Colonel's wife discusses Elvis and the Colonel)
Johanna Johnson, Yahoo, Jan 15, 2004
following interview of Joanna Johnson with Loanne Parker from
ETA Radio coming from Yahoo was published in newsgroup alt.elvis.king
thanks to Dawn. It can be an interesting read for Elvis fans.
were absolutely no restrictions on the questions that ETA Radio
was able to ask of Mrs. Parker, and in this interview Loanne and
Joanna spend considerable time discussing the various myths and
stories surrounding the Colonel. As ETA Radio's Joanna Johnson states
at the end of the taped conversation, Loanne is a most dignified
and loving spokesperson - and all of us at LadyLuck Music and ETA
Radio wish to thank Loanne Parker for her gracious participation
in this heartfelt and meaningful rare interview.
Loanne, I'd like to thank you for agreeing to this telephone interview.
And I'd also like to welcome you to our show.
Loanne, there's been a lifetime of Elvis rumors, quotes, misquotes
writings about the Col that people around the world have heard and
we're going to get into that. We may get into that later but right
now I'd like to hear form you and how you would describe the Colonel
as your knew him, as a person, as your husband and of course the
personal and working relationship you had, both of you with EP.
Start with when did you meet the colonel?
I met the Colonel in 1969 in Las Vegas, that was when Elvis was
preparing to appear at the International Hotel, he was the second
artist to appear, Barb Streisand (was) the first, because again
the Colonel's wisdom was don't be the first act. You're going to
have a lot of problems with sounds, etc. and he didn't want to put
Elvis in that position. That's when I met him, I was an employee
of the hotel
I believe you were his secretary, how did that happen? A I was never
his secretary. Colonel Tom and I had a personal relationship. And
when they decided that Elvis would tour, the tour sponsor was RCA
records, and they needed a secretary to travel on the tour and I
was hired as the RCA records tour secretary and I held that position
until Elvis' death. So I was on the road with the show.
How long were you married to the Colonel?
Col and I were married in 1990 but again our relationship went back
That's a long time.
That's a very long time and we went through a lot together Joanna.
There were very traumatic things that occurred in his life, Elvis
death, that just turned our world upside down, His wife Marie died
and before she died she was literally a vegetable, that was very,
very difficult for him. There were other problems that came up of
course, the problem with the state of Tennessee. Everyone says there
was problem between the estate and Colonel Parker. The problem was
with the guardian ad lidim who was appointed for Lisa, in fact the
estate refused to make charges against the colonel and that's in
the court record. The judge ordered them to proceed or they would
be replaced. So there was never the problem between the estate and
the colonel, that's another one of those stories.
We're gonna come up with a few of them as we go along. Were you
involved in any way with the col.'s business dealings?
Absolutely, I was the sec for RCA record tours but I was assigned
to the Colonel and my initial during that period appear at the bottom
of many, many of his letters, plus he confided a lot in me.
He was a great man.
He was great all on his own, he didn't need anyone behind him. But
I think he enjoyed having someone there who appreciated his work
talents. Marie did not like show-business, she was uncomfortable
with show business. And so he couldn't discuss it with her, probably
didn't even think of discussing it with her. Because they were in
the age group where a man had his life which was his business, the
wife had her home, children if there were any and there were a few
things that they would talk about in regard to the home and children
but that was about it.
That's something that's very difficult, to have a working and personal
relationship with your husband, you must have been very, very close.
Oh, we were close, we were extremely close. In 1985 we closed all
of our homes and moved here to Las Vegas. I'd had a home here all
during that period and we were together 24 hours a day from 1985
until his death.
Is that where you're from, Las Vegas originally?
No, I'm from Ohio.
When did you move out to Vegas?
Did you get to go to any of Elvis' concerts?
Yeah. Of course.
How do you remember them?
He was dyn-o-mite
That's what you remember?
I wish every one of your listeners could have attended a concert
and seen him perform in person because you had to be there to feel
the electricity, to feel the excitement, he had an aura, a magnetism
that doesn't come across on film, he looks great on film but in
person he was even more sensational. I was NOT an Elvis fan when
I met colonel. I didn't dislike Elvis but he just wasn't my style
but was I converted quickly, one show, that did it.
Would you say you ended up knowing Elvis very, fairly well?
No, now I didn't.
