AS the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll strolled along Sunset Boulevard, no one even turned their head.
It was the late Sixties and Elvis had become so famous that he was unrecognisable to the LA masses — as everyone else “looked just like him”.
Elvis was so famous that half the people in LA looked like himCredit: NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via
In an exclusive interview, his pal Steve Binder, who was with him that day, told The Sun on Sunday: “It was busy on the Strip and we saw all these young kids coming out of the Tower Records store.
“They were ignoring us and almost bumping into us. Then Elvis started to try to get attention and turned towards the road and the cars, but no one reacted, even then.
“Then on another day at 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 removed his sunglasses, smiled down at her, and said, ‘Sorry, ma’am, but I have no idea’, and put his sunglasses back on.
“She had no clue that she was talking with one of the biggest celebrities in the world.
“The thing was, every kid that admired Elvis wanted to look like him.
“Most people on the street just thought he was a lookalike or an impersonator.
“He was almost so famous he became unfamous, because everyone else looked like him.”
Austin Butler stars as the great man in new movie ElvisCredit:
The wide-ranging interview comes ahead of the 45th anniversary of the rocker’s death this summer and the release of new movie Elvis, starring Austin Butler in the lead and Tom Hanks, as his manager Colonel Tom Parker next month.
Kicking off The Sun on Sunday’s Elvis Month, Steve reveals how The King once slept in crooner Dean Martin’s dressing room for three weeks ahead of a big gig and had a special team to dry his costumes because he sweated so much on stage.
Steve, 89, who directed and produced Elvis’s 1968 comeback TV show, has written a book to mark 45 years since 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 to his fame. I believe he died of boredom, not anything else. He was surrounded by the Memphis Mafia, people whose job was to watch everything he did and said.
“I used to think, ‘Who was looking after Elvis?’ There was no one.”
Steve Binder has been revealing all about how Elvis dealt with fameCredit: Getty
Elvis — the top-selling music artist ever with almost a billion records sold and 21 UK No1s — was found dead on the toilet at his Memphis mansion Graceland in August 1977. He was 42.
But Steve said: “In my world with him there was no excessive 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 run of films.
Steve was hired by TV channel NBC to direct an Elvis special and recalling their first meeting, he said: “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 is in the toilet’. I thought he might kill me but he laughed. He later told me that sealed the deal. I think he liked that I told the truth.”
The pair worked to try to devise a format for the show, which was being filmed in Hollywood.
Elvis’s wife Priscilla had just given birth to daughter Lisa Marie, so he rented a house in nearby Beverly Hills to be near the studio.
Steve said: “He decided he didn’t want to drive every day from Beverly Hills and asked if he could live in the studio for three weeks while doing the show. We put a bed in the dressing room and two pianos. It was Dean Martin’s room.
“Every single night people would gather around a baby grand piano, improvise and sing old songs. It was there we got the idea for the show — it would be all improvised. He told me he didn’t even want Priscilla to come to the studio, apart from the shows. Jokingly, he said, ‘And besides, with all these good-looking guys around . . . ’ .”
Elvis was so popular many assumed he was an impersonator when they spotted himCredit: Getty
Elvis impersonator Brendan Paul is a big hit today in Las VegasCredit: Getty
During these sessions, Steve saw how Elvis was treated by Parker.
He said: “Colonel Parker was obsessed with a Christmas song being in the show and summoned us to his office. He said, ‘Why is there no Christmas song? Elvis, you want one, don’t you?’
Elvis stood there 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 riddled with nerves. The night before filming he almost pulled out, saying his mind had gone blank.
Steve talked him round. Ninety minutes were filmed while 46 minutes made it to air in December 1968 — it rebooted Elvis’s career.
He had put all he had into the comeback, some of which had him wearing a leather jump suit.
Steve recalled: “By the time he finished the first performance after an hour, he was sweating like you wouldn’t believe because of the lights.
“So between the two shows we got an army of people with air blowers on the stage. It showed he left nothing on stage.”
When Steve showed Elvis the final cut of the show, the singer was delighted.
Steve said: “He told me because of the new-found freedom he experienced, he would never again make a movie or sing a song that he didn’t believe in.
“I told him the first thing he had to do was take control of his life, even if that meant breaking away from the Colonel. He looked at me, broke out into one of his infectious laughs, and said, ‘OK, I’ll go’.”
But Elvis never did and he died nine years later.
The last time Steve saw Elvis, at the end of 1968, he smuggled him a note with his number on, which Steve thinks was to avoid the gaze of his manager.
“I was told it was his carphone number but it never worked. I never saw him again.”
- Elvis ’68 Comeback: The Story Behind The Special, by Steve Binder (Thunder Bay) is out now, priced £24.
HERE’S a prize that’s fit for a King.
The Sun on Sunday today launches our competition to find the ultimate Elvis Presley fan or tribute artist.
And it’s worth getting all shook up for as the lucky winner will enjoy a week-long trip to Memphis, Tennessee with Netflights.com.
The prize includes return flights from London and seven nights of accommodation in a Memphis hotel for the winner and one companion.
Once there, they’ll enjoy a Graceland Ultimate VIP tour which includes a tour of Elvis’ mansion with full access to Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex.
Winners will have access to the Graceland Ultimate VIP tourCredit: Alamy
The duo will also get free tickets to the Hound Dog Tour, a high-energy concert and sightseeing tour all rolled into one.
During the once in a lifetime experience, fans will get to take in exciting Elvis sites including Sun Studio, The Presley’s Lauderdale Courts apartment and his old high school.
They will also receive a VIP Tupelo Experience which will include a tour to Elvis’ birthplace and an overnight stay in Tupelo.
PLUS they’ll win a day’s recording session with sound engineer Glenn Keiles who will produce one track for the lucky winner at his music studio in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire.
Glenn said: “I’m really excited to be a part of this wonderful competition and can’t wait to work with the winner producing their track.”
Book with Netflights.com for the cheapest holidays, hotels and car hire to worldwide destinations. And every day, they search thousands of routes and compare hundreds of airlines to find the cheapest flights.
Elvis competition: How to enter
Email [email protected] with ELVIS COMPETITION in the subject line, attaching any relevant pictures or videos of your best impression, and explain in fewer than 200 words, why you are the ultimate Elvis fan or tribute artist.
T&Cs: Promotion closes at 12.59am on June 12. Open to residents of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland only, except for anyone under 18 years of age, employees and agents of the Promoter and its group companies, or third parties directly connected with the operation or fulfilment of the Promotion and their affiliates, and their immediate families and household members.
Winners will get the VIP Tupelo ExperienceCredit:
A trip to Elvis’ home of Memphis would be unforgettableCredit:
Netflights are providing travel for the competition winnerCredit: NETFLIGHTS