Larry Geller interview - Part 2
Larry Geller, one of Elvis' closest friends, talks in depth with EIN
Larry Geller interview with EIN (Part 2)
By Piers Beagley (Source: EIN October 30, 2003)
Geller was a good friend to Elvis who spent years by his side
and was there at the very end. Larry has some fascinating
and insightful stories to tell and EIN's Piers Beagley was
lucky enough spend a couple of hours talking to him in his
Elvis' spiritual side is an often overlooked part of his life and psyche. Larry Geller was a good friend to Elvis who spent years by his side and was there at the very end.
Larry has some fascinating and insightful stories to tell and EIN's Piers Beagley was lucky enough spend a couple of hours talking to him in his LA home. Because of the length of the interview it has been divided into two sections.
Part 1 Larry talked about The Sixties, and this part 2 we discussed the Final Years.
- There was a long period when you had no contact with Elvis, from
1967 - 1972, after the incident during the filming of 'Clambake'.
I remember you saying that when you saw him for the first time again
in August 1972 you thought he was deep in trouble even then.
- It was my friend Johnny Rivers who suggested we should go and
see Elvis in Las Vegas. But when Elvis came on I could see the change
and saw it in his eyes. It so happened that I said to someone at
our table, "He's got five years the way he's going." I didn't really
mean it of course but it was just that I could tell that something
was wrong. You can tell by someone's body language and I could sense
that he was using bad substances and that he probably didn't have
the right elements around him. It was an energy thing.
- Although The Colonel definitely made some amazing business moves
in the early days, it seems that by the mid-Seventies he was flogging
his work-horse to death. This must have been terrible to see?
- (Sighing) - Oh God, some nights I don't know how he got through
it. On one of Elvis' last tours we were in Louisville, Kentucky,
and Elvis was physically ill and was going through so much emotionally.
This one night in particular he was nauseous & feverish and he felt
terrible. He couldn't sleep and he was tossing & turning. I was
so tired myself I said, "Hey Elvis, I have got to get some sleep
and I'll see you when you wake up."
were at the Hilton Hotel and the next day when I got back to Elvis'
suite I walk in and surprisingly Colonel Parker is there. The first
time I ever saw him come to Elvis' room. I say, "Hi Colonel." He
says, "Where is he?" I explain that he's with Dr Nick and I say,
"Let me tell Elvis you're here." The Col brushes past me saying,
"No. I'm going right in" and he opens the door. It pains me to even
tell you this but what I saw was Dr Nick kneeling at Elvis' bed.
Elvis is comatose and groaning and Dr Nick is dunking Elvis' head
into a bucket of iced-water to revive him. It was a pathetic sight.
The door closes and my first thought was, 'This is probably good
since finally Col Parker is going to find out what the hell is going
Old Man is going to see Elvis in this terrible shape, semi-conscious,
and stop this awful tour'. A minute later the door opens, Col Parker
walks up to me, and I stand up. We stand toe to toe and he looks
me in the eyes. He says, "Now you listen to me. The only thing that
is important is that that man is on stage tonight! Do you hear me?
Nothing else matters." Then he walks out. My heart sank. I knew
the truth and I wanted to scream. Oh my god, that shallow Motherf****r.
heard Elvis shout, "Lawrence are you there? Why the hell did you
let that bastard in here?" I explained that he had walked right
past me and then Elvis ranted for an hour about Col Parker. He just
used every word in the book and said, "That's big, fat, *** …. I'm
going to get rid of his fat ass. Daddy wants to get rid of him;
he's hated him for years. I can't stand him. He's lost touch with
show business years ago. He's just using me and I want Tom Hullett
to be my manager. After the tour in September that is it!" He talked
about who he was going to fire and how he was going to change things
for the good.
- What about the rumour that Joe worked for the Colonel and Elvis?
- Elvis seemed to know and resent that. I feel uncomfortable going
over specifics as it wouldn't be kind but there is much more about
that in the new 'Colonel' book. However I can mention a kind of
relevant story that is in my book "If I Can Dream".
One day we were
in Chicago and I went into one of the guy's rooms and said, "I'm
so frightened as something is wrong. If you look at Elvis you can
see that he is so sick, more than sick and we need to do something
as I'm scared something is going to happen." He said, "Wait a minute.
