Elvis: What Happened? is a collection of memories about Elvis, his rise to stardom and his gradual downfall as told to journalist Steve Dunleavy by thElvis: What Happened? is a collection of memories about Elvis, his rise to stardom and his gradual downfall as told to journalist Steve Dunleavy by three former friends and employees of Elvis. Cousins Red West and Sonny West had known Elvis since highschool, and Dave Hebler was a part of Elvis' entourage from 1972-1976. These three were fired from the "Memphis Mafia" in July 1976. Steve Dunleavy contacted them shortly thereafter, and this book was published on August 1st 1977...only fifteen days before Elvis died.
Going into this story, I thought it would be difficult to truly appreciate it. Of course Elvis is such an ingrained part of our popular culture, and we all know that towards the end of his life he was hopelessly addicted to prescription medications and that his behavior was erratic. But at the time, this was a closely guarded secret. Elvis: What Happened is a very ugly look at the private life of The King, told by men who know him better than most people. I didn't find myself shocked by the stories of drug abuse, women, and bizarre behavior the way people were with this book was first published. However, the more I read, the more I was appalled and disgusted by the behavior of Red West, Sonny West, Dave Hebler and the rest of the entourage.
The Memphis Mafia was a strange monster. These men considered themselves close and personal friends of Elvis, yet complained that they didn't feel they made enough money from him. While they told stories of being able to travel with Elvis (on Elvis' dime) live with him in various mansions, have access to all sorts of women, their meals were paid for, Elvis bought them countless cars, and other gifts... yet their paycheck wasn't always high enough. Really? So what was their role, friends or employees? My vote is employees.
While these men complained that Elvis' behavior was becoming more and more erratic, and his beliefs wack-a-do, they never contradicted him.
Red relates: "Since my days playing football, I've always had a bad back, and sometimes at the top of my neck it gives me hell. Well, after a while I learned not to complain about it when I was around Elvis, because I knew what would happen. Whenever he knew I had the pain, he would ask me to sit down in front of him, and then he would lay on his hands, telling me over and over that the pain would go away, that he was drawing out the pain. Well, I would sit there and he would say, 'It's going away, Red. You're going to be okay.' I would say, 'Yes, boss, I hear you.' Then I would tell him, 'Hell, man, you're right. The pain has gone. That's fantastic. It really has gone.' He would give me one of those little secretive smiles that told the world that he had these powers, and he would walk away pleased with himself. I would walk away and my back and neck were still hurting like hell. It was a case where I didn't want to tell him that he was kidding himself, because he really had the best of intentions, but he was convinced that he had fixed me up."
The book opens with a passage of Elvis getting angry at a woman at one of his house parties. In a fit of rage, he threw a cue stick at her, spear style. According to Sonny West,
"...she started talking about suing Elvis. I was worried about that in the back of my mind. She had every damn right to sue him. I told her not to be silly. She should forget about it. Then I very gently told her that she was in his house, and she did insult him, and there were a lot of his friends around as witnesses and then I said, 'Who do you think they're gonna stand up for?' ...Sonny felt ashamed of himself. That really wasn't his style. Here was this little girl, victim of a sudden, sadistic flash of temper, and he was trying to talk her out of suing. 'I wouldn't have blamed her a it,' he says, 'but I was so locked into Elvis. It was second nature for me to stand up for him, even when I knew he was very wrong.'"
Finally, a memory from Dave Hebler,
...Elvis was talking about the power of metaphysics, although I'm not quite sure whether he knew the real definition of the word... Suddenly Elvis yells out, 'Stop the car. I want to show you what I mean, Dave. Now see that cloud? I will show you what my powers really are. Now I want you all to watch. All of you, look at that cloud.' Well, we all look at the damn little cloud up there like a bunch of goats. Elvis is staring a hole through the damn thing. Well, the perspiration is dripping off us. Not a sound in the car, just a whole lot of dummies dying of heat stroke looking up at a cloud. I'm near dying and I am praying that the sonofabitch would blow away. At the same time, I'm really having a problem not to burst out laughing. Well, after about ten minutes, thank God, the damn thing dissipated a little. I mean, if you watch a single cloud anyway after ten minutes, it will move or dissipate to some degree. I saved the day by noticing it first, and, because I didn't want to die of dehydration, I said, 'Gee, Elvis, you're right. Look, it's moving away,' That was just the right thing to say. Old Elvis gave me one of those sly little smiles that told me he had done it again. 'I know, I moved it,' he says. Then we drive off."