What would you remember the most of Elvis? What stands out in your
I think the most that stands out is that he was a human being who
cared. His talent was a plus but I think he would have been a caring
human being no matter what occupation he'd gone into. And I think
people forget about that, too often they see him as Elvis the entertainer.
It's such a tough life to lead, I know people everywhere will disagree
with that. A friend of mine who was an entertainer said one of the
problems he had was, he said he was single at the time. He said
that `women go to bed with a star and they wake up with me,' and
I think that's very telling. Everyone expects a star to be a star
24 hours a day, and that's a lot of pressure.
Many of Elvis' friends have spoken highly of Colonel, have
you kept in touch with these people?
Yes, oh yes, Joe Esposito, Jerry Schilling, Sonny West, I've
been in touch with Jack Soden CEO of the estate, Priscilla
and I talk from time to time, Iím friends with those people.
Dick Grob is another one. I had breakfast with Jerry Schilling
and Joe Esposito about six weeks ago. Charlie Stone, he was
on this show, Mike Crawly , Someone else that you might be
aware of is Paul Gongaware He and his partner, Concerts West
has booked Celine Dion in Caesar's palace.
When you talk to these friends I'm sure you share stories about
you know remember when Elvis did this or that. Could you share a
story or two with us about Colonel and Elvis, something he would
have discussed whether it be amusing?
I'm trying to think of something with colonel and Elvis. All right,
one night, our group always traveled ahead of the show and we had
our own plane . I traveled with Colonel's group. We would go ahead
and make sure that all the arrangements were set up, the hotel rooms
were assigned. Every time a musician or any member got off the plane
there was someone there to meet them with a hotel key and transportation
to take them to the hotel and so forth. Colonel got a call before
Elvis plane left and what they said was he's not in a real good
mood tonight, Colonel.
the Colonel went up to Elvis' suite and he borrowed some paraphernalia
from the janitor of the hotel and when Elvis walked in, Colonel
had a push broom and he was sweeping the hallways. Elvis said `Colonel
what are you doing.? And Colonel said `Elvis, I'd do anything for
you.' Elvis broke up, he thought that was really funny, It changed
How would you describe the relationship between E and the colonel?
Complex .They trusted one another to the point where colonel said
Elvis I am not a singer, I'm not an artist, I don't know what songs
you should choose, I don't know what kind of attire you should wear
on stage. Elvis handled everything in the creative part and he did
an extremely great job. Colonel took care of the business, Elvis
didn't want to spend time in negotiation and things like that, so
colonel would do that for him and here's the misconception people
think that Colonel made plans and Elvis had to follow through and
that's not true.
did not make any contracts for movies, personal appearances anything
before talking it over with Elvis and Elvis agreed to it or didn't
agree to it and if he didn't agree, colonel went back and said it's
not a deal. No one told Elvis Presley what to do.
What happened, like the colonel engineered many firsts. For example
the satellite show from Hawaii?
Exactly and let's go back even further, way, way back when the he
negotiated RCA Victor contract for Elvis. Prior to that time, the
A&R man picked out the material that was to be recorded, and a recording
artist would walk into the studio and was handed the songs that
he was to do for an album. Colonel changed that. He wrote into the
contract that Elvis chose his own material. Which didn't make Colonel
very popular with the A&R people because that was a lot of power
that they held before that time. And today I don't think an artist
would dream of letting an A&R man tell them what to sing, absolutely
not. Joanne: So he did, he held a lot of power.
Let's go back to you for a second, Loanne you've been involved in
a project called the Definitive Elvis. Can you tell me a little
about that. Loanne: Can you repeat that because I'm not sure I understand
exactly what you're saying. Joanne : There's a tv series in which
you were involved
Oh right oh yes, the video this was done by Joe Esposito and Don
Wilson, they went everywhere interviewing people. I was one of those
people. At this point Joanna I think it's time some of the misconceptions
are set straight and if I can help do that I would be very happy.
I'd like you to set the record straight right now. Let's go.
heard the Colonel being an illegal alien and that's the reason Elvis
never went overseas. Let's take a look at that at the time of Elvis'
death Charlie Stone has told me Colonel had him checking into venues
with plans to take Elvis overseas but going back just a bit common
sense would tell us, how could Elvis pass customs carrying pills
and guns. Frank Sinatra was arrested in Australia for a very small
infraction. He couldn't have gotten through customs, I'm sorry,
number 1, number two, at that time the venues that we have today
were not available. Elvis would not play outdoors, and I don't blame
him, he realized that in playing outdoors he could have been mobbed.
