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New Memoir Describes Elvis Friendship

Elvis Presley confidant Jerry Schilling talks about his new book, Me and a Guy Named Elvis: My Lifelong Friendship with Elvis Presley. When Schilling was 12 years old, he met the teenaged Elvis Presley at a north Memphis pickup football game. As Presley rose to fame, Schilling joined him on the rise, eventually becoming creative affairs director for Elvis Presley Enterprises.


Other segments from the episode on August 14, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 14, 2006: Interview with Charlie Savage; Interview with Jerry Schilling.


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage discusses
presidential power and changes in Justice Department


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Earlier this year, my guest, Charlie Savage, wrote a series of stories for the
Boston Globe that have touched off a national debate about the constitutional
limits of presidential power. Savage wrote that more than any other
president, George W. Bush had effectively decided that he would ignore parts
of bills enacted by Congress by issuing what are called "signing statements."
Since Savage's stories appeared, several influential legal voices have
condemned the practice, and pending legislation would allow Congress to
challenge its use. We've invited Charlie Savage back to FRESH AIR for an
update on the issue and to discuss an analysis he's written of changes in the
Justice Department's civil rights division. Charlie Savage is legal affairs
correspondent for the Boston Globe.

I asked him to explain what signing statements are.

Mr. CHARLIE SAVAGE: A signing statement is an official document that a
president enters in the Federal Register on the day that he signs a bill, and
it consists of a legal interpretation of the bill he's just signed along with
instructions to the military or the civilian bureaucracy in the federal
government about how they are to implement the bill now that it has become
law. Often these signing statements have been used, especially since the
1980s, to not just describe the meaning of the bill and the purpose of the
bill but also to raise constitutional concerns about sections of the bill. In
other words, to say that this bill may have created 10 new laws, but laws 3
and 7, I think, are unconstitutional and can be discarded or don't need to be
obeyed or enforced as Congress wrote them.

President Bush has used signing statements to challenge, at this point, I
believe the figure is more than 800 laws, or 800 provisions contained in more
than 100 bills, which is more frequent use of that mechanism than all previous
presidents in American history combined. And at the same time, he's only
vetoed a single bill, which is the least amount of vetoes since the 1800s.

DAVIES: And unlike a veto, Congress gets no chance to argue back. It's, in
effect, a final word.

Mr. SAVAGE: Correct. It's an override-proof veto and it's also a line-item
veto, because instead of having to take the whole deal that Congress hands
him, the president can say, `I will take the parts I like and discard the
parts I don't like.' And so, in two different levels, it's much more powerful
than a constitutional veto.

DAVIES: What are some of the substantive areas that the president has used
this method on?

Mr. SAVAGE: Overwhelmingly, the laws that President Bush has raised
constitutional concerns about are laws that place restrictions or requirements
on his own powers as president. Many of them involve rules and regulations
for the military, for example, famously the torture ban. Also restrictions
against using US troops that are stationed in Columbia to engage in combat
against rebels. Other sorts of national security provisions such as oversight
requirements that were put in the Patriot Act reauthorization bill in March,
as well as many restrictions and requirements on the civilian side of the
executive branch, such as whistleblower protections for executive branch
employees who bring information to Congress without the president's
permission, affirmative action provisions, safeguards against political
interference in federally funded research.

DAVIES: One of the areas that you mentioned President Bush had used a signing
statement to make a substantive change involved the torture of--the use of
torture of detainees. Remind us of that congressional debate. What happened

Mr. SAVAGE: Last year Senator John McCain led a long fight in Congress to
pass a law that would make clear in US law that it is illegal for US
interrogators to use torture, cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment when
interrogating a detainee, no matter where in the world that detainee is held.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney lobbied vigorously against that
change in US law, which some people thought was not a change at all but merely
a clarification of a pre-existing anti-assault ban, and they threatened to
veto it. But, at the end of the day, overwhelming majorities in both houses
passed it, and President Bush called a press conference and told the world he
was accepting this restriction, in fact, maybe it was a good idea. It would
help us, you know, with our image. But when he signed the bill a few days
later, President Bush quietly attached a signing statement to the bill, and
one of the reservations he made in the signing statement was that this new
law, the detainee treatment act which banned cruelty, could not bind his hands
because he was the commander-in-chief and the Constitution gave him the power
to fight wars as he saw fit. And so Congress could not absolutely ban torture
in a no-exceptions way as Congress had intended to do, because it was up to
him as commander-in-chief.

