Elvis got up slowly from the cream damask chair closest to the color TV set. The television had been pulled out in front of the white baby grand and now sat in the archway that separated the living room from the music room. He turned to face his friends, the so-called “Memphis Mafia,” five of them comfortably lounging in the custom 15-foot sofa.
“So, what did you think of that, boys?” Elvis asked unsurely as he sat back down.
Joe Esposito spoke first. “Oh Elvis, man, you still got it. You’re still the King, boy.”
“TCB, baby, TCB,” Elvis boasted. “Taking Care of Business all the way.”
Sonny went next. “You’re all the way back, boss, all the way.”
Elvis shot him a cold steely look. The room was instantly quiet. “Back? What do you mean ‘I’m back’?”
Sonny got nervous. “Back on top. Number one.”
“Was I gone? You saying I’m some kinda has-been?”
“No, no, no. I mean, wait, wasn’t it supposed to be a comeback special? Isn’t it called a comeback special?” Sonny was sunk, sunk deep, and he knew it.
Suddenly, Elvis burst into laughter, smacking his thigh. “Oh, baby, I had you going.” Elvis looked around to his devoted flock, who were all laughing now, perhaps a bit too loudly. “Had him going, didn’t I?”
“Shit, Elvis.” Sonny laughed weakly, if only to fit in, but he was mighty relieved.
“That boy almost crapped his pants,” yelled Charlie, nearly convulsive and beet red.
Feeling a little remorseful, Elvis backed off. “Sorry, Sonny, sorry. I was just putting you on a little.”
For the next hour, the gang laughed and praised Elvis for what appeared to be a very successful TV special. It was simply called Elvis and it was true to the man, his music and his magnetism. Amazingly, it had been seven years since Elvis Presley had performed music in front of a crowd, but he sounded great and looked like a teenage god, clad head to toe in black leather or resplendent in white and burgundy suits. He told everyone he was scared to death to get out before a live audience.
The doorbell rang and Charlie leapt from the couch to answer. Soon he returned with a stack of telegrams in his hand.
“Telegram for Elvis Presley,” Charlie did his best impersonation of a telegraph messenger boy, but it was closer to the Phillip Morris bellhop.
“Read ‘em to me,” ordered Elvis. He had hoped for a reaction to the show and, based on the pile of paper Charlie dumped on the coffee table, he’d gotten it.
“This here one is from Johnny Cash. It says, “Dear Elvis, How come you look younger now than when we started out at Sun Records and I look like a broken down tractor? You’re the greatest. Love from Johnny and June.”
“Hey, here’s one from England,” said Joe. “It says, “You were wonderful, marvelous. We’re planning our own television production and we learned a lot from you, just like in the old days. All our love, Mick and Keith.”
Elvis was puzzled. “Who the hell are Mick and Keith?”
The boys looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and shook their heads.
Sonny held up a telegram. “It’s from Bob Dylan. He says, “Great show. You brought me through the mirror. Bob.”
“Now what’s that supposed to mean? That guy is nutty,” Joe laughed as he spoke.
“Wait a minute, son. Bob Dylan is a great songwriter. It’s gotta mean something,” said Elvis in Dylan’s defense.
The phone rang in the background. Joe had a telegram in hand. “Hey, Elvis, this is from John Lennon.”
“Really? Read that, nice and loud.”
Joe cleared his throat dramatically. “You’re still the biggest. Come to England – Paul and I would love to produce an album for you, if we aren’t too nervous in the presence of The King! Love , John.”
Elvis got quiet, serious. That’s back on top, working with The Beatles. He did like them, said so publicly during the show. What would give him more credibility with the young kids then to work with The Beatles? He couldn’t turn that offer down.
“Son, it’s the Colonel on the phone. He wants to talk to you.” Vernon held the receiver out for Elvis.
“Well, I want to talk to him, too!” Elvis dashed to the phone.
“Elvis, my boy, what a success! My phone has been ringing off the hook with offers,” harrumphed the faux-Colonel, Tom Parker. “In fact, I’m still here at my MGM office. They want you, Elvis!”
“Uh, yeah, we’ve gotten a bunch of telegrams here at Graceland. I want to talk to you about one, it’s from-”
“Listen to me first. We have a huge offer from Las Vegas, huge. There’s big money there and they want you badly.”
Elvis balked. “Vegas? Pardon my language, Colonel, but are you outta your mind? Las Vegas is for Dean Martin and Perry Como. I’m the King of Rock and Roll. Always was. Vegas?”
“It’s a lot of money, Elvis, a lot of money,” The Colonel replied, speaking the only language he knew. “I told you this TV special would work.”
Elvis rolled his eyes. “You told me? You wanted me to wear a Santa suit and sing Christmas songs. For cryin’ out loud, you were against this from the start. I had to put my foot down to get it right, get it my way. You were rooting for us to be wrong, just to tell us ‘I told you so’.”
“I’m telling you, Elvis, Vegas is the way to go and-”
“Listen to me Colonel, for once just listen and stop flappin’ your gums. Leave Vegas to some sleazy lounge singer. The Beatles want to work with me in England and I’m going.”
Panicked quiet on the other end. “Now, Elvis, we’ve talked about going abroad. It’s a bad idea, and I would strongly advise you against it.”
“To hell with your advice, sir.” Elvis hung up the phone.
“Can you believe the Colonel wants me to sing in Las Vegas like some 50 year old crooner? Not me, baby, not now.”
Everyone nodded in agreement.
“To hell with that. Someone get me John Lennon on the phone. Time for me to take care of business. Boys, pack your bags, we’re going to England.”
The story goes that Steve Binder, producer/director of the ’68 Comeback Special, made a 33 year old Elvis Presley walk down Sunset Strip, where he was not recognized by any of the youth passing by. Having his irrelevance clearly pointed out, Elvis was willing to go all out to reclaim his former stature. Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager/Svengali, was opposed to the proposed plan and insisted on a more traditional Christmas-themed show. The Comeback Special aired on NBC on December 3, 1968, and was the number one Nielsen rated show of the entire year, viewed by 18 million households. Elvis never toured outside the US, in any country that required a passport, as the Dutch-born Parker was not a US citizen and feared both a denial of a passport and deportation. Elvis premiered at The International Hotel in Las Vegas on July 31, 1969.
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