David Stanley talks to EIN
Stanley grew up as the youngest step-brother of The King of
Rock & Roll.
this exclusive interview with EIN, David talks candidly about
his famous brother and step-father, sex, drugs and rock and
roll, the Memphis Mafia, the Colonel, the infamous "bodyguard"
book, and his latest venture, Solutionary Dynamics.
following interview is excerpted from EIN's 90 minute interview
What are your recollections of Vernon Presley?
Vernon was my step-father, my dad. He drove me to school, made sure
I got to football practice. And he had a great sense of humor. He
was very tight with money, he gave me an allowance but it was like
only 50 cents. I think he always feared that despite Elvis's great
wealth they could lose it tomorrow. But if we're talking about influencing
me, you've got to also understand that everything revolved around
Elvis. So there were things where it was Elvis's influence on me
- Elvis would play footy with me, he got me into karate & music.
And Priscilla. What was your relationship like with her?
Priscilla was my first love as a 6 year old. You know what I mean,
a crush. She was a lot of fun. We'd spend quality time together,
go to the park, swimming. Our home in Dolan Street was connected
to Graceland so we spent a lot of time together, we were very close.
She was like a big sister to me. After Elvis died we went our separate
ways but I have very fond memories. I also admire what she has done
to keep Elvis alive. If you had Elvis it wasn't going to be hard
to do but it was Priscilla that did it.
David, you and your brothers grew up in a very unusual environment,
surrounded by great wealth, temptation and a coterie of very interesting,
even eclectic individuals in the Memphis Mafia. In particular you
were very close to Lamar Fike. Do you see much of Lamar and the
other Memphis Mafia members these days?
In fact I talked to Lamar last night. You know he changed my diaper
as a 2 year old. I saw Patti Perry recently and still talk with
Joe and Charlie. Also Dick Grob. We don't keep in touch on a regular
basis but the bond is there. Those guys raised me, I became one
of them and in a sense David Stanley the person is a bit of all
of them. They were strong influences on me. And you know one thing
that people don't realize about the Memphis Mafia. They are historians
- historians of one of the most influential people of the 20th century,
if not ever.
Lamar (Fike) is on record as saying that the Stanley Brothers were
corrupted by Elvis Presley. What is your view on what happened?
I think the situation was misunderstood. Here we were, living a
life free from restraints. Sex, drugs and rock & roll. I was a hormone
with feet! But Elvis didn't force me into it. Sure the lifestyle
contributed to it. What happened was we grew up a bit too fast.
As a former Minister of Religion how do you feel about people who
see the ongoing worship of Elvis Presley as equivalent to a religious
It's quite scary. There is only one King and that is Christ. Elvis
felt and knew this. There is a big difference in filling your room
and walls with Elvis pictures and memorabilia, but it's another
thing quite different to see Elvis as a religious figure. Elvis
felt his calling was to communicate the gospel to people and that
is why he incorporated gospel songs in his concerts. You only had
to hear him sing How Great Thou Art to know. Elvis's spiritual gift
was to sing, to communicate gospel music.
Critic, Dave Marsh once wrote: "And unless you understand that Elvis
Presley was more than anything a spiritual leader of our generation,
there's really no way to assess his importance, much less the meaning
of his music".
What Dave wrote is so true but not with Elvis as a religious figure,
but as a leader of a generation through his music, yes.
There has been a lot of conjecture about Elvis's relationship with
the Colonel during the final few years. What is your view on this
The Colonel always gave me stuffed animals, things from RCA and
later on cigars. The thing you need to know about Elvis is that
no-one was around Elvis if he didn't want you there. If he didn't
you weren't there. I hope this is making sense. The Colonel was
Elvis's manager not his dad, so his influence was professional only.