Unfortunately, sometimes fans get carried away. In the early days
he's had his clothes nearly ripped off him, that was something that
bothered his mother a great deal I've been told. He'd come home
all scratched up. So he would not play outdoors and the indoor venues
overseas were not large enough to enable a reasonable ticket.
ticket prices would have had to been so high that quite honestly
most of the Elvis fans could not have afforded to see the show.
So if we just look at the practical aspect it makes a lot of sense.
Col would not have needed to accompany Elvis overseas he could have
sent him with concerts west, with Jerry Weintraub could have taken
him .that is silly to say that Colonel didn't want to go overseas
he was in Canada three times. When Elvis played Toronto in 1957,
Ottawa April 3rd of 1957 and Vancouver August 31st of 1957. Colonel
was outside the county and came back and forth.
Colonel did not prevent Elvis from playing overseas, it's that simple.
Now the series of what they call dead end movies that didn't challenge
Elvis, how big a part did the Colonel play in this, did he dictate?
No, lets think about Elvis' age at that time. He was young, he was
having a wonderful time. I think probably the most important thing
in his life, in any man's life, is the female relationships that
they have. Elvis made extremely good money, he was making more money
than almost any big star and Colonel does not get credit for that.
They look at what Elvis was paid for a movie and say, `oh that's
not much because they look at what a star is paid today and you
can't do that. Back in those days it was quite different. Elvis
approved every script, that's all I can say. As far as the money
that he made, can we delve into, again, only what we've heard and
you are setting the record straight?
Did the Colonel have gambling debts? And were his ties to the Hilton
hotel, did this have anything to do with the amount of time that
Elvis was working there?
No absolutely not. Colonel gambled of course. Did he have debts?
No, he paid as he went. And Joanna I can verify that because I was
the person who quite often paid the gambling debt, he sent me down
to clear it. I would take care of that. He never gambled something
he didn't have and he was always very careful to made sure there
was enough money to take care of Marie if she lived to be a hundred
and fifty. His ties to the hotel, the Las Vegas Hilton was the biggest,
best hotel when they started. In 1969 it was THE new place to be.
He did not have an exclusive contract with the hotel Colonel could
have played any other hotel in LV no one offered better money.
So it was a matter of choice. It was a good business deal.
It was a good business deal. Yes he did play in Lake Tahoe, they
also paid very well. It was just good business. Let's for one second
go back to the movie years. I have I my possession a copy of a letter
Colonel wrote to Elvis saying. Elvis enclosed is a script. It is
my personal recommendation that you do not do this movie because
I do not think it requires enough of your talent. You'd be better
choosing a script that makes better use of your talents. Now does
that sound like a man who just wanted money and didn't think of
This is why you're telling us this story, because you gotta set
the record straight! Now how about the gossip about Colonel overlooking
or ignoring Elvis drug problem?
Let's use common sense again Joanna. Sadly, when you have a loved
one who has an addiction, you would move heaven and earth to stop
that. But what can you do if the person doesn't want to end their
own addiction? There were no Betty Ford clinics back then and you
could NOT put someone in a facility without them signing themselves
in. You had to have their permission.
even at one time left, he and Elvis went their separate ways. He
said, `I'm not gonna book you anymore', that's a matter of record.
This was in March 1956, No, wait this was, wait, I've got the exact
date here. I think it was in 75 that, Colonel said no I'm not gonna
book you any more Elvis, you've gonna have to straighten yourself
out, he even talked to Vernon about this. Vernon was very distraught
about this. Everyone around was distraught. Everyone tried in their
own way, but Elvis didn't believe, he didn't believe he had a problem,
and we can sit here and judge Elvis all we like but we were not
in his body. We don't know the pressures that he was up against
and it's well known he was an insomniac. Which, it's no fault to
him being an insomniac. If Colonel could have discovered how to
stop a person's addictions, he would have made millions, just telling
everyone else how to do it and it would have been done.
How about the terrible rumor of overworking Elvis to the point of
The only time that Elvis stayed away from drugs, or let me say,
you don't stay away from something with an addiction the only time
Elvis used fewer drugs was when he was performing and Elvis himself
wanted to perform. It was a constant worry to Colonel that if Elvis
stops performing he would go up in his bedroom and eventually no
one will ever see him again. But Elvis himself agreed to every tour.
