Well, artistically, anyway. A new show about the last days of Elvis Presley is opening off-Broadway, the product of a TV producer obsessed with Elvis since childhood. “I watched all his movies, books, documentaries,” says Mark Macias. “But I didn’t really realize till my adulthood that all of these were flattering.”
Macias still has plenty of admiration for “The King,” but the deeper he dug into the dark side the more certain he became that he wanted to imagine those last few hours of Elvis’ life, which were spent, ironically enough, on the throne.
The star died at home in his bathroom Aug. 16, 1977, at age 42. An eyewitness said, “Elvis looked as if his entire body had completely frozen in a seated position while using the commode and then had fallen forward.” Macias’ show imagines Elvis calling out to the three most important women in his life—his mama, his first wife and the woman he loved but didn’t marry.
“Elvis was really a mama’s boy,” says Macias. Elvis was a twin, but his brother was stillborn. Gladys Presley proved to be fiercely protective, and the first time Elvis stepped into Sun Studio—already famous for discovering new talent—it was to record two songs for Mama. He could have made his record at a cheaper place down the street. But Elvis wanted his present to be special.
He also may have known that if it caught the ear of Sun Records, the company might sign him up.
Until that point, Elvis had been just a poor, shy Southern kid. Around age 6 or 7, he got a kid-sized guitar (supposedly, he’d been hoping for a bike) and taught himself how to play. At age 10, he sang a song at a local fair and dairy show, winning fifth place.
During his senior year of high school in Memphis, Tennessee, he brought his guitar to school to sing at lunchtime to prove his music teacher wrong. She’d told him he had no talent.
Over at Sun Records, though, they thought otherwise. Pretty soon, he was signed. Impresario Colonel Tom Parker took him on, and when a locally beloved DJ played an Elvis song over and over for three days, the spark finally ignited. Elvis started playing ever-bigger gigs (finally ditching his kiddie guitar), and eventually he became the biggest name in showbiz.
Some say that’s because he was a white man who could sing like a black one. Others point to his undeniable sex appeal—which may have been attributable to his nerves. Terrified onstage, his legs shook, making him look... ready for action. Girls screamed with excitement. He was America’s first real rock star.
Then, at the height of his career, he was drafted. Off he shipped to Germany, and it was there where he fell for a girl named Priscilla Beaulieu. The only problem?
She was 14. They dated for seven years before they tied the knot, and Priscilla is the second woman Elvis talks to in the Macias show.
The marriage did not end well. Elvis couldn’t stop popping pills, and on set he fell in love with his sexy co-star Ann-Margret. The two never married, but she’s the third woman Elvis turns to in his hour of desperation.
Macias won’t say how the play ends, so we’ll just have to hope that the National Enquirer got it right and Elvis is busy getting back in shape for his amazing comeback.