The King and Dr. Nick What Really Happened to Elvis and Me, George Nichopoulos M.D. with Rose Clayton Phillips, Thomas Nelson Publishers, USA, 2009, Hardcover (d/j), 270 pages, Illustrated, ISBN-13: 978-1595551719
This is an intriguing story of a rush to judgment, a struggle for power, and the destructive force of public opinion when conclusions based on assumptions run rampant. It will have many asking “How could I have had the Elvis story so wrong for so long?”
Dr. Nick’s memoir presents ‘the other side’ to a story driven by a myopic and ruthless media and an impulsive, unforgiving public unable to come to terms with the loss of their idol.
Dr. Nick is in many ways an enigma. Perceived by many as an intensely private person; by others as one of the most caring and decent people you could ever meet; and to some he is the person they 'need’ to blame for Elvis’ death for there could be no other reason why Elvis died!
So who is the real Dr. George Nichopoulos? EIN suggests a good place to start finding out is by reading (with an open mind) The King and Dr. Nick What Really Happened To Elvis and Me.
In EIN’s opinion it is a sincere account of a story so incredible, so unreal and so immersed with injustice that it resonates as a modern day tragedy. An impressive quality of the story told is the obvious compassion and warmth Dr. Nick still holds for Elvis and a very reasonable underlying angst at what has been an unjust treatment of trial by media. One could be forgiven for thinking Dr. Nick might now blame Elvis for what could be seen as his three decades of Annus horribilis. However, in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth for Dr. Nick.
Having said this, that association with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll could eventually darken the lives of a caring doctor and his family is a horrible travesty. If evidence existed to support the rash judgments and erroneous assumptions made by the media, public and flawed legal proceedings, one could understand. However, despite ongoing evidence refuting the negative and character references accentuating the positive, a widespread myth has persisted, one painting Dr. Nick as a desultory and self-serving figure in Elvis’ demise.
It is EIN’s view that all memoirs are, by their very nature, self-serving. This is not always a negative and those fans willing to read Dr. Nick’s book with an open mind will be surprised and enlightened by his discussion of both positive and negative issues and of how he sheds light where dark has previously existed.
'Dr. Nick is a kind, caring man. He tried his best to help Elvis; it was just sometimes you couldn't help Elvis from himself.'
(Charlie Hodge, interview with EIN, 1986)
Dr. Nick’s position in the Elvis story was always going to be a particularly unenviable one. Condemned to an unwinnable position with Elvis’ autopsy report being sealed at the request of Vernon Presley, his life post August 1977 has been one controlled by stories driven, not by facts, but by innuendo and conjecture.
Symbolic of the irrational media and public backlash against Dr. Nick is the publicly known fact that ten drugs were found in Elvis’ system post death. Only four were at levels considered significant, and regardless, all ten drugs were within therapeutic range. Despite this evidence, many still point to the cocktail of drugs as having caused Elvis’ death.
On the issue of the autopsy report he states:
The release of the autopsy would have been a blessing for me. The media would have had solid information on which to base their opinions and make decisions; it would have eliminated their need for conjecture.
Dr. Nick addresses all
of the major issues in his memoir, including:
Dr. Nick, like us all, is not perfect. However, if one rationally considers the information fluently expressed in his engaging memoir together with the telling personal accounts of those close to Elvis, there is one inescapable conclusion…….Dr. Nick is not a demon in the Elvis story as so many fans believe; instead he is a highly experienced and caring medical professional who tried his best to help the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the face of incredible and eventually insurmountable odds. In many respects, rather than being scorned, Dr. Nick should be revered as the one professional who, very sadly, tried in vain to save Elvis’ life.
In his book Dr. Nick also addresses various issues including the controversial racquetball courts business venture (Centre Courts Inc.) which was established with the help of funds loaned by Elvis. For the record, Dr. Nick repaid all monies within 120 days!
It is not well known, but the proceedings against Dr. Nick personally cost him $300,000 in legal fees, years of lost income and placed an incredible stress on his personal and family life, the raw awfulness of which, few of us could even start to imagine.
On the issue Dr. Nick includes a chapter Difference of Opinion in which he discusses opposing medical opinions at the time of Elvis’ death.
There are many powerful moments in The King and Dr. Nick. The injustices done to him resonate throughout; another particularly strong, blow-by-blow chapter on the 1992 legal proceedings provide a powerful, heartfelt record of how facts can be twisted, and information sullied by the inherent weakness of 'differing' medical opinion.
As to what Dr. Nick considers was Elvis’ life threatening medical issue, this was his colon disease, a condition that in 1977 was not curable, but one which, with the significant advances in medical science, would be successfully treated, today.
Opposite: Dr. N
Photo Credit: ©Steve Roberts
The memoir is not just about Dr. Nick's battle for justice. He also writes about the Elvis' humanity, his incredible generosity towards others, his incredible ompassion, and his undying friendship.
