Book Review:

The “first” Dr. Nick book:

"Who Killed Elvis Presley: A Protocol of His and Death by His Personal Physician"

or a review of

"When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama"

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, Sep 2009, Copyright EIN

With Dr. Nick’s long awaited memoir to finally be published at end of December 2009 or early 2010 (depending on which online bookstore you want to believe) it is interesting to reflect back on an earlier book proposal of his story, which possibly hints at what we can expect to read.

In 1990, the media carried the story that Who Killed Elvis Presley: A Protocol of His and Death by His Personal Physician was at manuscript stage. 

As it turned out all that had been completed of Dr. Nick’s memoir was a 25 page proposal by agent/co-author, Murray Silver. 

Silver was a rock tour photographer and journalist who rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest acts of the 1970s and 1980s: Pink Floyd, Genesis, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Elton John, and Peter Gabriel. 

He is still very active today, albeit with other ventures.

In his entertaining book, When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama (Bonaventture books, 2003), the confident Silver provides a detailed and florid account of what would have been in the original Dr. Nick biography.  Sadly, for various reasons (the sting in the tail!), the book never progressed beyond proposal stage and Silver filing a Certificate of Copyright Registration on June 18, 1990.

We can only hope that much of what was promised to be in Who Killed Elvis Presley? will be included in The King and Dr. Nick.  In researching for the 1990 book, Silver was granted access to all of Dr. Nick’s files: legal, medical and personal.  His account of some of the elements in the proposed book included:

  • fascinating insights about Dr. Nick’s personality and life (at one stage it was to either Father Nick, a Greek Orthodox priest, or Dr. Nick)
  • noting that: “For the first time readers will encounter Elvis Presley on the most personal level: his mental, emotional and physical states as revealed to and administered by his personal physician.  We learn of Elvis’s greatest fears and motivations, his thought processes and inner workings of a mind consumed with theology, mysticism, quackery and divinity. For the first time we get an accurate perception of his drug dependency and to what extent it played in his death”.
  • why Dr. Nick had to start travelling with Elvis on tour and the personal, professional and financial toll this took on Dr. Nick’s life
  • Dr. Nick’s dilemma of being in danger of going beyond the boundaries of doctoring Elvis
  • the acupuncture treatment by a west coast quack which nearly killed Elvis
  • Elvis’s non-existent medical problems
  • Elvis‘s secret supply of prescription drugs
  • the “Protocol” Dr. Nick devised to ensure Elvis could get on stage to perform
  • the day Elvis shot Dr. Nick in the chest!
  • Elvis’ nocturnal visits from the ghosts of his mother and twin brother, Jesse Garon
  • Why Elvis refused to bathe
  • details of Dr. Nick’s attempts to have other doctors not supply drugs to Elvis and to have two psychiatrists specialising in drug abuse treat him
  • the death threats and failed assassination attempt on Dr. Nick’s life (an incident later reflected in the Elvis Underground book, The Tupelo-Memphis Murders: A Psychological Study of Self Deception and Murder!)
  • the common thread running through most of the mail which continued to be sent to Elvis by fans, post August 1977
  • that even though Dr. Nick was cleared of wrong doing before the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners in 1980, entrenched negative media and public opinion of him continued to be strongly prejudicial

Silver (shown right - photo by Debbi Zepp) also revealed that at one point, Dr. Nick received a letter from Jackie Onassis offering him a $1m advance for his story!

(EIN Note: Ms Onassis enjoyed a very successful career in publishing, including with Doubleday).

EIN recommends Silver’s book to anyone interested in a fast-paced, amusing story.  This is one highly amusing incident involving Dr. Nick’s long suffering wife, Edna who reacted to her husband’s frequent trips away with Elvis (as told to Murray Silver by Dr. Nick):

“The next thing I knew we were on the Lear jet headed for points unknown.  It didn’t take long for Edna’s patience to wear thin under these circumstances.  So certain was she that I was wading hip deep through an ocean of groupies that the strain became unbearable,” Nick continued.  “I returned home to find our living room furniture in the driveway.  On closer examination I found that the sofas and chairs had been sawed into large pieces.  Thinking my family had been the victims of a chainsaw massacre, Iran into the empty house and raced from room to room finding no other carnage except to the furniture.  In the master bedroom the lime oak suite my parents had given us for a wedding present had been chipped away by a hatchet.  The attacker had tried in vain to saw through it, but found the wood too hard.  Edna had made her point: No rock’n’roll singer was going to insult her décor, and she made sure that redecoration became an immediate priority.  Until the new furniture arrived, I continued to pull out of my dresser drawer socks and underwear filled with splinters.”

