Spotlight introduction & concept by Julian Grant
The Wedding – By Marty Lacker
In December 1966, Elvis had informed me that he was going to marry Priscilla and asked me to be his best man.
Joe Esposito and I became dual best men for the coming wedding.
It had been postponed once, but in April Colonel Parker held a meeting with Elvis, Joe and me. Plans were made for Joe to handle part of the arrangement and I was to take care of the rest.
We didn’t, of course, want the reporters to get wind of the wedding but they somehow learned, even though they had no specific details. Colonel Parker arranged with Milton Prell, who had just bought the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, for the wedding to be held there.
To get the reporters off track, Elvis, Joe, his wife Joanie and George Klein would fly to Palm Springs on the night of April 29th. The wedding was scheduled for May 1st. Mr. Presley and his wife Dee, were going to take the train from Memphis and they were to get off the train in San Bernardino to avoid any reporters at the Los Angeles station. Jerry and Sandy Schilling and I packed them up by automobile and drove them to Palm Springs. The rest of the guys came in, one at a time, but by that time we were all at the house in Palm Springs the reporters were there by the dozens. When they saw all the people arriving they of course knew something was about to happen and that something was probably a wedding. The reporters were trying to bribe the maids. One was even offered five hundred dollars just to tell what was going on but she didn’t buy it.
Everyone kept quiet and the house was surrounded by a special detail of Palm Springs police so the reporters were unable to get too close to the house. No one would talk with the reporters, we acted as though they were not even there. We would get in the car and drive away without answering any questions or even looking at them and they would follow in their cars.
Once, Joe and I were going to a little store to pick up some cigarettes and Rona Barrett, the Hollywood reporter, followed us in her car. When we saw her following, we decided to have a little fun. We drove all around just to see if she would stay with us. Sure enough she did, and when we tired of our game we went in to the store so the game started again. She obviously did not know we recognized her and she stayed very close to us as we picked different items and decided not to buy them. I would say things like, "Boy, it’s really great that it’s finally going to happen." Joe would answer "Yeah, I wasn’t sure it was ever going to come off." Then I would say "Yeah, after all this time we just might get that chick." We stayed in the store a lot longer than necessary just stringing Rona along. Several years later she reminded me of that night.
Colonel Parker told all the reporters that there would be a news conference at one o’clock the next afternoon when he would answer all questions. He told them it would be held in the ballroom of the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas and if they wanted to know what was happening they should all be there. Most left Palm Springs to go and wait. Colonel Parker made it sound as though nothing special was planned before then, whereas the wedding was scheduled for ten in the morning.
That night we rented a Lear Jet and Elvis, Priscilla, Joe, Joanie and George flew to Las Vegas as though they were just going for a good time evening. We also chartered a DC-3, and at three in the morning I got everybody to the airport and we flew to Las Vegas. There we were met by a special bus and taken to the hotel where we went to our rooms by a rear entrance.
About four that morning, Elvis and Priscilla, escorted by Joe and a security man, were taken to the Las Vegas Courthouse where a license was issued. Except for the clerks, there were no other people, so no advance notice was leaked to the press.
When I dressed in the morning, I went into Elvis’ suite to see if I could help with anything. He was there with Harry Levitch, a Memphis jeweler from whom Elvis bought most of his jewelry. He had delivered the wedding ring to Las Vegas. Mr. Levitch had his jewelry cases with him and Elvis chose a set of cuff links and tie clasp for me as a gift for being best man. Because of the ranch, they were the shape of a bull’s head with diamonds set as eyes. He also gave a set to Joe. They were handsome, expensive pieces of jewelry.
Marty Lacker, Elvis, George Klein, Harry Levitch and Charlie Hodge
I had designed Elvis’ tuxedo and one of the studio tailors had made it. The tailor kept the secret and did an exceptional job to make the tuxedo come out special. Elvis was, indeed, a stunning groom.
The Groom -
Vernon with Elvis
Everything necessary had now been done so I said to Joe, "Well I better go tell the guys to get ready" It was then that Joe informed me that none of the guys could be at the ceremony. I was upset because I knew how hurt the guys would be. After all the years we had been together, as a group, it seemed incredible that they were to be excluded. The reason given was that there wouldn’t be enough room in the suite where the ceremony was to be held, but, as it turned out, there was plenty of room.
I don’t know who made that decision but I don’t believe it was Elvis; he would not have done that. It was a bad decision. All the guys took it very hard and thought, because I was part of the wedding that I had known about it all along and was even involved in the decision. This of course was not true. The first time I heard it was a few minutes before I had to tell them. They were upset and could hardly speak to me, and for a time after the wedding was over they still thought I had something to do with it.
