Sonny West - The 2007 Interview (Part 2)

Read Part 1 of Sonny's interview

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Sonny West needs no introduction to Elvis fans. As one of the iconic Memphis Mafia, Sonny was a close friend to Elvis over many years.

In part 2 of his long interview with EIN, Sonny talks about:

  • Elvis and politics
  • Elvis and bipolar disorder
  • the Memphis Mafia
  • sums up those in Elvis' inner circle
  • the real reason why the Colonel worked Elvis so hard
  • Elvis' death
  • Elvis post 16 August 1977 - the conspiracy theories and claims by Dee Presley
  • Sonny's new DVD and website
Life around Elvis (continued)

EIN: Elvis was a private person regarding his politics. Why do you think this was, particularly as by the late 1960s many movie and rock stars were very public about their political views?

SW: Elvis was very private about his political views, but was passionate about them in private with those of us and friends that he could trust. He just felt that people in positions like he and so many others in the entertainment field were in should not influence people with their opinions and influence them to do something just because of who they were. He would not like what is going on with the hateful, vicious verbal attacks on our President today by those that disagree with his policies,

EIN: Taking this issue a step further, there were signs of a ‘political Elvis’ expressing himself in 1968-69 with his two hit singles, “If I Can Dream” and “In The Ghetto.” Was not progressing the lyrical theme in these songs a lost opportunity for Elvis to connect with a ‘new and politically aware’ record buying market?

SW: I don’t believe Elvis ever looked at it that way. I wasn’t there when he made the special in 1968 so I can’t comment on the song, “If I Can Dream ,” but I was there when he recorded “In The Ghetto,” which he thought long and hard about recording. He loved the song, but he tried to avoid most controversial issues, in talking, singing, in just about anyway of expressing what some may think was his personal feeling on the matter. Both of the songs are great pieces of music and I am certainly glad he recorded both of them.

EIN: There have been some suggestions that Elvis may have had the bipolar depressive disorder. Known symptoms are difficulty sleeping, impulsive, quick tempered, overly emotional, sometimes morose, easily distracted, poor concentration at times. Do these symptoms describe Elvis? Do you think he was actually bipolar?

SW: You know, this is an interesting question because even thought I am more familiar with the subject now than then. It is true, most, if not all of those symptoms you listed above in your question were present in Elvis. But many if not all of those symptoms are also known to be associated with medications that have effects on people. But I really don’t want to go any further on this subject as I am not well enough informed to make comments one way or the other.

The Memphis Mafia


EIN: The Memphis Mafia has its own iconic status. By many accounts it was a rollicking, fun time. Is this an accurate account?

SW: It was a fun time. We got the name in 1962 while spending a lot of time in Las Vegas wearing black mohair suits and dark sunglasses. I am not quite sure who got it into the press, but someone supposedly remarked one time when we pulled up in a limo in front of one of the hotel/casinos in Las Vegas and when we exited the car to enter, someone asked if that was the Mafia, and another person answered, “Yeah, the Memphis Mafia .” I'm pretty sure it was James Bacon, an entertainment columnist with the afternoon paper, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, who put it in his column and the name stuck. I would say it is an accurate account to say the name represented a lot of fun times.

EIN - People often describe the Memphis Mafia as "hangers-on" or even "sycophants" who should have been more honest to Elvis telling him the truth for his own good. You have yourself stated that, "We would always nod our heads and agree with him." Was it really that hard to challenge Elvis? Deep down do you feel that you could have done more?

SW: First of all, I would like to go on record as saying that we were not “hangers-on.” Do any of you that are salaried employees with assigned duties and responsibilities consider yourselves “hangers-on” to your boss? Of course you don’t. Do you consider your friends that don’t work for you but spend time with you visiting or going out or whatever, “hangers-on”? The answer to that is no. We were not groupies. Is it because we worked for Elvis Presley, the superstar of superstars, that we should not get any respect as people that do their jobs and have fun doing it because their boss wants it that way? Come on, the same people who say that about us, 9 out of 10 of them would trade places with us in a New York minute. And friends, that IS FAST! Seriously, I don’t think it is fair to judge us as something so different from anyone else who has a salaried job. It just so happened that we had a great boss who liked to have a lot of fun on the job, and he wanted us to be there every step of the way.

