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30 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Elvis

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11. The King loses his crown jewels. The popular image of Elvis as a mansion-dwelling, fabulously wealthy man is only partly true: when he died, the King was nearly broke, thanks to the divorce from Priscilla, his extravagant spending, and the endless maneuvering of Colonel Tom Parker. In fact, Elvis sold off the rights to most of his catalog in 1974 just to stay afloat, and it took years after his death for Priscilla to turn Elvis' estate into a money-making venture again. Read more

12. Dorsey Brothers Stage Show. Most folks think of Ed Sullivan when they consider Elvis Presley's rise to TV fame, or maybe Steve Allen. In truth, it was this famous pair of swinging big-band brothers who opened the door for Elvis' multimedia barnstorming -- a move which, ironically, would eventually edge their style of music off the charts. Read more

13. West Side Elvis. Most fans are aware that Elvis was offered some plum acting roles in his lifetime, chief among them the role Kris Kristofferson would play opposite Barbra Streisand in the second remake of A Star Is Born. But few know that director Robert Wise originally chose Elvis to play Tony in the landmark musical West Side Story. The Colonel, as usual, interfered, saying the role was wrong for his meal ticket. The producers then auditioned Warren Beatty, Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins, Burt Reynolds, Troy Donahue, Bobby Darin, Richard Chamberlain, and Gary Lockwood before settling on Richard Beymer. Elvis would have been required to sing "Something's Coming" and "Tonight"! Read more

14. Southern Maid Doughnuts. Before he was managed by the Colonel, who considered commercials beneath the King's dignity, Elvis made his one and only radio spot for a product, Southern Maid Doughnuts out of Garland, TX. No recordings of this November 6th, 1954 jingle are known to exist, although Johnny Cash's spot can be heard on at least one compilation. Presley was said to be quite fond of the donuts, having acquired a taste for them in Shreveport during his Louisiana Hayride days. You can still sit at the same counter he did! Read more

15. His favorite movies. Elvis was known to rent out Memphis' Memphian theater -- all of it -- so that he could watch private screenings of new films with his entourage. And he apparently had great taste in films, too: his favorites, in chronological order, were The Ten Commandments, Rebel Without A Cause, Dr. Strangelove, The Pink Panther and Dirty Harry movies, and The French Connection. His all-time favorite, however, may have been Patton, starring George C. Scott; he memorized every line of it and could repeat it at will. And his Dirty Harry fixation led directly to his purchase of a .44 Magnum. Read more

16. Elvis the Red? Even the most casual Elvis fan knows he was born in Tupelo, MS, and grew up in Memphis. Yet his actual family lineage is impressive, as well: Author Allan Morrison has apparently traced the King's family history back to Lonmay, Scotland, and further claims that Elvis is the direct descendant of Andrew Presley, who landed in South Carolina in 1745. And although unprovable, Morrison is fairly sure the Presley name goes back to a band of Vikings! Read more

17. The Hound Dog Incident. The Steve Allen Show "Hound Dog" performance has entered into the realm of legend by now, emblematic of the strained relationship between Elvis and the popular culture of the time. But while many fans thought Elvis was enjoying himself by singing to an actual basset hound, in truth he felt humiliated -- exploding in anger at the Colonel backstage for agreeing to such a stunt, and making the backing Jordanaires swear to never mention the appearance again. Read more

18. His last words. Elvis always kept his mind on the future, even as he was physically and emotionally falling apart near the end of his life. So it shouldn't be surprising that the last words anyone heard him utter, as he headed to the bathroom, were about just that. They're not profound by any means, but they are telling: "Billy, son," he said, referring to his upcoming series of concerts, "this is gonna be my best tour ever." Read more

19. His last song. Similarly, Presley's last performances, both public and private, don't reveal much in the way of understanding his demise -- if he was planning on slipping away into obscurity or simply realizing his mortality, it didn't show in the music. Then again, the very circumstances make his song selection seem sadder than usual. Read more

20. Don't. Elvis only ever commissioned one song personally; usually he was content to sing whatever was given him (at least in the beginning, when the monstrous consequences of the Colonel's sweetheart songwriting deals hadn't yet occurred to him). But famed songwriting team Lieber and Stoller knew just what to do when Elvis approached them in April of 1957 and asked them to write "something real pretty." The result was the smash "Don't." Read more
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