I have been reluctant to tell this story for fear of being added to the Hall of Kooks and sacrificing my reputation, but sometimes a story doesn’t give you a choice. It forces the writer to tell it no matter the cost, but I don’t really know how to begin so I guess I’ll just put it out there. I met Elvis. I met Elvis after he died. I suppose, like any good story, it’s best to start at the beginning where it began in the twilight of morning when the stars still give their light and the world is at peace.
Graceland in the early morning light is a beautiful scene to behold. On this particular morning the sky was a gray-blue hue dotted by billowy, gray clouds and dimming stars. The trees sang with the echo of birdsong, inspired, I suppose, by the slowly rising sun. The rich green grass was blanketed with morning dew glistening in the dim light and the air was crisp and clean. It was peaceful.
Someone screamed near the guard shack and jolted me out of my dreamy moment. I was so lost in my admiration of Graceland I hadn’t noticed the iconic gates had opened. I ran over to the guard shack just in time to see a small woman barreling out of it and rushing towards some guy dressed in a cheap Elvis jumpsuit. She hit him like a defensive football player and knocked him down hard to the ground causing his ragged pompadour to fly off his head. She proceeded to kick the hell out of him and it looked like she was going to kill him. I sprinted over to help, but wasn’t sure if I needed to save her or help the poor fellow getting the Elvis beat out of him.
“Hey! What’s going on here?” I shouted and put myself between the man and his attacker. The little woman looked at me with a furious glare and I instinctively stepped back and tripped over the beaten man. It looked like I may have to save myself.
“Whoa! You’re Lisa Marie.” I said as I fell to the ground.
She let out a forceful puff of air to blow the hair away from her eyes, glared at me hard and continued with the beat down just barley missing me. The man was actually laughing after each kick. It was a maniacal laugh like the one from the lead character in the movie Amadeus.
“Get the hell off Graceland you freakin’ lunatic.” She kicked him hard in the gut one more time and I scrambled to my feet so I wouldn’t become collateral damage.
“Ow! Crap!” She yelled.
Lisa hurt her foot with that last kick, but she glared at the man on the ground like a lioness over a kill. Our eyes met and I swear, through the pained look on her face, she had a proud smirk, then relented, turned and hobbled over to sit down on a curb near the shack.
I turned my attention to the cheesy, Halloween costumed fool who was still laughing through his split lip and bleeding nose. I helped him to his feet, examined his face, and patted down his rib cage.
“What’s your name?”
“Well, Harris, it doesn’t look like anything is broken, but you should get some medical attention.” I don’t think he heard me or just didn’t care and only looked at Lisa.
“I was totally beaten up by Elvis Presley’s daughter. Cool.” he said.
“Really? You’d better get out of here before you are killed by Elvis Presley’s daughter.” I escorted Harris passed the gate and watched him limp away for a moment to make sure he wasn’t going to return.
“Bye, Lisa Marie!” He shouted. She flipped him off, though he didn’t see it.
“Crap!” Lisa was struggling to stand up, but she really hurt her foot.
“Wait, let me help you.”
“No. I can do it. Leave me alone.”
She tried a few more times to get up by herself and I watched with some amusement at her stubbornness. After a couple of more tries she stopped and stared at the ground with her head between her knees letting out a drawn out sigh. Lisa held out her hand for help. I carefully helped her up and we hobbled together back into the guard shack.
“Thank you,” she said after sitting in a chair. “Will you please close the gates. The button is right there.”
Lisa removed her shoe and rubbed her ankle to ease the pain. “I should have kicked him until my foot broke off in his behind.”
“It almost did and it looked like you kind of enjoyed it.” She stopped rubbing her ankle and looked at me with that same smirk. I let out a little laugh.
We sat there in silence mostly because I didn’t know if I should stay or go. Of course, I didn’t want to leave, but part of me wanted to run away for some reason. Also, I didn’t know what to say and was feeling really stupid in the uncomfortable silence. What do you say to the daughter of the man you’ve admired since you were a kid? All I knew at the moment is I should probably exhale before I passed out.
“So, what are you doing out here in the guard shack? Record sales a little slow?”
“Ha ha. You’re a riot and no! Record sales are going just fine. I was just playing security guard because we’re expecting a delivery today and happened to be in the office when the guard called and said he needed to use the bathroom. The delivery truck hadn’t arrived yet, that’s why the gates were open, and the other guard called in sick, so, here I am. I didn’t think anything would happen this early in the morning. Guess I was wrong.”