As for telling Elvis the truth and being honest with him, there were some of us that did that. In 1961 I stood up to him just a year after I went to work for him. He made threats to me, I told him that wasn’t going to happen. I compared him to a Gestapo officer because he seemed to have developed an arrogant and mean spiritedness of sorts. I told him that he had changed, that I didn’t like him anymore and didn’t want to be around him anymore. I ended the conversation by telling him I quit and was leaving. It got me a punch to the jaw, which hurt my feelings much more than physical pain. I turned and I left.

Please, I would like to know in what context and what the subject was when I might have said that, “We would always nod our heads and agree with him”. I was talking about when I might have said that statement. So, whomever asked that question, I would like to know from them when, where and what subject matter I was discussing when I said it. I'd be glad to clarify that statement if you can produce that quote.

EIN - Do you still remain in contact with all the old Elvis gang such as Larry Geller, Marty Lacker, Joe Esposito? What is your relationships with them nowadays?

SW: I remain very much so in touch with Marty Lacker, Lamar Fike, Billy Smith, Dave Hebler, and, of course, my cousin, Red West. I have not spoken to or seen Larry Geller since 1972 when he came to one of Elvis’ shows in Las Vegas with Johnny Rivers. He left that night and did not come back around until after I was gone in July of 1976. As for Joe Esposito, I did not speak to or see him until May of 2003, in Palm Springs at an event there that we both were invited to participate in. Well, things worked out okay, and I thought it best to just move on and leave it behind me.

Then, in 2006, Charlie Hodge, who also was at the show in Palm Springs, suddenly passed away. His widow, Jennifer, asked me to speak at his funeral, to which I agreed to do. Then she asked me if I would call some of the others and ask them if they would like to say something. They could have written it down and I would read it for them at the service. I contacted a lot of them, including Joe, who said no, that someone else was going to speak for him, Priscilla and some others. I do know that he arranged that after I had written him an email, and when I didn’t get an answer, because of the time frame, I called him. At that time, he told me no, he had made other arrangements for someone else to do it. I know that he made those arrangements after he received my e-mail. That's Joe for you.

Also, I would like to point out that a recent excerpt from “another book” by Joe Esposito, (the same Joe that once said “They’ve all been told” when asked by a fan to tell a story that hadn’t been told) stating new revelations of his being honest and “straight up” about everything.

We did that 30 years ago, while Elvis was alive, when he could have challenged us, or at least refuted what we said with words or deeds, but Joe has decided now is the time to be honest, when he can not. Nice timing for your “revelation of honesty and straight up”, Joe.

He goes on to say that the book EWH was written for “revenge and to get even with Elvis” for our being fired. He knows that it was not, but maybe it leaves him with the image of being one of the good guys that stayed loyal to Elvis. One thing that might be interesting in his new “straight up” and honest revelations, if he really is, will be the story he tells regarding the truth behind the racquetball fiasco that Elvis got out of because of feeling he was being used and conned by some in the venture. In Elvis’ own words to Red in their last conversation with each other, Elvis was fed up with the whole issue of the racquetball deal and stated he was not going through with it. From what I understand and heard it ended up costing Elvis a lot of money.

EIN: What were the highlights of being a member of the Memphis Mafia?

SW: Just the feeling of being one of the guys traveling and working with a great boss . It was a great ride!

EIN: And the low lights?

SW: There were none for me.

Close to Elvis

EIN: Sonny, how would you sum up the following people in a few words:

Minnie Mae Presley: Some one I dearly loved and spent a lot of time with, just talking about her life and times. Her least favorite topic which I would kid her about sometimes was her ex-husband. I met him once on tour when we played Louisville and when I told her that, she really lit in to him. He was quite the ladies man, and that had been the problem between them. She was very wise about life and it was great to talk to her, on just about any subject. Her favorite subject was talking about how fine a young boy Elvis was when he was growing up and how proud of him she was of the young man he had grown up to be. They were very close.