Larry you're being negative. In 20 years from now Elvis is going
to be healthier than he is today. Everyone
knows that singers get rejuvenated. But I tell you Larry, that something
is going to happen to you. And you know why? Cos' you're being so
I realised that I was speaking a foreign language
to someone, with pills in their system, who just couldn't see the
reality and who was in total denial. Later I went & told two of
the others but similarly they said that I was just being paranoid.
Not knowing what to do I actually went and told Elvis. And I told
him the truth and that I was worried. I told him in front of Joe
Esposito & Dr Nick.
- You must have also been there when the rumours of the 'Elvis What
Happened' book started circulating.
- When Elvis heard about the EWH book deal, and that the 3 guys
were going to spill-their-guts, it blew his mind. He felt that he
was being stabbed. He said, "If those guys needed money I'd give
them whatever they want. I just don't want them around me any more.
I had $10 million lawsuits because of those guys." Two or 3 months
went by and no one heard any more about the book. Elvis thought
that maybe The Col had managed to have it stopped. He said to me
that he didn't think it was coming out after all. However one day,
on tour, a fan who had worked at the publishers in New York gave
me a manuscript copy.
I went back to my room and I thought, "Oh Shit, they are going to
do him in." A lot of it was exaggeration and half-truths. I then
felt that I needed to wait for the right moment to tell Elvis 'cos
now I felt the pressure was on me. A couple of weeks later on tour
I was staying in Elvis' room and he was complaining how his throat
hurt, how his bones hurt. He felt like there was something wrong
and this was where he mentioned possible cancer. I said that he
needed to sleep bad and recharge his batteries since he had to be
on stage again that night. I let him be and went to my room.
hour & ½ later my phone rings, "Lawrence get back over here please.
I can't sleep, get Dr Nick in here." Dr Nick arrives and gives Elvis
a bunch of pills. I return to my room and leave him to sleep. That
afternoon at 4pm I go back to Elvis to wake him up and I knock on
the door gently. Elvis says "Come on in Lawrence" and he is sitting
up in bed. He's shaking his head and saying, "I can't make it man."
At this point Joe walks in. Elvis says, "Listen guys I'm sick. I
gotta cancel the tour. I'm going to call Daddy & you guys come back
in 5 minutes." I realised that if Elvis cancelled at that moment
then it would only help fan the flames of the book that I knew was
- So was that the point when you realised that you had to tell Elvis
about the book?
- Exactly. With Dr. Nick & Joe there I told Elvis in his bedroom
that day. I said, "Elvis I've got to tell you something. No one
around you tells you the truth but you know that book? It is coming
out, I've seen the proofs" Elvis turned white. I said, "If you are
sick and cancel this tour that is one thing. But the guys are out
to crucify you and you have got to know what is going on. They are
going to say things that you are not going to like but you've got
to know the score". Elvis was standing up but then he sits down
on his bed, in his huge suite, and he says, "Call the Colonel now."
He gets in bed, sits in bed and folds his arms. Charlie Hodge walks
in at this point, all jolly and ready to go. Elvis says, "Shut the
hell up Charlie."
Joe & the rest of us are all sitting on Elvis' bed when Tom Hullett
walks in and asks what's wrong. Elvis says, "I can't make it. I'm
sick man. I hate to do it, I hate to cancel the tour but I can't
make it." Tom Hullett says the same thing as me. "If you have to
do it that's fine but it will hit the wires. So we have to get you
into hospital for the insurance and then get you home." Elvis motions
for me to come in the bathroom with him and he holds his arms up
and looks at me.
says, "Look at me Larry, look at me man. I'm shaking, I'm sick"
and he's crying. I start to cry and say, "I know you're sick but
I had to tell you. I'm sorry. This is the moment I had to tell you.
You're life is on the line." For the next couple of hours we were
packing up and getting ready to leave. I didn't do his hair like
I usually did and he was very quiet with me and wouldn't talk. We
fly back to Memphis where I expected that we would go straight to
the hospital but we go to Graceland instead.