DAVIES: How did congressional leaders react after such a vigorous debate on
this issue?

Mr. SAVAGE: Well, initially they didn't know it had happened because no one
was used to reading these statements. They were being quietly filed in the
Federal Register and never heard from again outside the executive branch.
When I wrote a story about this signing statement, there was anger from the
Republican senators who had been the primary sponsors of that torture ban.
Senator McCain, Senator John Warner, who's the chairman of Senate Armed
Services Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham--all Republicans--put out
statements saying, `Wait a minute, you know, you knew--you asked us for a
waiver, if you thought that there was some need to use harsher techniques, and
we considered it and we chose not to give that to you. This law means what it
means and we're going to try to--we going to make sure through oversight that
it's enforced as we wrote it.' And then after that flurry, there wasn't a lot
of discussion again about it for a while.

DAVIES: Now Senator Arlen Specter has also been interested in this. He has
held hearings and introduced legislation affecting signing statements. What
would that legislation do?

Mr. SAVAGE: Senator Specter held a hearing on signing statements and grilled
a Bush administration attorney to justify this extensive use of them, and he
subsequently introduced a bill called the Presidential Signing Statements Act
of 2006. The main thing that the bill would do is it would enable Congress as
an institution to sue the president if the president issues a signing
statement raising some claim about a bill that the Congress has passed so that
a court could review those legal claims, because the great problem with these
signing statements in particular is that no one has legal standing to file a
lawsuit over them and therefore there's no way for the judicial branch to
review them. Senator Specter is trying to solve that problem by saying that
it's Congress itself which is damaged in some way when its ability and its
right to write the law is being compromised in this measure. And so Congress
as an institution ought to be able to file a lawsuit and then get the issue
before a judge so that the courts could undertake a substantive review of the
merits of whatever the legal claim the president is making about this bill
that Congress just passed.

DAVIES: Now the American Bar Association has also expressed its sentiments on
the issue of signing statements. What did they conclude?

Mr. SAVAGE: The American Bar Association appointed a blue ribbon panel of
Republicans and Democrats, retired judges, law school deans, former Reagan
officials, former Clinton officials to study the issue of signing statements,
and they issued a unanimous report last month, which called on all presidents
to no longer use signing statements to say that some part of a bill they're
signing need not be enforced.

Earlier this month the American Bar Association's House of Delegates voted to
endorse that finding, so it is now the policy position of the world's largest
body of legal professionals. Essentially this position says that presidents
do not have the power to sign a bill into law and then not enforce some
components of that bill on the grounds that those components are
unconstitutional. The ABA is saying that presidents only have the power to
veto a bill and then give Congress a chance to fix it or override the veto.
Or if they choose to sign the bill, the president has to enforce all of it.

This position has been both praised and criticized. It's been praised because
it's not an attack on President Bush per se, but a bipartisan, above-the-fray
institutional argument, which sweeps in other presidents, including Bill
Clinton, who also used signing statements to challenge laws, albeit not as
intensely as the current one has. But it's also been criticized, including by
a group of former Clinton administration attorneys, who say that it's getting
it wrong, it's focusing on the wrong issue. They say that presidents need the
power to not enforce a component of a law that's unconstitutional but still
sign the legislation because Congress lumps so many laws together in a single
bill these days that it's just impractical to veto it. The problem they say
is that President Bush is pushing an extreme view of his own powers, but a
president who has a more mainstream view about what is and is not
unconstitutional ought to still be able to use signing statements.

DAVIES: Have any disputes or litigation reached the Supreme Court, which
might test the legal validity of signing statements?

Mr. SAVAGE: Courts have very rarely mentioned signing statements. And,
again, this gets into the question of whether the signing statement as a
mechanism or the legal views being advanced in a particular set of signing
statements is the issue. Interestingly, in the most recent high-profile
Guantanomo case that was decided in June, where the Supreme Court struck down
President Bush's military commission trials, both of these aspects did come
into play. First of all, in their dissent to a portion of the decision,
Justice Antonin Scalia, who was joined by Alito and Thomas, mentioned
President Bush's signing statement on the Detainee Treatment Act, and that was
a rare instance in which it was being brought up, although he was doing it in
the context of legislative history, `What does this law mean and what does it
not mean?'

DAVIES: And did they mention it in such a way that suggested they thought it
was a guiding legal authority?