For me, a bit of the gloss had been taken off the affair, but it was simply not possible to be anything but happy for the two lovely people that were about to join their lives as husband and wife. The marriage ceremony was performed by Judge David Zenoff who was a justice of the Nevada Supreme Court. The ceremony was a simple affair, held in the private suite of Milton Prell.
There were only a few guests present. George Klein and Jo Smith, Gee Gee and Patsy Gamble, Colonel and Mrs. Parker, Harry Levitch, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Presley, Major and Mrs. Beaulieu and their son, Donny. In the wedding party were Joe and I as dual best men, Priscilla’s sister Michelle as maid of honor and Joan Esposito as matron of honor.
The ceremony was simple but the news conference that followed was wild. The guests were escorted to the Aladdin Room where the wedding breakfast reception for a hundred people was about to take place.
Elvis, Priscilla and George Klein, Joe and I were led to a different room where there were reporters and television cameramen from all over the country.
(Photo Right: Priscilla, Elvis and Marty Lacker)
The press had not been at the ceremony nor were they to be allowed to join in the reception.
This was the press conference which replaced the one o’ clock meeting scheduled by the Colonel. Elvis and Priscilla sat at a big table at the front of the room, while the rest of us stood on the side.
The reporters started firing questions at Elvis. "What made you finally get married?" "Why did you give up bachelorhood?" "How long were you engaged?" Why this and how that. Elvis and Priscilla handled the questions nicely. Then the Colonel, in his way, let it be known that the session was over.
We left to join the others at the breakfast reception. Inside the Aladdin Room were representatives from RCA, Hill and Range Publishing Company, Movie studios and other business whom the Colonel had invited. All the guys attended except two who stayed in their rooms. At the head of the table were Elvis and Priscilla, Vernon and Dee, Major and Mrs. Beaulieu, Joe and Joanie Esposito, Colonel and Mrs. Parker, George Klein and me. To our surprise, the only celebrity invited was Red Foxx, and he sat next to the Colonel at the head of the table.
The wedding cake was six-tiered, five feet high and decorated with pink and white roses.
There were waiters everywhere serving champagne, but breakfast was a buffet. It included roast suckling pig, ham and eggs, fried chicken, fresh poached candied salmon and clams and oysters.
I don’t know if anything special was ordered for Elvis but I do know there was little on the menu he cared for except the chicken and ham and eggs. However, he was so excited that I doubt he even noticed.
The guests were seated and nine or ten round tables and a string trio played romantic ballads for the newlyweds, including "Love Me Tender".
Later that afternoon Elvis and Priscilla few back to Palm Springs for a short honeymoon in a house he had leased. The rest of us went back on the DC-3. We had to carry the remaining cake, flowers, liquor and other things which had not been used at the wedding back to Palm Springs with us. The tension in that plane was thick. None of the guys would talk to me and I had to carry all that stuff on the plane myself and get it in to the house. No one offered to help. As soon as we arrived at the house, most of the guys left for Los Angeles, they were mad as hell. I still didn’t blame them.
I soon left Palm Springs for Bel-Air with a couple of the guys who were at the ceremony. We were a house divided for only a short period of time. The problems created by the wedding were eventually resolved, forgotten or diminished.
Elvis & Priscilla at Palm Springs - May 1967
After a few days in Palm Springs Elvis and Priscilla returned to Memphis and hosted a huge party for their friends and employees at Graceland.
The Newlyweds cut a new cake, and a large buffet was provided by a Memphis catering service. There was a huge crowd in Graceland that night and Elvis and Priscilla were radiant.
Gifts and cards poured into Graceland from Elvis' fans. Most of the fans were happy for them but some of the less gracious threatened to kill themselves or, at least, become nuns.
Elvis and Priscilla started talking about going to Europe for a longer honeymoon. They were encouraged a little by Joe, who always wanted to go back there and he and Joan were planning to go along. Well, the Colonel stepped in and said it would be a bad move as he had been telling the European promoters that Elvis' commitments in the United States gave him no time to perform overseas. If Elvis went there for pleasure it could not be kept secret and he would be hounded by promoters and fans to perform. So, Europe was out and the Bahamas was in. They went there for a few days but came right back. The place was beautiful but Elvis did not like it.
The complete version is available in Marty Lacker's book 'Portrait Of A Friend'. GO HERE to purchase>> Elvis: Portrait of a Friend
EIN thanks Marty Lacker for his article.
EIN also sends special thanks to Julian Grant of FECC for the timely idea.
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Unique photos colourised by Piretos. With Thanks.
The Wedding spotlight compiled by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN May 2012
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