CNN LARRY KING LIVE -
Interview With Joe Esposito
August 6, 2002 - 21:00 ET
The truth about Elvis. Intimate stories about an
American legend from somebody who saw it all: the addictions,
the divorce, the diets that didn't work. Elvis' Army buddy, best
man at his wedding, pallbearer at his funeral, Joe Esposito, the
King's closest friend, who was at Graceland when he died, shares
private memories and personal pictures.
KING: We have is a very special show in store for you
Joe Esposito is our special guest -- Diamond Joe, as they call
him -- Elvis Presley's best friend.
The month is now August. On August 16 Elvis Presley will have
been dead 25 years. It's hard to believe that, but true.
Twenty-five years on August 16.
Joe was a confidant, closest friend, with him when he died.
And the new DVD is "Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers"
from Universal. We will also be showing you other footage during
the show tonight. That footage was from the 25th anniversary box
set "Elvis: The Definitive Collection." That's
courtesy of Passport International. And we also want to give
special thanks to Paramount Home Entertainment. A lot of the
movies you will see tonight are available on DVD and VHS.
How did you meet Elvis?
JOE ESPOSITO, ELVIS' BEST FRIEND: Larry, I was in the
Army with him. I was with him in Chicago, got drafted the same
time he did. He followed me to Fort Hood, Texas. I went to
Germany, he followed me to Germany.
KING: And you actually met where?
ESPOSITO: I met him in Germany.
KING: You didn't meet him at Fort Hood?
ESPOSITO: No. Saw him around; never met him, though.
KING: Did basic training there.
ESPOSITO: Yes, basic training.
KING: He was the most famous soldier in
the Army, right?
KING: So how did you meet in Germany?
ESPOSITO: Well what happened, one of the base
photographers, the Army was told they could take a lot of
pictures of him to promote the Army. But there was a friend of
mine. And one weekend he said, listen Joe, we play touch
football on the weekend with Elvis and the guys. We need some
more players, do you want to play?
And that's how it all started. I went to his house, he took me
over there. Walked up to Elvis, Elvis walked up to me and
introduced himself to me.
KING: Hit it off right away?
ESPOSITO: It was just a click. There was just something I
liked about him and, apparently, he liked about me too.
KING: And you -- during his
showbusiness career, coming back, you spent time with him. Were
vow involved in his career?
ESPOSITO: Well, what happened, before we left the service
he asked what I was going to do when I got out of the service.
And I just had an office job in Chicago. He said, why don't you
come to work for me? And I said, of course, yes, absolutely.
And that's how my career started with Elvis.
KING: He would have been 67.
ESPOSITO: 67, yes. He would be 67 right now.
KING: And is that about what you are?
ESPOSITO: I'm 64. I was three years younger than him.
KING: OK, in Germany, what were those
touch football games like?
ESPOSITO: They were great;
right by the house he had rented off- base. And it was just a
regular field. It wasn't a football field. Just a field, and all
-- a bunch of the guys just having touch football, having a
KING: Could he be a regular soldier? I
mean, did he get up at 5:00 a.m.?
ESPOSITO: He worked a lot harder than I did.
ESPOSITO: They weren't
watching me. I worked in an office. He was out there in the mud
like everybody else was.
He worked as any other GI, and he did it on purpose because he
really didn't want people to say, oh, he had an easy time in the
service. He really worked harder than anything.
KING: As I've said to others, I've
never heard a bad word about him.
ESPOSITO: That's true. People that know him, have met him
will never say a bad word about him. Only people that don't know
him. That's why this DVD -- that's why I did this DVD...
KING: I want to find out what's on it.
But he was a regular guy, right?
ESPOSITO: Oh yes, very much so.
KING: Now what's on the DVD?
ESPOSITO: Well, you know, it's been 25 years since he's
been gone. And Terry Maloney (ph) came up with this idea with me
about three years ago. And he's the one that came up with the
idea of doing this video, a DVD about my pictures and my
personal life with Elvis. So we did it.
And that's what it is. At least I can say I was there for 17 1/2
KING: So on the DVD we see things like?
ESPOSITO: Well, you see a lot of still pictures of mine
that have never been seen before.
KING: Of him...
ESPOSITO: Of him on vacation, movie locations.
Behind-the- scenes stuff. And so a lot of that.
I talk about my life with him. I talk about him as a person. I
just try to give as much as I can about me being there all those
KING: Are there any moving pictures of
him in the movie?
ESPOSITO: There's some home movies -- not mine. There are
some other home movies in there; just some news clips that have
never been seen before. And there's a couple interviews on there
from some other people.
And, you know, I just think the fans wanted to see this.
KING: Obviously, and many never seen
ESPOSITO: Many, many never seen.
KING: Were you there when he met
ESPOSITO: Yes I was.
KING: Where was that?
ESPOSITO: ... house. It was in Germany.
KING: She was what, the daughter of...
ESPOSITO: She was the daughter of a captain in the Air
Force, and they were stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany...
KING: She was only 14, right?
ESPOSITO: Yes. We didn't know it at the time. She looked
KING: She did look a little old?
ESPOSITO: Yes she did. Well, you know, she's an Army
brat, and they...
KING: So what was the occasion of their
ESPOSITO: Well, this guy in the Air Force was a friend of
ours. And he brought Priscilla to the house to meet Elvis
because she wanted to meet Elvis.
Well, she come over, he brought her in the door. We were all
there, a bunch of guys, and other ladies too. And she walked in
the door, this cute, beautiful little girl in this little Navy
dress. I'll never forget that day when she walked in. Elvis
walked over to her immediately, introduced himself to her, and
they just started talking.
And that was the start of it.
KING: When did he find out her age?
ESPOSITO: Probably that night.
KING: Why didn't that scare him off?
ESPOSITO: Well, you know, because...
