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May 20th, 2005

My Personal Perspective
by Maia Christianne

I wish to share some of my own impressions from viewing of the 4 hour and 20 minute DVD and reading the companion book, both entitled Elvis - by the Presleys.

The main narrative of both mediums was by Priscilla Presley. I will be honest in saying that I have been disappointed many times in the past by Priscilla’s public telling of her story with Elvis. I felt that it lacked the whole picture as she lived it with him. I never saw her story as malicious in any respect. I simply felt that she was not able to go the extra mile in revealing her role in the events that exposed Elvis’ human failings. In Elvis - by the Presleys Priscilla has still not managed to come forth with what I believe is the whole picture. However, she has opened the door a crack: by emphasizing and talking more about his shining qualities and through her admission in the book that she and the others around him were afraid they would loose him due to his interest in spiritual books and ideas. She does not go into the intense situations this posed for Elvis, which according to him and certain others who witnessed it, took a toll on his spirit and his health. In a taped conversation with Wanda Hill (I have a copy of this tape) Elvis tells her that he has a “hunger” to reach people spiritually. Then he sadly adds that his manager, friends and family are against it.

I was especially pleased that a full segment of the DVD and book was dedicated to Elvis’ spiritual life: his membership in the Self-Realization Fellowship and his special friendship with it’s head at the time, Daya Mata. Priscilla has come a long way in opening her heart and mind to that side of Elvis. She said on the DVD that Elvis was seeking to understand and fulfill his purpose. Elvis alluded to this when talking with Wanda. He was telling her about his birth, the still-born Jessie, and how sickly he had been for awhile afterward:

Wanda: “It’s a wonder you made it.”
Elvis: “Yeah - it was meant to be. I had to be here. I had to complete my purpose.”
Wanda: “Do you feel you have?”
Elvis: “No - not at all. I-I -no one listens to me.”
Wanda: “Oh - I do.”
Elvis: “I meant others. Sure you do - I appreciate it, but you’re just one of very few. It should have been more - much more. Maybe next time...(end of tape).”

The drug issue is sadly still not fully understood or accepted by Elvis’ family and most of his close friends. There is no question that Elvis became addicted to prescription drugs. As a child and on into adulthood Elvis placed physicians on a pedestal. He told Wanda that if his mother could have afforded a good doctor, his twin may not have died. Elvis the young man, not worldly and very trusting, believes in his country (and thus the United States Army) and in physicians. He is then given by these not-to-be-questioned sources, prescribed medication for his acute and lifelong insomnia. He told Wanda that for the first time in his life he could actually get a good night’s sleep. It was such a great blessing! Elvis knew that he could not function in a fast-paced career of any kind without adequate sleep. To him, the ‘medicine’ was the answer. Toward the end of his life he said to Wanda that now he thought the doctors (at least the ones who cared for him) were nothing but “pill-pushers” and that the drugs didn’t do him any good. However, by then he was terminally ill and in great pain. He did not see any choice but to deaden the pain and get as much sleep as possible any way he could for the short remainder of his life.

People from the deep South or any rural background that goes generations back, have always considered cancer as a curse...a disease that was shameful and not spoken about. It is the old Bible Belt belief that if you are not “good” God may inflict you with the punishment of a dread disease. Even though most people don’t consciously believe this anymore, it is still there – lurking in family secrets and genetic memory.

From a newspaper article by Jess Stearn in 1983:

"After Elvis died, an autopsy revealed what he (Elvis) had already suspected. And the almost unbearable pain he felt at times that caused him to use .....painkillers.

"The singer’s dad, Vernon Presley and other close friends of Elvis were there when a doctor engaged to perform the private autopsy told the disconsolate father: ‘Elvis’ cancer was in the advanced stages. He would have deteriorated rapidly and known ever greater pain.’
"When the star’s longtime friend Larry Geller spoke to him about it, Vernon was still terribly despondent and could only say: ‘Elvis was sicker than anybody knew.’

