last for longer than it did?
M.S: No, I was surprised it lasted that long.
EIN: There is no doubt that Elvis was shocked by Priscilla walking out. Priscilla and you eventually split in 1975. If Priscilla "always loved Elvis" as she says, she could have tried to reconcile with him after you and her had split up. Surely Elvis fans shouldn’t hold you accountable for their separation if she never tried to make amends with Elvis after you and she separated?
M.S: Priscilla had made up her mind that she was leaving him, no separation only a divorce. Surely, I cannot be held accountable for her separation. I am sure I served a purpose by our relationship and I benefitted and learned a great deal from my experiences with her.
EIN: I believe you are good friends with Engelbert Humperdinck, do you still keep in touch?
M.S: Yes, we are very close, we are always emailing each other, often without a reason.
EIN: What was the reason that you moved to the Philippines?
M.S: I needed to find out who I am and to reconnect to my spiritual nature. I am certain anyone would have a very difficult time finding one’s true self in Hollywood or Beverly Hills, I have a sense that is where one goes to lose one’s self completely.
EIN: What have you been doing there the last 30 years?
M.S: It’s been more like 37 years, but who’s counting. In having found myself here, I have created a program, The Life-Changing Experience. In fact, two days ago I signed an agreement with Folio Literary Management to produce two books; the first is an autobiography and the second self-help book, sharing my years of experiences in making negative choices and now accept 100% responsibility for every choice I make.
(EIN Note: Visit Mike Stone Life-Changing Experience website here)
EIN: Do you ever get back to Hawaii to catch up with old friends?
M.S: All the time, at least every 18 months.
EIN: It must have been a shock to everyone that Bruce Lee died so young. Do you still keep in touch with Chuck Norris, Dave Hebler or any of your old karate gang?
M.S: Social media has been a great aid in me keeping up with old friends
EIN: Do you ever have contact with Priscilla or Lisa Marie?
EIN: Do you think it is sad to see Lisa Marie struggle with the debt of being Elvis' daughter?
M.S: Yes, It is difficult enough for a person to find peace, harmony and balance in their own life then add the burden of living with the image and weight of the perception and expectations others have for you.
EIN: You published a well-recognised book 'Mike Stone's Book of American Eclectic Karate' back in 1984. How long have you been working on your autobiography?
M.S: I have been taking notes pretty much all my life, especially about the mistakes, poor judgement and negative choices I’ve lived and how I’ve turned my life around completely with a new awareness of my connection to everything and everyone.
EIN: Is the book finished, what is the title and when can we expect to see it published?
M.S: There are a couple ideas I like, ‘The Last Sensei’, the other is ‘Turning Point’. I’m flexible and open to other suggestions.
The book is 80 percent completed, actually both books are and with the two-book deal signed just two days ago.
EIN: Both are cool titles. There have been so many tales surrounding your life-story as well as your involvement in the Elvis legacy that I am sure fans will be happy to hear the truth.
Mike Stone it has been a real pleasure to talk with you, your life has been one incredible ride. It's great news that your life-story has found a publisher.
Any idea of a publication date - and what kind of new revelations will Elvis fans discover in the books
M.S: I have no idea regarding a publication date; I’ll leave that to the publishers.
Regarding what kind of new revelations will Elvis fans discover in the books? They are invited to purchase a copy and READ ALL ABOUT IT!
EIN: Thanks for all the stories and let's talk again when you know the book is coming out...
Please check out Mike Stone's Life-Changing Experience website here
And for more information see the Mike Stone Karate Facebook page here
Huge thanks to EIN friend Lisa Lauren who helped us connect up with Mike Stone - Thanks as always.
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