Elvis Meets Nixon! plus... the King on the Couch!
One day in December 1970, Elvis Presley disappeared. Through he had slept at Graceland the night before, he was suddenly nowhere to be found. His Memphis Mafia gang (pictured below, with Presley seated in center), was about to begin a frantic search, when the phone rang.
Elvis' pal Sonny answered the phone. He listened briefly, then hung up the phone and announced to the panicked room: You wont fuckin believe this! Sonny told the Memphis Mafia, Elvis is in Washington D.C. -- he went there to meet with President Nixon!
Elvis had gone to the Memphis airport all by himself, something he had never done before. Elvis flew to Los Angeles and phoned his friend Jerry Schilling, telling him to meet him there, and bring $500 in cash, because Presley didn't have a penny in his pocket. Presley and Schilling flew from LAX to Washington, and on the flight they met a veteran just back from Vietnam. When Presley found out the vet had no money, Elvis told Schilling to give him the $500.
"But Elvis," Schilling protested, "That's all the money we got!"
"Jerry," Elvis replied sternly, "I said give the man the money."
After this incident, Elvis wrote a strange, rambling letter to President Nixon on American Airlines stationery, asking Nixon for a small favor. Heres an excerpt from Elvis' letter to Nixon (the end section of the actual letter is pictured below):
Dear Mr. President,
I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large and I will help out by doing it my way through my communications with people of all ages. First and foremost, I am an entertainer, but all I need is the Federal credentials. Sir, I am staying at the Washington Hotel ... I will stay as long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent. I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can do the most good ... I would love to meet you just to say hello if youre not too busy.
Respectfully, Elvis Presley
On December 21, 1970, Elvis and Schilling arrived in Washington, D.C., hoping to get a private meeting with President Nixon -- although he had no appointment, and Nixon didn't even know he was coming. Elvis and Schilling got off the plane, met Elvis' friend Jerry, and took a limo to the White House, where Elvis gave the letter hed written to a guard at the gate, then left to wait for an answer in his hotel room.
At the White House, Nixons aides read Elvis letter, and decided it might not be such a bad idea to get photographs of the President meeting with the legendary King of Rock and Roll. The President will see Mr. Presley for 20 minutes, Presley was told by phone.
Elvis, Sonny and Jerry quickly went to the White House. The guns Presley had brought as gifts for Nixon had to be left at the gate.
As he was taken into the Oval Office, Elvis was wearing a black suede suit, a white shirt with a high collar open to the chest, and a dark purple cloak around his shoulders. He carried a cane, and wore amber-tinted sunglasses to cover his eyes, which were covered in heavy eye shadow and mascara. "He had on more mascara than the Avon Lady," recalls Marty Lacker, an Elvis intimate who was the King's best man when he wed Priscilla.
The meeting was awkward at first. Elvis showed Nixon some pictures of his wife, Priscilla, and his daughter, Lisa Marie. I want to help get people to respect the flag, Elvis told Nixon, because thats getting lost."
After some small talk, Elvis got down to business. "Mr. President, can you get me a badge from the Narcotics Bureau? I've been trying to get a badge from them for my collection.
Nixon nodded and said, Id like to do that. See that he gets one. Elvis was so overjoyed, he actually hugged Nixon!
Nixon patted Elvis on the shoulder and told him, Well, I appreciate your willingness to help us out, Mr. Presley.
They took a series of formal pictures, and then Nixon opened the left-hand drawer of his desk, which was where he kept gifts for visitors. Elvis could see the drawer held some Presidential tie clasps for men, and Presidential pendants for women. Nixon presented his pals Sonny and Jerry with some tie clasps, then Elvis boldly told Nixon, Remember Mr. President, they've got wives. So Nixon returned to the drawer and got some pendants.
Now I know why they call you Tricky Dicky, Elvis said to the President jokingly.
Nixon, unshaken, shot back. And now I know why they call you Elvis the Pelvis!
Regarding Elvis theatrical get-up, Nixon told Presley, You dress kind of strange, dont you.
Laughing, Elvis gave a classic reply. Well, Mr. President, you got your show, and I got mine.
Elvis, Sonny and Jerry left the White House, and flew out of town without ever checking out of their hotel. Elvis later got his badge (pictured right), currently on display at Graceland. But what was the real point of Elvis' bizarre encounter with Nixon? There must have been more to it than just collecting a badge -- and there was.
Elvis had recently gotten several death threats, and become obsessed about carrying a gun everywhere with him. The Memphis Mafia all carried guns, too. Excessive drug use had made Elvis irrational and paranoid, and he kept saying he wouldnt go anywhere without a gun -- not even to the bathroom. Elvis usually kept a derringer in his boot, and carried another gun in his pocket. Sometimes two! Elvis bought almost $20,000 worth of hand guns in 1970 alone -- a small fortune at that time.
Presley also began collecting police badges from every city hed visit, and he soon had hundreds of them. The badges allowed Elvis and his posse to carry the guns legally -- at least in the localities the badges were issued in. But Elvis, as always, wanted more.
