It was a sunny day in August 1977. I was a waitress at a local pancake restaurant for the summer. Standing at the water station a co-worker came flying out of the back room. "Elvis is dead", Elvis died today!!!!" Seem like it was just yesterday yet it was 35 years ago today. He was 42 years old.
Most people have always seen Elvis Presley as a singing superstar, movie star and ladies man. Later in his life he was looked at as a pill popping, drugged out aging star who got fat. Not many people knew of the inner demons he fought and the religious way in which he was viewed.
While driving to work one day in the fall of 1993, out of absolutely nowhere an idea for a movie script came into my head. It was with such force that I almost ran off the road. I had never, ever been an Elvis fan before yet the idea for the story was completely based on him. It was a good one too. For the next three years I would read every publication I could get my hands on, interview people that were huge fans and travel to Graceland in search of more information. And complete a full, 120 page script for the silver screen. I had hoped to sell the script for the 20th anniversary of his death in 1997. (I received what I call "positive rejection" to the script; but I was invited by several agents to actually read it, which was huge.)
Through all the research I discovered what a deeply troubled, yet spiritual man he was. Studying mysticism and the occult, Elvis thought that he may have been a "Master or Messenger from God sent to Earth for some great purpose". He even believed that he had seen a vision of Christ and the Anti-Christ in the clouds over a desert in Arizona.
He wore a cross and a star of David, claiming he didn't want to "miss out on heaven due to a technicality". He spent little time is public as with some stars of this magnitude (there have been few) hiding is the only way to gain any peace.
Fame can cost people their lives. Not necessarily with death but with the anxiety and stress of never being able to be anonymous. He could not go anywhere, at anytime without being swarmed. At one point in a hotel room garbage can, a maid found a crumpled note he had written. It simply stated "I'm getting kinda tired of being Elvis Presley."
His death shocked the world. During the year prior to his death over 5,000 pills had been prescribed to him. Pills to stay awake, pills to help him sleep. Both of which he was incapable of without that help. For many years after his death however, there was much speculation that he staged it to remove himself from the fame and public eye. The "Elvis is Alive Museum" claims to have documented proof of it.
I stood at his grave in what is called the meditation garden at Graceland. I wondered, could it be possible that maybe, just maybe there was some credibility to that story? I also interviewed a British couple at the gates of the mansion who insisted he was absolutely alive. Sound crazy? Maybe but who really knows??
In 30 years many or most of Elvis' diehard fans will be gone. I wonder if Graceland will still pack them in with tourists. I wonder if anyone will send flowers to his grave as is done regularly to this day. At that point, August 16, 1977 will be just another day. No one will be around to remember where they were when Elvis died.
Where were you?