Fuck. Poor Elvis. This book tells story after story of Elvis displaying the patience of a two year old and the beliefs of a crazy person. And his so called "friends" encouraged him every step of the way. It is an intriguing look into a side of Elvis that very few people were privy to. It is also the most disgusting display of "yes men" and hangers on I have ever read. Red West, Sonny West, and Dave Hebler ~ no matter what their true feeling towards Elvis, are still making money off his name today. My one consolation is that I purchased this from a used book store, and these men did not receive my money.
They say this book was intended to be a way of reaching out to Elvis, a way of letting him know his behavior was out of control. Was it? Big surprise Elvis was reported to be hurt, saddened and betrayed. Elvis: What Happened? is actually not as cynical as one would expect. Although Dave Hebler appears to be more star struck when he talks kindly of The King, the West cousins insist they truly do care about Elvis and hoped he would turn his life around.
Elvis: That's the Way It Is, despite being the best documentary evah, always makes me a little sad. Whenever Elvis cracks a joke, he very quickly looks around the room to make sure every one of his boys is laughing with him. And of course they are. What a shame that a man with so much talent was coddled and spoiled to point that he became delusional, isolated and so unhealthy that he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of forty-two. Perhaps his life would have taken that turn anyway? But somehow, for these men to say they cared about Elvis... while never having the heart or courage to be straight with him, for these men to benefit from living a charmed life as a paid companion to Elvis while complaining that they didn't earn enough... something just ain't right. This book was at times sad, at times disgusting, yet always fascinating.
Let me end this review on a high note. Elvis had a number of hobbies and interests, one of which was collecting law enforcement badges. At a Hollywood party, Elvis discovered that an unnamed celebrity was an undercover agent for the Federal Narcotics Bureau. When Elvis saw the badge, he decided he needed to have one and set up an appointment with John Finlator, then the Deputy Narcotics Director. Finlator met with Elvis, and offered to give him an honorary badge but Elvis wouldn't take it, he wanted the real thing. Elvis insisted that he wanted to help in the fight to keep people off drugs, and even offered money. Finlator stood firm, and would not give Elvis a real badge. Undaunted, Elvis left and hired a chauffeured limousine to drive him to the White House. Although this was spur of the moment, and he didn't have an appointment to see the President, Elvis charmed his way into the oval office. According to Sonny West,
"Presley seemed very much at home in the Oval Office and he said, 'Now, the president has got something for ya'll.' President Nixon returned to his desk and presented Sonny and Jerry (two of the Memphis Mafia with Elvis at the time) with key rings and cufflinks with the presidential seal emblazoned on them. Presley wasn't shy when it came to the president. He said, 'You know,l Mr. President, they've got wives.' And the president, on Presley's prompting, gave them each a brooch with the presidential seal on it for their wives. In a daze, Sonny and Jerry and Presley then left the office, after warm handshakes. Before Sonny and Jerry had gotten to the office, President Nixon assured Presley he would get his federal narcotics badge. Presley smiled triumphantly at Sonny and Jerry and said, 'Who said something can't be done?'"
Conning the President of the United States just to get a badge to add to his collection? Fuck me. THAT is the power of The King! ...more
I debated on giving this 1 or 2 stars. On one hand, I did enjoy the book. However, there are quite a few issues that I just can't get past.
For examplI debated on giving this 1 or 2 stars. On one hand, I did enjoy the book. However, there are quite a few issues that I just can't get past.
For example, in the beginning Cohen writes about the feeling of power she felt from sexual attention. So, I expected the book to follow that theme. But it didn't. Cohen gained nothing from her multiple sexual encounters ~ not popularity, money, career advancement and certainly not the power she spoke of. True, she did get the momentary attention she sought. But that was it. It was a little pathetic the way so many men would reject her, and how quickly they would do it.
