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Episode 82

Elvis & Why He Died Young

Episode  82
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Why did the world lose the King of Rock & Roll at the age of 42? The institutionalized answer has been drugs and decadence. Author and Elvis scholar Sally Hoedel begs to differ. She posits that Elvis was born with disease and/or dysfunction in nine of the eleven bodily systems and that his legendary drug use was an effort to self medicate. She proves her thesis with painstakingly sourced research into Elvis’s family tree, deep dives into medical records and interviews with those who knew him. Sally joins us to discuss her revelatory book,  Elvis: Destined To Die Young.

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Louise Palanker (00:00:04):

Welcome to Media Path. I am Louise Palanker. And I'm

Fritz Coleman (00:00:07):

Fritz Coleman.

Louise Palanker (00:00:08):

We have been traveling down the path marked media and making notes for you of places you should visit, stops you should make, et cetera, travel tip. When you get to the Elvis Turnpike, you're going to encounter many options. It's a busy area. There's music, there are movies, and many, many books. You may become overwhelmed. So we think you should begin your journey with the book Elvis Destined To Die Young. And here's why. It is beautifully written by Sally Hodel, and it explains and informs so much of what you are going to discover about Elvis Presley author Sally Hodel is about to join us. But first Fritz, where has your path taken you this week? All

Fritz Coleman (00:00:49):

Right, well, this is opening Canada worms for many people who don't wanna discuss it. But the name of this documentary four part documentary on Showtime is called, we Need to Talk About Cosby. The first one was last Sunday at 10 o'clock. I, I happened to think that Bill Cosby represented the greatest fall from grace in the history of America. There have been other crashes, Nixon, Clinton, others, but no one fell from a pedestal so high where they were loved and adored to a level so low where they were vilified and even hated by those who once loved him. I was connected to Cosby in a number of ways. He is still considered the greatest practitioner of standup comedy in the history of the art form. He was born and raised in Philadelphia, as was I. He went to Temple University, as did I. Professors used to speak about him like he was the Dolly Lama.


So I was really interested in watching the documentary by w Kamal Bell. He's a comedian and a filmmaker who produces and hosts his own documentary series on CNN called United Shades of America, where in general humorous ways he analyzes the racial divide in America. Bell was really conflicted about Cosby and wanted to investigate his own feelings and the world's feelings about the dark arc of Cosby's life. There are very few people that were held in higher esteem than Bill Cosby in black America for all to be accomplished in comedy and television education and black self-esteem during the turbulent 1960s. The conflicted feelings are reflected in the title. We need to talk about Cosby Cosby because people are hesitant to do it. Bell interviews, comics and academics and cultural critics, people who worked with Cosby throughout the years. They talk about realizing that they didn't really know the Cosby that they loved.


The big revelation in the first episode was that in hindsight, there were many clues to Cosby's dark obsession with drugging women. One woman was interviewed and said he definitely left breadcrumbs that we didn't see at first. He had a bit on one of his first comedy albums about how cool Spanish fly was. Spanish fly's a real thing. It's an aphrodisiac extractor from a species of flies. Bell goes back through that bit and the way Cosby talked about giving it to women in real interviews, like on Larry King Live, it's goosebump inducing. They play some of the earliest iconic bits like Noah, where God talks to Noah about the arc. I found myself asking the same question I asked about another one of my comedy heroes, Woody Allen. That is, is it possible to separate the art from the artists? I find it very hard to do, but it's a, it's a fascinating series.

Louise Palanker (00:03:35):

Yes, I've watched two parts, uh, thus far, and it's, it's chilling. And it's also, uh, very illuminating to see the complimenting viewpoints from various, uh, personalities and various people that were either victims of Cosby or people that were, uh, inspired by him. And I, you know, I, as a kid, I grew up in, in the whitest suburb in, in the world, like on Planet Earth. It was like an entirely white suburb. And I watched, I spy as a kid, and the thing that touched me the most was the relationship between Kelly and Scotty at those are the names that I remember. Robert Kelp and Bill Cosby was the relationship that warmed my heart. And I don't know if my little child mind just was aspirational in terms of this is how the world could be. And then of course, you know, everything that that followed with Cosby was just, you know, it was just like one kind of home run after another. The guy is just so gifted. So it's, it's beyond disappointing. I think it's just absolutely devastating that somebody's so great in his talent and what he represented in a, in a world that, that w was not kind of brimming with representation, <laugh> for people of color, uh, just devastating. So,

Fritz Coleman (00:04:57):

Yeah. And on I spy and I never knew this, he made a difference in the entertainment business because on I Spy when they had a stunt man do parts for him, they had a white guy in blackface doing the stunt, and he said, Hey, I'm not coming back to work until you hire a black stunt man. And he changed it not only for that show, but for all of Hollywood. So that was, that was progress.

Louise Palanker (00:05:19):

Right. And they have the stunt man on the, on

Fritz Coleman (00:05:21):

They interview

Louise Palanker (00:05:22):

The stunt man over there. Yeah. Bell's outstanding. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, just great work. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, uh, this is taking a left turn. Just warning left. Turn ahead. Okay. So I've been watching the Gilded Age on HBO o It's, uh, coming to us from the man who brought us Downton Abbey Julian Fellows in the Gild age. It's 1882 and Old Money New Yorkers are facing off against impotent, ruthless railroad, Barron Upstarts, the Russells who construct a garish new mansion uptown on Park Avenue, hopeful that their fortune funded opulence will invite entree into the swanky society set, populated by the Astros, the Rockefellers, and the Vanderbilts playing for Team New Money are Morgan Spec and Carrie Coon as George and Bertha Russell, while suiting Up for Old Money. Our sisters Agnes and Ada, played by Christine Baranski and Cynthia Dixon with Louisa Jacobson as their country niece, Marion Brook, whose outsider take and purposeful motives may just shake some chandeliers around here. Within all its Gotti glitzy glory, the Giln age in true Julian Fellows fashion addresses, class, race, rights, privilege, and the social issues that confound us still today. That's my excuse. The plot lines are tracking fairly accurately with any episode of any housewives of anywhere who is not invited to a party and the ensuing fallout. But I am obsessed. It's so good. The Gilded Age on H B O.

Fritz Coleman (00:06:50):

Yeah. I haven't seen it. I, I, I thought, uh, oh, another costume party. I'm out here

Louise Palanker (00:06:54):

<laugh>. I love it. So, oh, we should introduce our guest. Let's go. Yeah. Sally Hodel is the author of Elvis Destined to Die Young. She is a lifelong Elvis fan and historian with a journalism degree from Michigan State University. Sally is co-owner of character Development and Leadership, a curriculum business. Sally says that she wrote her book because she genuinely believes this is the story that Elvis would want us to know. Welcome Sally. And can you talk a little more about that?

Sally Hoedel (00:07:23):

Hello. Thanks for having me. Sure,

Louise Palanker (00:07:25):


Sally Hoedel (00:07:26):

This, I'm a lifelong Elvis fan and I'm a journalist and this is my first book. So it was kind of a coming together of, you know, personal and professional endeavor for sure. Um, yeah, as a lifelong fan, you know, I read all the books and I'd always leave each one with more questions and answers and just some of the, you know, the one thing that always stuck with me was why does Elvis pass at a similar age and in a similar way as his mother, I always thought that was really interesting cuz she didn't take the prescription medication and she didn't have the burden to be in the king of rock and roll. Um, and she didn't have the lifestyle. So, you know, that kind of just always interested me, I think throughout the years of reading. And I discovered Elvis as a little kid when my dad would play records and whatnot.