Elvis eats a big pie and ends up staying in his room until 6am and
then he goes to the hospital. I felt that I couldn't go back to
LA until I had talked to him so I went to the hospital where the
guys tell me that he doesn't want to see me. I remember Lamar coming
out of Elvis' room and saying to me, "You told him the truth didn't
you! Man, let me shake your hand. You're the only one around here
who has any balls!" I still needed to see Elvis so I waited days
in an ante room next to his room. I just couldn't leave.
I came back and then I heard Elvis say, "Lawrence, are you out there?"
into his room and Elvis says, "Larry you've got to forgive me brother.
It was my ego. You're here because you tell me the truth. That's
why you're here. You got to understand what I'm going through."
- In your book you mention that even in his condition Elvis was
still making future plans. That at least sounded positive.
- Elvis did have future plans both for a book and as an actor. The
very next tour was 2 weeks later. We were in Detroit and it was
April 25th because we we're talking about his Mother, that was her
birthday. Elvis stands up, we're looking at each other and he puts
his hand on my shoulder. With his other hand he points outside and
says, "The fans know 'Elvis' all right". Then he poked his chest
real hard and says, "But man, they don't know me. They have no idea."
He says, "Lawrence, are you with me?"
I ask him what he means and
he says, "Look, Larry, if you don't tell the world the truth they
will never know my real story. You are the one that knows me and
I wouldn't ask anyone else. You're responsible, you got me on this
path. You know what I read, know what I go through. You know what
I'm trying to do, how I want to help this world. We're supposed
to do something together Larry. Maybe we'll write a book. We could
call it 'Through My Eyes' and we'll make meaningful movies".
this sounded so good and I agreed and said, "Of course Elvis. I'm
with you and we can do it."
In the sixties Elvis would rant & rave
about his movies many, many times and he wanted out. He would say,
"Look I'm not into this just for the money I've always wanted to
be an actor". His real regret was that he never won an Academy Award.
I had already been working with him on the docudrama in 1974 about
the Martial Arts. So we talked about kicking around movie ideas
that Elvis liked and getting some of the best script writers in
Hollywood to work on a film tailor-made for him. That was the plan
and we even talked about taking a year off in Hawaii for preproduction
but, of course, it never happened.
- But to do that he would have had to escape from The Colonel, which
of course, he tried to do in 1973 but failed.
- That's right! Elvis gave in that time but by 1977 he knew things
had to change. He wanted The Colonel out and a new change. He talked
of getting married again and having more children. He wanted that.
It was a struggle.
(EIN Note: Click here for more about 'Closing Night' 1973 & Elvis firing The Colonel)
EIN - In March 77 you did go on that last vacation to Hawaii. Obviously Elvis at the time was really floating between vitamins & health regimes that you were suggesting and Dr Nick and all his chemicals.
(Right: Elvis & Larry- The Hawaii holiday 1977)
- I have no respect for Dr Nick. Before a tour would start I would
have packets of vitamins and minerals all wrapped up for the tour
to help keep me healthy. Plus I was a vegetarian. One day I was
in Elvis' bedroom when he woke up and Dr. Nick was there. I took
a packet of vitamins out and put it on the table and said, "Elvis
you should take some of these man, they are so good for you." I
also gave a little spiel to him about their benefits. Dr Nick says,
"Hey, get that crap out of here. That shit doesn't work." Here was
a medical Doctor saying this! Of course he is not anymore. Thank
God for some justice.
- In fact wasn't 1967 when you first left Elvis the same moment
that Dr Nick arrived?
- Yeah, and Elvis started his regime of pills at that time.
- One of the quotes I like best is when Elvis introduced you to
Kathy Westmoreland and said, "Kathy this is the heaviest Motherf*****
I have ever met. You'll never meet anybody heavier than this". Now
that's a great introduction!
- (Laughing) When he said that I thought, "Oh my God! What would
she think!" Elvis sort of thought something romantic might happen
between Kathy and me but I didn't want to go there. The guys knew
that Elvis respected me. It makes me feel very self conscious all
this … but it is what it is.
- Some people say the mysticism and spiritual side of Elvis wasn't
important but in the sixties it must have been a real key because
here was Elvis making goddamn awful, lightweight movies and he must
have been searching for something.
- Elvis came from his spiritual base, that's who he was. The most
important thing in his life was his career, his daughter and his
Thirty minutes before Elvis' funeral Vernon revealed
something to me that said it all. We were at Graceland and in the
maid's room I saw Vernon sitting in his suit and looking so forlorn.
