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'Burger and King' Shows Way to Elvis' Heart

TV REVIEW

August 16, 1996|ROBERT HILBURN | TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

Who ever figured there would be a documentary about the women in Elvis Presley's life that wouldn't focus on the bedroom? The women in "The Burger and the King: The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley" are some of the cooks who prepared the cholesterol-alert meals that kept the King of Rock 'n' Roll's ample belly filled.

Director James Marsh tells the story of Elvis the eater with the deadpan seriousness one hears in a National Geographic special--which, of course, makes the whole thing all the more humorous. We follow the camera crew from Elvis' Mississippi birthplace, where we learn that squirrels were among the dishes often eaten by poor families like the Presleys, to a Memphis high school to see a typical meal young Elvis may have been served.

The real find is Mary Jenkins, who was one of the queens in Elvis' Graceland kitchen for more than a decade. As she speaks about such items as the legendary peanut butter and banana sandwiches, recipes sometimes appear on the screen (culinary note: The sandwiches work best when fried in four ounces of butter).

Yes, Jenkins assures us, Elvis loved to eat. In fact, she wonders in retrospect why she didn't suspect something was wrong the time in 1977 that she went to Elvis' room just after midnight. Instead of ordering the usual banana pudding, he said he wasn't hungry . . . just tired. It was the last time she saw him alive. Elvis died hours later. And, no, we never learn what he had for his last meal.

* "The Burger and the King: The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley" can be seen tonight at 7 on Cinemax. It repeats Tuesday and Aug. 30.

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