“Do you want me to wait with you until the guard returns?” Lisa shrugged her shoulders and pointed to a chair. She continued to rub her ankle which began to swell and it was obvious the injury was causing a lot of pain.
“Listen, I used to be a medic in the Army. Let me wrap that up and immobilize your ankle for you. I’ve got an Ace bandage in my Jeep.”
“Yeah, that would be nice.”
The quick walk to the Jeep gave me a moment to shake off the nervous heebie jeebies and compose myself. I wanted to keep myself in check and keep myself from doing something stupid and, to say the least, I was all giddy inside.
I returned with the Ace bandage and knelt in front of Lisa, gently lifted her foot to examine it, then wrapped it up. “It’s not broken. Just a bad sprain and you need to shave.”
“Shut up and just wrap my ankle so I can kick the crap out of you with my other foot.” She seemed comfortable around me now and didn’t seem so guarded. I think she sensed my uneasiness and was just making me feel comfortable.
“What did he say to you?”
“Ah, you’re gonna think I’m insane.”
“Too late. I saw what you did to the nut job.” This made her laugh and then she reenacted the entire incident sitting from her chair.
“He pointed the double-handed gun fingers at me and said, ‘Thank you. Thank you very much’ with that stupid, exaggerated turned up lip, like I was supposed to think that was clever.”
“Really? That was it? Guys like that must have done that to you a hundred times.” I laughed.
“Thousands, but he was the lucky one to set me off! It gets a little frustrating seeing people dressed up like your dad all the time. You know, I’m never really at peace with him because of all the reminders. I know this is how it is, but it just gets to me. Sometimes I really want to take it out on him, but it’s not his fault. He’s Elvis Presley. Besides, what good would it do?”
It was weird how Lisa talked about Elvis in the present tense as if he were still alive, but I figured it was her way of coping with the burden of her legendary dad’s fame and death. It made me appreciate that my dad was a simple propane company manager.
“You really are insane.” She laughed again.
“Yeah, tell me about it. You don’t know the half of it.”
“I’d like to hear the stories,” I said with a smile, but Lisa feigned she didn’t hear me and stared blankly at her ankle. She was somewhere else at the moment.
“Let me check the bandage to make sure it’s not too tight.”
The guard returned and when he opened the door he saw me holding Lisa’s foot and became alarmed.
“Back off, Tom. Everything is okay. This is my…ah…friend.” She cocked her head at me, waiting for me to say my name.
“Oh, yeah, I’m Jim. Lisa’s friend…I guess.” That sounded awkward, but I was just trying to follow her lead and play along. I stood up to shake his hand forgetting I had Lisa’s foot in my hand and absent-mindedly dropped it. She winced in pain and dropped the F-bomb.
“It’s okay. Tom, help me to the golf cart, please.” We stood on each side of Lisa and helped her to the golf cart. She tried to mash the accelerator, but it caused too much pain and she let out a loud sigh of defeat.
“Wanna be my chauffeur?”
“No, I will drive her.” said Tom who pushed me aside.
“And who is supposed to watch for the delivery truck? C’mon, Jim. Let’s ride.” I nudged Tom to the side, smirked at him and took my place behind the wheel. What a jerk.
The only communication between us was Lisa pointing her finger in the direction I was supposed to drive. We pulled up to the left side of Graceland where several employees were already waiting. Tom must have radioed ahead to let them know we were coming. They helped Lisa out of the golf cart and carefully shuffled her inside Graceland and closed the door. She was gone like a dream.
C’est la vie! So much for becoming friends. It was disappointing, but what can be done? Lisa Marie is the daughter of the King of Rock & Roll and little interested in the likes of me, but I had a great story to tell. I walked to the front of Graceland to take a last look before leaving and thought about going to the gravesite, but changed my mind. Jeanne, my wife, and I were heading back to California today. She was still at the hotel asleep, but would be awake soon. I turned to walk down the driveway.
“Mr. Jim.” I turned to see a black woman standing in the front door. Another employee, I figured.
“Please, come in.” I gave her that “Who me?” look. She nodded, then stepped aside in the doorway while motioning with her hand to invite me inside. I obliged and skipped over a few steps to the doorway excited about the possibilities from this invite.
Lisa was sitting in a wheelchair to the right of the stairway with a man dressed in a black suit like an MIB agent standing beside her. It’s true, I thought. Elvis is an alien and went home to another planet instead of dying just like Agent K said in the movie.
