Click here for Part I
Click here for Part II
This is the third and last part of of the interview between Examiner Dorri Olds and Jerry Schilling, the author of “Me and a Guy Named Elvis: My Lifelong Friendship with Elvis Presley.” In the hilarious 5-star movie, “Elvis & Nixon,” Schilling is played by actor Alex Pettyfer. Michael Shannon stars as Presley and Kevin Spacey stars as Nixon. Schilling was a consultant on the film and executive producer.
In part II we left off talking about the “Memphis Mafia” and why Presley and his entourage carried guns.
Dorri Olds: What were the threats to Elvis Presley’s life?
Jerry Schilling: There was one major threat in Las Vegas. Somebody put a menu under Elvis’ door and crossed his face out and wrote backwards so we knew it was a deranged person. [It said,] “I’m going to kill you onstage tonight.” This is one of the times I wasn’t working for Elvis, I was working in film editing. He called me and said, “I need you to come. I’ll tell you about it when you get here.” He sent a Leer jet for me [to fly me] from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. And the FBI came.
The hotel said he didn’t have to do the show. When I got there he was white and angry. He said, “I’m not going to let any so-and-so dictate my shows. I want you in the orchestra and another one of the guys in the orchestra.” We had guns and the FBI took it really serious. Somebody called and offered $50,000 dollars to one of the guys and said if Elvis would pay he’d tell them what the plot was. There were very serious things like that.
DO: Wow, very serious. How do you think he went from “Elvis the Pelvis” rebel rock ’n roller to seeking approval from the establishment?
JS: I think Elvis never set out to appeal to one genre of people. He loved all people. The establishment that we are talking about now didn’t like him in the beginning. Elvis was the ultimate liberal. But when he came back from the Army, it changed. He [went] on the show with Frank Sinatra and loved the idea that the people who criticized him, politicians or whatever, now liked him.
Very few people can appeal to both. That’s why he knew what to say to get to Richard Nixon. He would also know what to say to get to John Lennon. Elvis was a very smart, as you said, complex person. He appeared to be just a nice guy but he was very complex.
What I needed to do for myself [was to] be productive. I never thought I could do that with Elvis. I grew up, you know. I was 21 years old when I went to work for him. My aspirations got bigger as I grew up. Luckily, he gave me that opportunity and then incorporated, “Come back to work for me, you can work on my films. Come back to work for me, you can work on my tours.” That gave me the background to be, if you will, a major music manager of the Beach Boys and Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Joel.
DO: Jerry Lee Lewis must have been a handful.
JS: You know what? He was pretty good to me. We only had two arguments in seven years.
DO: Really? Gosh, that’s fantastic.
JS: Yeah, but they were big ones. [Laughs]
DO: Wish we had more time. Can’t wait to read your book, “Me and a Guy Named Elvis.”
“Elvis & Nixon” is now playing. Rated R. 100 min.