This was the real purpose of Presley's trip to see Nixon -- he wanted to be declared a Federal Agent so he and his bodyguards could legally carry small arms in every state in America. Nixons badge allowed them to do just that. Now, Elvis was legally empowered to protect himself, and carry on the fight for justice and "respecting the flag" -- just like his boyhood hero, Captain Marvel Jr.!
The King of Rock 'n' Roll met with President Nixon in 1970. Just seven years later, on August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley passed away at the age of 42. His body lies in Graceland's Meditation Garden, next to the graves of his parents, Gladys Love Presley and Vernon Elvis Presley. (See photo at top of page, right corner.)
One haunting question remains: WHY did Elvis Presley idolize Captain Marvel Jr.? Elvis' twin brother, Jesse Garon, had been stillborn. Several books maintain that this trauma was the source of Presley's hero worship.
In "Elvis and Gladys," Elaine Dundy was one of the first to draw attention to recurring themes in Elvis' films that reflected aspects of his life, for example the overreaching manager, missing parent, twin motif ("Double Trouble," pictured) and Elvis' Indian ancestry.
Elvis was a twin whose brother died at birth," Dundy wrote. "For the rest of his life, Elvis would feel loss and guilt but he would also feel something more; something without which we cannot begin to fathom Elvis' character. He would feel triumphant; he was after all, the one who survived. He would relate to friends and lovers with the dependent intimacy of a twin looking for his other half, but always the dominate one."
"Behind Elvis there was another great legend: the metaphysical world of double identity comic book heroes. Elvis' favorite was Captain Marvel Jr., who looks, in fact, exactly like Elvis made himself look. Captain Marvel Junior is the most powerful boy in the world, the other identity being the reality of poor Freddy Freeman, but both go about saving the world."
Elvis himself believed there was a reason why Jesse was born dead, and he lived. Billy Smith, Presley's cousin, recalls Elvis once wondering out loud, If my twin brother had lived, do you reckon the world could have handled two?
According to The Inner Elvis: A Psychological Biography of Elvis Aaron Presley by clinical psychologist Peter Whitmer, every twinless twin displays the same distinctive psychological pattern. "The twinless twin wants to prove his uniqueness, to stand as an individual. Yet he is also powerfully pulled toward being reunited with the dead twin. To win the mother's love, he must grieve for the dead twin. Yet at the same time, to establish self-love and his own security, he must compete with the very person he is compelled to mourn."
Being a twinless twin can cause lasting psychological scars, says Dr. Thomas Stuttaford. Surviving twins can start life with an unbearable sense of guilt. They blame themselves for their sibling's death. The surviving twin also feels an immense obligation to make it up to his parents, and believes he always has to do better, and be better. Several research projects have demonstrated that surviving twins have an increased chance of suffering from depression in adult life.
These are interesting theories. But the are just that -- theories. And they were created by people who, though they may be brilliant in many other aspects, are NOT comic book fans. Therefore, in the opinion of Robby Reed, the creator of this blog and author of this article, they are missing a gigantic piece of the puzzle. After all, it's impossible to successfully analyze why someone liked a particular comic book character if the person doing the analysis thinks all comic books are vile and insipid trash! Let's try another approach.
Elvis Presley, Comic Book Fan
Who is YOUR favorite superhero? Or, who is your favorite non-super hero? And WHY?
We often idolize those who most closely resemble our current situation, as well as those who embody the ideals and values we wish to achieve ourselves. In other words, we tend to like either who we ARE, or who we WANT TO BE. This is part of the genius of Superman, from whom all other superhero characters flow. The Superman mythos combines both aspects of hero worship in a single character, through the use of the secret identity. We ARE like Clark Kent, and we WANT TO BE like Superman.
In my view, THIS is why Elvis idolized Cap Jr. -- because the Captain Marvel Jr./Freddy Freeman character was a perfect mirror image of the once and future Elvis. Freddy represented Elvis as he was, and Captain Marvel Jr. represented Elvis as he wished to be. (Pictured right: Alex Ross sketch of "King Marvel," a possible future version of Captain Marvel Jr. from "Kingdom Come.")
Freddy Freeman was a poor, crippled young orphan; Elvis was poor, and neglected by his father. Freddy said "Captain Marvel!" and the lightning struck; Elvis said Colonel Parker! and the lightning struck. And what was "the lightning"?
The lightning was inspiration -- the power to use the works of others as sparks for ones own creativity, and to fashion from them something entirely NEW. In blending strains of the Grand Ole Opry and Beale Street with country and the blues, this is exactly what Elvis did, revolutionizing music -- and the entire nation -- in the process.
Immortal Elvis will always be remembered, and as long as Elvis endures, the world will remember Captain Marvel Jr., too -- because there is a Captain Marvel Jr. comic book stored in the Elvis archives! This precious piece of memorabilia serves to remind us that powers bestowed at the Rock of Eternity will now rock FOR an eternity.
The King is dead -- LONG LIVE THE KING!
CAPTAIN MARVEL JR. in PANELS FROM TEEN TITANS #23, JUNE 2005, by GEOFF JOHNS
COMING TOMORROW on DIAL B for BLOG:
EACH ONE A MODERN MASTERPIECE!
Neal Adams - Jamie Hernandez - Murphy Anderson
Steve Rude - Paul Smith - Joe Kubert
Finished Ink Drawings!