WHEN the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll strolled down Sunset Boulevard, nobody turned their heads.
It was the late ’60s and Elvis had become so famous that he was unrecognizable to the LA crowds – since everyone else “looked just like him”.
In an exclusive interview on Sunday, his pal Steve Binder, who was with him that day, told The Sun: “The Strip was busy and we saw all these young kids coming out of the Tower Records store.
“They ignored us and almost bumped into us. Then Elvis tried to get attention and turned to face the road and the cars, but even then no one reacted.
“Then another day in the studio, a woman came up to him and said, ‘Excuse me young man, do you know if there are any celebrities around here today?’
“Elvis took off his sunglasses, smiled down at her and said, ‘Sorry ma’am, I have no idea’ and put his sunglasses back on.
“She had no idea she was talking to one of the biggest celebrities in the world.
“The thing was, every kid who admired Elvis wanted to look like him.
“Most people on the street just thought he was a double or an impersonator.
“He was almost so famous that he became unpopular because everyone else looked like him.”
The wide-ranging interview comes ahead of the rocker’s 45th anniversary of his death this summer and the release of next month’s new movie Elvis, starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks as his manager Colonel Tom Parker.
Kicking off The Sun on Sunday in Elvis month, Steve reveals how The King once slept in crooner Dean Martin’s dressing room for three weeks before a big performance and had a special team to dry his costumes because he was on stage sweating so much.
Steve, 89, who directed and produced Elvis’ 1968 comeback TV show, has written a book to mark the 45th anniversary of the singer’s death.
He said: “Before I met Elvis I always thought he was a bit of a redneck so I didn’t take him very seriously. But after I met him, everything changed. He was charismatic, funny and smart.
“But he was vulnerable, often had a crisis of confidence and was completely at the mercy of Colonel Tom Parker.
“He was a prisoner of his fame. I think he died of boredom, nothing else. He was surrounded by the Memphis Mafia, people whose job it was to watch everything he did and said.
“I used to think, ‘Who took care of Elvis?’ There was nobody there.”
Elvis – the best-selling music artist of all time with almost a billion records sold and 21 No. 1 in the UK – was found dead in the toilet of his Graceland mansion in Memphis in August 1977. He was 42 years old.
Doctors said he died of a heart attack, with rumors that an addiction to prescription drugs contributed.
But Steve said: “In my world with him there was no heavy drinking, no drugs, nothing, just an incredible human being.
“So many things have been distorted over the years. I want to get my truth out there.”
When they met in 1968, Elvis had not performed live for seven years after a series of films.
Steve was hired by NBC television to direct an Elvis special and he recalled their first meeting saying, “We hit it off immediately. The first question he asked me was, ‘What do you think of my career?’
And I said, ‘I think it’s in the toilet’. I thought he could kill me but he laughed. He later told me that that sealed the deal. I think he liked that I was telling the truth.”
The pair worked to develop a format for the show, which was filmed in Hollywood.
Elvis’ wife Priscilla had just given birth to daughter Lisa Marie, so he rented a house in nearby Beverly Hills to be close to the studio.
Steve said, “He decided he didn’t want to drive from Beverly Hills every day and asked if he could live in the studio for three weeks while he did the show. We put a bed in the wardrobe and two pianos. It was Dean Martin’s room.
“Every single night people would gather around a baby grand, improvising and singing old songs. That’s where we came up with the idea for the show – everything was to be improvised. He told me he didn’t even want Priscilla to come into the studio outside of the shows. He said jokingly, ‘And besides, with all these handsome guys here . . . ‘ .”
During these sessions Steve saw how Elvis was treated by Parker.
He said: “Colonel Parker became obsessed with a Christmas carol on the show and called us into his office. He said, “Why isn’t there a Christmas carol? Elvis, you want one, don’t you?’
Elvis stood with his head bowed and his hands covering his crotch like a child. It was like an infant being reprimanded. It was very sad.”
Elvis was nervous. The night before filming, he almost retired, saying his mind had gone blank.
Steve talked him around. Ninety minutes were shot while 46 minutes were broadcast in December 1968 – rebooting Elvis’ career.
He had put everything he had into the comeback, some of which saw him wear leather jumpsuits.
Steve recalls, “When he finished the first performance after an hour, he was sweating unbelievably because of the lights.
“So between the two shows we got an army of people on stage with air blowers. It showed that he didn’t leave anything behind on stage.”
When Steve Elvis performed the final cut of the show, the singer was ecstatic.
Steve said: “He told me because of the newfound freedom he was experiencing, he would never do a movie again or sing a song he didn’t believe in.
“I told him that the first thing he had to do was take charge of his life, even if it meant breaking away from the Colonel. He looked at me, burst out into one of his infectious laughs and said, ‘Okay, I’m going’.”
But Elvis never did, and he died nine years later.
The last time Steve saw Elvis was in late 1968, he smuggled him a piece of paper with his number on what Steve believes to avoid his manager’s gaze.
“I was told it was his car phone number but it never worked. I never saw him again.”
- Elvis ’68 Comeback: The Story Behind The Special by Steve Binder (Thunder Bay) is available now priced at £24.
HERE IS a price fit for a king.
The Sun on Sunday is launching our contest today to find the ultimate Elvis Presley fan or tribute artist.
And it’s worth getting excited because the lucky winner will enjoy a week-long trip to Memphis, Tennessee with Netflights.com.
Prize includes round-trip airfare from London and seven nights’ accommodation in a Memphis hotel for the winner and one companion.
Once there, enjoy a Graceland Ultimate VIP Tour that includes a tour of Elvis’ mansion with unlimited access to Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex.
The duo will also receive complimentary tickets to the Hound Dog Tour, a high-energy concert and sightseeing tour rolled into one.
During this once-in-a-lifetime experience, fans can visit exciting Elvis sites including Sun Studio, The Presley’s Lauderdale Courts home and his old high school.
You’ll also get a VIP Tupelo experience that includes a tour of Elvis’ birthplace and an overnight stay in Tupelo.
PLUS You will win a one day recording session with engineer Glenn Keiles who will produce a track for the lucky winner at his music studio in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire.
Glenn said, “I’m delighted to be a part of this wonderful competition and can’t wait to work with the winner and produce their track.”
Book the cheapest vacation travel, hotels and rental cars to destinations worldwide with Netflights.com. And every day they search thousands of routes and compare hundreds of airlines to find the cheapest flights.
Elvis Contest: How to Enter
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with ELVIS COMPETITION in the subject line, attach any relevant image or video of your best impression and explain in under 200 words why you are the ultimate Elvis fan or are tribute artists.
CONDITIONS: The promotion ends on June 12 at 00:59. Accessible to residents of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland only, excluding persons under the age of 18, employees and agents of the Promoter and its group companies or third parties directly associated with the promotion or fulfillment of the promotion and their affiliates and their immediate family and household members .
https://www.the-sun.com/lifestyle/5288346/elvis-presley-pal-lookalike-famous/ Elvis Presley’s pal reveals why the star was so famous he could walk the streets of LA anonymously