KING: He was what? He was 24?
ESPOSITO: He was, yes, 24 at the time.
Because, you know, there was nothing going on at the time. They
didn't do anything. So, you know, they were friendly, just
getting to know or talk to each other. And you know, I don't
know why, it never scared him. It never frightened...
KING: How about her parents? ESPOSITO:
Well, I think that scared them a little bit, especially the
father. You know, a nice man, but an Air Force gentleman. So he
had a lot of questions about him. He talked told Elvis, and they
got along great. And he promised his daughter, don't worry about
it, she's great, I will not harm her in any way, and he didn't.
KING: Did you like Priscilla?
ESPOSITO: Yes, very much so.
KING: Where was the wedding?
ESPOSITO: The wedding was in Las Vegas, the Aladdin
KING: After the Army?
ESPOSITO: Yes, after the Army, 1967.
KING: Did he then send for her after he
came home from Germany?
ESPOSITO: Yes, when he got back from Germany he kept in
communication, calling her on the telephone, back and forth like
that. And in about 1962 she came over to visit. He promised her
dad, listen, you know, we'll take her around Hollywood, see
Hollywood and see the place like that.
And she came over. And I was there the day she showed up for
that. I picked her up at the airport, took her to the house. And
she was so excited, you know, it's her first time in Hollywood,
especially with a big star like Elvis.
KING: What was your job?
ESPOSITO: My job?
KING: With Elvis?
ESPOSITO: I was more or less -- in the early years, the
movie years, I was his right-hand man. I did all the detail
work. Made sure -- I used to go over the script with him during
makeup and make...
KING: You'd read the other part to him?
ESPOSITO: Right, back and forth.
And then a lot of times, you know, I made sure he got up to go
early in the morning to get to the studio. And just every little
detail you can think of.
KING: His assistant.
ESPOSITO: Right; his right hand.
KING: ... other things?
ESPOSITO: Road manager.
KING: Big job.
ESPOSITO: Oh yes, yes.
be back with Diamond Joe Esposito. He's put together
"Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers" from the private
collection of Diamond Joe, from Universal.
Back with more after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESLEY: You want to keep these soldiers on this mountain?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, them and you, too, you big
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relax and enjoy, Lieutenant.
PRESLEY: Hey, what are you doing with my cars?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Loan company told me to pick them up.
PRESLEY: Well, you tell them I'm going to report them to the
Better Business Bureau.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm Toby (ph), your official greeter.
What's your name, honey bunny?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: PFC Mitch Reilly (ph). Serial number
WQC49687. The rest is classified information.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 36-24-36.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. How did you get the
ESPOSITO: Well, what happened, there was a newspaper
article that hit the papers out of Chicago one time. There was a
guy by the name of Diamond Joe Esposito in Chicago. He was a mob
guy. And it was an article about the biggest mob funeral in the
history of Chicago, and it was for this gentleman. He was a
union man. So they -- I used to wear diamond rings a little bit.
So they said, hey, you're Diamond Joe.
KING: So this was before you met Elvis?
ESPOSITO: No, no, this was after I met Elvis.
KING: Did he call you Diamond Joe?
ESPOSITO: Yes, a little bit, for awhile. But after a
while I stopped wearing diamonds. He didn't call me that
KING: What was the wedding like?
ESPOSITO: The wedding was great. It really was. I was
very honored to be one of the co-best men at his wedding. And we
tried to keep it from the press.
KING: Could you?
ESPOSITO: We did pretty well. Because Rona Barrett (ph)
was down in Palm Springs. We all went to Palm Springs to fake
everybody off. But that evening at night we jumped over the back
fence, got to the plane, drove to the airport, got a jet,
Sinatra's jet, flew into Las Vegas, went down to City Hall in
Las Vegas, got the license, went right to the Aladdin Hotel and
got married that morning, and the press was still in Palm
KING: Palm Springs. Boy, that was sharp
doing. So Frank helped.
ESPOSITO: Frank helped. Oh, yes. Very much so. We used
his plane. Colonel Parker, the people that owned the Aladdin
Hotel were friends with the colonel's, so they kept it all
quiet. It was all set up there . It was done in the suite.
KING: Was that a happy marriage for
ESPOSITO: Oh, I think so. Yes. Very much so.
KING: Did the age, her youth, make it a
ESPOSITO: Well, I don't think it was much the age. We
were not good boys.
KING: Well, as the -- by the way, on
the night of the -- on the actual night of the 16th, Elvis'
former girlfriend Linda will be here.
ESPOSITO: Oh, great. She's wonderful. Linda? Absolutely.
KING: We've taped that already. It's
going to air the night of the 16th. And she was lovely.
KING: Wait until you see this, folks.
Very forthcoming. She said Elvis, she loved him, could not be
true to anyone.
ESPOSITO: Right, that's true. He could not be true to
anyone. He just loved women too much. No matter how much in love
with somebody, he'd see somebody else. It's just... KING:
And she said she was able to take it not personally, in that she
would say that was a need of his. It was more a need to be
ESPOSITO: Be loved, and -- but women. Be loved, but I
think a lot to do with his mother. He was very close to his
mother. He related more to women than he did men. So that's why
he enjoyed being around women all the time.
KING: He had a lot of guy friends.
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes. Loved his buddies around. Because he
didn't have any friends when he was a kid, either. Because he
was the weird kid. He had very few friends.
KING: Really, in Mississippi?
ESPOSITO: Oh, in Mississippi. Yes, definitely. Even in
Memphis in high school.
KING: Were you a Memphis Mafia guy?
ESPOSITO: Yes, I was one.
KING: They considered you that. Even
though you're not from Memphis and not Southern?
ESPOSITO: Right. I was the only Yankee in the group.
KING: Did he try to explain, for want
of a better term, the cheating to you?