Priscilla Presley: Someone that seems to be determined to keeping the name Presley as a last name. Elvis told us there was a clause in the divorce decree that the lawyers had put in, stating she was not to use the name Presley for a career. And she didn’t until after his death, and then she took the name back and began a career in acting. Many TV hosts and columnists refer to her as Elvis’ widow instead of ex-wife when they speak of her.

Lisa Marie Presley: I am sure, she won’t like hearing this if someone tells her about this, but I feel her dad would be sad about some of the decisions she has made in her life and extremely angry at others. She has berated some of us as having taken his dignity away and hurting his memory, but obviously does not take responsibility for some of her own actions. (I am not talking of her four marriages). She was 9 years old when Elvis died. She did not know his thoughts as an adult on the subjects I am speaking of in her life, or maybe she wouldn’t have done them.

I do know that she wouldn’t have done any of them if her dad was alive. I don’t like the idea of speaking of her in a negative way, but it is very difficult knowing what she has said about me in all forms of the media, TV, radio and print and not say anything. There are so many things that I could point out about certain things she says, but I refrain for obvious reasons. She is Elvis’ daughter, and out of respect to his memory, I remain silent.

Colonel Tom Parker: The most maligned person in the Elvis Presley World. He cared about Elvis, he used a brusque manner at times when a situation seem to warrant it. He wasn’t right all the time, no one is, but he was most of the time. He deserves a much better hand than he has been dealt. In my book, I correct a lot of misconceptions about Colonel, most of which were made by people that simply did not know the truth of the matter, even some members of the inner circle of Elvis’, or others that seem to have an axe to grind.

Red West: My cousin, a tough guy with a big heart and my life with Elvis was because of his introduction. He had a very special relationship with Elvis from the beginning. I am very proud of what he has done in his life with his songwriting and acting. He has a lot of talent in both fields.

Marty Lacker: Marty is one of those people that is honest and very capable of getting things done, and did so for many years for Elvis. He was foreman when Joe was gone and shared those duties with Joe when he came back until Marty left to spend more time with his family. He was Co-Best Man at Elvis wedding. A crusty guy that will tell you like it is, sometimes to a fault. But you accept him and love him, or you don’t. I love him.

Lamar Fike: A funny guy with a quick wit and loves being the center of attention in a fun way. He will get you wound up in a minute. He is a well-read and informed person on a lot of issues in this world, and can speak with you in a knowledgeable way on almost any subject matter. He is fun to be around.

Billy Smith: Elvis’ cousin that he raised like a little brother. In the last year or so of Elvis’ life, Billy spent most of the time with Elvis along with Billy’s wife, Jo, and usually Ginger Alden. Billy shared many thoughts with Elvis and spent much of that time in conversations with him. They ran the gamut on how Elvis felt about a lot of subjects, including Red, Dave and myself, and Billy has shared many of them with me. I feel Billy and his cousin Gene Smith (earlier) were closer to Elvis than any of his other male cousins with Harold Lloyd next in line behind them. He was very close with his cousin Patsy, who was his only double first cousin.

Joe Esposito: When I fist met Joe in 1960 I liked him and we became roommates at Graceland, sharing the opposite front bedroom next to Elvis’. Actually, I liked him for all the years we worked together with Elvis. Not long after he arrived in Memphis, we all went to Ellis Auditorium to see the show, Holiday On Ice and I kind of hung close to Joe, telling him this was where a lot of rock and roll shows played, and who some of the acts were.

Over the years there were spats and disagreements between some of the guys, including me, but I am speaking of the ones that I wasn’t involved in. I had my opinion of who was wrong or right when and why they happened, but for the most part they didn’t really affect me, so I stayed out of them. What formed a division between Joe and me was what he said after I was fired in 1976 and the new statements he is making now.

Joe needs to slow down and see where he is coming from and where he is going with this revisionist history before he continues and gets into some serious issues with most of the rest of the guys. We resolved our issues in the old days without going public with them. I think we need to do that now and in the future, but then again, a lot of exchanges have taken place over the many years, so it probably won’t happen. I am also guilty of doing this in retaliation to what is being said about me by others.

Dick Grob: Dick started with us when Elvis started touring again. He was fine until Red, Dave and I were fired. At which time he bragged about how Elvis wanted a better grade of security and had fired us so as to make him chief of security. I know I have stated that Elvis never told me why I was fired, Vernon said it was a cut-back on expenses, others have said because of too many lawsuits, (I had one only) but I can tell you it was not because Elvis wanted a better grade of security and wanted Grob to be it.

