Dr. John Carpenter
by ELLEN COPPERFIELD
Thanks to Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen's supremely detailed 1999 book, Elvis, Day by Day, the trivial details of Elvis Presley's life are open and accessible to any inquiring fan. Guralnick and Jorgensen used letters, receipts and financial records to tell Elvis' story. The end wasn't maybe the greatest portion of the man's life.
September 28th, 1970
Someone calls up Elvis' road manager and demands $50,000 to reveal the name of the assassin who will kill Elvis during his Saturday evening show.
December 20th, 1970
When his father and his wife Priscilla confront him about his overspending, Elvis freaks out and hops a plane to Washington D.C. He fails in a bid to meet up with J. Edgar Hoover, but he does get facetime with President Nixon. The two like each other immediately.
March 1st, 1971
A surveillance system is installed at Graceland. Elvis places the four monitors next to his television.
September 22nd, 1971
Elvis takes in a movie in his private theater almost every night.
February 23rd, 1972
Over the last year he has grown increasingly distant from his wife. She lets him know she is hooking up with karate champion Mike Stone. In response, Elvis has someone award him a fifth degree black belt.
May 7th, 1972
Elvis heads to Los Angeles, flying on the ticket of one "Dr. John Carpenter." By the end of July Elvis and Priscilla are legally separated.
September 31th, 1973
Elvis picks up the newly crowned Miss Tennessee in Los Angeles, brings her to Las Vegas. While she is out shopping he invites Cybill Shepherd over.
February 2nd, 1973
Elvis presents Muhammed Ali with one of his robes. Ali later reflects, "I felt sorry for Elvis because he didn't enjoy life the way he should. He stayed indoors all the time. I told him he should go out and see people."
February 18th, 1973
Men rush the stage during Elvis' midnight Las Vegas show. Elvis punches one of them in the face. Afterwards, he informs the audience that, "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen. I'm sorry I didn't break his goddamned neck is what I'm sorry about."
May 27th, 1974
The Jackson Five appear at the Sahara. Elvis has two of his people take his daughter Lisa Marie to the show.
August 29th, 1974
Elvis awards karate certificates to every member of his band.
November 19th, 1974
The National Enquirer runs a headline "Elvis at 40 - Paunchy, Depressed, and Living in Fear." By next year Elvis will be hospitalized for shortness of breath. He and Linda spent most of the time in the hospital watching the nursery over closed-circuit television. He spends three weeks there, and when Linda is not around he passes the hours by watching Monty Python.
July 22nd, 1975
Elvis shoots his doctor in the chest, off a ricochet, while waiving around a handgun in the examination room. Later, he forks over $200,000 without interest for the construction of Dr. Nick's new home.
August 28th, 1976
A review of Elvis' show at The Summit in Houston reads like this: "The show was a depressingly incoherent, amateurish mess served up by a bloated, stumbling and mumbling figure who didn't act like 'The King' of anything, least of all rock 'n' roll."
December 21st, 1976
In San Francisco, Elvis tries to get Linda Thompson to leave for Memphis by telling her she looks "worn out." He keeps his other squeeze, Ginger Alden, in a private room until he persuades Linda to take a flight out of town. After she does, they never see each other again.
August 16th, 1977
Elvis dies in a pool of his own vomit.
Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find the first part of this series here. She last wrote in these pages about Dorothea Lange.
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