Now, I don't doubt that he complained about it on the road. Of course,
don't you and I complain about our jobs sometimes? He was a human
being. And I'm sure he complained about it, ` Colonel's got me booked
again' blah blah blah. But he would agree to the next tour and the
next tour he was a human being.
himself knew that the only thing that kept him going was his fans.
They wanted him and he needed to be out there for them. And looking
at all that his body was undergoing and so forth and probably most
of it caused by the drugs, but we should say prescriptions I guess,
using drugs because that's what they call it, these were all prescription
medication. I think that when we look even at the last show that
was videotaped for the CBS special. Elvis did very well despite
the physical condition. He really, he wanted, he wanted to perform
for his fans.
As far as Elvis goes, I bet you feel your heart cries, your heart
laughs, your heart enjoyed, your heart appreciated, but moreover
as I have understood from every word you've said you understand
the predicament he was in, you understand and you're a very wise
when you understand but you can't change it, of course you hurt,
everyone around Elvis hurt, it was not easy, it was not, and it's
so sad to be judged unfairly by those who weren't there. One of
the things that invariably is said during a conversation I have
today with someone who is on the show, that is, we can only talk
to one another about this because no one else can begin to imagine
what it was like. We were all under tremendous pressure. Anyone
of us would have given anything to help that situation.
Loanne, what are your feelings about the books that have been released
about the Colonel lately and what kind of reaction have these books
found among the Colonel's friends?
Actually they're so far from the truth that we just disregard them.
I guess, the way I feel about them is this, the writers of the books
used what information they were able to gather. But Joanna, if you
wanted to find out what it was like to eat an ice cream cone, would
you talk to someone who had eaten an ice cream cone? Or would you
talk to someone who had watched a person eat an ice cream cone?
Or a person had read about another eating an ice cream cone? Or
someone who had heard about an ice cream cone but never really got
close enough to see it? And that's they're problems. The people
who were closest to the Colonel are not talking. Because they fear
their words to be twisted and misused, it's that simple.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the Colonel?
The biggest misconception is that he cheated Elvis,that he made
E do things he didn't want to do, that he misguided Elvis, that's
not true. Colonel lived for Elvis. He didn't take a vacation because
his thinking was, `what would I enjoy doing more than I do right
now?'. I'm working for Elvis.
the day after Elvis died, Number 1, the Colonel did not go to New
York. I was with him on a chartered plane to Memphis. Jerry Weintraub
was there Pat Kelaher was there Tom Hewlett was there, Mark Hewlett,
Tom's nephew was there, and myself, George Parkhill. And Colonel
gave us a little talk cause we were all just torn up and he said,
I'm sorry, this is hard (she sobs) he said, `just because he's gone
we're still working for him, it will always be Elvis and The Colonel
till the day I die. He will always be there for me. And he said,
`make him proud of us.'
we get off this plane, I don't want any scenes, I don't want anyone
breaking down and getting emotional and in respect to him I want
us to walk off, do our jobs, pay homage to him and make him proud.
And then Col read that he had been riding a motorcycle in the funeral
procession cause someone reported that which is so silly.
I'll ask another question but I didn't want to disturb you. What
was the Col' relationship like with EP and Priscilla after Elvis'
It was strained during the period of time when the estate was forced
by the state of Tennessee to proceed, because the people who were
the estate at that time were not allowed to talk with the Colonel
and everything had to be negotiated through attorneys. But once
that was over at the settlement, when they were signing the papers,
Priscilla looked at Colonel, smiled and said, "I wish you were my
who worked with Elvis or FOR Elvis can talk about their relationship
with Elvis and their relationship with Colonel, but their relationship
with Colonel was always on a more friendship basis, because anytime
that Elvis and the Colonel had a meeting they either excused themselves
or they asked the guys to leave the room so those meetings were
just Elvis and the Colonel and there can be all kinds of speculation
about what happened but the people weren't there, there were only
two people there.
It was all behind close doors. That's the same thing you did when
you got home with the colonel. You closed the door, they weren't
in there, they weren't involved.
