In a recent issue, this space reviewed My Brother Elvis: The Final Years From His Last Moments of Glory to his Tragic Demise (Impello Entertainment, hardcover) by David E. Stanley, whose mom married Presley’s dad and brought her three young boys from another marriage to Graceland. Stanley was there at Presley’s untimely finish on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42. He saw it all.
David Stanley: I liked the review. I thought you were straight-up. And we fixed the typos. You got an unedited advance. But I thought you were right-on.
Aquarian Weekly: In these Elvis books, and I’ve just about read them all, the truth is a winding road that meanders through all of them. Your mom didn’t want you to travel with Elvis.
Certainly not in 1972 when I was 16! I was in high school one day, dropped out, and was on the Elvis Presley tour the very next day. We started off with four shows in two days at Madison Square Garden.
I was there.
The hotel suite, the limo to the venue, introducing George Harrison to Elvis backstage, man, that was something. I’ll never forget Elvis walking out on stage and 20,000 flash bulbs going off at the same time. Five hundred young girls rushed the stage and then two minutes later 500 old women rushed the stage. I wound up growing up on the back lots of Hollywood movie studios. That’s where I saw the chinks in the armor of this superstar. He’d run hot and cold. I got burned out from having to hang out with him. It was my job. But to do it every single day could be trying. We were a very tight-knit family, those whom Elvis trusted, but it was very difficult to watch Elvis self-destruct because we trusted him and his judgment, as he began to do the medications and went from use to abuse. He needed something to sleep. He needed something to get up and face the day. That was very hard.
Why didn’t anyone have an intervention?
Red and Sonny West, Dave Hebler, those three guys tried it. They were fired. I myself tried it and all I got for my efforts was Elvis pointing a gun at my head. Elvis was going to do whatever Elvis was going to do. We were doing 15 shows in 15 cities in 15 nights before we got one day off. It wasn’t like it is today. It was grueling! In Vegas, we did two shows a night for 30 straight days! After two weeks off, it was another 21 shows in 21 cities in 21 nights. By the end of his life, Elvis was taking 33 pills a night and a needle shot of Demerol. Now THAT’S addiction. He had doctors giving it out to him like candy. Plus, a lot of people defended Dr. Nick. I’m not one of them. There’s no excuse for prescribing 10,000 pills to Elvis in the last six months of his life.
He lost his license over it. And that Dr. Ghanem, oh man!
Don’t even get me started on him. We’d go to his house on our off time and he’d put Elvis out for three days straight, unconscious, man, for three days! I mean, damn, I’d smoke pot, do a few pills, snort a little coke, but watching Elvis, I was like, “Oh my god, man, he’s in total denial.”
What would he say?
I need ‘em, I need ‘em, I need ‘em. Then he let himself go gaining weight, sweating profusely, his eyes all swelled up. Elvis knew he was addicted but he had too much pride and worried about what his fans would think if he admitted he needed help. So he died instead.