Has anyone really thought about it, why did Elvis fire us, if not for what I have stated over and over again. I still have an issue over his saying that. If he had disagreed with the book and our doing it and stated that without the other statements, I could have accepted that, as I did with others that made that statement. Even Joe has been quoted of saying Elvis had great security with Red and myself and we took really great care of him.

Jerry Schilling: I have to say that I like Jerry a lot and we never really had any issues between us for all the years we have known each other. But in the last year with the release of his book, and the claims he supposedly (since I haven’t read it) made concerning me. I won’t list them as I haven’t talked with Jerry yet to see if they are his thoughts or not.

So, until then, I will withhold any comments on those claims. I do address one of his claims that I called him in 1976 after I was fired to get him involved with Elvis: What Happened? in my new book, so that I could set the record straight. By the way, Jerry's claim is absolutely false. Please note that I have not read any of the books written about Elvis by anyone. In some of them, I did read the statements regarding me on pages that were listed in the index.

Charlie Hodge: A small guy with a big voice. He idolized Elvis and his life was totally connected to Elvis. Our lives revolved around Elvis, but Charlie existed for Elvis. He just did not like to think of life without Elvis. He was broken for sometime until he met his wife Jennifer, who loved him very much and took great care of him. She is a super lady.

George Klein: Someone I really liked, enjoyed being around. His greeting me as, “Buddy!” (my nickname when I was a boy) always brought a smile to my face. We had not spoken or even seen each other because of EWH, until a sad circumstance brought us to the same location, the funeral of a very dear friend of ours, Richard Davis. We were both speakers at the service and I was sitting there quietly before the service was to begin, thinking thoughts of Richard and what I was going to say about him. George appeared suddenly beside me, leaned down and hugged my neck and said and quietly said, “I love you Sonny West”. I replied “I love you too George,” he straightened up smiling and went back to his chair. I thought that was nice and by his actions it meant the strained relationship was over between us. I came to find out, it wasn’t. He has said and done a couple of things since which shows me it isn’t, so I don’t trust him anymore.

Linda Thompson: Linda Thompson was good for Elvis, taking care of him like she did. She loved him very much, and tried to help him as to his prescription drug problem, but ran into a stonewall also. She was responsible for getting him out of a dangerous situation more than once.

I felt sorry for her when Priscilla wouldn’t let her ride on the plane with her to Memphis when Vernon sent the plane to get Priscilla after Elvis’ death to come to Memphis.

Ginger Alden: Never met her. Can’t say anything about her factual, just opinions on what I have heard and read about her.

EIN - Joe Esposito is often referred to as Colonel Parker's spy. He seems to have been earning money from both Elvis and The Colonel while feeding back the gossip about Elvis (and your private lives) and the goings-on back to The Colonel. Did you feel at the time that you had a spy in your midst?  

SW: No. We didn’t know, and I don’t think it was much about us at all that he was reporting to the Colonel. It was about Elvis, because when it comes down to it, Elvis is who the Colonel wanted to keep up with, not us guys.

EIN: Larry Geller has told us the story of The Colonel seeing Elvis semi-conscious in his hotel room before a concert yet saying ,"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." Did you have any similar stories? Can The Colonel have really been that uncaring? 

SW: First of all for the record, let me state that I don’t put much stock in anything that Geller says as I already have heard too many falsehoods that have been attributed to him. Like Joe Esposito, he likes to try and revise history. He wasn’t around for almost 13 years as he claims. It was more like three and a half years, total, which includes the last year when we were gone. Sal Orifice was the person that got him the job with Elvis because Sal was leaving to open his own salon. It was not Alan Fortas, which Geller has claimed. So with that said, I don't put much stock in his statement about The Colonel, because there was no love lost between the two men.

EIN - Were you there in September 1973 when Elvis fired The Colonel? Did Elvis confide in you his plans for the future or his desire to tour overseas?