Mr. SAVAGE: Well, certainly to bring it up as relevant evidence does suggest
that. On the other hand, Justice Scalia generally is very skeptical about the
use of legislative history in general, and was using it to rebut the--how the
majority had come up with their interpretation of what the law meant. And so
it's difficult to know what to make of that.

But the other thing that happened in that opinion was that--in the majority
opinion--was that they struck down President Bush's military commission trials
because Congress had already passed a law that had governed military
commissions and President Bush had ignored it and gone off and created a
different system under his own desires, and that sort of action by the
president is at the heart of a lot of the claims that he has been making in
the signing statements, essentially Congress--he's beyond the reach of
Congress when it comes to especially matters of national security, that
statutes cannot bind him, that he's going to fight the war the way he sees
best, and because he's commander-in-chief, the Constitution gives him the
power to do that. The Supreme Court majority said, `No, Congress has spoken
here. You've got to obey this law, or you have to ask Congress for permission
to depart from it, and so you need to go back to the drawing board.' That is a
repudiation of a lot of the claims of executive power that President Bush is

DAVIES: Since your piece this spring sparked this controversy, we've had a
number of groups weigh in on it. We've had, you know, one piece of
legislation introduced. What happens next on this issue, do you think?

Mr. SAVAGE: Well, one thing that we'll have to watch to see is whether the
legislation that Senator Specter has filed goes anywhere. Does he try to push
it through in the sort of late towards-the-election climate, or does it just
sort of die on the vine, as it were? And we'll also have to watch for what
signing statements come out of the White House next when the more major
legislation goes through. And we'll have to see to what extent this becomes
an issue in the '06 and even the '08 campaigns.

DAVIES: We're speaking with Charlie Savage. He is the legal affairs
correspondent for the Boston Globe. We'll talk more after a break. This is


DAVIES: If you're just joining us, my guest is Charlie Savage, legal affairs
correspondent for the Boston Globe. He recently took a look at the Justice
Department's civil rights division, examining its hiring practices and how
they've affected the unit's operation. I asked him to describe how the
department historically evaluated job applicants and how that's changed.

Mr. SAVAGE: Up until 2002, when there was a vacancy in career lawyer ranks
of the civil rights division at the justice department, hiring committees
composed of other career professionals would come together and go through
thousands of resumes, decide whom to interview, conduct the interviews and
recommend who to hire to fill that vacancy. And the political appointees in
the front office would have to give final approval to that, but only rarely
were the recommendations turned down. And that's how it worked for decades
under both Republican and Democratic administrations. In the fall of 2002,
then Attorney General Ashcroft changed those rules. The hiring committees of
other career attorneys were essentially disbanded, and the entire process from
start to finish was put under the control of political appointees. And from
that point on, the profile of the type of attorney who's being hired to
enforce the nation's civil rights laws and who--in a career position that will
stay on after the next presidential election changed dramatically.

DAVIES: And what did you find, in terms of the kinds of lawyers hired, both
in terms of their professional experience and in terms of their political
history or ideological profile?

Mr. SAVAGE: What I found was that after the change--the rules for hiring
were changed to give political appointees greater control over the hiring
decisions, the attorneys who were being hired into the civil rights division
career positions were much less likely to have a traditional civil rights
background and much more likely to have strong, conservative credentials. For
example, prior to the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil
rights backgrounds, which means either they had been litigators on civil
rights issues, especially for groups like the NAACP and so forth, or if they
were fresh out of law school, they'd been members of civil rights clubs and
they had worked on civil rights issues as summer interns.

After the change, only 42 percent of the lawyers hired had any kind of civil
rights law background. And almost half of those had not gained their
experience by working to enforce traditional civil rights causes but rather to
resist them by defending employers against discrimination lawsuits, by working
against affirmative action programs, by working against minority/majority
voting districts, which are designed to help minorities.

DAVIES: Clearly this is an administration with a different ideological
orientation than the last one. Is it possible that it simply got different
kinds of applicants, that lawyers with a different kind of political and
ideological bent were inclined to apply?