"For some reason, the cancer was viewed as a stigma by some of those closest to Elvis. Elvis’ father thought it would be a shock to daughter Lisa Marie and wanted it kept from her, not recognizing that the disclosure of the cancer would explain Elvis’ frequent use of painkiller drugs....

"While this book (‘Elvis, His Spiritual Journey’) was being put together, Joe Esposito, Elvis’ foreman, called Larry and asked him not to mention the cancer.

"Larry decided, as I did, that it would be fairer to Elvis’ memory to let his public know the truth.....(Larry) ‘In the last year and a half of his life, he (Elvis) constantly complained to me, sometimes doubled over in agony.’"

We can see in the article above that same mind-set: cancer – the family secret. But the secret was bigger than that. The cancer was caused by a genetic disease...a family affliction.

Elvis told Kathy Westmoreland that he didn’t want his fans and others to know about the cancer, as then all those minds would focus on it and he believed that what you focused on, you made stronger. Was he also though, sub-consciously abiding by the family rule that these things are not talked about and are to be suffered silently?

He did tell a few people: Kathy, Grandma Suzie (a phone friend) and he told Wanda that he would not live much longer. Charlie Hodge heard Dr. Nick tell Vernon that the autopsy had revealed cancer in Elvis’ body, but Jerry Francisco, the doctor who performed the autopsy says that Elvis did NOT have cancer. This is interesting. A few years after Elvis’ death my mother and I were watching a TV interview with Dr. Nick. I was distracted for just a moment, and my mother said to me, “Did you hear that? Dr. Nick admitted that Elvis had cancer!” Unfortunately, I didn’t hear it. He said it very quickly and under his breath and then acted as if he had made no revelation at all. The interviewer did not question him on it – or at least perhaps that part had been edited out.

I come to the point of all this in saying that had Elvis told his family and close friends about not only the cancer, but all the terrible illnesses he was enduring, the world would have a more complete picture of his drug addiction and not one that says Elvis took drugs mostly to escape emotional pain. No doubt toward the end the emotional pain was great, and all mixed together with the physical pain, but it became that way because Elvis had a genetic disease (the insomnia very likely a part of it) which progressed to the point of extreme pain and illness. There was also the extreme stress that must have been caused by Elvis' other 'secret', beginning in 1969 and lasting until the end of this life: that he was 'owned' by the real Mafia and he and his family's lives were under constant threat if he did not continue to meet their demands of performing and grueling tour schedules.

Priscilla, Lisa and the others, who were never told any of this by Elvis, Vernon or Elvis’ doctors, can’t be blamed for not believing it now. If it were true, SURELY Elvis would have told them...or Vernon, or Elvis’ doctors would have done so. There is a certain defensiveness present in them around this topic, for to admit that perhaps Elvis DIDN’T tell them such a crucial fact, is to open one’s self to feeling that perhaps they didn’t count enough in his life to hear this news from him. This defensiveness was certainly evidenced on Larry King a few months ago when many members of the Memphis Mafia were on hand, along with Kathy Westmoreland and some others. When Kathy stated emphatically Elvis had confided in her that he had cancer, I never heard so many male voices saying, “no, no, no!”

When Priscilla spoke about her meeting, courtship by and marriage to Elvis, I could not help but be moved by just how difficult it must have been for such a young girl to be thrust into a way of life that was not conducive to building a relationship in marriage and emotionally supporting a family environment. Elvis was not as sensitive to her situation as perhaps he should have been. It is my opinion that he was simply overwhelmed with his own life and unprepared to take on the emotional responsibility of a wife and child...especially when the to-be wife still WAS a child.