“Jim, this is Ajax.” I smiled and nodded to him while he remained motionless and emotionless
“There is someone I’d like you to meet and Ajax will accompany you.” said Lisa. Ajax nodded in the affirmative this time like a good soldier.
“What’s this about?”
“I just wanted to thank you for your kindness and I thought you’d like to meet another member of the family.”
“Okay. Thank you, but who?” The black woman who let me in grabbed the wheelchair handles and rolled Lisa away.
“Who do you think?” Score! I was going to meet Priscilla or the Presleys were going to kill me. It was a silly thought, but I didn’t know what to think and things were moving from the real to the surreal.
Ajax had covertly sidled beside me with a hand held metal detector and startled me. He commanded me to assume the standing T-position for a scan and the detector beeped at my back pocket where my cell phone was tucked away. He held out his hand with palm up and slightly wiggled his fingers.
“Hey, how am I supposed to Facebook this and snap selfies?”
“Remove the item. It will be returned to you when you leave.” said Ajax.
“So, what kind of name is Ajax?” He just let out a low, throaty growl which made the hair stand up on my neck. Yep, the Presleys are definitely going to kill me so I won’t tell everyone about Lisa beating the Elvis out of Harris so they won’t get sued. Ajax is the one assigned to do the dirty work. After all, he is named after a common household cleaner, but instead of killing me he unhooked the velvet rope in front of the stairway.
“No way!” I said and bounded up the stairs right passed my escort and stopped at the top of the stairs before realizing what I just did. I felt stupid and probably should have shown more restraint. Ajax just stared at me with his cold, dark eyes as he walked slowly up the stairs and passed me.
“Follow me.” said Ajax. I obeyed and we walked towards Elvis’ bedroom door. The excitement building inside of me was near volcanic, but I held it back afraid of what Ajax might do if I erupted. He grabbed the doorknob to the master bedroom and my heart beat so hard I could hear it thump in my ears and my breathing labored. The door opened, an angelic light beamed brightly from the heavens momentarily blinded me and I heard angels singing.
The bright, blinding light wasn’t angelic, but halogenous, and the room was not a bedroom. The walls are all white, including the ceiling, and the laminate tiled floor matched the walls. The room is divided in two sides. One side is furnished with a hospital bed and state of the art medical equipment near the window facing Elvis Presley Boulevard. There is a cardiac monitor, a crash cart, oxygen embedded in the wall, an I.V. stand, and other medical emergency and recovery equipment. The other half of the room is another room with double doors labeled Operating Room. I was standing in a mini emergency room and hospital recovery room. It’s no wonder this is not on the tour.
“What’s all this for?” I asked.
“Yes, but for who?”
Ajax wasn’t forthcoming with his answers so I stopped asking. We walked over to a set of double doors where he placed his palm on a recessed scanner on the wall and also leaned his face forward. He was getting a synchronized palm reading and retina scan.
“Identity confirmed.” said a feminine voice which sounded a lot like Lisa’s. The doors slid open, like on Star Trek, revealing an elevator room.
I was dumbfounded by everything I was seeing because it didn’t make any sense. The bedroom was a mini ER and now there was an elevator where the bathroom is supposed to be and where Elvis supposedly died. Ajax offered no explanation to my questions again and told to me to enter the elevator.
“Where are we going?”
“To meet the person Lisa wanted you to meet, but first we have to stop at the archives.” Ajax entered a long, long PIN on the digital keypad which closed the doors and initiated our descent into the unknown.
“How many floors are there?” I asked not really expecting an answer, but surprisingly Ajax was suddenly chatty and answered my question.
“There are five. We just left the first floor. The second floor is an access room to the gravesite which allows us access to the bodies from underneath instead of from above. In the event of an emergency we can remove the corpses from below.
“Creepy. But can I see it? Because I want to know once and for all that Elvis is dead.” Ajax looked me over like he was sizing me up for a coffin, but continued.
The third floor we are headed to now is an enormous climate controlled, underground warehouse. The warehouse can also be accessed through Vernon’s garage which is a cover for a large freight elevator. The fourth floor you will see for yourself and the fifth floor is a small subway rail which runs from Graceland to Sun Studios and Baptist Memorial Hospital.”
“All this is below Graceland and no one knows it exists?” I said incredulously.
