Cruisin’ With Elvis
What an experience! Living for four days in an atmosphere of all Elvis, all the time; sharing a unique world with over two thousand people who love and deeply appreciate Elvis. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
Surrounded by so many true Elvis fans in such an intimate setting, the vastness of the ocean a dramatic contrast, the atmosphere was saturated with love. Because of the closeness of the ship and the isolation from the rest of the world, I felt that love even more so than in Memphis. Then it hit me: the fans don’t really know how much Elvis loved and appreciated them. Boy did he ever! And that’s something they should know.
The first time I styled his hair at his Bel Air home back in early 1964, when we engaged in a three hour conversation, Elvis was openly passionate about his feelings for his fans. “Larry, if it weren’t for my fans I wouldn’t be where I am today; it’s as simple as that. They go out and buy my records, and pay to see my movies, and most of them can’t even afford it. I mean I owe them everything, and I appreciate what they’ve done for me and my family more than they’ll ever know.”
Elvis had a genuine love affair with his fans. All during his life he reached out to them, one way or another, always ready to give of himself: artistically, even materially, whatever it took. But generosity was his second nature. The underdogs of the world, the needy were quick to move him. It was a throwback to his own impoverished childhood.
One evening while we were on tour in Oklahoma City I had just finished preparing Elvis’ hair in the dressing room before the concert. One of the assistants who worked for the concert promoters ran up to Elvis, excitedly exclaiming that he had good news! “What is it?” Elvis inquired. “Well, starting on the next tour they’re going to raise the price of your concert tickets; more money for everybody! Isn’t that great?”
“Great? No way, no damn way!” Elvis stared thoughtfully for a moment, and then shook his head. “No, that’s not going to happen; I’ll make sure it doesn’t. Listen, no one knows better than I do just how hard it is out there for folks. A lot of my fans have to struggle to save up just to come to one of my shows, and hear me sing. And man, do I know all about struggling. Where I came from we didn’t even have any electricity in our little house. Not only that, we didn’t have running water, or faucets or anything most other people have. Man, we didn’t even have a bathroom in our place; we had to go outside to the outhouse, in the freezin’ dead of winter. Struggle? Can you even imagine growing up that way, livin’ like that? Seeing what your mom and daddy have to go through. Watching them slave their lives away? Man I’m telling ya, I know all about being poor, it’s branded on my soul, and I can’t ever forget, ever”
Elvis was bursting with emotion.
“Why do you think I go out there very night? What the hell do ya think keeps me going?” We all stood in silence. “Well, I’ll tell ya, and it’s very simple; it’s to make people happy, and bring some joy into their lives. Hey, life can be so damn hard. When my fans come to see me, all I want to do is lift them up, help them forget their problems for awhile, and send them some love. And that’s it right there, that’s exactly what my life is all about…that’s why I’m here”