Mr. SAVAGE: That's certainly possible and no doubt is one of the factors
here. However, when you talk to career people who've been there for quite a
long time, they point out that previous conservative administrations, such as
the Reagan administration, also had a different perspective on civil rights.
But during those periods when the old hiring procedures were still in place,
the people who joined the division were still by and large interested in
enforcing civil rights in a traditional way, and the political appointees at
the top of the division may have been redirecting the priorities in certain
ways that ended when that term was up and those appointees moved on. But
there was not this wholesale change in the character of--or the profile of the
attorney, such that people who had no civil rights experience at all were
suddenly flooding the division and who instead were members of the Federal
Society, members of the National Republican Lawyers, and so forth.

DAVIES: You said earlier that hiring practices had changed and that career
professionals had taken more of a role in reviewing candidates and
recommending them for hiring decisions. What is the Bush administration's
defense of their hiring practices and litigation approach?

Mr. SAVAGE: Well, the official line from the Justice department is that
there are no political overtones to the changes in the hiring procedures, that
there is no political litmus test. Other defenders of the administration who
are no longer working for the government, and are perhaps a little bit freer
to speak candidly, have a little different approach. They say that the civil
rights division permanent bureaucracy was an entrenched group of liberal
lawyers who did not necessarily share the president's view of how civil rights
laws ought to be enforced, and that it's appropriate to bring in more
conservatives who can maybe offer some balance to this bureaucracy.

DAVIES: How has the work of the civil rights division changed under this
administration, in terms of the actual cases they pursue and the way they

Mr. SAVAGE: There's no doubt that there's been a shift in priorities of the
kinds of civil rights cases that this division has been bringing at the same
time as the types of attorneys that it's been hiring to develop cases has
shifted. Under the Bush administration, the civil rights division is filing
fewer lawsuits alleging ferreting out systematic discrimination against, for
example, African-Americans, and at the same time it's instead hiring--filing
more cases intended to protect white people from reverse discrimination and to
protect religious groups, particularly Christian groups, from religious

DAVIES: How are those cases doing in the courts? I mean, presumably, if
those represent, you know, bona fide applications of the nation's
anti-discrimination statutes, the courts might smile on them. How are they
succeeding in these reverse discrimination cases?

Mr. SAVAGE: Some of them are being settled without going to court. For
example, the civil rights division threatened to sue Southern Illinois
University over some fellowships that had had which were to help women and
minorities get graduate degrees, and they threatened to sue the university
over that saying that that was reverse discrimination against white men. And
rather than fight the case, the university just agreed to scrap the program.
I think, in general, it's fair to say that these cases are doing fine.
They're not illegitimate cases. It's a question of priorities. Traditional
civil rights enforcement advocates would prefer to see this division working
on behalf of women and especially racial minorities, which was the purpose of
the division when it was first founded, and conservatives think it's better to
focus on these other kinds of cases.

DAVIES: Well, Charlie Savage, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Mr. SAVAGE: Thanks for having me on.

DAVIES: Charlie Savage is legal affairs correspondent for the Boston Globe.
I'm Dave Davies and this is FRESH AIR.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Author Jerry Schilling discusses new book "Me and a
Guy Named Elvis: My Lifelong Friendship with Elvis Presley"


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross.

Jerry Schilling was a poor 12-year-old kid in north Memphis when he first met
Elvis Presley, then a 19-year-old truck driver who was just beginning the
singing career that would make him an American music legend. Schilling became
friends with Elvis and eventually joined the crew known as the "Memphis Mafia"
that traveled with Elvis through years of concerts, movie shoots, and
recording sessions, and plenty of downtime in Hollywood, at Graceland, and at
movie theaters and amusement parts that Elvis would rent for get togethers.
Now, 29 years after Elvis's death, Schilling has written a memoir of their
friendship. He describes an Elvis who was a voracious reader and a spiritual
seeker, a man who was both temperamental and extravagantly generous with his
friends, and a performer who was artistically frustrated. His book is called
"Me and a Guy Named Elvis: My Lifelong Friendship with Elvis Presley." Before
we get to our conversation with Schilling, let's hear Elvis's first hit,
"That's All Right."

(Soundbite of "That's All Right")

Mr. ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing)
Well, that's all right, Mama,
That's all right for you
That's all right, Mama,
Just anyway you do.

That's all right
That's all right
That's all right now, Mama
Anyway do

Well, Mama she done told me
Papa done told me too
`Son, that gal you're fooling with,
she ain't no good for you.'

But that's all right
That's all right
That's all right now, Mama
Anyway do

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: Your relationship with Elvis began in the most ordinary of ways.
When I first read this in the notes, I couldn't believe this could actually be
true. But you really did meet him playing touch football, right?

