Dispute over Elvis memorabilia lands in Delaware court"


Associated Press Writer

Elvis may have left the building, but some of his stuff is still around.

While three tractor-trailers of Elvis Presley memorabilia sit in Nevada airport hangars, a Delaware court is being asked to resolve a dispute over its ownership.

Richard Long, a California businessman, wants the Court of Chancery to affirm the validity of an agreement between him and two Nevada residents, Robert Gallagher and Betty Franklin, regarding a collection known as "Dr. Nick's Memories of Elvis."

The collection consists of items once owned by Dr. George Nichopolous, a former...
...personal physician to Presley, who died of heart disease and prescription drug abuse in 1977 at his Memphis mansion. Among the items is a black doctor's bag used by Nichopolous and containing prescription bottles bearing Presley's name.

"Some of the prescription bottles are dated the day prior to Elvis' death," according to an inventory included in Long's lawsuit.

The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended Nichopolous' license in 1980 after determining he over-prescribed drugs to Presley, entertainer Jerry Lee Lewis and other patients in the 1970s. According to the board, Nichopolous prescribed 5,300 pills and vials for Presley in the sevenmonths before his death.

Nichopolous was acquitted on related criminal charges in 1981, but his medical license was revoked in 1995 after the board ruled he had over-prescribed potentially addictive drugs to 13 patients, including Lewis, between 1987 and 1990.

In addition to Nichopolous's black bag, the collection includes jewelry, guns, a laryngeal scope used to examine Presley's throat, and a glass nasal douche "used to irrigate Elvis' sinuses before each show."

The collection also includes a desk at which Elvis conducted business from his Graceland mansion and regularly got his hair cut. "Some of Elvis' hair remains in the fibers of thechair," the inventory states.

According to the lawsuit, Nichopolous, who has collaborated with Gallagher and Franklin in past exhibitions of the collection, agreed earlier this year to sell it to them and Long for $1 million. In return, Nichopolous agreed to make promotional appearances for which he would be paid $100 an hour, or a flat fee of $10,000, depending on the distance he had to travel.

Long claims that he agreed to put up the $1 million to purchase the memorabilia, and that Gallagher and Franklin, who claimed to have a "half interest" in the collection, agreed to assign all their rights to a limited liability company controlled by Long. Longalso agreed to loan the new company $1 million to cover expenses incurred by Gallagher and Franklin, and another $1 million for operating capital, according to the lawsuit.

Long claims that Gallagher and Franklin have refused to surrender access to the memorabilia and won't provide proof of their expenses and the paperwork needed to obtain insurance.

"More critically, all of the items in the memorabilia have remained in the possession of Mr. Gallagher and Ms. Franklin in uninsured and unsecured locations in Nevada," the lawsuit states.

Meanwhile, Franklin, who reportedly once worked for Nichopolous and is Gallagher's business manager, says shehas hired Nevada attorney Michael Matuska to review the arrangement with Long. Matuska did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Mario Zangari, a Connecticut attorney representing Long, noted that William Dulaney, an attorney in Tunica, Miss., warned Gallagher and Franklin before the deal that Long would control the new enterprise.

"He warned them in writing and verbally in front of all of us," Zangari said. " ... He warned them that this would be very difficult on their part."

Dulaney declined to answer questions, saying he was not aware of the Chancery Court lawsuit.

Gallagher and Franklin apparently decided to go ahead with thedeal, although language in the agreement was changed at the last minute after Nichopolous' lawyer informed Zangari at closing that Gallagher had testified in a previous lawsuit that he did not own an interest in the collection.

Gallagher and Franklin subsequently presented a written agreement in which Nichopolous granted them a 50 percent share of the proceeds if the collection was sold, according to the lawsuit.

Long claims that within weeks of closing the deal, Gallagher said he was putting together a group to buy him out. According to the lawsuit, a sale never developed and uncertainty over the collection's future resulted in an inability to exhibitit at the Stardust casino in Las Vegas before it closed Nov. 1. In her October letter, Franklin blamed Long for "tremendous losses" suffered by her and Gallagher because of the cancellation.

Officials with Elvis Presley Enterprises, whose chief executive once described the collection as "tacky, tasteless and unfortunate," did not respond to a request for comment on the case.


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