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More Anecdotes about Elvis’ Humor and Love of Fooling Around

Elvis and Vera Tschechowa in Munich in april 4 1959.

Two years ago I shared a few excerpts from the book Elvis’ Humor by Bo Keeley. Bo had a unique concept to prevail in a crowded market with a successful book about Elvis. He went out and bought 43 other books on Elvis, and searched through them to find 290 anecdotes about his humor and love of fooling around and pulling stunts on others. Bo has been kind enough to let me share with you more of these great little insights into Elvis.

Elvis Humor

Elvis’ Humor is organized into many categories like the three in the subtitle: Girls, Guns, and Guitars. Previously we looked at a few from the Graceland and Movies chapters. Now, we will look at selections from the chapters Games, Parties, Pranks, and Paybacks. Bo Keeley precedes each story with a little background and follows with the original source information. Some are edited here for brevity.

 

Pippin

Fourteen-year old Jerry Schilling had known Elvis through a string of Sunday football contests at a Memphis playground when, in 1956, the newly successful singer invited Jerry to the amusement park. Sometimes Elvis rented Libertyland for his entire entourage from closing to the next morning, with instructions that all the rides, games, cotton candy, and hot dog stands were to be open all night.

Elvis favorite - Pippin Ride

The first time I {Jerry Schilling} went to the fairgrounds, I found myself lined up with the group to take a ride on the Pippin, which even in the fifties seemed old and rickety enough to add a little actual terror to every ride. Elvis got in the first car, and Anita Wood snuggled up close to him. Patsy Presley, Gene and Billy Smith, and a few of the others got in a car behind them. Those of us new to the Fairground experience stood on the platform as the ride began and the cars started up their slow climbs.

We could hear the continual yells of fear and excitement. But when the car finally came back around to the starting platform, we saw a heart-stopping sight: Anita Wood sat in the first car alone.

Elvis had been thrown from the Pippin. Some of the girls screamed. The rest of us stood frozen in shock. And then, just before the horror of what happened really grabbed a hold of us, we heard a tremendous laugh coming up the stairs behind us. We turned to see Elvis, grinning like a happy, misbehaving little kid. It was a trick I saw him pull almost every time he brought new people to the Fairgrounds – he’d figured out a spot at the top of the first hill where he could jump out just before the ride took off at top speed. Then he’d scale down and sneak around back. And every time, he got a tremendous kick out of the looks of panic on everybody else faces.

Jerry Schilling: p.54 – Me and a Guy Named Elvis

 

Wanda’s Duel

Wanda June Hill met Elvis Presley at the MGM offices in 1963, and struck up a cordial relationship peppered with practical jokes. On one occasion, Elvis and his boys were playing around the offices, running in and out, shouting and shooting each other with water pistols. Elvis came running into her office, giggling, and hid behind a desk, gun ready, to blast anyone coming through. Two minutes later, when no one did…

Wanda Hill and Elvis

Wanda Hill and Elvis

He took aim and fired a blast in my face. I stared at him, shocked, and then without thinking who he was, I picked up a paper cup with melting ice from a Coke and tossed it in his direction. It got him right in the chest and splattered up his face. The look on his face would have been worth millions on film.

He was stunned and speechless. For a few seconds I thought surely he would kill me, as his expression changed from shock to surprise, then anger. Then he slowly relaxed and his handsome face began to smile. He tossed back his head and laughed. Then, brushing off the ice and slowly raising his water pistol, feet spread apart, and with the meanest and most deadly look I’ve ever seen, he drew aim at my heart and fired his water pistol.

Well, it was nearly empty, and the stream sort of dribbled at me. That was too much; we fell all over the office laughing. Elvis went off to refill and I went back to work, wet, but totally sure Elvis was something else – just what I hadn’t decided yet.

Wanda Hill: p.3 – We Remember Elvis

 

New Year’s Eve

Anyone who knows anything about Elvis knows he loved fireworks. He would send one of his Memphis Mafia across the state line into Arkansas to buy a carload of fireworks for special holiday events, the most spectacular of which was New Year’s Eve. Elvis would burst out. “It’s time to play war.”

Elvis with Roman candle

New Year’s Eve he decided to stage another, slightly quieter but possibly more dangerous war. He and eleven friends pulled on heavy gloves and jackets and football helmets and went into the yard, where they chose up sides, and Elvis distributed over a thousand dollars’ worth of Roman candles, firecrackers, and cherry bombs.