Um, and then when I, I was reconnected with some of my books that I had read as a kid, and in rereading them, I stumbled upon the fact that Elvis's maternal grandparents were first cousins. And from there the idea, it, the idea just grew. And at first it was just kind of a brain candy project, you know, like, I wonder if this answers all those questions, if this is the big why. And, uh, the more I got into it, uh, the more there was just clearly a, a book full of evidence to support this idea of, you know, real, serious health issues within Elvis's family Tree. Uh, there was enough evidence to support it and then from there it grew to talking to people who knew Elvis. And it just became this real project, real fast <laugh>. And, um, it's been just one of the best experiences I've had professionally. Well,

Fritz Coleman (00:08:51):

Y y your, your book was into many reasons why Elvis destined to have a short life. But one of the great facts in your book, one of the most profound facts is the one in which you state of the 11 biological systems in the human body. Elvis had dysfunction in nine of them. It's amazing you lived to be in his forties.

Sally Hoedel (00:09:12):

It is amazing. And so, yes, disorder or disease and nine of the 11th systems of the body. And again, when I first started writing this book, I thought I might have to hypothesize about what Elvis had and what his mother Gladys had, you know, and, and tie some connection to that. And I very quickly found, I didn't have to hypothesize about anything cuz there was so much wrong with Elvis that we have documentation of, and we have a quite a bit of information from Gladys's cardiologist when she passed in 1958. Uh, so we had enough information just based on what we know was wrong with him. So yes, nine of the 11 systems of the body, he dies at age 42. He starts having pretty serious, you know, hospital stays at age 38, which again, is very abnormal. Um, he leaves each hospital stay, there's three major hospital stays in the seventies between 73 and 77.


And he leaves each one knowing there's more wrong with him than what he went in, you know, to treat or fix. And, uh, again, a lot of that has long been written off as the end result of prescription medication problem, which he definitely had in this book does not sugarcoat that more so it answers the big why question, why does Elvis turn to the prescription medication in the first place? And I think that is a huge question, uh, from a journalistic standpoint. And I don't think it's ever been asked, and it's never been answered before this book. Um, so yes, it's, it's absolutely kind of, it explores all that was wrong with Elvis, but it's also a reversal of his family tree because we can, we can see a lot of these things within the family tree.

Louise Palanker (00:10:35):

So what happens, what are the dangers of why cousins should not marry <laugh>

Sally Hoedel (00:10:40):

<laugh>? Well, you know, it's, it's that doubling of the gene pool mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And if there are, uh, genetic complications within those families, and we could see it within Elvis's, um, it just gets doubled. And, you know, there's a reason why we see it in the males more than the females. Um, you know, a females have two X chromosomes, so there's a chance they get one from their mom, one from their dad. If there's a bad gene on there, there's a chance for that to be replaced by a good gene. Uh, but the boys get X from mom and wife and dad. So there's no opportunity for that. And, and that's why we see, like Gladys was really very unlucky, um, the unlucky female within her family, but she has three brothers who also die at age 48, 46, and I think 58, all liver and heart related issues. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, Gladys dies, liver heart related issues at 46, Elvis dies, liver and heart related issues, 42, you know, clearly it stops being a coincidence. We can see it within the tree. And I do believe that that doubling of the gene pool created a lot of issues for Gladys and her siblings. And it did get passed down to Elvis.

Fritz Coleman (00:11:39):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, uh, um, it's very easy for not only us, but people in general to make a moral judgment about cousins marrying. It's like the punchline to every joke about Appalachia and everything else. But the truth is, in the abject poverty that Elvis was brought up in in the thirties, it wasn't that abnormal, uh, it was abnormal, wrong word. It wasn't that out of the ordinary to see that happen. The depression era south were the Smiths and the Presleys, the two branches of his family had to survive. And so they married familiar people.

Sally Hoedel (00:12:13):

Absolutely. I think it's so important to remember that because this, this first cousin marriage in Elvis's tree has been looked at before by biographers and always in a very negative connotation kind of way. Right. It's always, they were hillbillies, they were back woods. You know, all those kind of words were attached to it in the eighties when it was first talked about. But if we take a real honest look at it, then we can see the repercussions and it tells us so much about, especially Elvis and his lifestyle choices. Um, so it's really important to look at it that way. But the truth is, is that they, they were so poor, and Elvis comes from generations of poverty. It wasn't just his parents. Um, and the, you know, great depression era. He comes from generations of poverty and sharecroppers in that type of situation in the rural south of Mississippi. And people married based on poverty and proximity. Poverty was kept in the family in the same kind of way as wealth was because the Roosevelts married their cousins too, just for very different reasons. Exactly.

Louise Palanker (00:13:07):

It's, it's more of a, it's an insular situation and that's what, that's what kind of encourages cousins to go ahead and marry the familiar. And it doesn't just happen, you know, with hillbillies, it happens in royal families, which is why we have hemophilia. So it's not anything that anyone needs to make any fun of. It's Yeah.

Fritz Coleman (00:13:26):

It was a survival technique for, for the poverty stricken ones, you know?

Louise Palanker (00:13:30):

Yeah. But in royal families or in aristocratic families, it's a way

Fritz Coleman (00:13:33):

To keep the

Louise Palanker (00:13:34):

Bloodline. Exactly. They think they're keeping the bloodline strong when actually Exactly. They're not. But I, exactly,

Sally Hoedel (00:13:38):

I, and I agree. I think it's, you know, it's keeping poverty or you're, you're marrying based on poverty or your wealth. You're keeping both of those in the family in a kind of way. And I think an interesting way to look at it, because we do have to look at history, it's so important to look at it during the time that it happened, you know, and not put today's stereotypes or ideas on it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and that's one of those situations. But it, it's kind of comparable to getting married young. You know, also around that time it was very normal for girls to get married still at age 15 and 16. And that's even true in 1950s, Mississippi mm-hmm. <affirmative> and the South. So some of those things that would be considered so abnormal today, we have to remember that in within their context. It's just kind of how things were.

Louise Palanker (00:14:16):

Well, some of the best informed critics would be Elvis fans, right? Because Elvis is a, is a subject that is well studied. And so your book is just blowing up on Amazon and you've got 260 reviews, five solid stars. It's not even four, and then half a star. It's like the solid stars. So this is a, a re uh, uh, excerpt from a couple of reviews. Marni Lefkowitz writes, as a dedicated Elvis fan searching for years to piece the puzzle together. This book is vital in understanding Elvis's life and struggles. Thank you, Sally. Elvis Vange will embrace this work of art. Every person who loves Elvis should read this book. You will truly understand why Elvis was destined to die young. And Michelle Oldham wrote, wow, this book is absolutely amazing and wonderfully written. Finally, the world now knows how bad Elvis suffered physically and why he did what he did to keep going. Please, please, please read. Let's work with Sally to change the narrative and rewrite history for a human being who deserves so much more. Is that gratifying for you, uh, to share, to finally let your book out into the world and, and, and let people share in what you discovered?

Sally Hoedel (00:15:21):

It's incredible. And for a couple of reasons. Number one, as a writer, uh, every writer knows that you can write a book and outside of your relatives <laugh>, it's, there's no guarantee that anyone is going to read it <laugh>. So for it to be as successful as it's been and, and as embraced, you know, just from a personal professional standpoint as a writer, that's amazing. Cuz you know that the other thing is the other option was always possible. So that's very rewarding. Um, but for Elvis, it's just a really huge deal to me, I guess because of a lifelong fan. But because I also, you know, I love history and I think it's so important to understand that history is a story of people and human beings. And if we look at Elvis as a historical figure and not just this rock and roll star, and if we get beyond that narrow lens of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, his story is even better.