 George Nichopoulos did not laugh when he told this story, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to, but I couldn’t help myself.

Silver also indirectly touches on Elvis’s (important and under appreciated) role as a cultural icon with religious under and overtones:

While visiting Graceland one day, I stopped in at the Krispy Kreme donut shop down the street that Elvis had frequented and, while using the men’s room, found an entire debate waged on the wall in varying hands concerning the relative merits of Elvis Presley and Jesus Christ.  The debate began, “Elvis is King”, under which someone else had scribbled, “Only Christ is King”.  Under that was the retort, “We never said Elvis was the King of the World, only King of Rock’n’Roll.”  And underneath that was a long list of challenges and responses from just about every guy that had stood in the stall and had an opinion on the subject.

Opposite: Cover of upcoming memoir by Dr. Nick

Whether or not one agrees with Dr. Nick’s theory that Elvis may have murdered by a karate chop to the neck (no x-rays were taken of Elvis’s neck area during his autopsy), there is no doubt that the original planned Dr. Nick story had all the hallmarks of being a riveting read.

The public had eagerly embraced Gail Brewer-Giorgio’s fanciful tale that possibly Elvis was still alive so there was no reason they wouldn’t also devour the idea that Elvis may have been murdered.

By all accounts in his book, Silver has led a full and colourful life.  When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama also offers some great yarns about:

  • “Handsome” Harley Race, one of pro-wrestling greatest icons;
  • the rock groups Silver met in the 70s and 80s;
  • Gail Palmer, the first woman to write, produce and direct an X-rated film; and
  • to counterbalance his pop culture celebrity stories, chapters covering race issues (Martin Luther King Jr/the trial of Robert Fenton Moore) and the Dalai Lama and Buddhism.

A very eclectic and stimulating mix! As with Elvis, it is a case of ‘something for everybody’.

Silver has a brisk, inviting writing style which resonates with a strong dose of humor. He had previously written the best seller, Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis, and subsequently worked with both JLL and Hollywood star, Dennis Quaid, during the film adaptation (there are many great anecdotes of these experiences in When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama!):

Following the release of the movie Great Balls of Fire in the summer of 1989, Dennis Quaid checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic in search of help in dealing with the cocaine addiction cultivated in trying to keep up with the Killer.

When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama is dotted with eccentric and larger than life characters! 

You will delight at the tale of Memphis Mongo, who operated Mongo’s Planet, which, as Silver describes it, was “an amusement park for the mind that served pizza and beer”, “another asylum for the great numbers of Memphians who were walking around crazy but deemed not to be dangerous”. 

However, Mongo, a shorts and t-shirt man who wore a porkpie hat, obviously suffered from delusions of grandeur, as the status of his cognomen went from ‘Mongo’s Planet’ to ‘Prince Mongo’s Planet’ to ‘King Mongo’s Planet’, and when that wasn’t enough he conferred on himself sainthood, changing the name to ‘Saint Mongo’s Planet’!  Ah, the self-serving, neo-demigod personality was truly alive and thriving in Memphis.

Mongo was indeed an eccentric character.  Tired of running his pizza business he then decided to run for Memphis mayor. As Silver writes:

“His platform was to the left of Alice in Wonderland, and rather than waste money on aggravating television ads or eyesore billboards, Mongo rented a helicopter and hovered over downtown Memphis in the middle of a busy weekday and threw fistfuls of dollar bills to his subjects down below.  He ran a colourful campaign, but he did not win.

EIN Note: Mongo is welcome “downunder” anytime he wants.  We have a lot of helicopters and our elections aren’t rigged, as was obviously the Memphis mayoral campaign!

Verdict: Some say of Silver’s book that much of it is tongue-in-cheek rather than an entirely accurate account of events.  I say, let the reader make up his or her own mind, as regardless, When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama is a great and fun read!  And its coverage of Dr. Nick and Elvis really whets one’s appetite for the doc’s upcoming and long overdue story.

In some respects, to characterise When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama is difficult.  What arguably says it all is a great line from the book:

There is a fine line between wishful thinking and self-deception. 

Read EIN’s article: Dr. Nick: Medically Irresponsible or Misunderstood?

Visit Murray Silver's website

Comment on this review

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