A notable passage ends with Dr. Nick refecting that Elvis was, for personal and artistic reasons, never again the same after his triumphant Aloha from Hawaii satellite concert.
The King and Dr. Nick sets the story straight! It is a memoir full of obvious caring, fractured emotions and passionate endeavours. It is also a story of amazing triumphs and unsettling despair. And in 2010, it is a story of internal strength and the resilience of the human spirit to lift itself beyond crushing adversity.
It is also a story of a public which sometimes is so easily poisoned by emotional need, ill-informed information and uncritical judgment.
In judging Dr. Nick, all readers should carefully consider a number of core elements of the story for and against him:
- the difference between 'facts' and clever rhetoric;
- Elvis and his internal demons;
- how many others, including those close to Elvis, have contiunually defended Dr. Nick (other physicians are far from well regarded by Elvis' inner circle); and
- the high personal and financial toll Dr. Nick's role in the Elvis story has taken.
On reading The King and Dr. Nick I couldn't help but wonder if its release will facilitate a cathartic experience for its author. Possibly, only time will tell. However, what is clear from his memoir is that there is always more than one side to a story!
The King and Dr. Nick includes a value added 16 page color photo section and throughout the book various black and white pictures. There are many rare visuals including photos of the Nichopoulos family holidaying with Elvis in Hawaii.
Verdict: The King and Dr. Nick is a book all fans should read! It is a modern day tragedy brought vividly to life by a person who genuinely cared for and tried to help Elvis. Elvis was a special individual and in his own way so is Dr. Nick.
Comment on this review
Read EIN’s interview with Dr. Nick
Photo Credit: ©Steve Roberts
What others have said about Dr. Nick’s memoir:
Elvis’ doctor also sweeps away the thick cobwebs surrounding Presley’s death – thereby producing an intimate and clear picture of the final hours that have mystified and fascinated the world. (Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske, authors of Down at the End of Lonely Street: The Life and Death of Elvis Presley)
I strongly recommend to read Dr. Nichopoulos' account of the story and set aside what you have heard with regards to the "Elvis cover-up" so far. This book is not a plain whitewash as many Elvis admirers may expect. (Johann Gutenberg)
The King and Dr. Nick is divided into two fascinating parts. First, we get a glimpse of the strange life of a super star; then, we witness what the media can do to derail a private citizen's life. (Nancy Famolari)
I was really quite stunned by many of the revelations in this book. Dr. Nick claimed that he "was confident the truth was on [his] side" and he presents a lot of information for and against him in this book, including a detailed toxicology report. There is an extensive list of source data in the back of the book that includes legal documents, court records, articles, interviews, etc. I am not up on anything "Elvis" and I'm sure many of these revelations are not new to people who have followed this case for the past thirty-two years. (D. Fowler)
Dr George Nichopoulos is one of the kindest men I know……god bless you, Dr. Nick. (Jerry Lee Lewis)
After years of blaming Dr. Nick for Elvis' death I decided to read his book. I was skeptical to say the least but I must admit it was a great read. I still remember Geraldo's stunning interview. I thought even back then that it was unfair and I was only 11. I wonder though were Geraldo's expose on Michael Jackson is. He made Elvis out to be a pill popping drugged up junkie and Dr. Nick as his pusher. It makes me sick to know that it wasn't true and that the truth will not be known by the rest of the world because so much time has passed. I do believe what Dr. Nick says because listening to Elvis even at the later part of his life his voice was still remarkable. It wouldn't have been if he was taking the number of pills that was said. I wish people would read this or that somehow a new documentary would be done. I think the truth needs to be disclosed. Elvis was in a great deal of pain and that needs to be told. He was the best and I think he will always be. Thanks Dr. Nick for telling your story and showing the side of Elvis that rarely get told. I am tired of the 'fat' jokes, he wasn't even that heavy.
Marty Lacker: As I have often stated, the only thing Dr. Nick is guilty of is becoming
involved and swayed by a lifestyle he shouldn't have, for his own personal betterment.As for his role in Elvis' life, let me state unequivocally,he was a good doctor. The fans and people who have denigrated him since Elvis died, once again are spewing rhetoric that is uninformed, rumor filled, and many practice gang mentality and operate on what other equally uninformed people told them.. There is no way in the world they could know what the truth is because they never spent one minute with Elvis,Nick or any of us in the Memphis Mafia. Sadly they have used the same rhetoric about some of us. It's pure rubbish.
Nick should not have been castigated by the fans or by the Courts and although he shares some of the blame, his life should not have been ruined by rumors or innuendos in regard to his treatment and association with Elvis. He was my doctor and he's one of the reasons I'm still alive and relatively healthy today.
Although I had a different problem with him, which I confronted him with, I can honestly say that not only was he a good doctor,he is a good man. The fans need to stop badmouthing him because they're wrong and are just making a fool of themselves to those of us who know the truth.