Mr. JERRY SCHILLING: Yeah, in north Memphis, our local playground. I was a
kind of lonely kid, just--not even a teenager. I was 12 years old. And I
went to the park one Sunday afternoon, and there were five older guys trying
to get up a football game. This is how unpopular Elvis Presley was in July of
1954. And one of the older boys who was a friend of my older brother said,
`Jerry, you want to play with us?' And I said, `Sure.' And I went in the
huddle and the other player was Elvis Presley, a 19-year-old who had just
recorded. His record had been played locally two nights before on Dewey
Phillips "Red, Hot and Blue Show" in Memphis. And when I looked at this guy,
I went, `Oh, that's the guy I heard on the radio the night before last.'

DAVIES: What was the record?

Mr. SCHILLING: "That's All Right, Mama." That was the--he had recorded it
that week, I think around the first part of the week. And I--this was a
Sunday afternoon. I had heard the record Friday-Saturday night or
Thursday-Friday night, and it was 7/11, July 11th, 1954, when I met Elvis and
we played touch football.

DAVIS: So you met Elvis on the football field. He was the quarterback in the
huddle. Did you have any particular impression of him? You obviously were a
starstruck kid and fascinated by the fact that he had made this great record.
Did he have any particular presence as a quarterback?

Mr. SCHILLING: Well, you know, he was--he had a presence that was
approachable and unapproachable at the same time. Something like a presence
that when people develop as a star, you kind of get that thing, you know,
where, you know, you hope they like you but you're not sure. Elvis had that
before he was a star. He was just--I kind of think of him as this lovable
rebel, if you will. He wasn't somebody I was going to run up and slap on the
back as a buddy, and yet, you know, he also--there was a kind of a
friendliness that showed through and then an edginess on the other side.

DAVIES: It was fascinating to read the description of your book how as his
popularity grew, he continued to show up on Sundays and play touch football.
And people began to come and watch because they heard this hot young guy,
Elvis Presley, was out here playing touch football. And he was controversial
at the time, because, you know, he touched some hot buttons. Some people
didn't like some of the stuff that was in his music. And you tell a
fascinating story of some semi-pro football players who come up and want to
mess with Elvis. Tell us that story.

Mr. SCHILLING: We were playing--we were probably into about our first year,
still playing at the same little park in north Memphis. Elvis was a creature
of habit. We played every Sunday he was home. And these two big semi-pro
guys came over to play. And everybody kind of stood back a little bit, and
Elvis said, `Yeah, sure, you guys can play.' And so we got into the huddle, we
came out, and Elvis would switch from quarterback from time to time, and he
was on the line and this guy just ran right over him. We were all like, you
know, `Come on. I mean, the guy's, you know, he's got a recording career,'
we're thinking to ourselves. So Red West--one of the other guys with us,
tough guy, the guy that called me over to play football that first day. Said
Red, `Elvis, I'll take him this time.' And Elvis said, `No, no, no. Just go
on and play your position, Red.' He got run over again. And finally about the
third time, Elvis said something to the effect, `You want to try the other
side?' And the guy said, `What do you mean?' He said, `Well, all my bones are
broken on this side.' And the guy started laughing and they realized that
Elvis wasn't some guy who was going to, you know, try to be something special
or whatever. He'd get down nose-to-nose with you. So these two guys who had
given us so much trouble--I mean, we were ready to fight them. And Elvis kind
of knew what he had to do.

DAVIES: My guest is Jerry Schilling. His new book is "Me and a Guy Named
Elvis." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


DAVIES: If you're just joining me, my guest is Jerry Schilling. He has a new
book out "Me and a Guy Named Elvis." It's the story of his many years
friendship with Elvis Presley.

Eventually he hires you to come and work for him, and it's a fascinating
moment. By this point you're a little older. You've finished high school, I
believe, and had done some college. And he says, `I want you to come and work
for me.' And I guess it was the first day or two that they're packing up
to--from Graceland to head out to California to make Elvis's next movie, and
the traveling arrangements I found fascinating. Describe how Elvis traveled
to California to film.

Mr. SCHILLING: Well, first of all, you know, Elvis never was a cross-country
truck driver. He drove a little panel truck in Memphis at an electrician
company that he worked for. But, boy, when it was time to travel to
California, we had this Dodge mobile home, and Elvis drove every mile of it.
He would, you know, he put his driver's gloves on. He'd have this scarf on,
and kind of this motorcycle hat that, if you will, kind of like out of "The
Wild Ones," with Brando. He would have a reel-to-reel tape player with
whatever music he was into at the time. And I loved those trips.