“Precisely. Hiding in plain sight and it was Elvis’ idea to build it below Graceland and the subway was the first thing he built. President Nixon helped with the covert construction of the other floors years later before the Watergate scandal.
“Wait, wait, wait! I-am-not-a-crook President Nixon?” Ajax only nodded in the affirmative and I knew he wasn’t going to elaborate.
The elevator stopped on the third floor and the doors opened to a cool dark room. Ajax stepped out and the corridor floor lighted with each step. I followed, but stopped halfway. I did a 360 and threw my hands up.
“Where’s all the stuff?” My voice echoed and I ducked from the reverberations of my voice.
At the end of the corridor Ajax paused, smirked at me, then raised a lever which illuminated the entire warehouse one section at a time.
It was enormous. Do you know the scene in the movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth, when the adventurers exit a cave and enter a world within the Earth? It was like that. To my right were shelves from floor to ceiling about 20 feet high behind Plexiglas sliding doors and stocked with Elvis artifacts. It looked like I was in Sam’s Club. To my left was an open warehouse floor with motorcycles, cars, and a tank on display.
“Is that Elvis’ tank?”
“Affirmative.” shouted Ajax from inside a small room that looked like an office.
“How much stuff is here?”
“About two million pieces.”
“Holy crap, that’s a lot of stuff.” I did another 360 and the movement must have triggered another light to turn on and illuminated a wooden structure.
“Is that the birthplace home?” Ajax had obtained whatever he came down here for and walked back towards me looking at the wooden structure, too.
“Affirmative. It was moved here in 2011 after an F5 tornado swept through Tupelo. Mrs. Presley said it was time to move the home into a safer environment before it was lost forever to Mother Nature. So one clandestine night the home was deconstructed and reconstructed here. A copy was built in its place for the tourists under the guise it was being fumigated for terminates.”
I almost passed out because I was subconsciously holding my breath again. It was all so unbelievable that all of this is right here underneath Graceland and no one knows. Who would believe it? I was here and doubted my own senses, but it is real, I assure you. It is as real as the skin you’re in.
“Is this everything?”
“Negative.” My escort went on to say there are three more climate controlled warehouses just like this storing all the cars, movie sets, and millions of other artifacts in secret locations throughout the United States. One of the warehouses is in Kalamazoo, MI.
We entered the elevator and arrived on the next floor. The doors opened and I found myself in the foyer of the main entrance to Graceland.
“What is this? I thought we were still descending. What am I doing back in the foyer?”
Ajax pushed me out of the elevator and I stumbled onto the floor. I looked around and it took a moment, but I realized this isn’t the entrance to Graceland. It was an exact replica of the entrance. The living room, dining room, and stairwell were all there in exact detail. All the windows were HD monitors cleverly recessed in the walls to look like windows and relayed live images from cameras mounted somewhere on the outside of Graceland. I could see my Jeep still parked by the curb and people peeking over the wall. The early, gray morning sky had changed to a sunny morning.
“Ajax, what is all this?”
He only gave me a sly smile and waved goodbye to me as the doors closed. Well, this is it. I had the Graceland tour of a lifetime and now I die. I love you, Jeanne Marie.
The kind, gentle voice startled me. I walked cautiously towards the dining room craning my neck looking for the owner of the voice. My jaw dropped when I saw Priscilla Presley standing in the kitchen with Graceland CEO, Jack Soden. So, they were the ones who were going to kill me.
“We’ve been expecting you.” I bet you have. Just make it quick and painless and bury me next to Elvis.
“Have a seat at the dining room table; I’ve made coffee. Jack, please seat our guest.”
Jack walked over and firmly shook my hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jim. I’m Jack Soden, CEO of Graceland.”
“I know who you are.” I said.
“Yes, right, I guess you do. Please sit here.”
The two of us sat down in silence. I was very confused, a bit uncomfortable, yet, at the same time I was excited, though I was sure they were going to kill me. I expected to see Rod Serling on the stairway, in black and white, with a burning cigarette in his hand as he narrated my impending demise.
“Meet Jim Kendall: Elvis fan, blogger, and photography enthusiast who may have snapped his last digital image in the Twilight Zone.”
“Do you like cream in your coffee, Jim? I’m partial to French vanilla myself.” said Priscilla which snapped me out of my imaginations.
“French vanilla will be fine, Mrs. Presley.” The sweet vanilla flavor will adequately disguise the poison.
“Please, call me Priscilla.”