ESPOSITO: No, he didn't explain it. He just did it. The
problem is we all did it, too.
KING: You were cheating on your wife?
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes. I got divorced, too, about the same
time he did.
KING: Why did Priscilla put up with it?
ESPOSITO: You know, we all say she must know what's going
on, but probably never admitted it. She probably didn't want to
admit it, to realize it. But she put up for a long time, and
then she stopped putting up with it. That's why they got
KING: The daughter was born how soon
after the marriage?
ESPOSITO: Nine months to the day. Nine months to the day!
KING: That's right to the Aladdin.
ESPOSITO: That's it! Nine months to the day she was born,
KING: So they probably didn't have
relations before the wedding? ESPOSITO:
Absolutely not. No relations.
KING: Respect for her father.
ESPOSITO: That's right. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 21 years old
when you get married.
KING: What kind of dad was he?
ESPOSITO: He was a good dad. Elvis always loved kids and
animals. Even when I had my two young girls, Debby (ph) and
Cindy (ph), he used to play with them all the time. And then
when he had Lisa, he was just the doting father. He just loved
to spoil his daughter.
KING: Jackie Gleason told me once that
he told Elvis, when Elvis did his summer show...
KING: ...you're going to be a big star.
Go out, don't hide. Go to restaurants. Go out in the public.
Because if you hide, you will be the loneliest man in the world.
But he hid.
ESPOSITO: Yes, Elvis did hide. Yes, he did.
KING: He'd go to Vegas and never leave
ESPOSITO: Well, no, when we played Vegas...
KING: Yes, that's what I mean.
ESPOSITO: Yes, when he worked he felt like he worked. We
had a lot of people up there all the time. We had 15, 30, 50
people a night up in the suite. But it was hard for him, because
when he was in town people were always looking for him. But the
thing about it, see, we used to go down 4:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m. in
the morning just to play cards a little bit in the casino when
it wasn't as crowded.
But then all of a sudden it got crowded, bothered him, we had to
go back upstairs.
KING: Did you go watch every show?
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes. I was at every show he ever performed
from 1960 until he passed away.
KING: Never got tired of it?
KING: How good an entertainer was he?
ESPOSITO: The best. The absolute best. He had no set
show. He had an opening number and closing number. What he did
between was up to him. There were certain routines he had, but
he would change right in the middle of the show. Let's do this
song, let's do that song. Whatever. He just was so at ease on
stage. He loved performing.
KING: And also incredibly generous.
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes. Definitely very generous man. He
always said he wanted to share his wealth with friends and even
KING: Paid people well?
ESPOSITO: Paid people decent, but a lot of bonuses. After
every tour you got a bonus. We toured like 10 times a year.
KING: Colonel wasn't as giving?
ESPOSITO: Wasn't as giving, but he was, actually. People
don't realize he gave to a lot of charity organizations. They
never publicized it. But he was a businessman and money was very
important to him.
KING: Did he lose touch a little with
the outside world, Elvis?
ESPOSITO: Yes, definitely. I think we all did, even
around him. Being around him we lost touch. That's one of the
problems with somebody like that and you don't see it from the
outside the way it is on the outside. We had our own little
KING: Did he watch television a lot?
ESPOSITO: Yes. A lot of TV. Listened to a lot of music.
KING: Liked a lot of music.
ESPOSITO: Loved all music. Opera, gospel, country, rhythm
KING: And had a great affection for
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes.
KING: He supported Martin Luther King.
ESPOSITO: That's right. That's true.
KING: Sent money.
ESPOSITO: Yes, because he loved the way they sing. They
sing with a lot of feeling. And that's the way he was raised,
around gospel music.
KING: Right, when you first heard Elvis
people thought he was black.
ESPOSITO: Yes. They didn't realize it.
KING: Our guest is Diamond
Joe Esposito. "Elvis' Best Friend Remembers" is out
now. Elvis would have been 67 years old come August 16th. We'll
be right back with more. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E. PRESLEY (singing): Love me tender, love me true, all my
dreams fulfilled. For my darling, I love you and I always will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. Some of the songs
you're hearing tonight are courtesy of RCA Victor, the only
company he recorded for after Sun, right?
ESPOSITO: That's it. With them all the way.
KING: All the way. OK, tell me about
how the drug thing began.
ESPOSITO: Well, you know, in this business, we all get
wrapped up in certain things. We were working hard, making
movies, but then you -- Elvis was an insomniac, first of all. He
could not sleep. I mean, he had the worst problem sleeping, so
he started take sleeping pills to go to sleep. Well, he was
KING: Also, I'm told not go to sleep
until very late.
ESPOSITO: Late -- that's what I mean, real late.
KING: 6:00 in the morning, right?
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes, a lot of
times. So, he had to go to sleep, so he could get up the next
day to do a show. So, he started taking sleeping pills. And he
would wake up and he'd feel groggy. And someone said, hey, take
this, it will keep you awake. So he'd take something to keep you
awake. We were all doing this.
KING: He was on amphetamines and
downers and uppers.
ESPOSITO: All day. And eventually, you need more.
KING: Did he go for harder stuff? Did
he go cocaine?
ESPOSITO: No, never ever tried cocaine that I knew of,
not in front of me he didn't.
ESPOSITO: No, never.
KING: Marijuana probably? ESPOSITO:
Marijuana, we did a little bit. Yes, we all tried that a little
bit. I wish he would have stuck with just that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
the other stuff.
KING: A lot of different doctors giving
ESPOSITO: That's the one thing about when you're a big
star, you can get anything you want. There's no such thing as
saying no to Elvis.
KING: So, he'd have a doctor in Memphis
and he'd go into Vegas and...
ESPOSITO: Vegas, and if one doctor wouldn't give it to
him, he'd get it from somebody else.