And this first trip--there was one thing. I had known Elvis for 10 years,
prior to going to work for him in 1964, which was my senior year in college.
And I was just getting ready to be a history teacher and I was to practice
teach when he asked me to go to work for him. And that one trip from Memphis
to Los Angeles, which took us about nine or 10 days--we stopped at truck stops
and played football. We were in hotel rooms talking all night. But I got to
know Elvis more in that one week and a half than the 10 years I had known him

DAVIES: It was also on those trips that you realized he was taking pills and
the rest of you started taking them, too, right? What kinds of drugs were
going on then?

Mr. SCHILLING: Well, you know, I was considered the health fanatic of the
group. They used to call me "Mr. Milk" because I was playing college
football and I was working out all the time. And as we took these all night
trips across country, I think, to stay awake for Elvis. Something that he had
picked up in the army over in Germany, Dexedrine pills would keep you awake
and, you know, you could play some pretty damn good football games with that
as well. And then, you know, so somebody slipped me one once and I tried it,
and I think I was going out for passes for about three days. And then you get
to a point where you can't sleep, and then you get a sleeping pill, and that's
basically what it was in that period. We would take Dexedrine to keep going,
because Elvis never wanted to quit, especially when he was having a good time.
Whether it was on the road, playing football, or if we were in Vegas, he would
want to go to show, to show, to show. And, you know, you can go 24 hours.

Sometimes we would stay up two or three days. And then you crash and then you
sleep for two or three days. It's not anything I would recommend to anybody
and--but, you know, it was before we knew a lot and it was prescribed
medication from our doctors. And, you know, I looked at it like this, `Hey,
this guy's the best good-looking guy I've ever seen. He's the most talented
guy. He's fun to be around, it's got to be good for you.'

DAVIES: You describe a lot of time hanging out in Los Angeles, in Graceland,
before, after shows. Mostly guys hanging out. There must have been a lot of
women in Elvis's life, I mean, certainly stories of that. Where do they fit
into the picture?

Mr. SCHILLING: Well, normally when we hung out, there was women there with
us. If not our girlfriends, then later on our wives and whatever. But even
when we were by ourselves, coming out to Los Angeles to do movies, there was a
group of girls that--they were really friends, not dates--that Elvis enjoyed
their company. They were included a lot. And then, of course, the people
that we were dating. But there were a lot of girls, trust me.

DAVIES: And some, I mean, was Elvis a philanderer? Did he fool around?

Mr. SCHILLING: You know, Elvis basically was a one-on-one guy in a
relationship in general. And then you take that he was Elvis Presley, yeah,
of course, I mean, if his girlfriend was living in Memphis and we were on the
West Coast, he would have a girlfriend here. He was, you know, he was Elvis
Presley. I mean, it was very tempting. I mean, I can't just blame him. We
were all that way to a certain degree. I just think if I had been Elvis
Presley, in his shoes, I would have probably even had more girlfriends.
Just--he liked to have relationships, you know.

DAVIES: Relatively restrained, given the opportunities.


DAVIES: You know, you grow a lot after you get out of high school. I mean,
that's a time in people's lives when they undergo a lot of change, whether,
you know, you're going to college and stretching your mind or entering the
working world and, you know, understanding what that requires living as an
adult. And here you have Elvis Presley who, immediately after high school,
becomes incredibly rich, incredibly famous, and inevitably then surrounded by
relationships of any quality, even with friends, like you, you know. There's
also an employer-employee relationship. And he's in a situation where he can
indulge, you know, any annoyance or grudge. He never has to kind of humble
himself and take the guff that most people do, and he grows up this way in his
20s. And I'm wondering if you've ever thought what the effect was on Elvis's
personality of sort of--at such a young age to be so, kind of, entitled to
indulge his moods?

