Elvis. Elvis Presley. Elvis Aron Presley. Elvis Aaron Presley. No matter which name you use the word(s) are sure to bring instant…emotions. I have had the great pleasure to have one of the Largest (private) Elvis Presley Collections in the World, including in excess of 70,000 Elvis photographs, all of which I…cherish. Needless to say, listening – watching – reading – etc. about the life and legacy of Elvis…is never…boring.
They say that a Man can be “accurately viewed” by the quality of their friends. Not the “friends” that one sees on Holidays. Not the friends that one doesn’t keep up not. Not the friends that are the “can I borrow something?”. Not the friends who only show up when…they need something. I am talking about REAL friends who you can count on when the World is against you. I can say, without hesitation, that Elvis was blessed to have (just using these for the purposes of this article) three QUALITY friends that anyone would be proud to include…in their lives.
First would be Charlie Hodge (who sadly passed away a few years ago leaving his wife Jennifer a widow). The second being Joe Esposito. And the third being Jerry Schilling.
I have had the honor of meeting each of these men on several occasions. I spent much more time around Charlie Hodge, a few times with Joe Esposito with each “interaction” of a few moments, and then Jerry Schilling (limited to shaking hands and once being introduced briefly).
Charlie Hodge had a laugh that was…contagious. His laugh was LARGER than his stature and his smile…would light up the darkest cavern. Charlie was Elvis’s right hand man onstage and he lived at Graceland offstage. Charlie was a gifted musician, and singer, in his own right and possessed a UNIQUE ability to MIMIC voices. On one occasion he asked me to repeat my last name and after the fourth time, in between him laughing at his first attempts, I thought I heard myself saying my name again but Charlie had captured it…instantly.
Joe Esposito was like a HAWK with eyes ALWAYS on Elvis and one got the impression that Joe always wanted…the best for Elvis. Joe could “charm the wings off an angel”, could be trusted with your last dime, and would give his life…for others. All of these qualities were evident by looking straight into…his eyes. His facial expressions could be “tricky” but his eyes…held the truth. Even as a young adult there was something “powerful” about Joe and it seemed like he, and Elvis, could have a conversation…just by looking at each other.
Jerry Schilling is another story. He is tall, handsome, and has a “tiger-like” quality about him (no disrespect to Elvis who was nicknamed the Tiger due to his Martial Arts prowess) in the way he controlled his walk and arm gestures. Jerry came from Memphis and unlike Joe and Charlie, who Elvis bonded with in the Army (note: Elvis had seen/met Charlie previously as Charlie was a Gospel Singer), Jerry was a “hometown er” who knew “where” Elvis came from. Jerry was also Elvis’ “go to” receiver during the “touch” football games (note: the word ‘touch’ has been highlighted because these games were ANYTHING but…soft). Jerry is obviously intelligent and has a “silent, shy, strength” about him that translates from his eyes and in his handshake. He appears to be someone who would take some time, and experiences, to be “familiar” with but afterward would be an honest “sounding board” and a good friend.
Besides seeing these Men they each have written books that summarize their life with Elvis. As different as they were/are their books represent a sincere aspect of their personalities. Charlies starts off by issuing the disclosure of the book being dedicated to “Lisa Marie” (Elvis daughter) and contains some inside stories and shares Charlies sense of humor.
Joe has written several books each of them are wonderful, enlightening, professional, and cherished. Anything written by, solely or in the guise of “co-author” is a MUST READ/BUY for Elvis fans.
Jerry’s book is a thoughtful, factually correct, and heartfelt book that is one of my favorites. It is clear, in Jerry’s book, WHY Elvis loved him and confided in him in several ways. In his own right Jerry is/was a successful businessman who has stayed in the music field…and been successful monetarily…and being (greatly) respected.
Charlie’s book does not attempt to “tell all” and he is upfront in the fact that he knows/knew much more but opted NOT to put it into book(s).
Joe, even on some interviews, retains the “emotional scars” of the loss of his friend. Joe, being entrusted with handling Elvis’ money AND being a “go-between with Colonel Parker, knew much more (inside the business relationship between Elvis and the Colonel) and opts to share MEMORABLE parts of his life and his stories (almost) put you there.. He is a master story teller.
Each of these men suffered, at the loss of Elvis, and still do. The pain that they carry is both a “blessing” and a “curse” because they saw Elvis at his BEST (personally and professionally) and they saw him when his health (mentally and physically) was declining. Unlike us fans, who saw the photographs and the concerts firsthand, they….LIVED it.
I am thankful to each of these men for what they CHOSE not to tell. Even after these 30+ years they have kept their WORD (i.e. friendship bond) to Elvis and are deserving of our respect, appreciation, and our support.
Thus, I say to them (and in Charlies’ case to his wife Jennifer) THANK YOU for everything that you have done…and not told. I wish you nothing but success in ALL of your endeavors (personally and professionally).
Lastly, I shared these “insights” because there is MORE to Elvis Presley (i.e. his life and legacy) than any ONE person could ever…know. The more I “learn” about Elvis…the more I realize that…I don’t know. Sometimes I “question” if Elvis actually breathed air, and was a living breathing HUMAN BEING, or if he was a “three dimensional creation of beauty/talent”. The reason for these (brief) questions are because Elvis was such a RARE combination of talent, vulnerability, loyalty, creativeness, uniqueness, as well as being the BENCHMARK for giving back to those you love…and to those in need.
I will keep these “inputs” coming as I undergo a (personal) medical situation. The reason why I “share this” is because there will be “lapses” in time, in between articles, and it is not because of my “lack of desire to share” but simply a matter of…priority.
Elvis is missed and I believe that by sharing out insight, combined with the legacy he left (visually, recordings, movies, writings, etc.), that we can learn allot from him spiritual paths – to his realization that he was blessed from God – to his faults. Along the way perhaps we can learn a thing or two…about ourselves.
Take care and God bless.