Like, it's even richer and more complex. And, and I think it by looking at him, you know, through this lens of his health issues and looking at perhaps his weaknesses, you could say, um, it restores his humanity. And I, and I do think Elvis is one of the biggest victims of sensationalism and romanticism. So looking at him with his health issues, it makes him a real person, uh, first of all. And I think that humanizes him. And then we can again, just understand some of those lifestyle choices that for someone like Elvis, it just really didn't make sense before. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Fritz Coleman (00:16:42):

Absolutely. I, I, I just so appreciate, I always had a feeling about this because of his always going back to his gospel roots even later on when he had pop music success, but also the way he treated people. He was insanely generous with everybody buying everybody in a car. I just, I, I even empathized with him more that he was caught in the vortex of something that was way bigger than he was and who, who could survive that? And particularly somebody coming from poverty and going back to talking about the inner marriage thing, because I think if you extrapolate that out and look that people in order survive in depression eras south, they surrounded themselves with the familiar, as Weezy said, and family that continued in his life when he had the entire Memphis Mafia move into greats land. And he always surrounded himself with the familiar Yeah. With people that made him feel safe, feel like

Louise Palanker (00:17:35):

He was at home

Fritz Coleman (00:17:35):

And reminded him of who and where he came from. It never went away.

Sally Hoedel (00:17:40):

A absolutely, and that's a huge part of Elvis, who Elvis was. And it's a huge part of this book. Even, uh, again, and this isn't a science book by any stretch of the imagination, as you know, it is an Elvis that explains his health issues. Um, but what it, one of the things that I was most struck by is coming to the understanding of truly what Elvis's agenda was. And his agenda starting out was not to become the most famous man who would ever live in the world, <laugh>, you know, he is still recognizable the world over by his first name and his image alone. And that's amazing and powerful. 45 years almost after his death. Um, and that wasn't his agenda, his main agenda was to provide for his family. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, his main agenda was to pull his mom and dad out of poverty mm-hmm. <affirmative>.


And, and then it was to keep them there. And then as you said, it grows. It's not just his parents anymore. You know, it's aunts and uncles who work and live at Graceland. His grandmother always lives at Graceland. And I always say, you know what, what rock and roll star takes women home to meet grandma. You know, this is such a unique Elvis thing. Yeah. But it also tells us so much about him. And then it's the Memphis Mafia, and he supports all of their family. A lot of them live at Graceland on and off too. Um, so again, that's really important. When we look at him in the seventies, and he is touring more and more each year and his health is deteriorating, you know, after each tour. But he keeps going and people are saying, you know, Elvis, you need to take a break. You need to stop. And he says things like, too many people rely on me, I can't stop. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So that attitude of provider, it was such a huge part of who he was, and it really does factor into this, this other layer that my book explores.

Fritz Coleman (00:19:09):

H how much of, you know, going back to your original statement about, um, people assuming it was the medication that, that or what killed him, but the underlying things are genetic. How much of it was enabling by his physician, Dr. Nick? I mean, he was one of these people and I met people in the, in my business who have been enabled by physicians. They'll do whatever you want. They'll write him any prescription he wants in any amount. And how much of that had something to do with him being debilitated later on?

Sally Hoedel (00:19:38):

It's, it's a big factor. And it really, I think it stretches beyond Dr. Nick because Elvis had a number of doctors, you know, he had doctors in every city that he could go to. Um, the thing with Dr. Nick that I think made him different was that Dr. Nick is, there's evidence that he was always trying to help. He's the one who checks Elvis into the hospital. He's the one who's running all these tests. He's the one who's trying to figure out why his colon doesn't work. Right. You know, what's wrong with his heart, why his liver tests aren't coming back normal. Um, so he's the one trying to figure all of that out. And his main flaw was that, you know, the line between friend and physician got blurred. And that's a very complicated place for anyone to be, but certainly when you're the physician of Elvis Presley.


Um, but I think Dr. Nick also knew that he had these other doctors and he could go to them at any time to get what he wanted. And Dr. Nick was trying to control what was getting to Elvis. Um, you know, his nurse tells a story about how she was with him, and a doctor came with a bag of pills and said, you know, I want some tickets for the concert and like trading, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, so <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, that nurse kicked that doctor off, um, the airplane where that conversation was happening. So that kind of stuff happened, uh, quite a bit. But I think the main difference with Dr. Nick, like towards the end, especially Elvis is getting three packets of medication because he cannot sleep without medication. It is a double-edged sword. So much of what he takes, he absolutely needs. And then so much of what he takes, um, you know, has tolerance issues and addiction issues that, and some of that wasn't even quite understood yet.


But even like for his insomnia, I always say, you know, they didn't have lu Nesta and ambient back then in the seventies, so he's taking volume and things, you know, to get sleep cuz he can't sleep without it. And that was a lifelong problem. And the book addresses that. Uh, but Elvis agrees to those three packets of medication that Dr. Nick says, you know, we need to control this. We're gonna give you three packets of medication throughout the evening to control your access. Elvis agrees to that. Elvis didn't have to agree to that. And if he was really this junkie, he would've fired Dr. Nick and found another doctor who would've just, you know, given him mm-hmm. <affirmative> given him all the pills he wanted without any control or restriction mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so it's, it's a complicated story, but there, there was that factor of Dr. Nick always trying to help, but a lot of doctors being involved, if that makes sense. It's mm-hmm.

Louise Palanker (00:21:46):

<affirmative> it does. And explain how Elvis reaches adult life with already issues that are plaguing him. And so he, he decides I'm not gonna do any drugs. Like what he defines is drugs, alcohol. Right. But he decides that the, the pd, the physician's desk assistant, the PDA or whatever it's called,

Sally Hoedel (00:22:05):

Pdr pdr,

Louise Palanker (00:22:06):

Yeah. That's gonna be, you know, his guidebook. Because if it's, if it's a medication that's been created to help people like me who are suffering from a certain condition, then that's my friend. So he decides to keep that book with him and to learn more than anyone else around him about what will make him feel better. Because by the time he's 20, he's already suffering from underlying conditions. Can you talk about that?

Sally Hoedel (00:22:29):

Absolutely. And, and Elvis Presley has to find a way to keep being Elvis Presley. Right. No one else can do it for him. And I think he really struggles with that right away. I always say, you know, the Elvis of 1957 had so many of the elements that you see in the Elvis of 1977, you just can't see them yet. They haven't manifested to the point where they are life altering and physically, you know, view viewable. Um, but yeah, it starts out with, you know, insomnia. He starts with sleeping pills and it's always been kind of told that Elvis started with medication or dexedrine in the army, you know, uppers the stamp all night on all night maneuvers. And I disagree with that. I think it started before he went into the army, started with sleeping medication because he, you know, it's one thing to be a lifelong insomniac and there's evidence of it in his teen years.


Um, but it's another thing to be an insomniac and be Elvis Presley. That's a very, you know, it's very difficult. So he, he starts with sleeping pills and it works. And then he did turn to Dexedrine and you know, there's evidence that Elvis most likely had a d d A D H D. There's lots of stories of him just fidgeting all the time as a, uh, a young man, a teenager and book gets into that. Um, so Dexedrine is still used today as a treatment for a d d. So I think taking that probably, uh, made him feel better in a lot of ways as well. So he's successful in his first couple endeavors, you know, and he does have the PDR and he has the PDR as early as 1957. So he does feel confident in what he's doing. And, and again, I think it really does start as I have to continue to be Elvis Presley and what's gonna help me do that. Mm-hmm.

