ELVIS’ CROWNING GLORY
“Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force of the twentieth century,” proclaimed the renowned conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein. “He introduced the beat to everything, and he changed everything, music, language, clothes, it’s a whole new social revolution-the sixties comes from it. Because of him, a man like me barely knows his musical grammar any more.”
Author, music journalist and cultural critic Greil Marcus in his brilliant and provocative book Mystery Train writes, “If any individual of our time can be said to have changed the world, Elvis Presley is the one. In his wake more than music is different. Nothing and no one looks or sounds the same.”
Elvis was unmistakably a musical genius, an original who burst upon the stage of history like a powerful comet, disrupting and transforming the course of music, style, and our lives forever. Even his hair was shocking, innovative and rebellious, radiating a powerful magnetic sexual force. He was new, revolutionary, a troublemaker. His picture perfect smile and stunning good looks have become a powerful symbol, universally and instantly recognizable. Charisma never had it so good. His slick jet-black hair styled into its famed distinctive pompadour, his falling wet locks complete with sideburns; all reflect a full, healthy head of thick hair. The perfect image Elvis presented to his audiences was exactly what the millions of Elvis fans came to expect of their idol. Yet many people don’t realize that an image of perfection is simply that: an image, an illusion. Though Elvis was blessed with an exceptional, full head of hair, it lacked strength and required constant attention. As an example, when Elvis was shooting movies I sometimes “shpritzed” his hair as many as a dozen times in one day. Elvis always did his own fight scenes and was very active; under the hot lights and with perspiration his fine, flyaway hair needed to be controlled. It was also essential that I make sure his hair matched in every scene.
In her lively and entertaining book The Girls Guide to Elvis, filmmaker and author Kim Adelman writes, “Before filming began on “Roustabout,” (my first of ten movies with Elvis) producer Hal Wallis wrote a memo to Presley’s management complaining that Elvis’ hair looked like a wig in his previous film, “Viva Las Vegas,” which Wallis did not produce. This “could have a very detrimental effect on his entire career,” Wallis warned.
From the very beginning of my entering into Elvis’ life I explained my philosophy, the concept of bringing internal health and vitality to the external beauty of the hair, as well as my ideas about style. Elvis said emphatically, “Larry, you’re in charge of my hair, do whatever you think is necessary, only one thing…just make sure I keep it.” Being responsible for the health and style of Elvis’ hair, and the image that was to be seen on film, personal appearances, album covers and photos, was something I didn’t take lightly. With all that in mind, I created and employed only the most beneficial, superior shampoos, conditioners, hair sprays and thickening agents to meet Elvis’ specific hair needs. Because I dyed his hair black, I had to take extra precautions to ensure optimum health and longevity. I probably looked like a mad scientist, or at the very least an alchemist, pouring and mixing various bottles of organic ingredients in Elvis’ bathroom, creating special formulas…potions that worked wonders. I remember one afternoon at Graceland, Elvis was watching me pour some Aloe Vera gel into one of my homemade shampoo concoctions. I caught a curious expression on his face, and then Elvis smiled humorously, “Larry, I don’t know exactly what you’re mixing there, but, if you’re goin’ to put that stuff on my hair it better not do anything weird to my hair.” Of course he was kidding, as he already knew my eccentric homemade brews always did the trick. Combining liquid Biotin and a new remarkable substance I used before it hit the cosmetic scene, pure Jojoba oil, puncturing vitamin E capsules then squeezing in its curative properties, as well as other choice ingredients, allowed me to care for and maintain the health of Elvis’ hair.
According to International bestselling author Pamela Keogh, “The first superstar, Elvis was almost pure style…His clothes, his hair, the way he sang, the way he moved on stage, his half-kidding sneer.”
Elvis always captivated audiences; he was the living legend performing before their eyes, shooting out bolts of electricity, reaching into and touching every soul, and breaking their hearts, then filling it with joy. Towards the end of his life, Elvis consistently worked harder and harder to satisfy the hunger of his ever-growing multitude of adoring fans, exhausting and draining himself, all at the expense of his health. Along with an array of prescribed medications, a steady diet of junk food and a lack of physical exercise, his exhausted body bore the full brunt of his exertions. Elvis lived to please his fans. If he had looked after himself with as much care as he lavished on his fans, he might very well still be with us today.
Towards the end of his life, Elvis was plagued by a variety of illnesses, which affected his body and thus his hair. Although I encouraged him to eat more nutritious food and to take vitamins and minerals, his crown area eventually started to show slight signs of thinning. After his daily shampoo and blow-drying, I would always take time to perform a deep scalp massage, followed by a thorough brushing. Elvis depended on my knowledge of hair care, and despite the array of forces working against the health of his hair, it always appeared full and thick, and always looked great! I’m absolutely convinced that, if it weren’t for the many years of continuous and prudent care, the downward spiral of Elvis’ hair degeneration and loss would have accelerated much earlier.
The last time I did Elvis’ hair came quite unexpectedly. I was given the unbelievable task of preparing his hair for his funeral in August of 1977.