SW: Yes I was there. The incident that triggered that situation was the firing of a waiter that brought up Elvis’ meals to the suite between shows. He told Elvis about his being fired and it made Elvis mad. I can’t remember the reason the guy gave for his being fired, but it sure caused a big problem between Elvis and the Colonel. Elvis went on stage that night and during the show he talked very badly about Barron Hilton and others in the hotel, blaming them for the firing.

The Colonel wasn’t at the show, but someone informed him of the things Elvis had said and he showed up at Elvis’ suite shortly after we got up there. He was visibly very upset and went into Elvis’ bedroom to talk with him. We could hear the raised voices of both of them coming from the room. We couldn’t make out all the words, but it didn’t last long before Colonel walked out the door loudly proclaiming he would call a news conference in the morning to announce the end of their business association. Elvis yelled out that was fine and he would call his own news conference tonight to tell them. (This was around 2 a.m. in the morning) Colonel then said he would figure out how much was owed to him and get the bill to Elvis and Mr. Presley the next day. Then he was out the door and gone.

I don’t remember Elvis coming out of the room that night after that situation was over, but I do remember the discussion all of us guys had as to what had just happened, and the possible repercussions that might follow. Names of different people that become Elvis’ manager were being tossed around by some while others just listened.

I won’t name anyone, but one of the guys thought it might really be over between Elvis and the Colonel. I told him I didn’t think and I felt it would burn itself out and it would be business as usual. But I must confess, it did last longer than I thought it would. It was a couple of weeks or so later that Elvis had me put a call into the Colonel at his office at MGM Studios. Elvis got on the phone, I left the room to get some sleep, something I hadn’t had much of for two weeks. Elvis informed me later when I got up that everything was okay.

EIN - A lot of fans also blame Colonel Parker for working Elvis to death. Have you read Alanna Nash's very detailed book, Elvis and the Colonel , and what are your thoughts about it?

SW: I have not read the book and refused her invitation to be interviewed for it, and no, I have not read it. Again, the fans can only surmise on their own, or read someone’s book or statements about something like that and believe it.

The truth is, Colonel worked Elvis a lot because, and they aren’t going to want to hear this, the more time Elvis had between tours, the more messed up he would get between tours. Sometimes to the point no one was sure he was going to be able to go on tour. We started out doing longer tours and having longer periods off, but like I said, that didn’t work so good. The shorter time off worked a little better, but not much. It was the only way to keep Elvis from having too much time off to get messed up.

EIN: Did The Colonel need Elvis to keep working just to feed his gambling habit?

SW: No. Colonel had plenty of money and his losses have been greatly exaggerated by many. He lost a lot of money, but not more than he could afford to lose. Colonel was aware at all times as to how much he was winning or losing. Believe me, I was there a lot of the time.

EIN - By the end Colonel Parker took more than 1/2 of Elvis' income which meant Elvis had to keep on touring. As most managers take around 10 -15 percent how on earth could this have been justified?

SW: First of all, myself, and most everyone else did not know all of the Colonel’s and Elvis’ contract arrangements as there were many. One was a percentage on his record sales and movies, one was on the items of concessions that were sold, which was through a company the Colonel had formed, and he and Elvis were equal partners splitting the profits 50/50.

But personal managers over here in the USA usually get 25 percent, agents get 10 to 15 percent. You have to remember, most managers had more than one client and they were getting a percentage of all of them. Colonel turned down many artists that wanted him to manage them, saying he only had time for Elvis, who got 100 percent of his time in management and promotion.

The Death of Elvis Presley

EIN: Sonny, looking back over the past 30 or so years, if Elvis hadn’t died in 1977 how different would your life be today?

SW: You know, that is a very interesting question. I am not sure if I know the answer. In fact, I know I don’t know the answer, but I can only speculate. I would like to think that we got through to him and he beat his problem, and by doing so, we were back with him for as long as he needed us. Hopefully, he would have gotten back into doing some movies, but this time around, doing ones that he chose to do rather than having to live up to a contract. I know I have said this enough that people are probably getting tired of hearing it, but I loved working for Elvis and I loved the movie business, and doing both at the same time would make everything just about perfect.

EIN: And, if Elvis hadn’t died in 1977 how different would the world’s view of his legend be today?