Fritz Coleman (00:24:01):

<affirmative>, let's talk about, let's go back to ground zero and, and the genetic similarity between he and his mom and their for bears. The alpha one disorder that he had that his mother had. Describe that and what it does to the body.

Sally Hoedel (00:24:16):

Sure. Alpha one antitrypsin deficiency, um, is either a problem with it can attack the lungs or the liver. Alphas was a carrier. He's always, it's always been written off, uh, because he is just a carrier. But it's one of few genetic diseases where even as a carrier you can have a lot of complication. Um, and there is a difference between if you inherit one bad gene versus two. You know, that's kind of creates a difference between whether it's, um, livable or, you know, uh, terminal. And, um, so Elvis was just a carrier. We see it in his lungs. You know, there was talk of him having, um, oh, what's the lung disorder? You know, that

Louise Palanker (00:24:52):

Everybody emphysema, tuber or tuberculosis? Emphysema,

Sally Hoedel (00:24:54):

Yes. Emphysema with Elvis. And there's several times in before he goes on stage in the seventies and the footage, you can see him doing an inhaler before he goes on talk. He talked a lot about, you know, needing to open up his lungs and that type of thing. Uh, but it's really visible in Gladys because she dies from liver disease. And again, you know, often with this alpha one, if you die with liver disease, it looks like cirrhosis. People assume you were an alcoholic. That's been an assumption with Gladys for quite a long time. And there's really only direct evidence of her drinking in the last year when they lived at Graceland. And I think she was probably self-medicating because that's how her generation in poverty would medicate. Right. Um, so I think that's when she first turns to alcohol, but obviously she would've had to do a lot of damage in one year to die from cirrhosis.


So, um, the alpha one impacted her liver. And that's, and that's the other way that it works. So it, alpha one is a protein that is in your liver. It leaves your liver and it goes and protects your lungs. So if you're deficient in it, your lungs don't have the protection that they need. Um, but if you have the two bad genes and full-blown alpha one disease in the liver, then the protein is misshapen and it can't leave your liver. And then it ends up looking like cirrhosis over time. So Gladys's doctor, uh, she had a serious heart issue and liver issue and her doctor is quoted as saying, you know, there was something wrong with her liver and it wasn't normal hepatitis, but I couldn't identify it. They wouldn't have been able to identify alpha one in 1958 by any stretch of the imagination.

Louise Palanker (00:26:18):

Um, let's talk for a moment about his colon, because you, you don't address this, but I'm, I'm guessing that there were no colonoscopies or colon cleansing any kind of techniques back then. So there was no way to really identify what it was that was troubling him. Probably maybe even the root of his insomnia originally as a child. Right. Um,

Sally Hoedel (00:26:37):

Very good point.

Louise Palanker (00:26:38):

So it, it goes completely, at what point in time do we get colonoscopies or the ability to figure out what's going on with someone's colon?

Sally Hoedel (00:26:46):

I know that, uh, like a M R I and a CAT scan where, but neither of those were available till after Elvis died. Eighties Elvis dies in 1977, so neither of those were available. And I know the only thing they had available to see how bad his colon was, was an x-ray. And you can imagine how limiting that was. Right. So they really did not know how bad his megacolon was until the autopsy. And it was shocking. And again, you know, even Dr. Oz did a show a couple months ago about Elvis and, uh, his death and they talked about his colon problem and how that was all the end result of the medication he was taking, cuz the medication he was taking absolutely would've slowed down his colon. And it's always been blamed for that. But I have direct evidence from Annie Presley who was very close, uh, with Gladys. She was a cousin on Vernon's side, um, that Gladys struggled with baby Elvis, you know, having constipation and getting him to achieve a bowel movement as a baby and a toddler. Um, so we have that on record. And then we have someone in Lauderdale court saying that Elvis was always constipated, you know, it was,

Fritz Coleman (00:27:47):

He he also had an abnormally long colon, didn't he? Yes. That you call it a megacolon, I mean, like twice as

Sally Hoedel (00:27:53):

A month. Yes. And that happens, you know, just from it not working properly over time that can happen. And then you get into the toxic aspect that, you know, that colon, the mega, the megacolon really could have killed all of us at any time. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it really could have, if it had, you know, become

Louise Palanker (00:28:07):

Punctured infected

Sally Hoedel (00:28:08):

Or punctured. Punctured. Yeah. It was, it was very dangerous. And I think you can't even begin to understand the kind of pain that he had from that situation.

Louise Palanker (00:28:16):

So we're thinking a also, you know, Crohn's possibly or some other autoimmune uh, disorders.

Sally Hoedel (00:28:22):

Yeah. And I think Ksh bruns is, is a big possibility, you know, and that's when the bottom part of your colon is not wired with nerves like it should be. Right. Um, it's genetic in nature. And, and that would create a problem from the minute you're born, which I think Elvis probably did have a problem with that from the very, very beginning. And, and the book does explore all that. And it, it talks about the evidence of it being there long before fame. And that's really the important part of this book is that, again, so much of this was written off as the end result of the mis of the prescription medication. But of those nine bodily systems that we talked about in my book, there's evidence that at least five of them were pri present prior to fame. So it couldn't have been caused by the lifestyle.

Fritz Coleman (00:28:59):

Is it the fact that Elvis is gone and all of his family is gone? Did that make it easier for you to get medical records? Is there any privacy in medical records for a deceased person?

Sally Hoedel (00:29:08):

Uh, you know, I just think is there any privacy for Elvis? Right?

Fritz Coleman (00:29:11):

<laugh>? Yeah. Yeah. <laugh>. But I just wondered if you wanted to do that one about me or something and I was deceased. Does that loosen up all the, the,

Sally Hoedel (00:29:20):

Uh, I think it'd be much more difficult. I think the fact that it's Elvis and the fact that he is deceased and I wasn't the first person to, um, print a lot of this. I'm the first person to connect the dots, you know, his own doc, Dr. Nick wrote a book outlining a lot of his medical issues, but I also talked to people who privately hold some medical records. Um, and they told me what was in them, you know, without, you know, releasing them I suppose. But, um, so a lot of that is out there. A lot of, you know, it's like the autopsy report too, people say is sealed, but every, there's a number of people who have access to what's in that, uh, have access to the report. Um, there was an expert for Dr. Nick when Dr. Nick was on trial. He was the defense expert and you know, he had every document connected to Elvis's Health that there was at the time, so that he could be a witness for the defense mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and he was a big help to me. He's written medical journals about it and all sorts of things. So I wasn't necessarily the first person to put a lot of this out there. There is new information that I did uncover, uh, just by talking to the family of Gladys cardiologists and things like that. And then looking at the family tree. But more than anything, this connects information in a new way.

Louise Palanker (00:30:26):

Right. One of the points that you make in your book is that no one person knew the whole story. And that's why so many people that I've read one or two Elvis books think, you know, may, may feel a certain way, like they, like they have the 360 picture, but they didn't go up the family tree or they didn't look into the medical records or they were just someone that was on tour with Elvis or part of the Memphis Mafia. And those people just had their limited perspective and he wanted it that way. It's almost like he wanted no one to be able to piece together everything that he knew that he was struggling with.

Sally Hoedel (00:30:57):

Yeah. I think that's a big part of it. And then of course there's a lot that he didn't know, you know, for example, he didn't know about his mother's liver disease or alpha one and, and then it goes to Gladys's mother as well, which is a super interesting story. And again, you know, these stories just get passed down anyone's family tree. Not just Elvises <laugh>, um, but she died of tuberculosis that I'm sure that story was repeated generation after generation after generation. But if you look at it, it doesn't make sense cuz they're sharecroppers. They all live in one tiny cabin with no circulate, ventilation, circulation, um, the heat of Mississippi summer, and no one else in that family. And there were nine kids, no one else caught the most contagious disease ever, you know, at the time. And, and a disease that killed more people than anything else at that time as well.