Mr. SCHILLING: You know, I have thought about that a lot, even when I was
with him, and I've thought about it since. You mature real fast. What
happens when you're in that position, you're the center of attraction, not
just when you're on stage or in front of a camera, when you wake up in the
morning. Everybody else is your friend, they're your employee, and their
whole life centers on your mood that day. And Elvis handled that pretty damn
well. I never felt--when I lived at Graceland and worked with Elvis--I never
felt that I wasn't a part of it. Push come to shove, and every great once in
a while when he'd be upset, you know, you realize, `OK, I work for this guy
and this is how it's going to be.' But on a day-to-day basis, we truly lived
as brothers. And that was because he understood. He wanted--first of all, he
was a loner as a kid. When you move at 12 years old, 13 years old, from one
state, like Mississippi--and he was in rural poverty Mississippi--and he moved
to our neighborhood, which was poor north Memphis. If you look at "Hustle &

DAVIES: Mm-hm.

Mr. SCHILLING: ...that's where it was filmed, right there in our
neighborhood, same houses and everything still there. And so Elvis's dream,
like a lot of lonely kids, was to have friends and to share things with. And
Elvis got that pretty good. I think it was harder for the people, the family,
the uncles, and whatever, and the aunts and cousins, and us guys, to get used
to living that kind of life, and accepting that. I mean, some of the guys
didn't make it, some of the families didn't make it. It's--Elvis....

DAVIES: What do you mean by didn't make it, Jerry?

Mr. SCHILLING: I think, well, there was a couple of the cousins right in the
early days that went off the deep end, took too many pills, died at early 20s.
It blew a lot of people's minds who were close to Elvis, what happened to

Elvis was a pretty constant force. When you're in that position, too, you
have a tremendous amount of power. You can look at somebody wrong and really
do some damage, and Elvis never abused that. He didn't abuse that power. He
understood, you know, what he had. When you did see--at times, he was a human
being, and at times, with us that knew him, he let it flow. I'd never see a
temper. I'd never seen a more angry guy in my life. So I've always said, one
of the reasons why I love him even that much more, he just wasn't a
good-looking guy with a good voice, the boy next door. He had all of those
other traits and he chose 90 percent of the time to be a nice guy.

DAVIES: Jerry Schilling, you know, one of the most important influences in
Elvis's professional life was his relationship with Colonel Tom Parker, who's
been criticized for, you know, manipulating him and making him do far too many
shows, far too many records, and doing a lot of weak material. I mean, people

sort of--some blame him for sort of driving Elvis to an early grave. I mean,
you saw that relationship a lot. What did you observe of Elvis? What was
your sense of Elvis's relationship with Colonel Parker?

Mr. SCHILLING: Overall, the Elvis Presley-Colonel Parker relationship was a
very successful, very special relationship. I think there was a period where
Elvis outgrew the colonel, mostly in creativity. I think, as great as Elvis's
career was, I think, the people in charge always looked at him as a short-term
artist. They thought maybe long-term. But Elvis always knew. I mean, he was
a genius at what the public wanted, and he knew that if the movies were the
same thing, you know, with different songs and different locations, that
people would get tired. But he predicted way before it happened. And he was
a genius that needed creative challenges, and he would come up with them
himself from time to time.

And then it was, you know, whether it was the studios or record companies or
whatever, they didn't want to pay. They paid top dollar for Elvis Presley,
and they didn't really want to pay top dollar for co-stars, for scripts. And
Elvis creatively suffered from that

Elvis on creative disappointment. The drugs were the Band-Aids, but I go back
to the cause of--and I put specific examples. And I was in meetings--I was in
between Elvis and the Colonel about overseas touring. I observed a
heavyweight meeting when Elvis would not do this movie because the script was
so lame. I was in a walk-in dressing room closet when Barbra Streisand
offered Elvis "A Star Is Born," and I knew what that meant to him creatively.

I think the Colonel truly had a love and respect for Elvis. I just think at a
point it was too old school. He probably would have liked Elvis to be closer
to Bing Crosby than the rock star that he was. You know, the Colonel is an
easy target. He probably did most of the things right and some of the stuff
that--you can't blame a guy for what they don't know. The Colonel was not a
creative genius. He was a business genius.

DAVIES: Jerry Schilling's book about his friendship with Elvis Presley is
called "Me and a Guy Named Elvis." We'll be back after a break. This is FRESH


DAVIES: My guest is Jerry Schilling. He's written a new book called "Me and
a Guy Named Elvis" about his long-time friendship with Elvis Presley.