SW: Another interesting thought. You know, if Elvis was alive today, I am not sure if he would be as big of a legend as he is. I think a legend becomes much bigger, if he is taken from us in his prime. He would still be the legend of all legends though, as I don’t believe any entertainer will ever be as big.

EIN: There are a number of important questions around our last two questions. Firstly, why did Elvis Presley die?

SW: I don’t know why he died. I certainly don’t think he should have. I know inside there were still some things that he wanted to do. Like tour around the world, go places that he had only read about, or heard about. The different cultures and ways of life that were so different from ours was something he often talked about.

EIN: Secondly, did he have to die?

SW: That is a definite resounding NO! Why should someone so talented, with so much still to offer the world in music and movies have to die so early in his life with so much left to give. If that old saying, “only the good die young” is true. Elvis is that personified.


EIN: Thirdly, before he died do you think Elvis had any inkling of his cultural importance in the world?

SW: Elvis knew there was something special about him being who and what he was. He just didn’t know what or why. But I am sure he, just as the rest of us, never expected it to be this overwhelming, and for this long with no end in sight. It is truly something very special.

EIN - Fans love to hate Dr. Nick often blaming him for Elvis' death. What are your feelings towards Dr Nick and are the fans feelings justified?

SW: I know what it is for some fans to hate you firsthand, believe me. I don’t think the hate is justified for me, and I don’t think it is justified for Dr. Nick. Dr. Nick is not a bad man, or even a bad doctor. He is in fact a caring man and a caring doctor. Maybe too much so as a doctor. It was proven that Dr. Nick had over prescribed for patients that were not rich or famous, so that shows that it wasn’t just for monetary reasons. He was a soft touch for his patients. And we are right when we say he shouldn’t have been, that he had responsibilities as a doctor and should have not given in to the pleas of his patients.

As persuasive as Elvis could be when he wanted something bad enough, Dr. Nick should have said no. But then, there were a lot of people that should have said no to Elvis from early on, but found it just as difficult to do as Dr. Nick did. I wish Elvis could have, would have said NO to the cravings inside that were out to destroy him. That is where the battle was that needed to be won. Those same cravings are in a lot of people around this world, for different things, and always will be. They just have to be fought and defeated every day, one day at a time, and constantly be on guard against them. I am not defending nor condemning Dr. Nick, I am just saying what I feel in my heart.

EIN: What about the other Doctors like Dr Ghanem & Dr Flash? Were they all bad news? 

SW: Dr. Flash and Dr. Ghanem were bad news. They gave Elvis what ever he wanted, when he wanted it. Both were in Las Vegas. Dr. Ghanem had some of us fooled for awhile, but he turned out to be like the other doctors that were bought.

Elvis post August 16, 1977

EIN: Sonny, many argue that the media focuses too much on the overweight, junk food Elvis, at the expense of the great music he has left for generations to enjoy. What is your view on this issue?

SW: I think the stories concerning what Elvis ate, or that he was overweight was something to sell their magazines, The name Elvis in the headlines was all it took for the “rag-sheets” to sell. I used to get irritated when reviewers wrote about his weight gain, rather that review the show, the music and the voice of Elvis. There were some that did review the music and how hard he worked to please the audience, and it was a welcome change.

EIN - If Elvis had lived he would be 72 years old. What are your thoughts about the fans who cannot believe that he died in August 1977 and still think he is alive? 

SW You know, there are some fans out there that really do think that Elvis is alive, literally. I meet up with some from time to time, and I just say a few things to them that makes most of them think a little more about what they believe. I ask them, if Elvis really was alive and in hiding, do you really think he would have remained so and allow Lisa Marie to marry Michael Jackson?

I ask that not as a racist question, but as a matter of fact that Elvis would not have allowed, or at least been very persuasive, to stop that wedding. He would not have allowed her to date someone in the entertainment field, especially an “pop idol” like he was. Nor would he have let her marry Nicholas Cage, again for the same reason as Michael. No one in the entertainment business, as an actor, singer, etc., would have been granted the privilege of dating Lisa, much less marry her. Elvis could relate too much to them.

I know a lot of people will say that Elvis would have been in the same position as other parents were when it came time for their children to do what they told them. Let me tell you something. You don’t know Elvis and his strengths if you think his daughter would have done what she wanted regardless of what her father thought. No way. Period.