“And call me Jack.”
“Okay…Jack and…ah, Priscilla.” I said awkwardly.
Priscilla joined us carrying a silver serving tray with porcelain coffee cups, a kettle, and a creamer jar. She was dressed beautifully in a red dress which nicely accented her auburn colored hair. Very classy and stylish. I wondered if Elvis would have liked the way she looked.
“Relax Jim. You look a little apprehensive. We’re not going to murder you.” said Priscilla as if she was reading my thoughts.
“I appreciate that. The thought crossed my mind several times because, you know, this is all so very weird.” I gave a nervous laugh that sounded just like crazy Harris. They both looked at me in silence for a moment, then looked at each other with a nod. I guess the two of them were in agreement with something about me.
“Well, yes. Here’s your coffee. Now, my daughter has told me about how the two of you met this morning. Thank you for your kindness.” I nodded, gave a small smile and took a sip of my coffee. It was delicious and I began to relax.
“Also, I know you’re the creator of the Facebook page you call, Pompadour.” I almost spit out my coffee because I couldn’t believe what I just heard. Jack handed me a napkin to help me suppress my cough and wipe my mouth.
“It’s a nice page and very respectable to my husband’s legacy. I also read your blog.”
“Thank you, but my wife, Jeanne, is the brains behind the operation. I just take pictures and do a little writing.” I felt a bit embarrassed she read my blog, because like photography, it was just a hobby.
“It’s a shame she isn’t with you because I would like to have met her. How is your coffee?”
“Just fine. Delicious, actually. Yeah, she is really going to be upset when I tell her this story, if she believes it. I don’t quite believe it myself. Maybe next time.”
“Unfortunately, this is a once in a lifetime experience.” said Jack.
“I figured, but was hoping for a repeat.”
Over the next hour we talked about a lot of different stuff. We talked about our families, my job, and how I became interested in photography and Elvis. Priscilla told one of her favorite jokes Elvis told her. It was a bit coarse and risqué, but how she laughed as if she heard it for the first time. It wasn’t a very funny joke, but I laughed with her because she thought it was so funny.
“You’re a little salacious, aren’t you Priscilla? I said teasingly. She smiled with a bit of sparkle in her eyes. It reminded me of the TV images when Elvis boarded the plane in Germany and left her behind. It was that same sparkle of wonder and amazement.
Jack said he is still not an Elvis fan, although he admires Elvis. He wouldn’t name his favorite music artist, but Priscilla called him out and said she hears the Beatles playing in his office. They both chuckled at the inside joke and I gave a stupid courtesy laugh. I don’t know why, but I felt the same urge to run like I did in the guard shack with Lisa.
There was a hacking cough coming from the Jungle Room which made Priscilla and Jack suddenly freeze. That got my attention. They looked at each other like Joe Friday looked at his partner, Bill Gannon, in the TV show Dragnet when an important piece of evidence was revealed by the suspect. There was another cough followed by a low, high pitched alarm.
Jack was sitting at the head of the dining room table with Priscilla to his right which means she was in front of me and Jack sat at my right. I slowly leaned right to look around her and they both followed my gaze. There was someone in a wheelchair with another person, a nurse I think, who shut off the alarm and assisted the person in the wheelchair. The wheelchair bound person turned their head to the side to look at the nurse fiddling around the wheelchair and I saw the distinctive profile.
It was an old face, but still wholly recognizable and beautiful. I had unconsciously and slowly stood up and backed up until I bumped into the wall which jolted my coffee cup out of my hand. It shattered on the floor, but I paid it no mind. My hosts looked back at me and smiled. The blood rushed out of my head and felt faint.
“You look flush, Jim.” said Jack. “Are you going to be okay?”
I didn’t answer and only focused on the man in the wheelchair. I slowly walked around them towards the Jungle Room holding the dining room chairs for support. Halfway inside the kitchen I turned back to look at Priscilla who graciously smiled and gave me that go-ahead-nod. I was in a tunnel and at the end of it was a bright light which outlined the distinctive silhouette. The walk towards the wheelchair bound man was like a dream where no matter how fast you pumped your arms and legs you moved forward very little, but I finally made it.
The man was wrapped up warmly in a purple blanket with a matching knit cap on his head. Strands of white hair curled out from the edges of the cap. I took a knee and knelt down in front of him looking into his gray-blue eyes. I put my hand on his hand, which was a little cold to the touch, and noticed he still wore a gold, pinky ring. My voice shaky, I whispered, “It’s you. El…Elvis.” Tears streamed down my cheeks.