KING: And he was able to perform while
KING: These are all prescription drugs.
He never moved on illegal drugs?
ESPOSITO: No, not that I know of.
KING: What about the weight changes?
ESPOSITO: Well, weight changes, Elvis was a junk food
eater. He was one of those guys when he got depressed, he would
eat. He'd get on these kicks once in a while of eating
hamburgers. He'd eat hamburgers every night for a long time. And
he was always raised on fried food and southern food, and it was
very fattening. And that was a problem. He just started gaining
KING: Did he get depressed a lot?
ESPOSITO: Yes, toward the latter couple years of his
life. It's one of the reasons I did put this DVD out because I
want to tell the story. Because people don't realize when you're
a big star, you turn 40 years old, at that time, 40 was old. And
there was a picture on a magazine, I forgot, it was
"Life" or "Look" that said "Fat and 40,
Happy Birthday Fat and 40 Elvis." And that's a horrible
thing to say about anybody. And that gets to him. Little by
little, what did you do? You know, if you get depressed, you try
to take something to make you feel happy, just like a person
that drinks, they'd have a drink. Well, he'd take a pill.
KING: That was before Zoloft and...
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes. Before, nobody was allowed to take --
there was no such thin as going to a drug clinic.
KING: There weren't anti-depressant. In
other words, there's no Betty Ford.
ESPOSITO: No Betty Fords at all. And at that time, you
got caught doing something like that, they'd tear you apart. So
nowadays, it's cool.
KING: So, we generally as a public
didn't know this?
KING: The time of his death, says
personal physician Dr. George Nickopolous (ph), right, was
charged with overprescribing, right?
KING: Lost his license.
ESPOSITO: Yes, he did, for awhile. Yes, he did.
KING: But it was hard to turn Elvis
ESPOSITO: Hard to turn him down. And I got to defend him
to a certain point because when he made trips, we all took the
same pills. We all did it.
KING: So, you were taking them too?
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes. I was hooked on sleeping pills for a
long time. Took sleeping pills because we were all doing the
same thing together. When you're with Elvis, you're with him 24
hours a day. You do everything together, vacation, travel,
everything we did together. So, we all got into the routine,
KING: What were the groupies like?
ESPOSITO: We had a lot of groupies that would hang out at
the gate 24 hours a day, follow us when we would go out
shopping. They'd follow us in the car. You know, that was tough.
But I recall those groupies. We had a lot of other nice, great
fans that were always around, that would do anything for Elvis.
KING: Men and women, right?
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes. Definitely. Absolutely. I meet more
men today that ask me about Elvis than I do women sometimes.
They want to know about Elvis. It's just amazing.
KING: Did he ever try to lick the drug
ESPOSITO: Well, you know what was amazing about him, I
know if he set his mind to do it, he could have. Because there
were times that he would just stop taking anything for a long
KING: So, he could have stopped?
ESPOSITO: Yes, he could if he wanted to. But, you know,
we had been pressured by a lot of people saying why don't you
guys do something, why don't you do something? We couldn't do a
damn thing. If he didn't want to do it himself, it don't mean a
KING: Where did he vacation? ESPOSITO:
Hawaii, very much Hawaii. Aspen a couple of times. But Hawaii
was his favorite place. He would just relax when he got there. I
fact, his last vacation, which I talk about in the DVD about, he
cleaned up his act. He was great. We were on the beach playing a
little football. He was a little overweight, but he was doing
KING: Now, his career had ebbed a
little, hadn't it?
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes. In the '60s, because he was doing all
those soundtracks for all movies, so his hit records weren't
doing as well. You know, then the Beatle invasion, the British
invasion came along and knocked all the American groups out.
KING: At the time of his death, he
didn't have any songs on the chart, did he?
ESPOSITO: You know, I don't know. That's a good question.
I haven't checked it out.
KING: But he was always working
ESPOSITO: Oh, always.
KING: In Vegas, he was the biggest act
ESPOSITO: Oh, absolutely. Nobody will ever beat Elvis'
record in Las Vegas as far as attendance.
KING: Always the Hilton?
ESPOSITO: It was the International Hotel at first.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) built that, then he ended up selling it to
Baron (ph) Hilton. So it was always the same hotel from the time
we played there in 1969 until he passed away. He loved Vegas.
KING: Loved working too, right?
ESPOSITO: He loved to be on stage. That where -- he felt
the happiest on stage because he got the love from the audience.
And he loved to sing. I mean, that's what he loved to do. He'd
sit in his house on hours on end by himself at the piano and
just play songs and sing.
KING: Most of the people with him, the
band, the back-up singers, were they always with him?
ESPOSITO: Pretty much.
KING: People stayed with him a long
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes. They all -- pretty much all the guys
from the band and the sweet inspirations and J.G. Sumner's (ph)
camp's (ph) quartet, they were all pretty well as much as they
KING: How did he handle money?
ESPOSITO: Terrible. Terrible, money...
KING: Buy a lot of cars?
ESPOSITO: Buy 13 cars for somebody. He bought a ranch one
time. He ended up buying 34 pickup trucks because he was a
KING: He tipped a guy once, a limo
driver, a limo. He tipped him a limo.
ESPOSITO: That's the way he was. I mean, we were in
Denver, Colorado one time. We bought a few cars in Denver. And a
disc jockey heard about this the next day and he said, Elvis if
you're still out there, I'd like to have a new car too. Elvis
told him to go get him a car. We got him a new Cadillac Seville
the next day.
KING: How would he pay this? They'd
ESPOSITO: They'd bill us. I'd write the check. I had the
checkbook with me. I'd write the checks out.
KING: And he never was broke, right?
ESPOSITO: Not that I know of.