No one was hurt, but when the play ended, the air stank with the smell of scorched wool and cotton and melting polyester, and everyone’s clothes were gaping with blackened holes.

Jerry Hopkins: p.66 – Elvis – The Final Years

 

All Dance, No Show

In June 1959, with 15 days leave to enjoy, Elvis and his Army friends Lamar Fike, Charlie Hodge, and Rex Mansfield travelled to Munich and Paris. Two days in Munich were followed by over a week of karate and partying in Paris where, on several occasions, Elvis would invite the whole chorus line of girls from the Moulin Rouge Club back to his top floor suite of the Prince de Galles Hotel with a panoramic view of the Arc de Triomphe

Elvis at Lido club Paris

One memorable night the entire chorus returned to the suite with them, and everyone was still asleep the next evening at 9:30 when the phone rang. It was the manager of the Lido, who announced to Lamar that he would like to begin the first show. Lamar told him to go right ahead and hung up without thinking any more about it. A moment later the phone rang again, and the same message was repeated. “Lamar got angry,” observed an amused Rex, and this time… told the Lido manager… to quit bothering us. The manager told Lamar that he could not start his show, because we had his entire chorus line in our hotel suite.

Peter Guralnick: p.34 – Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley

 

Upstaged

In 1971, in the middle of Tom Jones’ show at the Stardust in Las Vegas, Elvis Presley got up and walked out. The usual arrangement to view a performance like this was for the maître d’ to sit Elvis and the group after the lights went down, and to escort them to the backstage dressing room before the end of the show to avoid being a distraction.

But Elvis was in the habit of drinking lots of Mountain Valley Spring Water, and in the middle of Jones’ show, he had to go to the bathroom. Jerry Schilling, one of the athletic Memphis Mafia, got up to go with him. Presley carried a cane then, both for the look and its potential as an emergency weapon. However, his best defensive move on the bathroom run was speed – Elvis had learned to do a fast power-walk through the lobbies and casinos and showrooms to avoid being stopped, and Jerry could hardly keep up with him…

Elvis with Girl and Mountain Valley Spring Water

On our way back from the bathroom, we were walking even faster than we had before. We passed a little lounge where a cover band was playing. Their lead singer was a big burley guy who happened to be in the middle of singing an Elvis tune. The big guy wasn’t bad, but he was overdoing the Elvis vibrato just a bit. Without breaking stride, Elvis said, “Jerry, wait here,” and stormed into the lounge.

Elvis with Cane

He walked right up to the stage, hoisted his cane like he was going to clobber this guy and said, “If you’re gonna do it, do it right.” He gave the crowd in the lounge a great big wink, hopped off the stage, and zoomed right out of there. But the big singer didn’t see the wink – he’d been so startled that he’d fallen over on the stage.

We were cracking up about it all the way back to our table. But no sooner did I get settled in to see the rest of Tom’s show than Elvis leaned over to tell me, “Jerry, go back and invite that guy and his band to come up to the suite after the show.”

Jerry Schilling: p.230 – Me and a Guy Named Elvis

 

First Jewelry Buy

A curious addition to the Memphis Mafia in 1967 was George C. Nichopoulas, also known as ‘Dr. Nick, who became Elvis’ personal physician.

Lowell Hayes and Elvis

On Christmas Eve 1970, Dr. Nick called me (Lowell Hayes, the jeweler) and said, “Elvis is gonna be at the Memphian Theater. And we’re having a movie. He’d like to see some jewelry.” I said, “Great. I’ll be there.”

About midnight I took a case of jewelry to the Memphian and they ushered me in and sat me down right behind Elvis. They told him, “Lowell Hayes is here.” Elvis turned around and acknowledged me and got up and motioned for me to follow him. We went into the men’s room, opened one of the doors to a toilet stall, and he sat down on the toilet and said, “Let’s have the case.”

I set it down on his lap, and Elvis did all his Christmas shopping sitting on the toilet in the Memphian Theater. He made quite a nice purchase and we became fast friends. As far as I know, if I was anywhere near, for the rest of his life, he bought everything from me. From that day on I made the TCB necklaces, rings, and all of Elvis’ jewelry.

