|Posted by Mickey Moran on August 22, 2013 at 1:10 AM|
WASHINGTON — Elvis Presley blamed the Beatles, the Smothers Brothers and Jane Fonda for the corruption of American youth and was sure they'd "have a lot to answer for in the hereafter."
On the other hand, he liked Richard Nixon, who appointed him an agent in the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Agent Elvis carried the badge in his pocket.
But the "greatest living American," the man Elvis admired above all others, was J. Edgar Hoover. On New Year's Eve, 1970, Elvis and six bodyguards showed up at FBI headquarters, hoping for an audience. Alas, Hoover had scrammed. "Presley's sincerity and good intentions notwithstanding, he is certainly not the type of individual whom the director would wish to meet," an FBI underling advised in a memo. "It is noted at the present time he is wearing his hair down to his shoulders and indulges in the wearing of all sorts of exotic dress." (What? The feds didn't like the American Eagle jumpsuit?)
OK, so the Elvis Files aren't the juiciest beach read of the summer. But around the FBI base here, the 663-page dossier on Presley, who died - oops, allegedly died - 14 years ago today, is burning up the copier. As many as six people a week either come and read Elvis' file or order a copy for $56.30.
"Elvis Presley is my most popular subject," said Helen Near, the supervisory legal technician in the request management unit of the Freedom of Information Privacy Act section. (Translation: Very helpful person who oversees the reading room.)
Elvis is hotter than any of the other 171 most-requested subjects on file in the reading room - hotter than all 221,999 pages on the Kennedy assassination, the 39,237 pages on the death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., hotter still than Liberace (382) or Lucille Ball (46) or Al Capone (2,397) or Janice Joplin (1).
"Elvis had many fans," said Near. And "they'll want to get anything they can get that relates to Elvis. A lot of these are for gifts."
But not all. Some want the file because they believe ELVIS IS ALIVE. The dossier is the springboard of their theory that the FBI staged his death to protect him from a gang of international swindlers and stashed him safely in the federal witness-protection program. Maybe in Wisconsin.
The file holds hundreds of pages about a scam in which Elvis and his father, Vernon, were swindled out of at least $400,000 by a group of con men headed by a native Philadelphian named Frederick Peter Pro. The 1977 flimflam involved the refinancing and overhaul of Elvis' Lockheed Jetstar. Pro and his fellow cons took the money, and split.
The hustlers, according to the file, were part of a much larger smuggling ring known as the Fraternity, which was being investigated by the FBI under the name Operation Fountain Pen. U.S. Attorneys in Memphis were prepared to seek indictments from a grand jury on Aug. 15, 1977 - the day before Elvis died (oops, allegedly died). Five men were, indeed, indicted that fall and were eventually tried and convicted.
So much for the facts. On to the speculation. And that's been fueled as much by what's missing from the file as what's there. Hundreds of pages remain classified. The reason? In some cases, national defense and foreign policy. (What are they hiding? ELVIS IS ALIVE?)
The main proponent of this staged-death theory is Gail Brewer Giorgio, a 1958 graduate of Norristown High School, author of the best-selling Is Elvis Alive? and a woman who says, flatly, "Elvis didn't die on Aug. 16, 1977. Absolutely not."
The sheep, the followers, the unquestioning will tell you he did - in his bathroom at Graceland. But, says Giorgio, that was a wax dummy in his open coffin. Those beads of liquid that the masses saw on his forehead as they paraded by were melting wax. "Dead people don't sweat."
Her primary co-conspiracy-theorist is 31-year-old Canadian Luc ("as in Cool Hand Luke") Dionne, who has also reviewed 30,000 pages of transcript
from the trial of these swindlers and is writing his own book, to be titled The Elvis Presley Conspiracy: Operation Fountain Pen.
He contends that Elvis had become the key witness in the FBI's case against the Fraternity. These men, who Dionne says had connections as mighty as the Gambino mob family and even Manuel Noriega, wanted Elvis dead. So to save the King, the FBI "killed" him.
Many of the Elvis file documents, dated after Aug. 16, 1977, bear scrawled notes that handwriting analysts say were penned by Elvis himself.
Giorgio even contends that Elvis offered subtle hints that his death would be staged. During his last concert tour, she says, he changed the lyrics to his song, "Way Down," as follows: "My body's going to be found on the bathroom floor and I'm going to places I've never been before."
Both Giorgio and Dionne eschew the label of Elvis fanatic. Their mission, they say, is about the pursuit of the truth - not an inability to accept it. ''To this day I have not seen an Elvis movie," says Giorgio. "When he died," says Dionne, "I was 17 and listening to 'Dark Side of the Moon' by Pink Floyd. I don't know what colors his costumes were."
The official keepers of the flame, the folks who operate Graceland and oversee the business affairs of Elvis' estate, dismiss such conspiracy theories as an annoyance.
"We've not even read the FBI file," said Todd Morgan, director of communications at Graceland. "We're too busy for all that foolishness."
Still, Morgan said that after this week's festivities - what Elvis groupies call "Death Week" - he might order a copy.
He'll find that the Elvis file, while hardly as entertaining as Jailhouse Rock, does hold some juicy nuggets, such as several letters from a South African homosexual dermatologist who propositioned Elvis' inner circle back in 1959, when Presley was stationed in the Army in Germany. The FBI also had to investigate assorted death and extortion threats - mostly the ho-hum crackpot variety.
The file dates to 1956 and the Eisenhower Administration. Because Hoover insisted that all correspondence received by the bureau be kept on file, and
because letters started coming in about the Pelvis, the FBI started the dossier.
One of the earliest letters came from a La Crosse, Wis., man (whose name has been blacked out) warning Hoover that Elvis is "a definite danger to the security of the United States." He informed Hoover that Elvis had autographed ''the abdomen and thigh" of two high school girls, and that Elvis fan
clubs "degenerate into sex orgies." He said Elvis was both a drug addict and sexual pervert.
Hoover thanked the man for his letter but told him "the matter is not within the investigative jurisdiction of the FBI."
The bureau also collected newspaper articles, including one reporting that 1,500 bobbysoxers had threatened to riot in New York when Elvis failed to show up for the debut of Love Me Tender at the Paramount Theater in November 1965. An Associated Press story from Louisville that month announced "Elvis Faces Wiggle Ban," and reported that the local police chief, on the eve of a concert, banned "any lewd, lascivious contortions that would excite a crowd."
Even though Hoover snubbed Elvis when he made his New Year's Eve visit in 1970, the King still got "a very special tour" of the FBI building. According to another memo written four days after the visit, Elvis "offered to be of assistance (to Hoover) on a confidential basis should there ever be a need of his services."
In addition, noted the FBI aide, one M.A. Jones, "Presley indicated that he . . . has read material prepared by the Director including Masters of Deceit, A Study of Communism as well as J. Edgar Hoover on Communism. Presley noted that in his opinion no one has ever done as much for his country as has Mr. Hoover, and that he, Presley, considers the Director the 'greatest living American.' He also spoke most favorably of the Bureau."
The memo continued: "Presley indicated that he is of the opinion that the Beatles laid the groundwork for many of the problems we are having with young people by their filthy unkempt appearances and suggestive music while entertaining in this country during the early and middle 60s. He advised that the Smothers Brothers, Jane Fonda and other persons . . . of their ilk have a lot to answer for in the hereafter for the way they have poisoned young minds by disparaging the United States in their public statements and unsavory activities."
Presley also "noted that he can be contacted anytime through his Memphis address . . . such correspondence should be addressed to him under the pseudonym Colonel Jon Burrows."