KING: He always had a source of making
ESPOSITO: Always had a source -- as we always said
before, and his father complained to him, he said, "Dad,
don't worry about it. If we need more money, I'll make
more." And that was his reasoning.
KING: When we come back,
we'll talk about the death of Elvis Presley. Diamond Joe was
there. "Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers" is out in
DVD. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening. Elvis Presley died
today. He was 42. Apparently, it was a heart attack. He was
found at his home in Memphis not breathing. His road manager
tried to revive him. He failed. A hospital tried to revive him.
His doctor pronounced him dead at 3:00 this afternoon. The end
at an early age of one of the two most spectacular careers in
the history of American entertainment. The other being Frank
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with
Diamond Joe Esposito. From the private collection of Diamond
Joe, "Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers" available in
DVD. Songs you're hearing courtesy of RCA Records. The
promotion, some of the footage tonight, was from the 25th
anniversary box set "Elvis: The Definitive
Collection." That's from Passport International. And we
also thank Paramount Home Entertainment. A lot of the movies
you're seeing tonight are available through Paramount on DVD and
And, of course, "Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers" now
out in DVD. Elvis would have been 67
years old. He passed away on August 16. Where were you that day?
ESPOSITO: I was at his house. Before I forget, it also
(ph) comes out on VHS, for people that don't have DVD players.
KING: So you have VHS?
ESPOSITO: VHS, yes, VHS too. I was there August 16. We
were getting ready to go on tour that evening.
KING: Was he OK during the day?
ESPOSITO: The night before, I talked to him. He was fine.
I talked to him. I said anything you need before we leave?
KING: Where were you touring?
ESPOSITO: We were getting ready to go to Portland, Maine.
We were leaving the day of the 16th at 7:00. And I fly to
Portland, spend the night there and do the show the next day.
KING: And he would have a private
ESPOSITO: We had our own private jet, called Lisa Marie.
It's a big four-engine jet that we bought.
KING: Four engines?
ESPOSITO: Big four-engine, yes. He only liked
four-engine. He didn't want a two-engine plane because he said
it was safer with a four-engine plane.
KING: He's right. Not many people have
private four-engine planes.
ESPOSITO: No. True. True.
KING: All right. So, you're ready to go
to Portland, Maine.
ESPOSITO: Right. And that afternoon, I was there. I was
supposed to wake him up at 4:00 to get ready to leave.
KING: You were going to leave that
ESPOSITO: We were going to leave that night of the 16th.
And his girlfriend called downstairs.
KING: This was not Linda now. This is a
ESPOSITO: No. This was a girl named Ginger Alden (ph).
Called downstairs, asked for somebody -- Elvis had fainted in
the bathroom. So, I ran upstairs and went into the bathroom. And
I saw him on the floor. And... KING: He
had gone to the bathroom?
ESPOSITO: He was in the bathroom reading a book. And
that's what happened.
KING: Was he doing a toilet facility
ESPOSITO: Yes, yes.
KING: And he was reading?
ESPOSITO: He was reading.
KING: Remember the book?
ESPOSITO: It was not -- it was, I think, "The Shroud
of Turin" or something like that.
KING: "Shroud of Turin," yes.
ESPOSITO: That was what he had in his hand.
KING: About the Christ body.
ESPOSITO: Right. So -- because there have been stories
out there about Elvis was reading a porno book. That's not true.
Anyway, so I turned him over. And the minute I touched him, I
knew he had been dead. I knew it right then. I picked the phone
up real quick. It was sitting right next to the bathroom, there
was phone there. And I called for an ambulance. The ambulance
got there and I went into the ambulance with him, him and
Charlie Hodge (ph) was with me and Dr. Nick got there too. We
went to the hospital, took him to the emergency room. And we
went into the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) room.
KING: But you knew he was dead?
ESPOSITO: I knew it. I was hoping possible, but I just
knew there was no way.
ESPOSITO: That was it, yes.
KING: What was your first reaction? I
mean, he was 42 years old.
ESPOSITO: I know. It was -- you know, it didn't hit me
for awhile that he passed away. It was just -- I just sort of
blocked it out of my head. But it was tough. It was very tough.
He was -- we were very close friends and we spent a lot of time
together. And I consider him my best friend. And, so, when you
lose somebody like that and all the time we spent together, our
whole lives together, I thought my life had ended right there.
KING: How did the girl react? ESPOSITO:
Ginger was all upset. And Lisa Marie was there too visiting.
KING: She was how old?
ESPOSITO: She was nine years old.
KING: In fact, she called Linda.
ESPOSITO: Yes, that's right.
KING: Linda told her.
ESPOSITO: So, I had to call Priscilla and tell her about
KING: How did she take it?
ESPOSITO: She went crazy when I told her. She dropped the
phone. She was all upset.
KING: She still loved him?
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes, of course. But then, you know, then
she got on the phone and she was worried about Lisa? She said,
"how's Lisa Marie doing?" And I said, "don't
worry, Lisa Marie's fine." I called Colonel Parker and told
KING: Who made the announcement to the
ESPOSITO: Well, they wanted me to do it, but I wouldn't
ESPOSITO: I just couldn't. They wanted -- I said, yes
I'll do it. But then, emotionally, I couldn't have done it. So
the P.R. guy from the hospital made the announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Possible heart attack. The appearances were
that -- indications were that it might be a heart attack, but we
don't know that for sure until after the post-mortem
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ESPOSITO: It was a day of my life I'll never forget.
KING: How was it handled on the DVD?
ESPOSITO: Well, I tell it, you know, from that time right
up every minute all the way through the whole thing.
KING: Even play, what, a dee-jay
talking about him?
