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Checking the facts for the new ‘Elvis’ film: Did he really fire Colonel Tom Parker onstage in Las Vegas?

The epic biopic “Elvis” covers a lot of ground – 42 years, to be exact – from Elvis’ birth until his death in 1977.

Given the inevitable event compression required of any film attempting to cover decades in hours, one has to wonder how much of “Elvis” actually happened to Elvis Presley.

From director Baz Luhrmann’s research in Memphis and Elvis’ birthplace of Tupelo, Mississippi, to scores of well-researched biographies, the film, which is now streaming and on demand, is laudably accurate (HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Vudu, Google Play and other platforms). Austin Butler’s studious portrayal of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is also credited.

But there were six instances in “Elvis” that made us scratch our heads. How accurate are they? We turned to Alanna Nash, author of several Elvis books (including “The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley” and “Baby, Let’s Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him”) for answers.

Did B.B. King and Elvis Presley really hang out on Beale Street together?

According to Nash, King, who worked as a DJ in Memphis at the time, would have been aware of Elvis and vice versa, but they would not have been hanging out and catching acts like Little Richard as depicted in the film.

“Elvis and B.B. were acquaintances, but not close friends,” said a source “she claims. “They most likely first met at Sun Studio, but only briefly.”

In December 1956, King appeared as the headliner on the all-black WDIA Goodwill Revue. Elvis was asked to perform, but his contract forbade it, according to Nash.

However, near the end of the night, DJ Rufus Thomas brought Elvis out for a “leg gyration and the crowd went wild.” Backstage, King and Presley posed for a photo.

Was Robert F. Kennedy assassinated while Elvis was filming his 1968 Comeback Special?

According to Nash, the senator was shot elsewhere in Los Angeles, and not during the taping of that iconic Elvis TV special, but during rehearsals.

“Elvis arrived on June 3, 1968, for the start of two weeks of rehearsals, and Kennedy was shot on June 5, dying the next morning, June 6,” she says. “The assassination sent Elvis into a tailspin.”

The special’s powerful conclusion was directly related to the tailspin caused by RFK’s death. Show director/producer Steve Binder commissioned songwriter Earl Brown to write an emotional ballad, “If I Can Dream,” that reflected Elvis’ hope that the country could heal after such a tragedy.

“Interestingly, Elvis didn’t jump on it right away,” Nash says. “He thought it was a little too Broadway for him. ‘Let me hear it again,’ he said, and it wasn’t until he’d heard it seven or eight times that he said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.'”

Colonel Tom Parker persuaded Elvis to perform in Las Vegas in order to pay off Parker’s gambling debts.

The link isn’t as direct as the film implies, which portrays Elvis’ residency at the International Hotel as a way for Elvis’ manager to settle his sizable gambling debts at the hotel’s casino.

Nash notes that Parker (played in the film by Tom Hanks) was a compulsive gambler from his days in the carnival business, frequently decamping to Hot Springs, Arkansas, or Palm Springs, California, to satisfy his cravings. After visiting Las Vegas, the promoter made it a regular stop.

That’s not to say Parker’s gambling and Elvis’ Vegas shows aren’t connected, she claims. According to onetime International executive Alex Shoofey, the colonel was worth $1 million a year to the International because of his gambling, Nash says.

“A rumour circulated in town that Milton Prell, Shoofey’s old boss at the Sahara, had brokered the (Elvis) deal for the colonel, using mob money to put the deal together.” “Nash states. “The film implies mob involvement.”

Did Elvis join the army to avoid prison for indecency?

Nash claims that this is not the case.

“The colonel was overjoyed that Elvis was causing riots and making headlines for being too suggestive,” she says. “It’s one of the reasons he wanted him in the first place. Parker, ever the conniver, knew what drew people into the big tent.”

After Elvis was drafted, Parker, who was an Army deserter, worked with the Pentagon to ensure that he would be a regular soldier rather than an entertainer.

“He negotiated it as a public relations move to portray him as the all-American boy,” she says.

Interestingly, while stationed in Germany, Elvis met future General Colin Powell, who was a lieutenant at the time.

Powell told Nash that he and Presley were in a field in the woods in Germany, and he just looked like every other pimple-faced (soldier), doing what other soldiers were doing and trying to get along. He always saluted and sir’d me properly, and I admired that in him.”

Is it true that Elvis fired the colonel from the stage in Las Vegas?

“No, he would never have done that,” Nash says. He also never implied onstage that he was aware of the colonel’s immigration issues.

“He wholeheartedly believed the colonel’s story that Parker was from Huntington, West Virginia; Elvis died without knowing the truth.” “she claims. “That wasn’t released in the United States until 1981.”

She does, however, mention an incident a few years before his death in which Elvis exploded at Hilton owner Barron Hilton. Elvis had gone to the home of an employee he liked, whose wife was dying of cancer, and Hilton fired the employee due to a rule that prohibited any contact between employees and hotel talent.

Elvis attacked Hilton from the stage that night, saying he “wasn’t worth a damn,” she claims. Parker was furious. The two argued until Elvis fired Parker in his 30th-floor suite, to which Parker immediately replied that he quit and “retired to his offices to draw up a bill” for what he claimed Elvis owed him.

According to her, the sum ranges from $2 million to $10 million, and as the film depicts, Elvis eventually decided he couldn’t afford to pay and returned to work for the colonel.

Did Priscilla Presley arrange for Elvis to enter rehab?

No, Nash responds.

“In her book ‘Elvis and Me,’ she says that she would occasionally hear that he had checked into the hospital and would then call to see if he was all right,” Nash says.

Priscilla Presley says in another book, “Elvis by the Presleys,” that many people asked her why she didn’t start an intervention.

“People who ask that don’t know Elvis,” she says. Elvis would not have responded to an intervention or a demand to stop singing in the same way. Any attempt at intervention would have been met with laughter. Nobody, not even his father, could have pulled that off.”

Elvis’ ex-wife was no longer in his life on a daily basis by the time he was trying to get help for his addictions. “Priscilla was not as involved with Elvis after their divorce as she would have people believe,” Nash adds.

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