Elvis was a born entertainer and a sociable man who loved to charm everyone on and off-stage. But underneath the dazzling public persona of The King was a deeply private and extremely sensitive man who was easily hurt.
His home at Graceland was often open to all and the basement rooms, in particular, were the site of many rowdy nights for the star and his friends.
However, the upstairs rooms were his sanctuary. There’s a reason why they are still closed off to the public to this day and only a very few were allowed to go up there during his life and then afterwards, during the life of his daughter, Lisa Marie.
Indeed, Elvis would spend much of his time with his daughter Lisa Marie in her room. After he separated from Priscilla and she moved out, custody was shared and Elvis would often take sanctuary in her room even when she wasn’t there.
His cousin, Billy Smith, grew up alongside him in Tupelo, Mississippi, and then Memphis. He graduated to become a central figure in the Memphis Mafia and lived on the grounds of Graceland with his wife Jo.
In a new video, they remembered very special times upstairs and seeing the vulnerable side of the star that few ever knew, particularly in the final months of his life after members of his own Memphis Mafia devastated him.
Billy said: “There were times we got into some real deep stuff but, believe me, it was good when we did finally break the ice and come and clear your thoughts and get everything out. That’s a lot of the stuff we did up in his room. We’d sit around in a circle on his bed…
“I know one night we were in Lisa’s room and we were talking about the book that Sonny and Red and Dave were doing, and he was asking me about certain things that were in it, and it got pretty emotional and Elvis started to cry… He said, ‘I don’t know why these guys are going to do this to me. I would have hired them back.'”
Cousins Sonny and Red Weston had been at the heart of the Memphis Mafia, and Dave Hebler was his chauffeur and bodyguard.
In the final year of his life, Elvis’ health had begun to deteriorate as his prescription drug intake had increased. The three men had been fired by The King’s father Vernon, supposedly to cut costs, but also because he’d always felt they were a bad influence on his son.
The three claimed they were fired for trying to stop the star’s decline and unhealthy lifestyle. They wrote a book, Elvis What Happened, exposing his “dark, other side.”
Elvis was devastated to hear what they were doing, and the book was released just weeks before his death on August 16, 1977.
Billy added: “I patted him on the shoulder and I said, ‘Look, it will all be OK. You know it’s all kinda out of revenge, and that’s what they’re doing. Don’t let it hurt you.’
“‘Well,’ he said, ‘I can’t help it. I care for them.’
“Elvis was just like anyone else, he got his feelings hurt like anybody else. I let him get it off his chest. He didn’t get too serious too many times…”