ESPOSITO: Yes. There's some news clips about when they
made the announcement on the television. Yes, it's... KING:
It went around the world in a flash. Everyone knows where they
ESPOSITO: I know. You know what was amazing though,
Larry, you know, never -- like we said earlier, from the inside,
you don't see it from the outside. I didn't realize the effect
he had on people for those few days. I mean, the thousands of
people that come and showed up for this funeral from around the
world. I never expected that. No way. And the streets were lined
all the way down to...
KING: White limos, right?
ESPOSITO: We got 17 white limousines because Elvis'
favorite color was white. His dad said we need to get white
limousines. We had to get them from all around the country to
get him in there.
KING: What was his cause of death? What
was the final determination, heart attack?
ESPOSITO: You know, his heart just stopped. That's all.
It just stopped.
KING: No pain?
ESPOSITO: No pain, nothing. It just stopped.
KING: Drug connected?
ESPOSITO: They say drug connected. I think it was his
health connection. He didn't eat good.
KING: Fluctuation of weight.
ESPOSITO: Fluctuation of weight, had an enlarged heart.
He had high blood pressure. People didn't realize. And not only
that, if you look at his family on his mother's side, they all
died at very young ages. They were all addictive people. Couple
of his cousins died from drug overdose and stuff, and his mother
drank a lot. So, on his mother's side it was bad.
KING: Was he on medication for the high
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes. Medication for that. He was on
medication because he had glaucoma in one eye for that.
KING: He did?
ESPOSITO: Yes, one of the eyes, yes. He had some
KING: Wow. We never knew any of this.
ESPOSITO: No. Nobody talks about that. That's why a lot
of his medication was off. But all that medication doesn't help
because Elvis figured, you know, one pill, take two pills, helps
better. But you know it doesn't work. KING:
What did you make of all the Elvis' and dead stories? That's
still going on.
ESPOSITO: You mean about still being alive? I mean, that
just drives me crazy. I mean, it's so stupid. The man's gone. He
would never, ever give up his life because he had to sing on
KING: It wasn't him at the funeral.
ESPOSITO: Yes, I know. I couldn't believe they said that,
it wasn't him in the casket. It hurts a lot of fans that really
want to believe he's still alive. That's what's bad. It gives
them hope he's alive. I get letters all the time saying,
"please tell Elvis, I know he's alive, tell him we said
hello and we love him." That's sad. People want to make
money on it. That's it.
KING: What did you do at the funeral?
ESPOSITO: Well, I was one of the pallbearers. I got to
give credit to all the guys who worked for Elvis security and
all the guys around us. We really did a great job organizing
this funeral because it was major event.
KING: How many days after the death?
ESPOSITO: Three days. But the thing about it, we all sat
together and said, listen, this is going to be Elvis' last
performance. Let's make sure it's a good one. And we all worked
hard. It was amazing how smooth it went with all those people
KING: The body was displayed, right?
ESPOSITO: Yes. His dad wanted to make sure that everybody
could say good-bye to Elvis. And thousands of fans kept walking
up for hours.
KING: No press was allowed in.
ESPOSITO: No press.
KING: The "Enquirer" got some
sort of picture.
ESPOSITO: Well, they paid one of his cousins a lot of
money to sneak a camera in and take a picture of one of his
KING: Looked pretty good, as I
remember. They did a nice job.
ESPOSITO: Yes, not bad, considering.
KING: Was it hard -- when did it set in
for you, afterwards?
ESPOSITO: About three months later, it was like I left
between tours, but there was no more tours after that. I got
very depressed, very depressed for a long time. And it was
tough. And I still miss him today. I really do. KING:
We'll be right back with Diamond Joe. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stunned fans mill around the gates of Elvis
Presley's White Haven Mansion this afternoon while scores of
fans, friends and show business celebrities pour into Memphis
for funeral services tomorrow for the king of rock 'n' roll.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elvis Presley's body just arrived here at
Graceland. A hearse carrying the singer's body left the Memphis
funeral home, winding its way down Elvis Presley Boulevard to
Graceland. Elvis' coffin was taken from the hearse and placed in
the mansion's music room.
At 3:00, the fans started filing in for their last view of
Elvis. The coffin was open. Elvis was dressed in a white suit,
blue shirt and blue tie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: In 1956 when a young truck driver named Elvis Presley
burst onto the rock 'n' roll map with his single
"Heartbreak Hotel," the teenagers of the world had
finally found their touchstone.
NARRATOR: A rock 'n' roll God whose mannerisms and style boys
would copy for generations to come, and whose suggestive eyes
and rolling hips would send millions of young women into spasms
of delight, and their parents into a frenzy of disapproval.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Diamond Joe
Esposito. "Elvis' Best Friend Remembers" available in
DVD and VHS, right?
KING: He was the first rock 'n' roll
rebel, wasn't he? I mean, he was against the tide.
ESPOSITO: Oh, definitely. Let's face it, at that time
everything was -- Hit Parade was always mediocre, nice songs.
But they were beautiful at the time.
But I think kids were looking for something...
KING: He changed music.
ESPOSITO: He changed music; changed history.
KING: And as The Beatles and others
have said, he affected them.
ESPOSITO: Well, like John Lennon said, if there was no
Elvis there would be no Beatles. And I met a lot of the big
stars; they say the same thing. Elvis was a very big influence
then. Even young kids today.
KING: When you got back from Germany,
he started going out. Where was the first place he worked?
ESPOSITO: OK, the first thing we did, we went to do the
Frank Sinatra TV special on Miami Beach. So it was very
exciting. I mean, Elvis was very nervous, as you can tell. When
he first walked out, you could see he was nervous because...
KING: He looked great...
ESPOSITO: ... well, being in the Army, you know, you get
in good shape.
KING: Remember that show.
ESPOSITO: Welcome home to Elvis.
KING: And he sang Frank's songs and
Frank sang his songs. Frank sang "Love Me Tender."
ESPOSITO: That's right. That's right.