EIN - Do you ever read any of the conspiracy theories and do they make you laugh or cry? 

SW: I don’t know how many there are out there, and I know I haven’t read them all, but the ones I have read are closer to the ridiculous than a possibility. So I would say my answer to most of them is, I may not laugh, but it brings a smile to my face.

Sonny with EIN correspondent Sanja Meegin

EIN - Lucy de Barbin's daughter Desiree and all the other suggested children of Elvis. What are your thoughts - and isn't it perhaps surprising that a man who spent so much time spending nights with lots of girlfriends doesn't actually have any secret hidden off-spring? 

SW: I would say that it is very surprising and I am in total agreement with that thought. But it is a fact, as far as I know. Those that say they are children of his, usually have been told that by their mothers as soon as they could understand the words. I think it is a shame that a mother would do that to their child, knowing that it is false. And the ones that say they have certified documents of DNA confirming their claims just isn’t true.

EIN - Dee Stanley was in the tabloids telling rumors of Elvis being gay, having an incestual relationship with his mother and other such stuff. Was there any truth in her stories and why would she do this? How did you get on with her when you lived at Graceland?

SW: Dee is a somewhat disturbed individual. She has said some very weird things over the years, but she crossed the line when she said that Vernon had told her that his wife, Gladys, and their son had an incestuous relationship. She was trying to get a book deal by coming up with something outrageous. I remember watching that show where Dee, along with a man from the National Enquirer, and JD Sumner, too.

The man, I think was Calder with the Enquirer was seated between Dee and JD. When JD lit into her verbally, very strongly and was on the edge of his seat, Calder leaned back in his chair so as not to be in the way if anything was going to happen. I really think he thought that JD might possibly slap her or something like that. But I must say, JD got out what he wanted to say, and it was right on.

I remember when she, Marty Lacker and myself were on a show in Los Angeles, called AM Los Angeles with Regis Philbin and co-host Cindy Garvey. We were all on there to talk about our books. The show was taped in Las Vegas though, where it was on location for a week. She asked Marty and I to not say anything mean or cruel to her, of which neither of us had any intent in doing. But this was years before she made the statement about Elvis and his mom.

Sonny West – the DVD and website

EIN: Apart from your new book EIN understands you also have a new DVD coming out, ELVIS: Up Close & Personal With Sonny West . Tell us about this.

SW: I am very proud of the DVD. It is a professionally produced product and negotiations are ongoing for distribution. It is two and a half hours long with segments of the live show in front of an audience using three cameras – a Q&A – a meet & greet – a private question and answer segment with the producer and director and an uncensored backstage segment. As soon as it is a done deal, I will let EIN know.

EIN: When will it be released?

SW: Waiting to find out. Again will let you know ASAP.

EIN: And where can fans buy it?

SW: Hopefully on my website as well as other locations.

EIN: Sonny, you also have a website. Please tell us about that.

SW: The website,, is a one that was quickly put up for book sales and for fans to write emails to me regarding the book. A new one is under construction. There is a problem with the Paypal link on the one I have now and it is not accepting the changes in the shipping costs increased by the USPS. It will only accept the amount that it was setup to charge. For example it won’t let someone put in the amount to get two or more books at one time. I explained earlier how my book can be purchased on Paypal .

EIN: What is next for Sonny and Judy West?

SW: Many more years of doing what we are doing. Sharing our life together.

EIN: Sonny, thank you for taking the time to talk with EIN.

SW: You are welcome! Thank you for the opportunity. I hope to meet you and many of your readers in the future. I apologize for it taking so long to get this back to you, but I have to tell you at times, I felt I was writing a third book! LOL

Buy Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business from Amazon

Buy an autographed copy direct from Sonny

Comment on this interview


Freya: Enjoyed the interview with Sonny very much. He is genuine and not bitter and twisted like some of the others who are just out to make money off Elvis.

Boris: You publish good interview with Mr West. He nice guy.

Cris: Just wanted to comment on the "Sonny West Interview/ Part 1 & 2 " was absolutely great!!! I think Sonny always speaks from his heart about Elvis and he truly cares for him after all these years. I wish him the best!!!