Elvis in 1974 anticipating a visit from his then ex-wife, Priscilla:

Wanda: “I hope she’ll come, that you’ll have a wonderful time and if it’s what you want and need, I hope she’ll stay forever.”
Elvis: “That would-would be great. I think I could-could put it all back together then. I’d-I’d have a reason.”
Wanda: “Put it back together? What? Your marriage?”
Elvis: “No, my life, my purpose for being, you know? My existence - I’m not gonna be here much longer if-if I don’t do it soon. I’m fadin’ fast. I know it. I can see the end of the tunnel. I can see the light comin’...”
Wanda: “How - why did you say that?”
Elvis: “It’s true...”
Wanda: “You think your time is about up?”
Elvis: “I got ‘bout maybe three more years or so. I won’t make it to fifty, I know that. This is not a-a joke, or to make you down, just a statement of fact. I don’t think I‘ll live to be much older than forty or so, maybe forty-three, forty-four, but not much more (he died at age forty-two). I can’t, I’m-I’m burnin’ up inside.”

Elvis and Wanda around 1975-76 speaking about Priscilla:

Elvis: “I mean she made me happy - we had fun, some good times. If it wasn’t for her - hell, who knows what I’d be - turned into? She loved me, Lord she did! And she took care of me - let me tell you this, she tried hard to be a good wife. She did. And she put up with a pack of loud-mouthed, dirty-minded guys layin’ around the house day-in and day-out, and she did it for years. I should have given her more time, tried harder to make her happy. I should have listened, noticed what was happening to her. Instead I was selfish, demanding and unreasonable and expected that little thing to understand and put up with it. Lord, no wonder she left me for the first guy who showed her attention - and that’s what it was, too - attention. Something she wasn’t getting from me, man. It’s a shame - a damn shame!”
Wanda: “You’re too generous in accepting blame - she did plenty of wrong things - and you know it!”
Elvis: “A lot of it was my fault - I know it and I’m man enough to admit it. I was the major party, you know.”
Wanda: “I know - but I also know you and - I know you’ve hidden your hurt.”
Elvis: “Well, there are things I’ve done just as hurtful to her that - maybe she’s hidden.”
Wanda: “You’ll always defend her, won’t you? I guess it is love.”
Elvis: “She was the best thing to ever happen to me - her and the baby. It’s a hell of a thing that one person can be so-so satisfied and then find out that it was all a lie - that the other person was unhappy and dying inside all that time - just putting you on for so long. A hell of a thing. Damn, I was a fool, I guess blind. I really didn’t see it comin’ - even when she told me, I never listened. You know, nine years (before marriage?) I knew her - but-but-but I guess we never really did know each other - I mean, really....”

Then there is the statement Priscilla made on a local California TV show in 1987:

"Elvis was faithful to me during our marriage. I cheated on him. He passed a lie detector test and until he learned of my indiscretions, Elvis never cheated. Only after I left him. Elvis was a loving, sincere man who respected his home and family. His career took him away from us and being so young and naive I thought wrongly that he just didn’t care anymore. Had I known then what I do now about this business, I would have been more patient, more able to help him."

I have never heard of or read Priscilla ever making such a statement before or since.

In conclusion, I was pleased with the presentation of Elvis - by the Presleys DVD (TV show) and book, in that it was an improvement over past interpretations of his life, his motives, and the inner man. I wish it would have been the whole truth, but I believe that is an unrealistic expectation. Those who lived with him, shared his life and ups and downs feel that they absolutely knew him. Don’t we all feel that way about those we are close to? And yet how much do any of us REALLY know of someone else, no matter how closely entwined our lives are with theirs. We each just see a piece of them, and sometimes the closer we are to them, the smaller the piece we see. It might take the broad vision of future historians 100 years from now to put many of the pieces together and arrive at a fairer and more holistic view of Elvis Aaron Presley.

Maia Christianne




related links on this website:

List of Elvis' Ailments

Elvis - What REALLY Happened

His Handwriting and Book Pages


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This is a website created strictly as a tribute to Elvis Presley. Elvis, Elvis Presley, Graceland and TCB are all registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises. I make no claim to Elvis Presley Enterprises, Elvis Presley, his music, videos or voice.

All flash presentations, creative art and text is copyrighted by Maia Nartoomid (and in some instances with text and documents, Wanda June Hill and JoAnna McKenzie) - all rights reserved.