I just -- I was so excited for me because this was my first
KING: Elvis sang
ESPOSITO: That's right. You're right. Good for you,
KING: I was in Miami.
ESPOSITO: You were there at the time?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ESPOSITO: It was exciting. We had a great time. He loved
doing it. And, you know because at one time, you know -- it was
great about this. At one time Frank, when Elvis first came out,
Frank said bad things about him.
KING: Put him down on his knees.
ESPOSITO: Right. But then once you meet Elvis, there's
the big difference. And all of a sudden you're going to like him
because there's a difference in what people say about somebody
KING: Frank liked him a lot.
ESPOSITO: Oh yes.
KING: And got to like his music.
ESPOSITO: Absolutely. Definitely.
KING: Where was the first place he
worked to a paid audience?
ESPOSITO: Paid audience? Oh, not for a while. Not until
KING: What did he do?
ESPOSITO: We did charity events.
Now, as far as a paid audience, not until he went to Las Vegas
over at the International Hotel.
KING: He opened the hotel?
ESPOSITO: No, he didn't open the hotel; that was a smart
move. Barbra Streisand opened the hotel. We were the second
group, because let her get all the kinks out.
KING: But that was his first paid
audience? He did charity work?
ESPOSITO: Yes. We did charity shows to raise money for
different charities. One in Hawaii for the Arizona Memorial. And
he did another big one in Memphis to raise money for different
charities. And from that time on he did movies. He did no
KING: Now when he started with the
personal appearances, the crowds, what were they like?
ESPOSITO: Unbelievable. I mean, this was all new to me,
too, because I never saw the big crowds like this. It was just
like you see it on television. People were screaming and
yelling, passing out, fainting.
KING: What did he make of it?
ESPOSITO: He couldn't figure it out. He didn't understand
He goes, I don't understand why? Why are they doing this to me?
ESPOSITO: Well, I think no big star can ever understand,
why are they having this effect on people? Elvis had an effect
on people because he had a great voice, he sang with feeling and
they felt what he was singing.
And any person that ever saw him live on stage, they all felt
that he was singing only to them, not 20,000 people, just to
KING: He played piano, too, huh?
ESPOSITO: Loved to play piano. Not a great...
KING: ... guitar.
ESPOSITO: Yes, he loved -- he'd play any instrument, but
not good. He could figure it out real easy. He was one of those
people that had that talent.
KING: What was he like hanging around?
ESPOSITO: Just another guy. Watched a lot of football,
KING: Sports fan?
ESPOSITO: Sports fan, yes. Mostly boxing and football.
KING: Did he do karate and stuff?
ESPOSITO: He did a lot of karate. He learned that in the
Army -- not from the Army, but he saw a story about it and he
started taking it while he was in there. He did a lot of karate
KING: He feared turning 40, didn't he?
ESPOSITO: Yes, he did. At that time that was the downhill
point. Nowadays it's not. But in those days, when you hit 40,
you're on your way down. So what do you think about when you're
a big star?
ESPOSITO: Death and old age. What am I going to look like
when I'm 50? Are those young girls going to still be out there
screaming for me? That's a depressing thought.
KING: What do you think Elvis would
have done had he lived...
ESPOSITO: Oh, I think...
KING: ... into his, say, 50s?
ESPOSITO: Oh, I he definitely would have still sang,
performed. Definitely would have performed.
He wanted to direct movies at one time. You know, he got tired
of his movies. He wanted to direct movies. He wanted to do
action movies and comedies. He loved comedies.
So he would have done that and plus, but he would never have
stopped performing on stage as long as he could.
KING: So if we were alive now at age
67, he'd be working somewhere?
ESPOSITO: Yes, he'd be on stage, yes. If he was able to
be on stage, he'd be singing somewhere, like Sinatra did.
Sinatra didn't want to stop.
KING: No, you have to drag him off,
ESPOSITO: That's right. Absolutely right.
KING: All those clothes he wore, did he
pick them himself?
ESPOSITO: Yes, he pretty well did. But then what
happened, the designer would draw pictures, and he'd pick this
one or that one. And he'd come up with some ideas himself.
Because when we did the Hawaii special he had the American eagle
on it because he was very patriotic and he knew it was going to
go around the world.
KING: What do you remember about the
meeting with Nixon?
ESPOSITO: I was not there. I did not know about that
meeting until after it happened. He kept it quiet from everybody
except just a couple guys.
KING: So they made him -- they
deputized him. That was funny.
ESPOSITO: You know Larry, you've met a lot of people in
your life, and big stars can pretty -- get anything they want.
KING: You know the -- at the Nixon
museum, the Nixon Library, the number one selling picture is the
picture of the two of them.
ESPOSITO: Oh, I believe it, yes. I can understand it.
KING: He had some relationships with
famous people, Ann Margaret, one. Ann has admitted to that. She
was in love with him, right? He loved her?
ESPOSITO: Yes, they had a very strong love affair, very
much so for about a year-and-a-half. And they would just -- they
were just so much alike, the two of them. They were so fun. They
laughed a lot, they had a great time.
But, you know, it wouldn't work. He wanted -- didn't want a wife
in showbusiness, he wanted a wife at home taking care of the
KING: You mean they might have married
if she said, I'd quit?
ESPOSITO: I never thought
about that, but maybe. Who knows? We'll never know.
KING: He never remarried.
ESPOSITO: No, never remarried, no.
KING: Did he want to? Did he ever...
ESPOSITO: He never talked about it. No, he never talked
about getting remarried.
KING: Did he say he wanted more kids?
ESPOSITO: He did like to have more kids, yes, but, you
know, it never happened.
KING: We'll be back with our
remaining moments with Diamond Joe Esposito, the life and times
of Elvis Presley.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Back with our remaining moments
with Diamond Joe Esposito. By the way, do you keep in touch with
ESPOSITO: I keep in touch with Priscilla more. Lisa has
her own little group of people. A younger crowd, they don't hang
around us old guys.