In doing such a thorough job of documenting her promiscuity, Cohen lets the other people and hobbies in her life fall to the wayside. Her mother ~ such a large influence in the beginning, rarely surfaces after Cohen's early teen years. Her sister is distant throughout the novel, until at one point in their adult lives Cohen and her sister seem to have a heart to heart. Cohen's friends come and go with little joy or sense of loss. And at some point in her college years, Cohen switches from drinking & drugs to developing an interest in reading, writing and running. The audience is left to speculate exactly when & why this happened.
As Cohen grows older, she does develop a handful of long term relationships with men. However, she continues to be clingy and needy in each one, and in between relationships she goes back to her old ways of fooling around with any available guy. At no point did she mention something she may have learned from a past relationship or experience. She mentions being unhappy with herself and her actions. But any lessons learned are not noted and don't seem to be applied.
Finally, as many have already mentioned, the conclusion seemed forced and left a lot of unanswered questions. The reader is left to believe that Cohen is finally "cured" because she met and married her husband. But really.... what process did she take to get there? Are we to believe that marriage alone leads to a happily ever after fairy tale life? Cohen married her husband relatively soon into the relationship ~ so how are we to know that her marriage will not end up the same as her other relationships? After all, her husband is the first man to ever propose to her. What makes him so special? For all the reader knows, Cohen would have accepted the proposal of any of her multiple hookups.
When everything was said and done... this was an interesting read. But I don't feel that Cohen actually learned from her actions. Yes, she is introspective and seems to understand she has/had a problem and some of the reasons for it. But for her to believe ~ and expect the reader to believe ~ that she is changed by the institution of marriage... well, that's a load of crap. I simply don't believe that a lifetime of poor self-esteem can be "fixed" by the few months of abstinence she experienced before meeting her husband.
Has anyone read her YA book Easy? From the synopsis, it appears to be another veriosn of Loose Girl. Don't know why, but somehow that irritates me. Tell your story once, in one format & be done with it!...more
I have always been a fan of Willie's music. Now I am a huge fan of Willie himself :) An easy read & incredibly entertaining. You don't have to beI have always been a fan of Willie's music. Now I am a huge fan of Willie himself :) An easy read & incredibly entertaining. You don't have to be a fan of Willie's music or even country music to enjoy this book....more
Ok, perhaps I am biased because this book was written by a relative of mine. My mom's ...er, some sort of cousin... who knows how many times removed..Ok, perhaps I am biased because this book was written by a relative of mine. My mom's ...er, some sort of cousin... who knows how many times removed...or, ah... whatever. The point is, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about my hillbilly roots :) Although my mom's maiden name is Hines, I actually know very little about that side of the family ~ in fact, I just know the Central Ohio Hines family members. Unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to meet Blanche. ...more
God, this was horrible. I love her show soooooo much, and only finished this book because I was sure that someone who created something so wonderful mGod, this was horrible. I love her show soooooo much, and only finished this book because I was sure that someone who created something so wonderful must have something good to say. Unfortunately, I was wrong. From now on, I am sticking with Roseanne Connor & the rest of her family. It's best to just leave Roseanne Barr alone. ...more
I had a really hard time selecting a shelf for this one ~ considered making up a whole new category, because it really does stand alone from all otherI had a really hard time selecting a shelf for this one ~ considered making up a whole new category, because it really does stand alone from all other books.
It's hard to believe anyone took this book seriously. Gives a lot of hilarious insight into Pat Boone as he gives advice to teens about life and love. It's so difficult to sum up all of the cheese in this book with a short review. For example, Boone writes of when he first began to consider his highschool "steady" as wife material. He began seeing her as, "not merely someone to kiss under a full moon but to love and cherish even with a runny nose." He also admits to his mom bending him over the bathtub & spanking him when he was seventeen!!
Reading this book is equivalent to eating an entire cheeseball... but not nearly as filling. (Doubly constipating, though.)...more
Totally awesome!!!!! Andy had never been my favorite, however I certainly gained a new respect for him. There is no mention of anyone helping him writTotally awesome!!!!! Andy had never been my favorite, however I certainly gained a new respect for him. There is no mention of anyone helping him write this book ~ I am impressed if he wrote it all on his own (considering how much he seems to drink!)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, especially the private Duran Duran moments. Can't get enough of that :) ...more