Elvis smiled at me, but I could see he wasn’t really cognizant of my words. He was gently rocking back and forth in rhythm as he hummed Amazing Grace. There was an oxygen tube inserted in his nostrils and the alarm I heard moments ago was a low oxygen warning alarm. The nurse I saw was changing the oxygen tanks when the alarm sounded. I thought about the mini ER.
I looked back to Priscilla and Jack as I wiped the tears from my face. “It’s really him. It’s really Elvis.” The words came out shaky, but they both nodded in agreement.
“I have so many questions, but someone needs to let my wife know I am okay.” I said excitedly.
“I know you have a lot of questions.” said Priscilla. “And there is a special reason we invited you here today. We need you to tell everyone Elvis is alive. No sane person will believe you, but that is not the point. We just want you to write about it and we will pay you handsomely for your service.”
I looked back at Elvis, took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, then exhaled slowly. Wow! They want me to write about this. Why?
“Okay, then, my first question is, can I get a Cadillac?” I said jokingly.
“No.” said Priscilla matter-of-factly, then told me the real story about August 16th, 1977.
“It is true Elvis suffered a massive heart attack, but he survived; however, the damage to his heart was irreparable and had to be replaced with a pacemaker. As technology advanced, the pacemaker was replaced and the mini ER had been built to keep the operations in secret. He also suffered a minor stroke during the first pacemaker operation which partially paralyzed the left side of his body and put him in a wheelchair for several months. He had to learn to walk again, but would need to rely on a cane for balance for the rest of his life. Speech therapy was also necessary for Elvis to regain his ability to talk and more physical therapy was needed to develop his small motor functions again.”
“Elvis’ quality of life was restored to about 90%, but the years of drug use impeded any hope of a full recovery and he suffered other ailments such as autoimmune deficiency disease and emphysema which were treated successfully. Sadly, he could never sing like he used to because the stroke gave him a speech impediment and the emphysema damaged his lung capacity, but he still sang to us and his grandchildren. He could still play the piano and guitar, too.”
“That just boggles the mind, but why fake his death?”
“For money, of course, and his peace of mind.” said Priscilla.
“Really? You want me to write that money was one of the reasons. You are already unfairly vilified enough and this will only add more fuel to the fire.”
“I know, and it doesn’t matter. I’ve dealt with it since the first day the world became aware of me. People will make their uninformed opinions about me because of my relationship with Elvis. Much like Col. Tom Parker, if I have to become the devil in order for Elvis to be the angel, so be it. Not only was this about his legacy, but it was also about Lisa Marie’s and my grandchildren’s legacy and it had to be protected at all costs for all their sakes.”
“To do that I had to brand Elvis into a consumer product and I knew Elvis would be worth more dead than alive. It sounds devilish and greedy, but I needed to ensure my family’s future. Parker was hugely important in developing Elvis as a sustainable brand. After all, he did it for Elvis’ entire career. Elvis Presley Enterprises also needed someone who could develop the business model to make it a financial success for years to come. That’s where Jack comes in. I can’t thank him enough for the success.”
“It was really never about the money. It was always about Lisa’s and the grandchildren’s future and about the fans. Elvis just provided the means for their financial security and I have done everything to protect their security and his legacy. Elvis agreed to all of this.”
“I get it. That’s the way it should be, but my head is spinning and I need a break to absorb all of this. Do you mind if I sit with Elvis for awhile to process all of it?”
“Sure, go ahead, and I will personally call your wife to let her know all is well. Here, dial her number into my cell phone.” said Priscilla.
I sat down in one of those Jungle Room chairs beside Elvis and talked to him. He was still humming Amazing Grace. Every now and then he would drool a bit and I would wipe his mouth with the cloth that lay in his lap. He would smile as if to say, “Thank you.” It was all very sweet and, surprisingly, I didn’t feel sorry for him. It looked like he had a great quality of life despite the physical disabilities. He seemed genuinely happy, joyful actually, though he wasn’t fully cognizant of my presence. Elvis has been surrounded by the people he loved and it was what he always wanted, but couldn’t have as long as he entertained us.
Priscilla returned. “It took some convincing, but I told Jeanne you were with us and would return shortly.”
“Thank you. Okay, Priscilla and Jack. Elvis has set me straight now I am ready to continue the Q & A. Who else knows Elvis is alive?”