KING: How is Priscilla doing?
ESPOSITO: Priscilla's doing great.
KING: Do you see here occasionally?
ESPOSITO: Yes, I see her occasionally. Yes, we talk. Yes,
she's doing fine. I'll see them in Memphis this year in August.
KING: What's going to happen there?
ESPOSITO: There's a lot of events going on. There's a lot
of tributes to Elvis. The good thing about it -- it's been 25
years. A lot of people I haven't seen in a long time are all
going to gather again and see each other and do big tributes to
Elvis. We're going to be on stage talking about him.
KING: What are they going to do on
ESPOSITO: There's a big show the night of the 16th.
KING: Did you like his swivel hips? Did
he like doing that?
ESPOSITO: You know, that was just natural move to him.
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they wouldn't
bring the camera in.
ESPOSITO: Oh, I know. I mean, look what's going on today.
I mean it's...
ESPOSITO: Tame compared to him.
KING: The relationship with his
parents. First the mother.
ESPOSITO: Well, he was very close to his mother. Once --
when he was born a twin and his brother was born stillborn, so
his mother really hovered over him, very much so, because she
couldn't have any more kids, either. So she more or less took
care of him and wouldn't let him go out and play a lot.
KING: She died at what age?
ESPOSITO: Forty-four. Liver problem.
KING: How did he take that?
ESPOSITO: Horrible. He was in the Army at the time. I
think it destroyed him for a long time. You see pictures of him.
Elvis was very...
ESPOSITO: Very emotional person. He was devastated. In fact he
hardly talked about her after she passed away.
KING: Relationship with his father?
ESPOSITO: Good. Good. Very close. He loved his dad. But
he was closer to his mother, definitely.
ESPOSITO: Graceland. Place he always to bought it for his
mother. That was very important to him. Beautiful place. Nice
place. He loved being there.
KING: It was already built, right?
ESPOSITO: Yes, it was a church. Somebody was using it as
a church for a while when he bought it. Yes, it was built
already. But then that was his home. That's where he loved to
go. KING: That's where people go now,
right? What do you make of that, they still come?
ESPOSITO: It just amazes me. It's the second most visited
house from the -- except the White House. The White House is
first and Graceland is second. That just amazes me. I mean, I
KING: Says a lot about it. Some Elvis
stories. He bought a chimp.
ESPOSITO: Yes, he got a chimp. Elvis loved animals. There
was this little baby chimp that this TV guy at the station in
Memphis had a show. One of the guys told him, Elvis, this guy
wants to sell this little chimp. So he brought it out to the
house and Elvis fell in love with it. Little chimp, his name was
KING: What did he do with it? He just
kept it at the house?
ESPOSITO: Kept it around the house, yes. We had a cage
for it. but he'd bring him out. Had little clothes for him. He'd
come out and hang around with him for awhile. He was a
KING: Did he have dogs and cats?
ESPOSITO: Dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, horses.
Jack-asses, everything. He loved animals.
KING: What about a kiss from Don Ho?
ESPOSITO: Oh, now, that was a picture.
KING: Tiny bubbles.
ESPOSITO: We were seeing Don's show. Don would do this
trick to a lot of people.
KING: Don Ho is Hawaii.
ESPOSITO: That's right. That's for sure. He was on stage
playing the international hotel. Elvis got -- he said, Elvis,
come up, visit me. He goes up on stage. Don had this trick. He'd
say, Elvis, give me a little kiss right here on the cheek as I'm
singing this song. So he'd be singing, and he turns his mouth
toward him, and the photographer takes that picture. Well, I
went and got the negative away from the photographer.
KING: You said he always vacationed in
Hawaii. His last vacation was in Hawaii.
ESPOSITO: Yes, March of 1977. Yes, had a great time
there. Played football on the beach.
KING: Did he constantly talk about
weight? Did he try to say, I'm going to take it off or exercise?
ESPOSITO: At different times. We'd sit and talk to him. A
lot of guys sit around and talk to him, say, Elvis, you know,
you got to get yourself back in shape. You're a little heavy,
and this and that. And he'd listen to you, but sometimes he
wouldn't. He'd get mad at you.
KING: What was the meeting with the
ESPOSITO: That was great. It was 1965.
KING: They didn't talk for awhile?
ESPOSITO: No, because when they -- we brought the Beatles
into the house and Elvis introduced himself to everybody and all
the guys were there, we're all sitting around talking to
everybody, going to the den, sit down.
John and Paul were sitting there and Ringo was walking around
and George was someplace else. They just didn't say anything.
They kept looking at him. Elvis kept looking around. He didn't
know what to say. So, well, I guess I better go to sleep because
we're not going to talk. So he stood up, and they said, no, no,
no. We didn't know what to say to him.
KING: They wanted to know about guitar,
ESPOSITO: Yes, and Elvis would say get out a few guitars.
And they sat around and played guitar. They played some old '50s
KING: Well, they told me they were in
awe of him.
ESPOSITO: Of course. I had met big stars, I didn't know
what to say because of Elvis. It happens.
KING: Did he have a favorite record?
ESPOSITO: No. Different ones at different times.
KING: He loved "In the
ESPOSITO: Oh, yes.
KING: What a treat.
ESPOSITO: Larry, thank you very much for having me on the
KING: Diamond, you're the best.
ESPOSITO: Oh, thank you.
KING: Diamond Joe Esposito.
The album is "Elvis." It's in DVD and VHS, available
everywhere. Don't forget Linda will be with us on the night of
the 16th. One of Elvis' strong relationships in his life. We
thank you very much for joining us. Aaron Brown and
"NEWSNIGHT" is next. Good night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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