In Elvis's later years, when he was doing his Vegas act a lot, there are a lot
of stories about him getting sloppy, forgetting or improvising lyrics and, you
know, rambling monologues. How accurate is that picture? What did you

Mr. SCHILLING: You know, again, it goes to the creativity challenges, and
unfortunately there was a period in the last couple of years of Elvis's career
where he was bored out of his mind playing the same room, all these shows.
And he started kind of entertaining himself or working to one audience or
whatever, and the shows really did suffer for it. I--one night, actually,
about 300 people walked out. I never thought I'd ever see that, people walk
out of an Elvis show.

DAVIES: What did he do that caused them to walk out?

Mr. SCHILLING: I think he played to one table and started joking around, and
this one table loved it, you know. They had the star of the show playing to
them. We were all kind of panicked. He probably did four songs in the whole
hour of this performance. And that's one of the nights where the Memphis
Mafia, afterwards, we all got together and confronted Elvis, and he kind of
laughed at first, like `Well, what do you mean? These people really enjoyed
it.' And Lamar, one of the guys with us, said, `Yeah, Elvis, but 300 people
walked out.' And then Elvis fired back at him. And I said, `Elvis, of course,
the one table you played to is going to like it.' And then he just kind of
froze and said, `Call the Colonel.' That's how bad it got.

DAVIES: There was one episode where a man jumped up on a stage in '73 and
Elvis becomes convinced that he was sent by a karate instructor that his
former wife Priscilla had dated, and then his behavior just got more and more
bizarre, right? What did he do?

Mr. SCHILLING: Yeah. Well, you know, this is a period where I think three
major things was happening to Elvis. His health was getting bad. He didn't
like the idea of being 40. He was going through a divorce--which he wanted
and didn't want--and he was trying to keep his manhood up and his image up.
And he put a lot of that into karate, even incorporating it on stage.

So one night, a couple of guys did jump on--actually four--but one guy jumped
on stage and then another guy. And through all of this--things that were
happening to Elvis, he was convinced that Priscilla's boyfriend, Mike Stone,
who was a really tough karate guy--he'd never lost--had put this into motion.
And we just couldn't convince him differently, after we found out, you know,
the background on the people and everything.

DAVIES: And he started talking about having Mike Stone killed, right? Yeah?

Mr. SCHILLING: Yeah, it came, you know. It--there were calls made. It was
ready to go actually. And I think when Elvis realized he could do this, it
scared him to death. And we were sitting at this table, dinner at Las Vegas,
and I didn't hear the conversation. I knew what the conversation. I was down
at at the other end of the table. And I saw Elvis turn white and go, `Well,
you know, I don't think we have to go that far, you know. Let's forget about
it for right now.' He never mentioned anything like that again.

DAVIES: Well, Jerry Schilling, thanks so much for spending some time with us.

Mr. SCHILLING: My pleasure, Dave. Thank you.

DAVIES: Jerry Schilling. His book "Me and a Guy Named Elvis" comes out
Wednesday, on the 29th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death.


DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(Soundbite of "A Little Less Conversation")

Mr. PRESLEY: (singing)
A little less conversation, a little more action, please
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark
Close your mouth and open up your heart and, baby, satisfy me
Satisfy me, baby

Baby, close your eyes and listen to the music
Drifting through a summer breeze

It's a groovy night and I can show you how to use it
Come along with me and put your mind at ease

A little less conversation, a little more action
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark
Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me

Unidentified Backup Singers: Oh, baby.

Mr. PRESLEY: Satisfy me, baby

Singers: Oh, baby.

Mr. PRESLEY: Come on baby, I'm tired of talking
Grab your coat and let's start walking
Come on, come on

Singers: Come on, come on

Mr. PRESLEY: Come on, come on

Singers: Come on, come on

Mr. PRESLEY: Come on, come on

Singers: Come on, come on

Mr. PRESLEY: Don't procrastinate
Don't articulate
Girl, it's getting late
Gettin' upset waitin' around

A little less conversation, a little more action
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark
Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me
Oh, baby, satisfy me

Singers: Oh baby

Mr. PRESLEY: Satisfy me, baby

Singers: That's my baby

Mr. PRESLEY: Satisfy me, girl

Singers: Come on, come on, come on, come on

Mr. PRESLEY: Satisfy me, baby

Singers: That's my baby

Mr. PRESLEY: Satisfy me

Singers: Come on, come on, come on, come on

Mr. PRESLEY: Satisfy me, baby

Singers: That's my baby

Mr. PRESLEY: Satisfy me, girl

Singers: Come on, come on, come on, come on

(End of soundbite)
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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