10 June 2005.....ELVIS, INSIDE INFORMATION & SIMPLE DEDUCTIONS
As a journalist, you learn early on to develop a group of people who "feed" you news, from both the community, and from "inside" certain organizations.
Then, as the years pass, you learn to know which of these informants supply you with accurate information; which with just rumors. And if you ever have to fall back on using, in your articles, "an informed source," you dare not tell anyone who your informant is. Never.
Now, having set the table, let's go to Elvis.
At various times during the 20 years that I knew Elvis, was his neighbor, was writing some 400 newspaper stories/columns about him, I would get "inside" information from this or that member of the Memphis Mafia.
These guys, while loyal to Elvis, also relied on me at times to get them good concert tickets; get them access to the city's finest racquetball court (this being before Elvis built his own out back of Graceland); etc.
So, I'd provide for them and they would "leak" info to me.
And this gives you the background leading into my last face-to-face meeting with Elvis in the parking lot behind Dunkin' Donuts, then just north of Graceland's gates.
I had just returned from the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands chain, the site of Elvis movies; staying at the Coco Palms, where Elvis had also stayed while filming.
I returned to Memphis on a Friday evening in May 1977 and had gone to my newspaper office to collect a week's supply of mail and go thru it. While doing so, the phone rang.
"Hey, man, I wanna know somethin'," the voice said.
Elvis, at least when he called me, never identified himself. He just started talking.
"What you wanna know?"
"I wanna know why you write all this bull shit about me. Is it because you're jealous that I made it and you didn't?"
"Whoa, baby. I know you made it and I've always been very proud of you because you did it on your own. You didn't just inherit the money you now have, like so many others I know. But as for 'making it,' I feel I've 'made it' too. It's just you set your sights higher. I could be working in New York right now, but I ain't a New Yorker. I'm blue jeans and t-shirts and I'm totally happy here in my hometown. But I'm the 3rd highest paid journalist in this town and that, to me, IS making it."
"Well, 98 percent of the stuff you write about me is bull shit."
"I will challenge that right here and now. (Without telling him my sources, who were, at that moment, probably sitting within earshot of our conversation) Everything I write about you I cross-check the information and I'm guessing at least 98 percent of what I write is true ... and if you want to make it 100%, then you have to make the source of the news available to me ... that source being YOU!"
Elvis agreed. He asked me to come down "one night next week" to Graceland and we would talk it out and get back to the way it once was when I had total access to him when I needed him.
"Sorry, E, but I'm not coming down behind the gates of Graceland after dark. I know you guys are playing around with guns down there and you are going to kill somebody someday playing with guns like that. I come from a long line of gun instructors, and I was a gun instructor myself, so if you don't mind, I'm not meeting you there."
"Who told you that?"
"Don't worry about who told me. I know, and you know, what I'm telling you is true. Now, why don't you come to my house. We'll have complete privacy. (My first wife and her boyfriend used to double date with Elvis and Dixie Locke in years past, so he knew her.)
"No, I don't want to wake your family up."
"OK, then why don't we meet at Dunkin' Donuts. I know you go in there in the early morning hours, in disguise, and eat jelly donuts."
"How do you know that?" not bothering to say I was wrong.
Like I've said in telling this story before, if there were only two people in Dunkin' Donuts -- one selling donuts and one buying donuts -- then guess who my source was.
In fact, the young girl selling Elvis the donuts, and carrying on conversations with him almost nightly, was the daughter of our newspaper's librarian (and her sister served as secretary to Dr. Jerry Francisco, Shelby County medical examiner, and it was she who typed out the autopsy report, but that is a total other story).
Daughter told mom, mom told me.
Anyway, that's how we met behind the Dunkin' Donut shop for our last face-to-face conversation, just three months before he died.
Next, in the late '80s, Dick Grob wrote a 600+-page book almost entirely dedicated to revealing who had called the National Enquirer to report Elvis had died in his bathroom while sitting on the toilet.
Dick pointed the finger at Ginger Alden.
At the time of the release of his book, I took his revelation as the gosh-awful Truth and my review of the book, in EW, noted the 600+ pages and noted, "Let's see. There were two people in that room and one of them was dead. Guess who called the National Enquirer." (21 word review.)
My review, such as it was, created a little friction between Grob and I for awhile, but that's all water under the bridge now, I am happy to report.
Later, I would call close friends at the National Enquirer who were, in fact, on the first airplane flown to Memphis to cover the story. They assured me that (1) Ginger did not make the call; (2) it was a male who called; and (3) the call had not even come from Graceland property.
QUIETLY, LAST WEEKEND, Dot Phillips, the widow of fabled DJ Dewey Phillips, died at her home in Adamsville, Tennesee.
I am now reading the new "Dewey & Elvis" book and boy! the writer, Louis Cantor, who was a Humes High classmate of Elvis', could use a SpellChecker, particularly on names. Atrocious! One of the worst examples is the spelling of Bill E. Burke ! I mean, how hard is it to remember BURK ? !!!
And I note in his research, while he talked to the same DJ I had talked to for my "Sun Years" book, Cantor failed to mention that Dewey Phillips, in FACT, was NOT the first DJ to play an Elvis record on the Memphis airwaves !!
Cantor is sticking with the same old hand-me-down myth, that Dewey Phillips was the first, when, in FACT, Dewey missed that claim to fame by about 5, 6 hours.
SORT OF reminds me of the question I love to ask fans when I speak to them at Elvis conventions around the world:
Where was Elvis working when he cut his first (emphasizing FIRST) $4 acetate at Memphis Recording Service?
Every hand in the room will shoot up and every one wants to be the first to reply, "Crown Electric !!"
And when I tell them they are wrong, you should see the look of puzzlement on their collective faces.
Do YOU know where Elvis was working when he cut his FIRST $4 record?
Answer to me at: BEB007@worldnet.att.net
Bill E. Burk
Publisher, Elvis World Magazine