He motioned me to come in and he said, "Larry, I've got to get something
off my chest. When you first came around here I was suspicious of
you. It was 'you and Elvis' all the time and you bringing him all
those weird books. I even went to Elvis and told him what I thought
but he said, 'Don't you worry, Larry's a great guy.' It took me
a long time, many years, to realise Larry that you & Elvis were
just spiritual guys." The house was full of people and Elvis was
lying there in his casket and when Vernon said that, it just hit
me like a ton of bricks.
- I think so many of us feel so emotional about these last years.
It's just so sad. If only it had been different.
- Well he did have a plan for the future. Even in that last year
when he was really sick, and he was taking a lot of pills, Elvis
was acutely aware or it. No one knew more of what he was going through
than he did. He knew he had a problem & he knew he had to stop.
We were going to go to Hawaii and he was going to get rid of most
of the people who worked for him and keep a skeletal crew. He was
going to get rid of Col Parker.
Elvis said, "Man, I want to get off
these pills and I want to get a good diet and I want to exercise.
I want to come back next year & I want to make movies again. Not
those teenybopper movies but real dramatic roles and I can show
the fans who I really am." He was serious at the time. The tragedy
of Elvis' life is that here's the guy that had it all. He was, is,
and always will be The King. But he knew he was toxic and that his
diet was outrageously bad and that he had to clean up his system.
He knew that there were people around who were not his friends but
were just there for the pay check. Elvis was smart, & smarter than
anyone around him, and he was making plans. The tragedy is that
- Surely it was a roller coaster ride in his head with moments of
clarity and then he would be down in depression?
- Sure. Life and death were on each of his shoulders and sadly death
- Can I change this mood and ask you a lightweight question? As
you spent so long by his side and attended so many concerts what
is the Elvis song that means the most to you?
- The song that blows me away is 'Unchained Melody' because Elvis
put that in his shows the last couple of months of his life. It
was Elvis and the piano and a blue light on him. When I hear that
it blows me away. That New Year's Eve concert 76 when he sings both
'Rags To Riches' and 'Unchained Melody' - he was phenomenal that
night. One of his best ever concerts and he looked great. In fact
Jimmy Carter called him that night when we were back at the hotel.
I picked up the phone and told Elvis that it someone pretending
to be The President of the United States. But it really was him
and Elvis was expecting his call!
- What's Larry Geller doing now?
- I'm working on a new book that I originally discussed with Elvis.
I was going to do a Health & Hair care book and at the time Elvis
said that I could use his name on the book. He was very happy to
be associated with health and thought that it would be good for
his image. He even discussed being in a commercial for me! Elvis
had talked about it with Vernon, but Elvis died before any contracts
were signed and then I felt I couldn't go through with it. But I'm
doing it now and I have revamped it. I will talk all about my early
years with Elvis and all the celebrities. The book is called, 'GellerCare:
Healthy Hair, Healthy Life' and is all about life & rejuvenation,
nutrition and spiritual growth and everything you need to know about
hair. It should be coming out early next year and there'll be photos
from every movie that I made with Elvis.
- A tricky final question for you. You talked a lot with Elvis about
reincarnation and karma. Do you dream of him and do you think you
will ever meet Elvis again?
- That's a good question. I have so many dreams of him it's uncanny.
I wake up and it's like, 'Wow, that was cool.'' The others a big
question though.. What happens when we leave this life? My answer
is, Yes. I hope to see Elvis again. God bless him.
- Thanks so much for sparing so much of your time Larry. It's been
fantastic talking to you.
- Keep well and maybe we can catch up again some day.
*** EIN copyright 2003 ***
Click to comment on the interview
Click here for Part 1 where Larry discussed more about
The Colonel, meeting The Beatles, and Elvis in the sixties. Piers
interviewed Larry Geller September 2003.
And go here for EIN's 2007 interview with Larry Geller
Want to ask Larry Geller a question? Click here & send it to EIN.
Click here for Charlie Hodge Interview & special EIN Tribute
Click here for Interview with Memphis Mafia members, Marty lacker, Lamar Fike & Elvis' cousin Billy Smith.