“Only one personal friend knows Elvis is alive and visits him regularly. The Colonel visited regularly before he died, but there are also four others whom we have revealed our secret.” said Jack.
It turns out the kooks who have been proclaiming Elvis is alive were not crazy. First, there was Gail Brewer-Giorgio and the Orion conspiracy. Bill Bixby was next with his two televised specials in 1991 and 1992 called Is Elvis Alive? More recently in 2001 is Dr. Donald Himpton who claimed he had been treating Elvis for complications from arthritis for five years. Of course, there is the greatest proponent for the Elvis-is-alive conspiracy, Linda Hood-Sigmon. They have all been sitting where I am sitting now.
“Great! Now I am gonna be in the Hall of Kooks!”
“Probably. We have been feeding them misinformation for years.” said Jack.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“The only fact these people have accurate is Elvis is alive, but all the evidence is fabricated. It has been a well planned distribution of misinformation, but the key to making them believe the evidence is real was to show them Elvis is alive. By the way, you’re the only one to know it was all fabricated. They met Elvis, but that was it, and we couldn’t very well tell the others the information we have been giving them were all lies.”
“So I am getting the truth, now?”
“The unadulterated truth. For the others we had to give them plausible facts which always misled them to mislead the public so the trail of supposed evidence would always end up where it started.”
“And where is that?”
“Absolutely no where. If it did lead to somewhere, then the secret would have been exposed and Elvis’ legacy would have been in ruins. As long as people believed in the plausibility Elvis is still alive then his legacy and the welfare of his family remained secured for decades. We only needed to control the information. Thanks to celebrity gossip publications and the American public’s worship of celebrities it was less difficult than expected. ”
“So, all of this has been going on since August 16, 1977?”
“Indeed.” Jack explained. “It has been a well-planned project, but it has a shelf life because Elvis will die. Up until five years ago, Elvis was still able to communicate and his mind was still sharp, but he also suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The doctors say he has maybe one or two more years to live.”
I told them I recognized the symptoms because my mother-in-law died from complications associated with the disease. We all sat in silence for a moment pondering all that had been shared and it’s impact. Priscilla excused herself to make more coffee.
“Will the truth ever come out about Elvis faking his death?”
“Yes.” Jack continued. “It was all planned out as carefully as his faked death. Once Elvis passes away for real this time, we will reveal the truth. We have decades of video, pictures, book manuscripts edited, movie scripts written, and an entire media PR package ready for that fateful day. We worked out the legal details decades ago when Nixon was president. We did not claim the life insurance policies, but only cashed them for the respective cash value and placed the funds in a trust for Lisa. Elvis has never profited from his faked death and all his needs have been provided by his family’s personal incomes they’ve earned in various media of music, acting, writing books, etc. Not one penny from the Presley Estate, EPE, or Graceland has ever been used to meet Elvis’ needs.”
Priscilla returned from the kitchen with more coffee and snacks. I was grateful for the snacks because I realized how hungry I felt and the snacks satisfied the hunger pangs.
“Ajax mentioned Nixon’s involvement, but didn’t elaborate.”
“Yes,” said Priscilla. “That’s the real reason Elvis met with Nixon in 1970 because we needed his help to build the underground levels and to ensure the secrecy of his faked death. We hadn’t planned for Elvis having a heart attack. But that might have been a blessing in disguise. Elvis loves his fans and music and there was no greater joy for him then to bring the two together. If he had fully recovered he might have come out of hiding decades ago. That would not have been good for him. Instead, the stroke and other medical complications freed Elvis from the prison of his fame and he was able to watch Lisa and the grandchildren grow up and heal. That’s what was best for him and it’s what he really wanted. The stroke freed Elvis from the need to feel he had to care for his entourage and meet the demand of his fans.”
We sat in silence for a minute, maybe longer, so I could process everything told to me and to remember it all. I wanted to write about it accurately.
“If you’ll excuse me. I need to use the restroom?”
I was splashing some cool water on my face when I felt the soft vibrations of the elevator hydraulics. The doors slid open followed by the sound of shuffling feet and the laughter of children.
“Grandpa!” squealed a couple of girls in unison.
I cracked open the door just wide enough and in time to see two energetic girls rush towards Elvis. They were the twins: Harper and Finley. Riley followed behind with Ben in tow who saw me peeking from the bathroom. Our eyes met, then squinted, and I could tell we weren’t going to be friends.