Rose Clayton: p.252 – Elvis Up Close

 

Blanks and Blood

The compassion in Elvis Presley is brought out in stunts pulled on him. In 1956, one of his enduring traits on screen was a refreshing naivety. When something nice happened, he smiled. When something he didn’t like happened, he turned it around. When something new was thrown in his face, he got confused. Elvis the actor couldn’t hide it.

Elvis Shooting Gun in Love Me Tender

Sometimes the joke was on Elvis. In Love Me tender, Elvis’ character, Clint Reno, has to shoot his brother Vance, played by Richard Egan. Director Robert Webb explained the scene and briefed Elvis on how he wanted it done. Certain that the gun contained blanks, Elvis fired. He hit Egan in the shoulder.

Egan grabbed at the spot where the bullet ripped through his shirt. Blood gushed out of the wound and all over Egan’s clothes. Elvis ran to him in a state of panic, convinced he had shot Egan for real. As Egan dropped to his knees, Elvis began to cry. The script called for Egan to lay on the ground in pain; instead, he started to laugh. Everyone else on the set started to laugh as well.

Richard Egan Laughing

Elvis was confused and he turned to Webb for an answer. He soon realized he’d been ‘had’ using one of Hollywood’s oldest tricks. Electric wire fired powder onto the victim and a pack of thick, red fluid, resembling blood, burst open onto the actor. Hurt that anyone had laughed at his naiveté Elvis was further mortified that they now realized he knew nothing about prop techniques used in the movies.

The scene and the blood pack were ruined, so Webb ordered a ten-minute break so the crew could set up for a retake. He turned to Elvis and said that the performance had given him the best laugh of his life.

Jim Curtin: p.96 – Elvis, Unknown Stories Behind the Legend

 

Stood Up

Priscilla had married Elvis in 1967, when she was 21. (When) the marriage soured in the early 70s she confesses that she sought his attention with what he seemed to love most — practical jokes…

Priscilla in front of Stage with Elvis

One night, after he’d left early for a show, I put on a black dress with an exceptionally low-cut back. When it came time for Elvis to give away kisses to girls in the audience – a regular part of the show – I went up to the stage. Instead of kissing me he kept on singing his song, leaving me to stand there.

With my hair hiding the dress strap around my neck I appeared to be nude from the waist up. I could hear the ‘ooh’s’ and ‘ahhhh’s’ of the audience. They were under the impression that a topless girl had cornered Elvis and he couldn’t figure out what to do.

Elvis Kissing Priscilla at Concert

I kept whispering to him, “Kiss me, kiss me, so I can sit down,” but he decided to turn the joke on me, and made me wait in the spotlight for the duration of the song. Planting a big kiss on my lips, he surprisingly introduced me to the audience. I felt a bit embarrassed and made my way back to my seat.

Priscilla Presley: p.281 – Elvis and Me

 

Lone Ranger

In early January 1976, Elvis decided to fly a large entourage to Colorado for a vacation. After checking into a Denver hotel, he dispatched Joe Esposito to Vail to find rental accomodations for the group. On January 7, he spends the evening of his 41st birthday in a rental chalet on the slopes. Elvis wears a full-face ski mask during the day to avoid recognition, and mostly appears on the slopes at night in a rented snowmobile. One evening, after a skiing accident, Dr. Nicopoulas’ son, Dean, needed medical attention, Elvis, Dr. Nick, and Dean raced to the local hospital…

Lamar Fike, Priscilla and Elvis

Lamar Fike, Priscilla and Elvis

Finally we arrived at the hospital. I pulled out my Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance card with Elvis Presley Enterprises printed on it, and handed it to the busy receptionist. She must have thought she was being cute, ’cause she smirked back, “Yeah. So where’s Elvis?”

Still wearing his ski mask, Elvis looked all around, left and right, up and down, then answered mischievously, “He’s here… somewhere.”

“And who are you?” the receptionist shot back.

“The Lone Ranger,” Elvis replied matter-of-factly.

But she had already returned to her paperwork, paying no attention to the silly masked man.

George Nichopoulos: p.101 – The King and Dr. Nick

 

 

My thanks to Bo Keeley for agreeing to let me use excerpts from his delightful book in this post. If you are interested in getting a copy of Elvis’ Humor – Girls, Guns & Guitars, click here.

 

 

© 2018 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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