Colonel may have told me what transpired in the meeting and Elvis
might tell the boys what transpired. So everyone today who's alive
today has had only the opinion of one of those people but they weren't
There's Elvis' friends and the Colonel's friends who have sat and
talked to me and said this was my experience with Elvis but they
had another experience with the Colonel and they were such wonderful
stories, talking about what a benevolent man he was. It was incredible
to hear that and I'm going to get on that and hear your opinion
of that. I'd like to know if the Colonel worked with or helped promote
any other artist after Elvis died?
He was very free at giving advice but no, he did not work with any
other artist, absolutely not.
Was he approached by any other artist?
Oh, yes, absolutely, and I really don't think it would be fair of
me to tell you who they were, but just one and I don't think he
would mind me saying it but it was Tony Orlando. Who was real big
at one time. He still plays here in Vegas and still does a great
show. Tony called the Colonel and said he would like to talk to
him and Colonel said `fine I'd be happy to see you any time Tony,
but bring your manager.' Because Colonel would NOT talk to an artist
without their manager being there, and the manager had to be in
agreement because he wouldn't go behind someone's back.
Tanya Tucker's dad came and asked if Colonel would manage Tanya.
He said `No, I wish you all the success in the world and if I can
give you any helpful advice, I will do that but no Elvis was, that
was it,' he said, ` I've had the greatest, anything else would be
a step down.'
I believe the Colonel turned over much of his memorabilia to EPE.
Do you still own a considerable amount of Elvis memorabilia?
No, in 1990 EPE purchased all of the memorabilia and all of the
records , I'm talking about business records that Colonel had in
his office in TN. And at that time his offices in Las Vegas and
Los Angeles were sent to Tennessee so they got all of that. The
only thing that I have now is personal records of the Colonel.
Do you have any plans for this memorabilia?
I'm holding onto it, I'm keeping it safe because yes, probably at
some point I will donate it to a university. So that's it's made
available to anyone who is interested and wants to look at it. You
know there are no secrets, Joanna, no secrets, because Colonel had
no reason to keep things secret. When the problems arose with state
of Tennessee and the estate and Colonel. Colonel's feelings were
let them go ahead, I've done nothing wrong. I have nothing to hide.'
Everything that the state of Tennessee requested, he made available.
And eventually there was a settlement. In all the time this was
discussed and talked about and threats of a lawsuit came up, it
was not instigated. They never found anything that they could go
to court with.
Something got proved right.
Louanne, how do you feel about the Elvis entertainer, the imitator,
the tribute artists? Have you ever seen any of them perform?
I saw Donnie Seaton perform and two others, they were in Elvis,
an American Musical, which the estate, it was their show they sponsored
this. I'd like to call them tribute artist. I think that's fair,
`imitators' takes something away from the person, the artist that's
doing the singing, but tribute artist, I like that a lot better.
I have not seen many of them for a very selfish reason, it hurts.
of Colonel's friends and yours Charles Stone, Oh yeah and Craig
Parker, he's a very personable man and I have no doubt that he's
very talented. He's, gonna be here in February and I'm looking forward
to that. I think he's at the Sun Coast Casino. Feb 15 to 17, he's
fabulous. Las Vegas is a great place for Elvis fans and admirers
to come because Elvis of course just captured the town, absolutely
took it over.
Second time around, not the very first appearance, I'm told over
and over again first time Elvis was in Vegas.
And Colonel said `If it was such a bad event, why did they ask us
to stay over and why did they offer us a chance to come back?" Well
good for him because that's what we think. They wanted him to stay
an extra week but he was going to be in a movie in fact they stopped
here on their way to the coast. They just picked up a little work
on their way to the coast. Both Elvis and the Colonel gave generously
to charities. He gave to so many, there was one group in TN these
women ran a day school for under privileged children, and he gave
a lot to them but he gave to different religious groups.
when you think about when they had the Pearl Harbor Memorial, when
they did the concert for that, each of them coughed up $35 thousand
dollars, I mean Elvis and the Colonel, because any box office receipts
went directly to charity. There was nothing deducted, nothing. If
there were Expense, Elvis and the Colonel divided those expenses
and paid for them out of their own pockets. I have volumes of letters
from charities that Colonel donated to, letters thanking him. Every
time he sent out a check it was with was a stipulation that there
was no publicity he felt that you give from the heart not because
you want publicity or attention. (end of interview)
to comment on this interview