And you need to realize Elvis was very strong minded and if he'd
really wanted to do other things professionally he would have. People
often ask: did the Colonel make Elvis? And if he did why didn't
he make another one? Well there was only one Elvis and could only
be one Elvis. After Elvis died, the Colonel became part of the blame
game. Why didn't Elvis tour Europe, why didn't he make A Star Is
Born? The Colonel, Ginger, Lamar Fike, Dr Nick, David Stanley. It's
easy to blame people but the reality was that Elvis brought his
demise on himself. I know that may sound harsh but it's the truth,
no matter how much it might hurt.
There is an issue of 'personal responsibility'?
Yes, very true. We have to get away from this easy way out with
the blame game. Again I know many fans won't like it, but it is
how it was. Elvis became like Howard Hughes, very self destructive.
He was afraid of losing and had to protect his image, that charade
I mentioned earlier, at all costs. If only he had admitted his problem
with medications. It was such a waste. It also shows that kings
can make mistakes, they can be as frail as everyone else. Elvis's
death was a tragic loss. The Memphis Mafia lost a friend, I lost
a brother, fans lost their idol, but importantly we must always
remember, Elvis lost his life.
David, another widely debated topic in the Elvis world is his relationship
with Ginger Alden, in particular were they engaged? What light can
you shed on this?
I was there when Elvis asked her to marry him. I was there when
he gave her a ring, so was Charlie. But I think we need to look
at his state of mind. He needed to love someone and he needed them
right now. He wanted to keep Ginger around, but marry her?, I don't
think he would have.
Your own friendship with Ginger became an issue. You were similar
in age and enjoyed the latest music. What was Ginger like as a person?
That's right we had a lot in common but not in any sense that was
prejudicial to Elvis. Ginger is part of that 'blame game' mentality.
Fans need to blame someone. If only she had gone into the bathroom
sooner, Elvis could still be alive. In her defense, she was a college
kid who entered Elvis' world and saw all these problems. It was
very difficult and she wasn't seasoned enough to know how to handle
it, what to do. I don't believe Ginger was really in love with Elvis.
If it had been Linda Thompson there and not Ginger?
I think Linda and Elvis loved each other and yes things probably
would have been different. But again you can't blame Linda for that.
Elvis was Elvis and as I said before deep down he knew he was far
from perfect in personal relationships. Some fans won't like hearing
this but it is the truth.
David, I'd like to ask a few other questions about August 1977.
You wrote in Raised On Rock about what obviously were great internal
conflicts that Elvis experienced throughout his life and particularly
in the last few months of his life. The issues with Red, Sonny and
Dave, his obvious bad health etc. How devastating was the so-called
Bodyguard book on Elvis?
He was devastated by the book. Here were his close friends who had
written serious stuff that would affect his life. He felt betrayed.
Red was honest with Elvis about his medication problems and I think
this was one of the reasons he was fired. For the guys they were
fired, but not by Elvis. That must have hurt.
they wrote was true. I mean no-one forced Elvis to take the medication.
For Elvis, here he was about to start a new tour, very overweight
and unwell and this book had just been published. He didn't want
to go out there looking the way he did and confirming what was in
the book. He didn't know how to deal with it. Fear built up about
facing his fans, his audience. I feel that's why the tour wasn't
going to go ahead. I must say this, the blame game cannot include
Red, Sonny or Dave. I reiterate, Elvis was responsible for Elvis.The
only thing that can be said about the book is that it was definitely
a case of bad timing.
You mean the August 1977 tour was going to be cancelled? DS: Elvis
was in no shape to go on tour, either physically or emotionally.
And he knew this and being Elvis he didn't want to disappoint his
fans. Serious consideration was being given to canceling the tour.
At the time of Elvis's death you were one of his personal bodyguards
and on duty at Graceland. The events that day have been repeated
many times. In Life With Elvis you wrote that in August 1977 it
was Elvis's time to die. In Raised On Rock you wrote about your
last conversation with Elvis (14 August, 1977): 'The last thing
he said to me was, 'David, I want to say goodbye.' How should we
interpret Elvis's statement? Can you elaborate on these two things?