Cheryl: Your interview with Sonny West was terrific.

Shaun McParland: Great interview from Sonny West!!  I found his thoughts and defense of Tom Parker most interesting considering what others including Marty Lacker thought about Elvis' manager. I guess Tom Parker is someone that Sonny and Marty agree to disagree about.

Bill Chalmers: Enjoyed your latest interview with Sonny West. I've long respected Sonny as a reasonable guy giving a balanced view on what happened.

Cindy Jalbert: I am really glad that someone finely came out to say what Elvis was really liked behind the doors of Graceland. and the book was grate you know his family never said anything about the real Elvis i always new that he was just like the rest of us. We where very pore also i came form a family of 12 brothers and sisters and i am still living form day to day pay to pay. Well thank you for sharing your memories with us. and here is one for you , did you watch the Larry king live from Graceland with Priscilla i did and all these people keep on saying that Elvis is alive well i have a feeling that they might be right look at the show on the net. you will see Priscilla sitting on the chair and behind her is a yellow lamp if you look close you will see that someone is hiding behind there because he keeps on moving and ducking down so he wont be seen but it was caught on film i don't know if she seen it or not but tried to down load it before it gets taking off the net. please send me an e-mail and let me know what you thing. it would really be nice to meet someone that really new the man him self ELVIS. well good luck.

Jeanne Pellicani: Just wonderful!! I can't remember when I've enjoyed an interview more. . Great questions & honest answers.  I read Sonny's new book, (along with EWH when it first came out), and hated to see it end.  It was written with a lot of love and honesty.  I have always had a great deal of respect for Sonny West. I sure wish I could meet him in person to tell him, "THANK YOU" for all you've done for Elvis and the Fans. Maybe one day he will be in Long Island, NY and I can see him.  Who knows?

Ronald: Thanks for the interesting interview. Somehow this interview persuaded me not to buy his book. His statements are very often contradictory and accuses others of things he himself still does.

A few that really stood out for me:

Joe Esposito: Joe needs to slow down and see where he is coming from and where he is going with this revisionist history before he continues and gets into some serious issues with most of the rest of the guys. We resolved our issues in the old days without going public with them. I think we need to do that now and in the future, but then again, a lot of exchanges have taken place over the many years, so it probably won’t happen. I am also guilty of doing this in retaliation to what is being said about me by others.

Did Sonny West forget Elvis, what happened?

Larry Geller: First of all for the record, let me state that I don’t put much stock in anything that Geller says as I already have heard too many falsehoods that have been attributed to him. Like Joe Esposito, he likes to try and revise history. He wasn’t around for almost 13 years as he claims. It was more like three and a half years, total, which includes the last year when we were gone. Sal Orifice was the person that got him the job with Elvis because Sal was leaving to open his own salon. It was not Alan Fortas, which Geller has claimed.

If I recall correctly, this is how I read it in Gellers book If I can dream as well, so where is the discrepancy?

As for telling Elvis the truth and being honest with him, there were some of us that did that. In 1961 I stood up to him just a year after I went to work for him. He made threats to me, I told him that wasn’t going to happen. I compared him to a Gestapo officer because he seemed to have developed an arrogant and mean spiritedness of sorts. I told him that he had changed, that I didn’t like him anymore and didn’t want to be around him anymore. I ended the conversation by telling him I quit and was leaving. It got me a punch to the jaw, which hurt my feelings much more than physical pain. I turned and I left.

How does that compare to the following?

EIN: What were the highlights of being a member of the Memphis Mafia?

SW: Just the feeling of being one of the guys traveling and working with a great boss . It was a great ride!

EIN: And the low lights?

SW: There were none for me.

And so on. It really baffles me. Keep up the good work!

Tina C: I think Sonny is in denial. The hurt he caused Elvis with Elvis What Happened is unforgiveable. Elvis would still be alive today if that book hadn't been published.

Frank Petrie: Great job EIN, a thoroughly enjoyable interview.

Bernadette from Wisconsin: Good on you Sonny! You tell it like it was and your story hasn't changed for 30 years. The same can't be said for MM's like Joe Esposito, Larry Geller and even Charlie Hodge.

































































































































































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