THE INSIDE STORY OF ELVIS AND THE COLONEL
“From Larry Geller’s vivid recollections of Elvis’ passionate quest for the truth, to the photographs of spiritual writings with Presley’s handwritten notations, this is one fascinating book. Required reading for anyone who cares about the man behind the myth.”
There’s was a relationship that originally flourished out of mutual regard and need. In the beginning, Elvis looked upon the Colonel as almost a second father. It was a feeling that never entirely disappeared. And he was always “my boy” to the Colonel. Elvis understood and appreciated what his manager had done for his career in the early days, and never begrudged him his due for that. At the same time, though, he was growing impatient with the career course his manager had charted for him. Even more than that, the Colonel’s single-minded obsession with money and his client’s earnings to the exclusion of all else hurt Elvis, affecting his career and his reputation.
Colonel Tom Parker was a master deal-maker who made Elvis the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. While other actors may have commanded per-picture fees in excess of the $1 million Elvis got, he often made double that again because he received an unprecedented 50 percent of all profits. It didn’t matter to the Colonel that the films were, for the most part, artistically vapid. Colonel Parker proved his worth, moneywise.
The Colonel, as he liked people to refer to him, displayed a ruthless devotion to Elvis’ interests, and he took far more than the traditional 10 percent of his earnings (reaching up to 50 percent by the end of Presley's life). Under his brilliant, skillful and cunning guidance his one and only client, Elvis, reached unimaginable heights. Elvis considered him a genius.
But Elvis grew restless, feeling the Colonel had limited his Hollywood career, even while acknowledging they had been successful financially. He felt trapped.
Elvis never suspected that Colonel Tom Parker of Huntington, West Virginia wasn’t who or what he claimed to be. Elvis’ mother Gladys had viewed with suspicion the fact that Parker’s title was honorary, not earned in service but granted by a crony. Elvis said more than once that something funny was going on, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Why, of all people wasn’t he allowed to leave America and tour the world? If only he had known. In 1981 a few years after Elvis’ death, everyone learned the truth; Tom Parker was not even his real name. He always said he was an American, but in fact, he was born Andreas Cornelis Van Kujik in Breda, Holland. Colonel Thomas Andrew “Tom” Parker was an enigma from the day he arrived on a freighter in Tampa Bay, Florida, as an illegal immigrant at about the age of 20, and never applied for a green card. Many feel this is the reason why Elvis never performed to his millions of fans outside the United States. Colonel Parker would not have the legal documentation needed for foreign travel, and feared that his illegal status would be discovered. Through shrewd salesmanship and self-promotion, Parker rose above whatever or whomever he left behind to become one of the least understood, most powerful and most feared managers in show business.
One afternoon about six months after I began working for Elvis, he asked me to ride with him from his house to the MGM Studios lot in Culver City because Colonel Parker had called and wanted to speak with him. Elvis commented that this was out of character as the Colonel usually came to see him.
We were driven in Elvis’ Rolls Royce, pulling up to a building on the lot with a sign brazenly announcing: “Elvis Exploitations.” This was Colonel Parker’s office. Multiple images of Elvis Presley adorned the walls and ceilings. The first word that popped into my head as the door opened was “Elvis-o-rama.” Elvis movie posters, album covers, statues, teddy bears, and trinkets of all shape and sizes filled the rooms.
I waited in the Rolls Royce with a few of the guys who had come with us. About twenty minutes later, Elvis emerged. His body language said everything. He stormed over and stepped into the car, slamming the door behind him, his eyes blazing and his teeth clenched. We all looked at him inquiringly.
“How dare that son of a bitch!” Elvis spoke fiercely. “He doesn’t know the first thing about my life. He doesn’t know anything about me. The Colonel accused me of being on a religious kick! That’s an insult to my intelligence; I’m not on any kick. He doesn’t have the slightest idea what I’m into and what it means to me. But he’ll see. It’s no damn kick. It’s my life, and my life is no kick. It’s real.”
He looked around accusingly. “I wonder who gave him that idea? What happens in my house is my private business, and that’s where it stays. The Colonel is supposed to take care of business, that’s it. My personal life is my business, not his! I’m the artist and he’s the business end, and he damn well better keep it that way!”
The “religious kick” threatened just about everyone around Elvis to one degree or another, but none so much as Parker. The Colonel recognized and respected power and throughout the years he had been able to keep one step ahead of Elvis. The only thing that would surely blow the whole game for them both would be if Elvis simply decided not to play Parker’s game.
“A book to be treasured. I am giving it to all my friends."