I think that for everyone a time comes when you are ready to move
on to the next stop. For Elvis, August 1977 was that time. Sometimes
it is just time to go and Elvis was ready to move on to the next
stage of his journey. I always say "Be Elvis for a day". It's actually
amazing that what happened didn't get him earlier.
Also, in Raised On Rock, you commented that "He [Elvis] was a person
who had it all but was unhappy with what his wealth and fame brought
to him." We all know how much Elvis was into things of a spiritual
nature. Why do you think Elvis Presley couldn't find the inner peace
he so much wanted and strove for?
I believe Elvis did find some inner peace. He went inwards a lot
but didn't deal with all his demons. In a way the legend superseded
reality. I remember his most revealing statement: "The image is
one thing, but the man is another". Because he knew he was influential,
Elvis kept a lot of things to himself. And I think he struggled
with how to deal with the power of God in concert, that spiritual
power, even though it was part of his calling, he just wasn't totally
sure how to convey it fully to his audience. I hope that makes sense.
David, following on from my previous question, a very important
question, one millions of fans have asked, in August 1977 did Elvis
want to live?
That is a profound question. I feel Elvis and God may have cut a
deal. Elvis was ready for the next stop, but not here on Earth.
Elvis's death in August 1977 shocked the world and made many people
question their own mortality and meaning in their life. You've written
extensively and openly about your downward spiral following Elvis's
death. Twenty-five years later what was the most important thing
you learnt about the world or yourself as a result of Elvis's death?
There was an opportunity to grow as an individual and it took me
a long time to do that. It is possible though and that's really
important to understand. Many people give up when there is so much
more for them to do. I thank Elvis for the wonderful things that
came my way as a result of him being my brother.
David, a lot has been written and said about Elvis's darker side.
However he was only human and there was also a very loving, giving
side to him. What are some of your fondest memories?
On a scale of 1 to 10, no let's say 1 to 100, about 7 or 8% were
sad times, but the remaining 93% of the time was wonderful. Elvis
was such a fun, caring, giving individual (he'd literally give you
the shirt off his back). I mean he gave everything away! He was
the greatest giver and I don't just mean material things. He gave
to us by a pat on the back, a word of advice. And he gave his gift,
his music, his life, to the fans. The reason there wasn't much to
his estate when he died was he gave so much away - I remember him
giving millions of dollars to charities. And he was usually a very
upbeat person. We had so much fun whether playing around at Graceland
or on the back lots of movie studios.
What is the rest of the Stanley family doing in 2003?
My brother Ricky is an evangelist in Florida, he's the real miracle
story, how a really wild child overcame incredible challenges, survived,
and found God. Billy lives in Nashville and is involved with data
processing and racing cars. My mom is 76 years old now, healthy
and happy. We all have regrets, like everyone we have made mistakes.
If you were to describe your life with Elvis in just one word what
would that word be?
David, when you reflect back on your life growing up with Elvis
what is it that you most remember?
I wouldn't trade my life with Elvis for anything. It was the greatest
experience of my life. I was part of history with a wonderful individual,
an individual who was my mentor. The legacy of my life is a gift
from Elvis Presley.
David, as a person who has experienced the terrible negative
effects of drugs and alcohol and is now helping people through
Solutionary Dynamics™ what would you say to people who today
are caught up in that self-destructive cycle?
We all have incredible potential. But to realize that potential
people need to face their fears and deal with those things
holding them back. It can be done. It's certainly not easy,
I can testify to that, but it can be done.
On a more positive note, what does the future hold for David Stanley?
My goal is to build Solutionary Dynamics™ into the premier peak
performance company in the world.
David, we wish to all the best in this endeavor. David Stanley,
it has been a great pleasure talking with you today. Thank you sincerely
for your time and we wish you all the best taking your powerful
message 'From the Shadows of The King to Solutionary Dynamics©'
around the world and hopefully we'll see you in Australia sometime
in the near future.
Stanley was interviewed by telephone by Nigel Patterson on Thursday
30 January, 2003 (USA time).
learn more about David or Solutionary Dynamics visit: www.solutionarydynamics.com
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