I walked out, smiled, and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not an Elvis impersonator.”
Ben just sort of curled his lip and snarled. Wow, did he look a lot like Elvis when he did that. Lisa hobbled out last from the elevator on crutches.
“How’s the ankle?”
“It’s not broken just like you said, and don’t mind Ben. He gets that attitude from me. I’ve taught all my children to be suspicious of anyone they meet because they always have ulterior motives. People still want a piece of their grandpa.”
“I get it. But why did you let me in?”
“I don’t know. Just a thank you for helping me, but you also looked like someone I could trust.”
“Thank you, and you can trust me, but your mom wants me to write about this.”
“I figured,” she said. I followed Lisa to the Jungle Room and she pointed at a chair for me to sit down.
Elvis raised his head and smiled as his family gathered around him. He really came alive with his family fussing about him excitedly. Ben talked about his music endeavors and grabbed a guitar to accompany him as he sang a few lines from several songs he wrote. Riley talked about a couple of movie scripts she was offered. The twins vied for position on his lap.
I kept quiet as not to intrude upon this intimate time, but it was hard to tell if Elvis was aware of what was going on. The grandchildren interacted with him as if he understood everything and he seemed to respond to them. They were good kids who treated their grandpa as if he was aware of everything they were saying and doing. I glanced over at Lisa who returned my smile before returning her attention to proudly watch her children entertain her dad.
The hour passed quickly. “All right kids. Time to go. Say your goodbyes to grandpa.”
They all gave their hugs and kisses to Elvis, then gathered into a circle around Elvis holding each other’s hands. Lisa gave me a look that meant I should join them, too. I stood between Lisa and Priscilla and held their hands and hoped they wouldn’t notice my sweaty palms. I was holding hands with the two people Elvis loved more than anyone in the world and it made me nervous.
“We do this after every visit. Just follow my lead.” said Lisa.
“Amazing grace. How sweet the sound…” Everyone sang the hymn together and so did I, but in a very low tone because I am not a singer and I was surrounded by singers. Elvis moved to the rhythm of the voices and mouthed the words, but there was no sound coming from him. When the song ended I knelt down in front of Elvis, gently grabbed his hand.
“Thank you.” He tapped my hand and I think he might have understood me at that moment. Maybe not, but I like to think he did.
The elevator doors opened with Ajax waiting inside. The twins ran to him shouting his name and he cracked a smile. Ben and Riley joined the trio and the doors closed to return them to the world above. I shook Jack’s hand and Priscilla gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“The fans were always Elvis’ true love. Write about everything you saw here today and we’ll pay you handsomely for it. Goodbye.”
That was it. Priscilla walked back to Elvis and placed her hand on his shoulder. They never stopped loving each other.
The elevator returned with Ajax and Lisa and I entered it. The ride up was in complete silence except for the sounds of the elevator hydraulics. Ajax reached inside his jacket and returned my cell phone and handed me an envelope before exiting the elevator. I knew what was inside the envelope.
“Thank you for the tour, Ajax.” I said, and we shook hands.
Lisa, hobbled on her crutches, walked me out to the foyer to let me outside, but before I left I tried to give back the envelope.
“Lisa, I can’t take this.”
“I insist. It’s what daddy would have wanted.”
I removed the check from the envelope and looked at it and paused with temptation. It was an enormous amount of money, but I tore it up in front of her and let the pieces fall to the ground.
“I knew I could trust you. All the others said the same thing, but still took the check and cashed it. Call me sometime. I put my personal number in your cell phone.”
Lisa kissed me on the cheek and closed the door. I walked slowly down the driveway reliving the entire experience in my mind. Wow! I met Elvis, Priscilla, and I think I made a new best friend in Lisa Marie.
You’d think, as an Elvis fan, I would have been angry with Elvis and the Presley family for robbing the world from all the music Elvis could have given us, but I’m not. Elvis gave us his best and I am grateful for it, but his family needed him to give his best to them. The truth is, Elvis Presley the legend, did die on August 16, 1977, but Elvis is living out the rest of his life in secret as the husband, dad, grandpa, and the man his family needs.
Truth is really stranger than fiction. That is the story about how I met Elvis in August 2014 during Elvis Week. No one will believe my story, but like Priscilla said, it doesn’t matter. Soon the world will know the truth when Elvis dies and all the kooks will be vindicated. What a sad day that will be…again.