And then she lived with it for such a long time she took to her bed and, you know, I think she lived for 30 years after having tuberculosis. So the longest on average most people live is five years, especially during that era. And she had no access to healthcare in rural Mississippi. So I think we can conclude that she did not have tuberculosis and that this alpha one makes a lot more sense mm-hmm. <affirmative> than we see it in Gladys then we see in Elvis. And of course Elvis wasn't aware of any of that. Um, but yeah, the other side of it is that Elvis wants to be a strong male. It's the 1970s. He's not going around talking about his constipation problems to mm-hmm. <affirmative> all the guys that are his buddies, but he's also their boss. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And there is an aspect to that, uh, level of privacy. And of course we have to remember that people didn't talk about health back then like they do now. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it was a very, very private thing. You

Fritz Coleman (00:32:20):

Kind of touched on this a little bit earlier. You have a chart in your book that lists the six steps of Elvis's medications that Dr. Nick would give him on a daily basis, especially leading up to a tour to sort of course correct his body a little bit. And honestly, I I I thought of him as like a walking pharmacy, the amount of medication this guy took, go through those and just talk about what this guy took on a daily basis.

Sally Hoedel (00:32:44):

Yeah. He took, you know, uh, two or three different things. Like I said before, Valium was one of them. It was a combination of two or three drugs just to achieve sleep. And oftentimes the first dose wouldn't be enough. He'd have to take the second dose and if the second dose didn't help him achieve sleep, that there'd be a third dose. And, and that's really hard I think, for us to understand. Right. I mean, not only that level of insomnia, um, but treating it in that way, now that we understand that a little bit more. And, you know, insomnia as approached in such a different way today than it was in the seventies, obviously. Um, he took, he took medication. It was, I think it was described by someone as like the old lady me medication, because it really was for constipation and your colon problems.


Um, that's one of those medications that's listed, listed there. Um, you know, he took things for his, um, like allergies and antihistamine and things like that. And again, I don't think they fully understood what was going on with his lungs and, and, and those kinds of things. So, um, it's just a, you know, it's a number of things then when we look at his immune system, which is really a big problem that's not even being touched or treated at all by the medication that he's taking because it's not understood at all. You know, today I think it can take up to five or six years to be properly, uh, diagnosed with an immune system disorder. So they really didn't know what they were dealing with back then. We know Elvis had something called hypogammaglobulinemia, which means that, uh, his body didn't, you know, create enough an, um, antibodies to fight infection.


So he was repeatedly sick. He constantly had flu and fever and, and again, a lot of that, like the guys who write their books, uh, the Memphis Mafia would be like, well those were all excuses for Elvis to get more medication or it was the excuse that he was sick, but, you know, he really took too many pills, but he really was sick. He was dealing with recurrent infection quite often. And you see it happen more with the more he is touring because that's when his immune system gets most compromised. So there's just a lot going on there, you know, and high blood pressure, you know, he had a really, getting his blood pressure down when he would come off stage was a real struggle for Dr. Nick as well. His blood pressure to be sky high,

Fritz Coleman (00:34:45):

You know, uh, he took such great care of the Memphis Mafia, all of his musicians and their families, and many of them moved right into Graceland. Did you find it a sad irony that these guys flipped in the end or wrote these tell all books? What was it, did he not have as good a relationship with them as we earlier thought?

Sally Hoedel (00:35:07):

Well, that's a big question cuz there's just a lot going on there. I really do believe that everyone around Elvis cared and probably did the best they could. And I think we have to remember that they were all living in this alternate universe. It really was. I mean, he was the most famous person on the planet. He created this bubble with all these guys in it and their families so that he could have some level of normalcy within that. You know, they're all, for the most part southern guys, there's a guy from California, one from Chicago, but otherwise it's all southern guys who grew up poor in Memphis. Like he can relate to them. It's comfortable for him. Um, so, you know, I think the other part of it is that after he passes, likewise those, the life of those guys was really defined by Elvis and then Elvis passed and they didn't really quite know what to do with themselves after that either.


I mean, there's three or four of 'em that really did have, uh, they had interest and careers outside of Elvis while Elvis was still alive. And those are the guys that, you know, didn't maybe write as many tell-all books and that kind of stuff, right. <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative> because they already had an identity outside of Elvis. But I think for a lot of these guys, their identity was Elvis too. So when he passed, that was a really hard complicated thing for them. Um, and I do think we also have to understand that, like I say in the book, they didn't fully understand everything that was going on at any given time. Sunny West is one of the guys that was with Elvis from, you know, almost the very beginning. And a big aha moment for me was, you know, reading his book and while I was writing and researching and, um, he says, you know, Elvis went into the hospital, I think it was the one, the stay in 75 and they said it was for a liver biopsy and they said it was for a liver, um, you know, test because his liver wasn't functioning properly.


But the truth was that he took too many pills. And it's like, how do you argue that? Cuz Sonny was there, you know, I wasn't even alive <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So how do I argue that as a writer? But then you realize Elvis absolutely had a biopsy, a liver biopsy during that stay. His nurse has confirmed that Linda Thompson was there. She confirmed it. Um, so again, it's just a really great example of how the guys did not always know what was going on. So when they write their books and you know, if you have 10 people who knew Elvis, there's gonna be 10 different versions of that story, most likely. Right. Part of that's perception. I think a big part of it is that no one knew everything that was going on at any given time. And probably by design

Louise Palanker (00:37:29):

The gospel according to Sonny, according to,

Sally Hoedel (00:37:31):

Yeah. It's,

Louise Palanker (00:37:33):

You know, everyone has their own perspective of everything. Right. And he kind of was, they kind of were his apostles.

Sally Hoedel (00:37:39):

So Yeah. And I think when you combine that with the fact that they really did live in an alternate universe where mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they just had a different set of rules, you know, a different, it, it felt normal to them every day, but it wouldn't feel normal to any of us. And we have to kind of remember that too.

Louise Palanker (00:37:51):

Right. And I'm sure that after he passed away and they were able to gain some perspective, no longer being in inside the bubble, they, they started to see things differently and or people approached them and said, I, uh, the world would love to know what, you know, because, you know, Elvis is so revered. And so, uh, one of the things that I found interesting about your book, and maybe this appears another books too, but what it was about his, his appetite for learning and the way that he would devour books and then someone in his world burned the books that didn't want him having this information. They're trying to keep him in a gilded cage, keep him.

Fritz Coleman (00:38:29):

And some of the books were spiritual too. He was on a spiritual

Louise Palanker (00:38:31):

Journey. Yeah. He, he was trying to learn as much as he could about the world, the god mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, ideology, religion. And, and, and some people thought that, you know, an Elvis who knows too much is dangerous or isn't as, you know, possibly as, uh, lucrative. Yeah. So talk about that. I found that that part of your story interesting.

Sally Hoedel (00:38:50):

It is interesting. And again, a factor of knowing how well-read Elvis was and especially about health and a number of things. Again, it didn't make sense that he was somehow just this junkie like looking to get high. Right? Like it doesn't add up when he is reading books. You know, when he has a colon problem, he asked Dr. Nick for a book on the colon, he wants to understand it. So he is such a ferocious, ferocious reader. And, and I think that that does speak volumes and before the whole spiritual thing of the sixties and some of that I think is just the end result of the time, right. Everybody was kind of questioning those kinds of things in the 1960s. Uh, but even before that, he reads like crazy, especially a lot of American history stuff, George Washington, uh, just a lot of American history.


