Me And A Guy Named Elvis By Jerry Schilling ~ A Wonderful Read
An Excellent Book, And A Great Read!
What A Life Both Elvis And His Good Friend Jerry Lived!
I found the most fascinating book when we went to a Cirque du Soleil show here in Las Vegas at the Aria Hotel called "Viva Elvis." It was a fantastic show, full of the usual brilliant Cirque du Soleil acrobatic performances, along with dancing and amazing special effects. And the show was FILLED with the music of Elvis Presley. We loved the show! The sad part is, the show ended its run in summer of 2012. We were really glad we had the chance to see it before it ended.
That seems to happen with shows here in Vegas. They stay for a while, then they are replaced with the latest new show. That keeps things interesting I guess. So, I had a thought recently that Elvis was really unusual in that he had a show here in Las Vegas that ran for EIGHT years. This is a pretty admirable achievement in this "what have you done lately" world we live in. Of course, his Las Vegas run was back in the late 1960s and early 1970s and things were definitely different back then. He performed in the showroom at what was known then as the "International" Hotel. Then the hotel became the Las Vegas Hilton and today it is called LVH Hotel.
After the show, we stopped in the Aria Hotel "Viva Elvis" gift shop to pick up one of Elvis' CD's. Going to a show like that makes you want to hear more of the music that was essentially a soundtrack to the lives of so many who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. While we were there, we also picked up a copy of a book written by a man named Jerry Schilling, a man who was a close personal friend of Elvis Presley for 23 years. The book is FULL of wonderful memories and reminiscences of a terrific friendship with and life with Elvis.
This book is definitely not your usual "tell all" type of trash that you sometimes read after a celebrity has passed away. This book was lovingly and very respectfully written by someone who was a wonderful friend and confidant to Elvis. Jerry Schilling himself is a fascinating person. When he talks about his unique and beautiful memories of Elvis, and the way their lives were intertwined, you find yourself moved to laugh and cry right along with him. They both had some pretty amazing adventures together on this road that we call life.
Jerry Schilling was such a trusted friend to Elvis that he was there for the milestone moments of Elvis' life. He was there when Elvis and Priscilla were married and he was also the one asked to drive a very pregnant Priscilla and a pretty excited Dad-to-be Elvis to the hospital when Lisa Marie was born. It was interesting to hear about those days and the amazing love Elvis had for his little girl and the love she had for him in return. What is even more amazing is the story he tells about driving Priscilla and Elvis to the hospital. I won't spoil it for anyone who wants to read the book, but it is a good story.
The funny thing is, my husband and I BOTH found ourselves totally engrossed in this book. Did you ever try to read a book at the SAME TIME with another person? Hmmm? Not easy! We had two bookmarks that kept "leap-frogging" throughout the pages of the book. When I would be reading, I would try my best to either keep my husband's bookmark where it was, or to remember the page that he was on, so I could put the bookmark BACK where he had left off when I was done reading.
He would read it sometimes right before going to bed. He would then retire and I would read for a while after he was asleep. It worked pretty well, except for that time he LOST the place my bookmark was marking, resulting in me re-reading part of the book... grumble... I think that might be 'grounds'... isn't it? (Giggling!) Heck, we've been together this long, no sense in getting my granny panties in a wad over something so silly.
We were both fascinated and intrigued by the experiences and amazing stories that Jerry shared in this book. I'm not one of the biggest Elvis fans around. I did love his music, however, and saw some of the movies he was in... and I remember being very sad the day I heard he had passed away. I remember thinking to myself, another brilliant talent gone way too soon. For those who don't know some of the stories surrounding the life of Elvis, Jerry tells them very well.
This book was truly an eye-opener to the very human side of an extraordinary talent, Mr. Elvis Presley. It seems as if he lived about three lifetimes in the span of just 42 years. The story is told in a very factual tone, just talking about experiences and things that happened during Jerry's amazing friendship with Elvis. It's also told in a way that is non-judgmental and doesn't try to take credit for any of the experiences, good or not so good. The story is simply told and allows the reader to develop their own opinions and conclusions.
It is a very thought provoking book, not only about Elvis, but about the times. The 1950s and 1960s in Memphis were fascinating decades. They were not always good times, but there were some good lessons learned. He goes into some of the historic events of the time like the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., then the assassinations of the Kennedy's. He tells of the reaction Elvis had when he found out from watching a little television set that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot and killed in Memphis. Jerry recalled that Elvis lowered his voice to nearly a whisper and said simply "he always spoke the truth."
True Elvis fans may already know a lot of the facts and stories that were presented in this book, but neither my husband or myself (casual fans) knew them, so this book was endlessly fascinating and very hard to put down. We had no idea that Elvis LOVED to play football and was pretty athletic.
In fact, the way that Jerry Schilling first met Elvis was during a touch football game at a local high school football field. They needed one more guy for the team, and Jerry happened upon this group of older boys playing ball and was asked if he wanted to play too. It was only after they had started playing that Jerry realized WHO he was playing the game with!
Jerry was twelve years old at the time, and Elvis was nineteen. Elvis had just gotten out of High School and was a truck driver, with a very new budding career in music and a song that had only been on the radio for a short time...Jerry soon realized that this "kid" was the guy from Memphis who had a new song on the radio. And so began a friendship that was to last for 23 wonderful (and some not so wonderful) years. At the end of the book, Jerry talks about how he misses and thinks about Elvis every single day.
I think my favorite parts of the book were instances where Jerry Schilling found himself in the same room with larger than life celebrities of the current time and he would strike up conversations and even begin friendships with some of them. One particularly interesting story happened when the guys had all arrived at Elvis's home in California, shortly after Jerry started working for Elvis. He knew a part of his job was security, keeping Elvis safe, but nobody had really gone over specifics of the job with him.
The first morning after they arrived at the California home, he was startled to hear a key turning in the door to the house. Realizing in the dark that it was a female who had entered the house, he said in a loud voice "MISS..." and to his shock heard a bloodcurdling SCREAM. The screamer? Ann Margaret. After Elvis told him "she's not going to hurt anybody," Jerry realized what he had done. Instead of being embarrassed about their encounter, he seemed fascinated that he was in the same room with Ann Margaret.
In time, there were meetings with the Rolling Stones, Beatles and the Beach Boys. And in later years, Jerry Schilling went to work for the Beach Boys and became close friends with Carl Wilson. These are just some of many stories of encounters he had and sometimes friendships that were formed with famous people.
To say that both he and Elvis lived a fascinating life would be an understatement and you realize more and more as you go through the book that Elvis was indeed a human being with the same insecurities and quirks that many of us have. Only his life was lived in a fishbowl the way that celebrity lives are. Things that happened to him showed up in newspapers and sometimes not so reputable "newspapers," like the gossip ones.
Even today, Jerry Schilling is still friends with Priscilla Presley and with Lisa Marie and her family. He wanted to write the book mostly for Lisa Marie, so she would know who her father truly was, since she was very young when he died. And I think he did a beautiful job in his storytelling effort. Lisa Marie and Priscilla both gave the book accolades and approve of its writing.