Elvis Presley and Politics

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

“I don't have any other aspirations in politics or anything of that nature.”- Elvis, 1972

Elvis Presley was too smart to alienate half his fans by publicly pledging his allegiance to one of America's political parties, though his later views on hippies and illegal drugs put him more toward the right-hand side of the political spectrum, at least in his later years. (The "illegal drug" hatred of the king has often been pointed to as being great hypocrisy- and rightfully so. As we all know, at the time of his death and for almost a decade prior, Elvis was a walking pharmacy.)

Elvis's aides have confirmed that his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, impressed on Elvis the fact that there was no upside to making his political views known. Although Elvis would publicly proclaim little interest in politics, this is disputed.

Larry Geller, Elvis's hairdresser in 1960's, says: “He had no interest in politics, which is interesting considering how pro-America he was.” But, on the other hand, good friend Sonny West states: “Elvis was very private about his political views, but was passionate about them in private with those of us and friends he could trust.”

When he first began mesmerizing audiences across the world, in the Soviet Union the press held Elvis up as what was wrong with youth in America.

As a publicity stunt prior to the premiere of Elvis's first film Love Me Tender in 1956, Colonel Parker had “Elvis for President" buttons handed out during the unveiling of a 40-foot high Elvis cutout outside the Times Square Paramount Theater in New York.

In the run-up to the 1956 election, Elvis declared he was going to vote for the democratic candidate, Adlai Stevenson- the only time that he publicly declared a personal political affiliation.

Interestingly, although he admired several democrats, according to Elvis's aides and intimates, he was naturally a conservative. He thought John F. Kennedy was a good man and reputedly supported him. Supposedly, Elvis wept when he heard the news of J.F.K.’s assassination. He also supported Robert F. Kennedy in the 1968 presidential campaign until his assassination.

The first president Elvis ever met in person was Lyndon Johnson in 1965.

In the late '60's and early '70's Elvis was a big-time supporter of President Richard Nixon. Elvis's meeting with Nixon at the White House on december 21, 1970, was his most famous presidential encounter. After writing Nixon a personal six-page letter (this was rare in itself, as Elvis was not a letter-writer), Elvis and a few of his “Memphis Mafia" entourage were ushered in to the Oval Office to meet Nixon.

At the meeting, Elvis rambled on about the Beatles (who we had met in 1965) as "anti-American" and "filthy and unkempt.” He stated that they were promoting "anti-American" ideas. He disapproved of their anti-war stance. (Later, Elvis reportedly asked Nixon to bar the four from entering the U.S.)

Elvis declared himself a student and expert on the methods of communist brainwashing. Elvis wanted Nixon to promote him to be a "federal agent at large" and help to stop the use of illegal drugs (basically, Elvis wanted to be a narc for the FBI). He presented Nixon with a colt .45 handgun in the Oval Office. The president gave Elvis what he wanted most- an "official" badge from the Bureau of Firearms and Dangerous Drugs.

Elvis was friends with Jimmy Carter, who he also met in person- circa 1973. He had his number and called him on several occasions. This friendship dated back to when Carter was governor of Georgia. (Elvis was actually a distant relative of Carter.) Incredibly, rumors briefly surfaced in the early seventies that the republican party considered Elvis to be potential vice-presidential material.

Of all the U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton was the biggest Elvis fan- a devout and loyal worshipper of the King. (President Clinton's Secret Service code name was “Elvis.") Clinton made television history when he played “Heartbreak Hotel" on his saxophone during the 1992 presidential campaign on The Arsenio Hall Show. Clinton had an Elvis impersonator at his inauguration.

Elvis met future president George H. W. Bush at an awards ceremony in the early 1970's.

Death has done little to stifle Elvis's electability. In a local city election in Calumet, Minnesota, Elvis Presley appeared on the ballot. Elvis was a little off the pace, with only one vote in that November 2005 election.

Regardless of his own political beliefs, Elvis firmly believed that the president should always be supported, regardless of his political affiliation. “He liked the president no matter what party they were in,” says close friend Marty Lacker

As a presidential contender in 2008, Mitt Romney used Elvis song “A Little Less Conversation" as part of his nomination campaign.

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In my high school years I was lucky to have been working as an associate to a Vice President at NBC where Elvis taped his comeback special. I was equally lucky to have met Elvis and be able to spend a bit of time with him.

It's funny to reflect back to those days now. You almost have to put yourself back into that period of American history to fully understand the feelings and presence of mind a lot of us had during that time.

Elvis' popularity grabbed hold in the mid 1950's when families of the post WWII era were happy that the war had ended, but thoughts and fears still lingered in their minds.

When Elvis emerged on the scene, it seemed that he was swaying the younger minds away from those memories and filling their heads with Rock and Roll music. Parents didn't want their kids to forget, and Elvis was, to some parents, like another enemy.

As the years moved on and away from the remembrances of war, Elvis was being accepted by parents more and more... but then it started happening again... history was staring to repeat... we were at war again in Vietnam. Our soldiers were on the news every night... and not just a blurb about them, but they were the lead story and reporters were there on the fighting front.

Our older generation's memories came flooding back... the patriotism was bigger than ever, but many in the younger generation didn't want to relive those stories their parents tried to tell them growing up. They wanted that music that soothed and made them happy when they were younger.

It's no surprise that many musicians excelled their careers by becoming war protestors, leading waves of younger adults, into rebellion. "Down with the draft" and "Make Love Not War" were the chants. Elvis was replaced by the Beatles and Bob Dylan's who were more their generations age. Drugs were on the rise, (perhaps the alcohol of the new generation) to ease the fears of having to go through the rigors of what their parents experienced. The though of being drafted and being wounded or killed was being replayed, and everyone was looking for an answer to stop the cycle.

The country was now being split... patriotic service men and vocal draft dodgers...

Elvis' own political views would have been split by the public also. It was best he kept them to himself. He was drafted and was stationed in Germany when he was younger, but never brought up the subject after his tour of duty ended. Elvis was wise to separate politics from entertaining. He was a true American, and had desires of making the world a better place, but was cautious about how he spoke. He would record "An American Trilogy" and would visit the White House if asked, but never held a sign or spoke of what direction things should be going in. He trusted the American system and that elected officials would eventually fix the problems amongst themselves.

Flash forward to today... I don't think we have a united country anymore. In the sixties we were spit two ways... today I think we are split in dozens and dozens of ways. It's not the same America. It is more segregated today than ever. Many people here don't speak or understand the language and don't want to. Many are here to take advantage of the system... they don't consider themselves to be a patriot or an American.

I must point out that there are many who do... but I feel from my point of view, that there are many who don't also.

Thanks for such an in-depth story Eddie! I guess to try and understand how Elvis felt, we would have to get into that Deloren and travel back to remember what it was like at the time.
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