Anyone he was interested in, he would get a book and he would read it and then in the sixties come and, uh, Larry Geller was a bit of a spiritual, you know, guru forum. He was from California, so he had a lot of California ideas that were new to the Memphis guys, you know, and, um, Elvis found him really interesting and he did wanna read about him. And I do think it's profoundly sad that someone tried to control that, you know, that they felt that maybe, um, he wasn't working as hard as he should or something. I don't, I don't know because he is getting these ideas from these spiritual books. But Elvis always had such a curiosity about that stuff, and he did read about it, you know, from the sixties to the end of his life.

Fritz Coleman (00:40:04):

Speaking of control, I think if there's a villain in your story, it's Colonel Parker. I mean, he kept Elvis working well into his health problems when he could have died at any one of those gigs. But as it turns out, and I don't know if this is a commonly known fact, the colonel had a lot of gambling debt. So it wasn't about Elvis making his money, it was about the colonel making his money. It seemed like he drove him to the point of death almost.

Sally Hoedel (00:40:29):

Well, it's a complicated, that's a complicated relationship too. It's just as complicated as Elvis and Dr. Nick and there's much more going on there than the surface level stuff. And you know, again, a lot of it we'll never quite know the reason for, but again, looking at this, um, this layer of Elvis and this layer of his story, understanding how driven Elvis was to provide for his family really helped me understand the relationship with the colonel. Because why does Elvis put up with him sometimes when, um, creatively the colonel isn't always making the best decisions. And in the late sixties and in the early seventies when Elvis does, you know, go against him in, in the recording of some songs that the colonel didn't want him to sing, they were Elvis's biggest hits. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the 68 comeback special, the Colonel wanted to be a Christmas special.


Um, I, I firmly believe that if it had been a Christmas special Elvis in Vegas never would've happened. <laugh>. Um, it would've ended his career right there. And that was Elvis's decision to stand up to the colonel. So there's a lot of truth in that for sure. Uh, but I also think that in 1956 they made that decision that that agreement, Elvis put the colonel in charge of the money, as you said, we know how poor he grew up. He had no understanding of the financial aspect of being a rock and roll star. Uh, he put the colonel in charge of that and it was, you know, you be in charge of the money, I'll be in charge of the singing. And I think that worked for a really long time because Elvis initially was not driven to be creative. He was driven to pull his family out of poverty. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then when he does want more creative control, you know, that's where that friction kind of comes from. But then also again, with that, all the movies, right? Elvis makes movies longer than he should. No question. He makes movies longer than he should. And part of that is cuz the colonel has 'em in these deals. But again, how does a poor kid say no to a million dollars to make any movie?

Fritz Coleman (00:42:11):

And he hated some of those movies. They were, he did bad plots and bad acting and bad songs. He just didn't like doing them and wanted to advance thinking he might be able to be a a, a a, a notable, serious actor, but he never got around to it, which is kind of sad.

Sally Hoedel (00:42:25):

Absolutely. So I just think if, if they had been a little more flexible in their roles, you know, and Elvis got to have a little more creative control and he felt comfortable taking more creative control and wasn't always so worried about the money, that would've been a really good thing. But we also had to remember that Elvis did spend a lot of money. He gave a lot of money away, he gave a lot of very extravagant gifts away. Um, he buys at Lisa Marie in 1975, which was very extravagant for anyone to have a airplane of that size. It was very expensive to buy and renovate and then very expensive to operate. He had a full-time crew, you know, a pilot, a co-pilot flight engineer Stewardist on call 24 7. Um, it was a huge expense. So Elvis's spending is also part of why he has to keep working so hard. Yeah.

Louise Palanker (00:43:07):

But that's,

Sally Hoedel (00:43:08):

That's not just the colonel driving him

Louise Palanker (00:43:09):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but that, you know, that is also, um, caused by keeping him in the dark. So you got, you've got a kid who goes from zero money to all the money and no one's interested in educating him so that he could be, you know, have better agency over his own destiny. Instead it's like, let's just keep him with a little bit, you know, if a little bit of information so that we can drive this truck and make ourselves a lot of money. But if you had, if someone had treated him more like a father and said, okay, here's what he needs to learn so that he can launch and that he can be the pilot of his own own ship and that he can understand that what it means when you give a car to everyone like this is, this is how much money it is and this is how much money is still left in your account and this is why you can't continue doing that if you want. You know, let's invest it. Let's no one wanted him to learn. That's how it felt now.

Sally Hoedel (00:44:00):

Yeah. And I think also the people, you know, Elvis didn't go out and hire an accountant. He didn't go out and hire this or that. He found people he trusted who were his friends. Yeah.

Fritz Coleman (00:44:11):

Vernon, Vernon took care of his money positions. Vernon took care of his money and Vernon had a fifth grade education. Yeah,

Sally Hoedel (00:44:16):

Exactly. And you know, I think it was the colonel who told Elvis not to take any deductions because you know, you don't wanna get in trouble with the I r s and you know, and Elvis was like, fine. Like I, I couldn't be this successful anywhere else. I am happy to send half my money to Uncle Sam because out of a million dollars, he can't believe he has 500,000. Right. <laugh> So, so much of it is that he just was not prepared and his family wasn't prepared. No one was prepared to, for the wealth that came so quickly.

Fritz Coleman (00:44:42):

Let me ask you a connected question about that. Um, and it's about the colonel too. The colonel was in the country illegally, correct? Yes. And he was deathly afraid of getting busted, but he made all this money for Elvis and and himself. Did he pay taxes? And how did he avoid discovery when they were in the tax bracket they were in?

Sally Hoedel (00:45:04):

That's a great question. That's a really great question and I, I don't have the answer to that, but I'm, I'm going, I know someone who's kind of a, a colonel historian for sure. And I will ask him that question. Um, he was not here legally, you know, that is, that seems to be the truth. There's still a lot of mystery around the colonel and a lot of things that are unknown and you know how the Elvis camps are, they kind of decide what's fact and what isn't, you know, depending on whose camp you're in. And that sounds good. Um, I think that's one of those things we just haven't been able to clearly understand because I, it's kind of, you know, it's always correlated to why didn't Elvis tour overseas? Well, the colonel didn't want him to go, uh, cuz the colonel couldn't go with him because someone might find out that he was here illegally. Yet Elvis and the colonel are friends with senators and presidents, you know, was that really a problem to get him <laugh>?

Louise Palanker (00:45:48):

So, so

Sally Hoedel (00:45:49):

Legal status, I don't know.

Louise Palanker (00:45:50):

So you could hypothesize, and I think you did in your book, that perhaps he committed a crime and that he could be extradited. It was more than just, you know, that he could be

Sally Hoedel (00:46:00):

Yeah. Expert. Yeah. I, I think there's all sorts of mystery around the colonel. You know, he was kicked outta the United States army for, um, psychological issues, which I think had to be pretty extreme to be kicked out of the army at that time. Um, so I, I think there's a lot going on there, a lot with that relationship that's really hard to understand. And I would just say for me personally, because it wasn't the crux of what I was researching, um, I found a lot of comfort, I guess, or closure in, in the idea that he was in charge of the money. Elvis did the singing and that initial agreement, uh, it did give us Elvis Presley.

Louise Palanker (00:46:36):

That's very, very true.

Fritz Coleman (00:46:38):

Do you think medical science is advanced enough to where there might be cure or medication to sort of push against alpha one and some of the disorders Elvis had where he born later, he wouldn't have suffered as badly?

