Elvis: Watercooler Ammo

Elvis Cow, because you already know what Elvis looked like.
Photo: Zach_ManchesterUK [Flickr]

Are you lonesome tonight? If Elvis is your hunk of burning love and he's got you all shook up, here are some neat tender lovin' facts about The King. But if you don't like this article, then don't be cruel because you're so square and baby, I don't care.

Tiny Elvis

When Elvis left the building permanently in 1977, he was considerably overweight. (Some estimates had him tipping the scales at 250 lbs.) But at birth, the 20-inch Tiny E was significantly underweight, at 5 lbs. Today, research has linked low birth weight to an increased risk of cardiosvascular disease and obesity - both problems for Elvis later in life. In fact, his official cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, which could have been brought on by heart disease. Of course, it was more likely brought on by the 14 prescription drugs Elvis had in his system at the time.

A Word on the Name

Contrary to popular belief, the name Elvis is not unique to Elvis Presley. Well before the King ever shook things up, many men in the South shared the name. In fact, it dates to at least the 6th century C.E., to an Irish-born bishop named St. Elvis.

The Liberace Connection

You wouldn't think it, but Elvis and Liberace were great friends with plenty in common. Both came from poverty; both had a twin who died at birth; and both blossomed into ostentatiously dressed, sideburn-sporting Las Vegas performers. And although Elvis got a little jealous when Liberace scored a "celebrity-customized" Cadillac in 1962, the two always remained close. Elvis sent the flamboyant piano player guitar-shaped flower arrangements before every Vegas opening, and Liberace returned the favor by sending a similar arrangement to Graceland upon Elvis' death.

Under One Country

Looking to expand his fan base, a young Elvis Presley landed a month-long gig at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. Unfortunately, the booking didn't last. After just one performance (on October 2, 1954), the management threw Elvis out onto the street because he wasn't singing country "correctly."

Born in the NRA

The King had a thing for the Second Amendment. One day in 1970, after a concert where fans had gotten a bit too close, Elvis went out and bought several thousand dollars worth of guns from a Beverly Hills sporting goods store - troubling, because he also had a temper.

Elvis was known to shoot out his TV set anytime Robert Goulet or Mel Torme came on the screen. (At least one such-damaged set was later sold as a collectible.) That isn't all he pointed his gun at, though. He also shot his car when it refused to start. (Photo: Elvis Presley News)

Presley by the Numbers

#2 - ranking on Forbes' Rich Deceased Celebrity list in 2006 (He was #1 from 2000 to 2005, then knocked down by Kurt Cobain) [ed note: he's back at #1 in 2007 and 2008]

9 months, exactly - the time between Elvis' marriage to Priscilla and the birth of daughter Lisa Marie

31 - number of starring roles in a feature film

$1,000,000 - insured value of Elvis' hair before it was cut by the Army in 1958

91% - Elvis' peak tax bracket

100 lbs. - amount of cotton picked daily by Elvis' mother, Gladys, in 1937 (she was paid $1.50 per day)

140 - average number of concerts performed per year in the last eight years of Elvis' life

157 carats - size of black sapphire in a ring Elvis gave to Sammy Davis, Jr. during a Vegas concert in 1970

200 lbs. - amount of cotton picked daily by father Vernon in 1938 while on the chain gang at the Parchman Penitentiary plantation (He was there for forging checks)

837 - number of consecutive sold-out shows at the Las Vegas Hilton (formerly the International Hotel)

5,684 - number of amphetamine and narcotic pills reportedly prescribed to him over a seven-month period in 1977, the year of Elvis' death

$1,055,173.69 - balance in Elvis' non-interest-bearing checking account at death

1,430,000 - number of preorders in 1960 for whatever record Elvis might release after completing Army duty

8,000,000 - number of Elvis records RCA sold in a 6-day period following his death

More than 1,000,000,000 - estimate number of Elvis recordings sold to date

The Legend of Undercover Elvis

White House photograph by Ollie Atkins, December 21, 1970

The Photo: While most people recognize the iconic photo of Elvis meeting Nixon in 1970, many don't know the exact reason for the visit. Elvis desperately wanted to become an undercover agent. Concerned about the increased drug use in America, he petitioned Nixon in a handwritten letter proposing he be named "Federal Agent at Large." Elvis wrote, "I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing, where I can and will do the most good."

The Visit: Elvis then showed up at the White House unannounced, packing two handguns - one for protection, the other as a gift for the president. After some thinking, officials let him inside with both guns in tote. At the extensively photographed meeting, Elvis showed Nixon his family photos and a collection of law enforcement badges. Later, Nixon awarded him a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, which listed Elvis' position as "Special Assistant."

The Conspiracy?: Soon after Elvis' White House visit, the FBI gave him permits to carry firearms in every state so that he could take care of business whenever the mood struck. Pretty remarkable, considering that earlier in Elvis' career, J. Edgar Hoover had the FBI track the singer extensively. In fact, his FBI file ran more than 600 pages. A popular conspiracy theory suggest that Elvis finally got his Federal Agent wish in 1977, faking his own death in order to go undercover.

The Rock Star Takes a Licking

Images viaThe Smithsonian National Postal Museum

In 1992, the U.S. Postal Service announced its plans for a 29-cent Elvis stamp and invited the nation to vote on which portrait to use. The choice was between a 1950s Elvis wearing a tie and gripping an old-fashioned mic, or a 1970s Elvis in a sequined jumpsuit. on June 4, 1992, the results were announced, and Young Elvis won in a landslide. Of course, after the stamp was released, thousands of fans put them on envelopes marked with fictitious addresses, hoping to get their mail back stamped "Return to Sender."

The article above appeared in the Scatterbrained section of the May - June 2007 issue of mental_floss magazine. It is reprinted here with permission.

Don't forget to feed your brain by subscribing to the magazine and visiting mental_floss' extremely entertaining website and blog today!

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"In fact, it dates to at least the 6th century C.E., to an Irish-born bishop named St. Elvis."

Uh, no -- not "C.E.." You should have written, "6th Century A.D.." We are not politically correct pagans, especially not when talking about a Catholic bishop like Saint Elvis! For the ignorant, "A.D." stands for "Anno Domini" -- Latin for "in the year of the Lord" (i.e., since the birth of Jesus Christ).
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The reason that Elvis never toured the world was that his manager Tom Parker wouldn't let Elvis out of his sight for fear of him being tempted away by other managers.

Tom couldn't go with him because Tom was a Dutch illegal immigrant to the US so couldn't get a passport.
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