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Embarrassed Elvis

July 19, 1987

Robert Hilburn's article on Elvis pays respect to the man's talents, but Hilburn seems to have several misperceptions ("The Tragic Elvis," July 12).

He speaks of the sideshow atmosphere of merchandising and image marketing that goes on around Elvis' name, and states that Elvis would not have been embarrassed by this. Having known Elvis personally from 1967 until his death 10 years later, I believe Elvis was embarrassed by the carnival dealings of his management and that the continued sideshow atmosphere surrounding much of his legend would embarrass him today.

Yes, he had a sense of humor about himself and he often poked fun at his image, but that doesn't mean he didn't have feelings when it came to being tasteful or tacky. Elvis had a sense of taste and class which, unfortunately, often did not filter down to either his management or his promoters.

Elvis wasn't "seduced again by fame." He wasn't quite sure he really deserved the adulation, but he accepted it with love and humility and he often told his fans who yelled "You're the King!" at concerts that "No, I'm just Elvis. Jesus Christ is the King."

Perhaps he never quite understood his own artistry because either the record company, media or his management understood or seemed to appreciate it; they acclaimed him as a phenomenon, a flashy stage performer and a money-making machine but they did not develop his talent, expand his abilities, or give him any encouragement to attempt new concepts or strive toward new goals.

Elvis' real tragedy, it seems to me, is that he knew very well who he was, but those around him kept trying to make him into something he wasn't rather than accepting and appreciating his unique humanity.


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