Sally Hoedel (00:46:50):

Oh yeah. There's treatment available now and more than anything it's, it's, um, it can be diagnosed <laugh>, you know, I don't, I don't think it was on anyone's radar. Certainly not in 1958 for Gladys. And she was, she had a much, um, bigger affliction with the alpha one than Elvis did. Um, so I'm not sure it would've been identified in 1977 either, but certainly not in 1958. So that Elvis would've known, you know, we just know he was a carrier from his autopsy. Have

Louise Palanker (00:47:15):

You explored whether or not Lisa Marie has Alpha one?

Sally Hoedel (00:47:19):

I have not, because I think, you know, she is still alive, obviously, and I think that's a personal, personal thing for her if, uh, she ever wanted to explore that if she becomes aware of it. But talking about her and her health, I mean, isn't something that I do.

Louise Palanker (00:47:32):

No, no, absolutely. It's just kind of like more evidence if she has it and if then she's maybe given it to her children or, you know, how this is passed down and how it affects people and how nowadays it, it's doesn't have to be a death sentence, it's just managed.

Sally Hoedel (00:47:45):

Absolutely. We all know that genetic disease in a hu is not a hundred percent, you know, but there is that percentage of risk, so it's absolutely possible.

Fritz Coleman (00:47:53):

You also in your book, uh, dispute those really prevalent rumors about Elvis's sort of unhealthy obsession with his mother.

Sally Hoedel (00:48:03):

Talk about that. Yeah, that was really interesting for me and I really thought, you know, that might be where I got the biggest, you know, uh, flack from the fans because a lot of fans, when I talk about Elvis being romanticized, his relationship with his mother is I think one of those big, um, aspects, at least for people who are really familiar with his story. You know, there are people who believe that if Gladys wouldn't have died in 1958, that Elvis wouldn't have died in 1977, that he just couldn't live without his mother. Um, there are people who say, you know, that Gladys died of a broken heart because Elvis was gone all the time. <laugh>, and because he came became famous and she was his, you know, the only child. So, um, that killed her. And then people say the same thing about Elvis, like he died of a broken heart cause he couldn't live without his mother cause he loved her so much.


And again, when you look at these real, it's like the tuberculosis, right? It doesn't make sense. So when we look at these real ailments, it, it just doesn't add up. And even the other day, I was watching a documentary on Elvis in the eighties and it really pretty much said that Gladys died of a broken heart. And we now know that she had a cardiologist as early as the Audubon house. So that would've been 1956. Elvis himself calls the cardiologist at home. Um, I spoke with his daughter cuz he's already passed. Um, so Elvis makes the appointment for his mother to see the cardiologist. And I think even in 19 56, 57, 58, uh, it would be very abnormal for a woman in her mid forties. Tanita, cardiologist. I think that Vernon and Elvis knew how sick she was. I think Gladys knew how sick she was. So when we see all that sadness and he's going into the army, I think they're all fully aware that they probably don't have a lot of time left together. Wow. It just wasn't made public. Yeah. Nobody knew. They, they kept it to themselves.

Louise Palanker (00:49:42):

They kept it. Yes. Now, have you spoken since the book has come out, have you spoken to any Elvis fans who are in healthcare, in the healthcare industry, uh, regarding your conclusions and had had any conversations?

Sally Hoedel (00:49:55):

Yeah, I've had a lot of nurses actually. Cool. And there's probably a few of those on Amazon if you go through those reviews. Okay. Um, but I've had so many emails come from nurses who say things along the lines of, because I'm in healthcare, um, I always thought there was more to this story. I always thought Elvis was ill. Um, and the book made sense to me. You know, I I'm not the only fan who had these, these ideas that there was more to his health than the couple sentences that were in every book ever written. You know? Um, they list these major disorders and like two sentences in every book and never really addressed fact that it's odd that Elvis has these geriatric diseases at age 38 and 40. No one has ever talked about it. Um, but I think the healthcare fans recognized it and always wondered. So I have, I've received a lot of emails like that.

Louise Palanker (00:50:40):

Oh, that's really interesting.

Fritz Coleman (00:50:41):

Who was his true love? Was it Priscilla? Was that the peak?

Sally Hoedel (00:50:45):

Uh, it's, boy, that's a, that's a big question. <laugh>. Um, you know, I think Elvis had a big capacity to love. Obviously we see that in how he cares for everyone around him. We see it in how he cares for his parents. You know, again, he doesn't buy his parents a separate house. He buys a house big enough for his parents to live with him. And, and I, I, as far as the women, you know, I, I'm a Priscilla fan personally, but every again, that Elvis, Elvis fans are in all the different camps, you know, who he loved the most. And, and I think fame changes you so much. He was so young. You know, Dixie Locke was one of his first girlfriends, and I've spoken with her and she's great. Um, those first couple girlfriends, it's just a more innocent, pure love. Before Elvis was really famous.


And then I think Priscilla is kind of in that camp because she was so young and they were in Germany at the time. So it wasn't really like dating famous, famous Elvis, you know, because it was just a little bit more on the down low with, um, the fact that he was in the army and then the women in the seventies, they all know how famous Elvis is. They're dating Elvis on tour, you know, they're going on tour with him. And that's a whole different type of, of thing too. So I, I can't answer that question. I think only Elvis can really answer that question. Mm-hmm.

Louise Palanker (00:52:00):

<affirmative>, who were some of the more interesting people that you, uh, had the pleasure of speaking with for your book?

Sally Hoedel (00:52:06):

Uh, well it started with Ron Strauss and that was just because he vacations up here in northern Michigan where I live. So that, um, it was just proximity. But he was a co-pilot of Elise Marie and we sat down and talked and just hit it off and we're really good friends now. So, um, again, he didn't know a lot about Elvis's Health, but just a really interesting perspective on what it was like to work for Elvis and how generous Elvis was and kind. Uh, Barbara Hern Smith was, uh, one of Elvis's girlfriends in 1956. So she was such a great resource because she knew Gladys so well. And I really needed that tie to Gladys because that's such a big part of this book. And again, people in Tupelo, uh, like Guy Harris who grew up in Tupelo with him, Lee Clark was a cousin.


Um, again, getting that Tupelo connection was really important because that really is the root of who Elvis was, uh, throughout his life, is who he was raised to be in Tupelo. Um, and just getting back to the real man, you know, that his parents raised him to be and not this rock and roll star, um, Gladys's cardiologist, the daughter of Gladys's cardiologist was a huge resource for me. No one had ever really talked to her. And I thought, well, Dr. Clark is gone. I'll reach out to his daughter. And it turned out that she went on house calls with Elvis. Yeah. First at the, or with, with her dad. Uh, first at the Autmann house and then to Graceland. And she would just sit in the living room, you know, and, and wait for her dad to be done. But, uh, she was a wealth of information because of that. So tell

Louise Palanker (00:53:25):

Tell the story of when Elvis first called the house and she picked up the phone.

Sally Hoedel (00:53:28):

Uh, yeah. And that was a favorite. You know, she, so he calls the house and says, you know, this is Elvis Presley. She picks up or is her sister Right? Picks up, hangs up the phone, <laugh> calls back, this is Elvis Presley, I need to talk. Hangs up the phone. They just don't believe it's all this. So then, um, you know, I think the brother got on the phone next. Right. And I'm sorry I'm having a hard time remembering it right this second. But, um, don't hang up. I really am Elvis Presley, you know, I really am. I, my mom is sick and we need to talk to your dad. We need to make an appointment. So they were all so embarrassed cuz the three kids were home and the parents were out and they kept hanging up on Elvis Presley.

