The night after Thanksgiving, I had the misfortune to watch this TV show. I had only modest expectations, thinking it would probably cover all the stuff we fans know so well already. However, after ten minutes, I realized this was a piece of trash journalism of the first order. After some research, I now know that Geraldo Rivera has a history of slamming Elvis going back to 1979.
This was a September 13, 1979 episode of the ABC network show 20/20. The supposed cover-up was about Elvis’ abuse of prescription drugs.
This is footage of Geraldo doing the Elvis Cover-Up. He seems pretty happy dragging Elvis through the muck, doesn’t he? Because that show scored huge ratings, Geraldo apparently couldn’t resist reusing significant portions of it in his new Elvis at 80.
He didn’t waste any time getting into old footage. He opened the show with a clip of himself announcing Elvis’ death in 1977.
In Elvis at 80, Geraldo’s first reference to Elvis and drugs came just two minutes into the program. At the thirty minute mark, Geraldo was still talking about Elvis and drugs. By this point, I was screaming at the TV, “Geraldo, you worthless piece of s**t. That’s enough. This show sucks!”
Another evidence of his lack of taste in Elvis at 80 was the eight minutes he spent on tribute artists rather than on Elvis himself.
Believe it or not, two minutes of the show were wasted interviewing this guy and having him sing a few lines of “Hurt.” No wonder some folks have a negative image of Elvis impersonators
If Geraldo hadn’t given so much time to the prescriptions and ETAs, he would have had plenty of time to cover all the things he never mentioned or gave only passing mention to, like:
Tupelo birthplace (didn’t even show the house)
Gladys and Vernon
Humes High School
Girlfriends June Jaunico and Anita Wood (but we did get an interview with Tori Petty. Ever heard of her?)
Sun Records (no inside of outside shots, no archival Sam Phillips footage)
Scotty, Bill and D.J. (totally unforgivable)
Dorsey Brothers, Milton Berle, and Steve Allen TV shows.
Significant movies (Jailhouse Rock, King Creole, Viva Las Vegas, Blue Hawaii, etc)
Circle G Ranch
Jaycees’ Outstanding Young American Award
’68 Comeback Special (far too little, considering the impact on Elvis career)
Elvis’ love for Gospel music
Aloha From Hawaii
Elvis’ charitable giving (no specifics, just a quick reference to his legendary generosity)
This is probably an incomplete list because just wrote down what came to me. If you spot a big omission, mention it on Comments and I’ll add it.
So what did we get on the show if they left out all these significant parts of his life and career? In addition to Geraldo’s favorite topics, drugs and tribute artists, we got a lot of face time of Geraldo himself.
He couldn’t resist showing himself in an Elvis jumpsuit. This old clip came from an August 14, 1992 show called Elvismania.”
We also got tiresome sound bites from a strange assortment of people: Gene Simmons (from KISS), Ray Stevens, Chubby Checker, Larry Gatlin, Neil Sedaca, and Tommy Roe. There was a little recycled footage of Priscilla (looked like something from an old Elvis Week interview.
On the other hand, Brenda Lee was good, because she had actual connections to Elvis to talk about. Best of all were Jerry Schilling and George Klein, both of whom I consider to be good guys among Elvis circle of friends.
Yes, there were short segments on Col. Parker, Graceland, Army life (including mention of Elvis’ introduction to GI Speed), Priscilla, and Lisa Marie. Near the end of the show, Geraldo stated that he would have loved to interview Priscilla and Lisa Marie, but they were unavailable. Yeah, right. They probably wouldn’t be caught dead appearing on a hatchet job like this show.
Geraldo had plenty of negative slams about Elvis in his narrative, but he did mix in some praise as well.
Fading King of Rock and Roll
Fat at forty, strained and swollen
The decline and fall of the king
Almost became a joke in the 60s
Enough dope from enough doctors to kill a horse
Worth more dead than alive
An idol to millions of us growing up in the 50s and 60s
He revolutionized the music business
In one way of another he touched most of us
His music will live forever
Enriched America’s cultural heritage
Geraldo Rivera’s website has its own Elvis Page, on which it says, “over the years, Geraldo has had some great insights on his (Elvis’) character, culture and place in the American sphere.
Give me a break. Do you call it insights or trash journalism when you do shows like The King’s Deep Dark Secret (1982) or Did Elvis Commit Suicide? (1990)?
Geraldo ended Elvis at 80 with this: “Elvis, thanks for the memories.”
I say, “Geraldo, this show is a memory I want to forget.”
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