Fritz Coleman (00:54:05):

I think part of the miracle of his success for me and and your, your book so beautifully described, it was this, this abject poverty that he came from in Tupelo talk. Just describe life there. Talk about how hard it was for everybody to get a square meal and how they shared food. And I mean, it was unbelievable that he went from below zero financial circumstances to the greatest of the world. Talk about those early years. Elvis

Sally Hoedel (00:54:36):

Moves a dozen times in his first 13 years. Can you imagine? You know, uh, the lack of stability that he had. So that's why again, he keeps all those people around him. Even when he is famous and everybody could afford to have their own house. He keeps them all around him because especially during those years in Tupelo home wasn't a place, it was the people because the place kept changing over and over and over. So you couldn't rely on that, but you could rely on the same people being there. And I think we see that. It's fascinating that when he does go to Memphis and he lives in government housing, that's the longest he lives in any place his whole life other than Graceland, everybody really did rely on each other there to such a level that it was, it was purely for survival. You know, they had to, but if you needed something like they found it, that was the que Talking to Guy Harris was just fascinating cuz his mother was best friends with Gladys.


And uh, and talking to Larry Presley, who was a cousin of Elvis, his father Noah Presley owned a little grocery store in Tupelo and you would buy your groceries on time. And it was Noah who kept Elvis and Gladys fed while Vernon was in prison for, you know, a while there. So it, everybody in town would talk about how they don't know how Noah made any money because he was always giving groceries on time and people paid what they could. So that whole community took care of each other like that. I firmly believe that's where Elvis's generosity comes from. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, Elvis gives cars away because he'd go into that grocery store to pick up grocery store his mother that they couldn't afford and the Noah would give him a candy bar, you know, that's it. One is correlated to the other. That generosity was a learned behavior, <laugh> and he learned it in Tupelo.

Fritz Coleman (00:56:08):

So interesting.

Sally Hoedel (00:56:09):

He learned it in Tupelo without question. It

Louise Palanker (00:56:11):

Just struck me how we were talking earlier in the show about the Gilded Age and how, you know, just because you have enough money to live here doesn't mean we want your kind here. Yes. And that Presley's experienced that when they moved to Memphis. Can you talk about that?

Sally Hoedel (00:56:23):

Yeah. And super interesting cause I was just watching the new Janet Jackson documentary that's been out the last couple days. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and she talked about how when they, you know, they lived in Gary, Indiana at a 600 square foot house and there were so many parallels between her story and Elvis's story. Her dad thought that those kids might be able to get 'em out of poverty. And Elvis thought, well, I'll try singing, I'll see if I can get my family out of poverty. Um, uh, but when they moved to Encino, California, after they hit it big, there was petitions going around to get the Jacksons to leave because they were one of the first black families to live in that white neighborhood. And likewise with Eld Elvis, when he buys that house on Audubon, the Audubon house in Memphis, um, there's a petition going around to get him to move out. They don't want him there and they don't want him there because he's new money and they were all old money. You know, that socioeconomic thing in the South really was a much bigger deal than

Fritz Coleman (00:57:11):

Race. Sounds like Mar-a-Lago. No,

Sally Hoedel (00:57:14):

<laugh>. It was a, that racial, you know, the socioeconomic line I think was drawn much stronger than the race line throughout a lot of the south. Probably I didn't see it in that situation.

Louise Palanker (00:57:24):

Probably throughout history people Yeah. Can be snobs.

Sally Hoedel (00:57:27):

Yeah. But Gladys would hang her clothes out on the line and they couldn't stand that, the neighbors couldn't stand that. So things like that, you know, <laugh>.

Fritz Coleman (00:57:35):

Wow. Well Elvis was important in my life cuz the first single I ever bought and that I was allowed to buy in 1956 was the 45 of Hounddog and the beast side was don't be cruel. It was an RCA single and it cost 99 cents <laugh>. And I thought that was gonna be my way to indoctrinate my parents into rock and roll. It didn't work <laugh>, but that was a very special time in my life.

Sally Hoedel (00:58:03):

Aww. <laugh>.

Louise Palanker (00:58:05):

I am, I am suspicious minds. They might come around

Fritz Coleman (00:58:08):

<laugh>. No, it was too late by that point. <laugh> Harry kk or Noah, uh, Andre Costanos and a few of the other people, like the sounds that you hear after you die. That's what my parents liked. Right.

Louise Palanker (00:58:21):

Anyway. Right. Your parents were into like the bouncing ball on Mitch Miller show? Yes. Got it. Got it, got it. I would, I would see Lawrence welcome on the tv and like, I couldn't change the channel fast enough. I just, for some reason it was just gonna suck the energy right outta me. But, you know, you have been just absolutely delightful. We're so impressed with your book. I learned it was my first Elvis book, so I'm excited. Yeah.

Fritz Coleman (00:58:43):

Really interesting.

Louise Palanker (00:58:43):

I'm excited to know what I learned from your book because now I have a, a a, a nude and deep appreciation, you know, for his talent and his kindness

Sally Hoedel (00:58:53):

And Well, thank you for saying that. And it's important to add that as you know, there are 32 pages of citation in the back of that book. Um, and I wanted to give this project that level of integrity because Elvis has rarely been given that level of integrity. Plus

Fritz Coleman (00:59:06):

You're, you're in an area that you're so scrutinized about everything you wrote, I'm sure from all the Elvis fans that Weezy mentioned, it's

Sally Hoedel (00:59:13):

Crazy. Absolutely. But there, there are a number of Elvis biographies that have zero citations in them. And, and I, I think that's a problem. But that's part of the sensationalism. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and the false information that's out there on Elvis too. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So that was so important to me to have this be a project with integrity from start to finish and that those 32 pages of citations were, were really important.

Louise Palanker (00:59:32):

Is your next book going to be about Elvis or are you gonna choose another subject?

Sally Hoedel (00:59:36):

I do, I have three books total that I'd like to write. So I'm working on the secco one right now, uh, which is just kind of an in between project. And then the third, it's not quite as, uh, big of an endeavor as this first one. Uh, but the, the third project will be a big research project again, like this one. So it's just a lot of fun once you start reading and learning and researching and, and connecting these dots in a different way. You know, that really he deserves to have these dots connected in a different way. He deserves to be looked at as a historical figure. He deserves real journalist investigation and not just sensationalism. So if I can give that to Elvis in any way, I certainly want to.

Louise Palanker (01:00:11):

That's wonderful. Thank you so much for joining us. Fritz is gonna tell people how they can review our show. If

Fritz Coleman (01:00:16):

You enjoyed this episode of Media Path, it would help us to be a little more discoverable by potential new listeners. If you leave us a quick review on an Apple podcast, and if you're new here and this is your first time with us, please check out our back catalog. You may even find us binge-worthy. We have lots of great episodes. Thank you for spending an hour with us and we'd be overjoyed if you took a moment to share your thoughts with us or recommend us to a friend.

Louise Palanker (01:00:38):

And we would love for you to join us online on Instagram and Twitter where we are at Media Path Pod and on Facebook where our show page is, media Path Podcast. And our Facebook group is Media Path with Fritz and Weezy podcast community. You can find full episodes with all kinds of bonus visual content on our YouTube channel Media Path podcast. We would love to know what media you have been enjoying. You can contact us at our social media or email us at media path podcast We would love to thank our wonderful guests, Sally Hodel. Our team includes Dean of Friedman, Francesco Demond, John Madox, Sharon Beo, Phil Fiac, Thomas Hubble, Mason Brown, and you. Our theme music is by me and John Madox. I am Louise Lanker here with Fritz Coleman and we will see you along the media path.

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