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Encore Presentation: Interview with Joe Esposito

Aired August 17, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: 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. Our exclusive guest, 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.
Remembering the real Elvis next on LARRY KING LIVE.

KING: We have is a very special show in store for you tonight.

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?

ESPOSITO: Absolutely.

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 great time.

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.

KING: Really?

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 years.

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 years.

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 before?

ESPOSITO: Many, many never seen.

KING: Were you there when he met Priscilla?

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 16.

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 meeting?

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 Hotel.

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?


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.

KING: We'll 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.




PRESLEY: You want to keep these soldiers on this mountain?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, them and you, too, you big (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

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.



KING: We're back. How did you get the name Diamond?

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 anymore.

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 Springs.

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 awhile?

ESPOSITO: Oh, I think so. Yes. Very much so.

KING: Did the age, her youth, make it a problem?

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 loved, right?

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 divorced.

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, yes.

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:'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 the room.

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 strangers.

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 group.

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 and blues.

KING: And had a great affection for blacks.

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)




E. PRESLEY (singing): Love me tender, love me true, all my dreams fulfilled. For my darling, I love you and I always will.


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 taking...

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.

KING: Heroin?

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 him prescriptions?

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 taking drugs?


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 weight.

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?

ESPOSITO: Correct.

KING: Lost his license.

ESPOSITO: Yes, he did, for awhile. Yes, he did.

KING: But it was hard to turn Elvis down.

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, too.

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. And just...

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 problem?

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 time.

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 thing.

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 great. 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 whenever...

ESPOSITO: Oh, always.

KING: In Vegas, he was the biggest act in Vegas.

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 time.

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 could be.

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 rancher now. 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 bill him?

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 money.

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.



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. It failed.

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 Sinatra's.


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 VHS.

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 plane, right?

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 night.

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 new girlfriend.

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 too or...

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.

KING: Cold?

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. Luckily...

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 it.

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 him.

KING: Who made the announcement to the press?

ESPOSITO: Well, they wanted me to do it, but I wouldn't do it.

KING: Why?

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.


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 examination.


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 were.

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 blood pressure?

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 intestines problem.

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 stage.

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 out there.

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 relatives.

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.


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.




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.


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 big...

KING: Elvis sang "Witchcraft."

ESPOSITO: That's right. You're right. Good for you, that's right.

KING: I was in Miami.

ESPOSITO: You were there at the time?




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 and what...

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 1969.

KING: What did he do?

ESPOSITO: We did charity events.

KING: Really?


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 personal appearances.

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 why.

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 them. 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, boxing.

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?

KING: Death.

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, right?

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. Just amazing.

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 kids.

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.








KING: Back with our remaining moments with Diamond Joe Esposito. By the way, do you keep in touch with Lisa?

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 16th?

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. Everybody tried...

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...

KING: Tame.

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...

KING: Emotional?

ESPOSITO: Very emotional person. He was devastated. In fact he hardly talked about her after she passed away.

KING: Relationship with his father?

Good. Good. Very close. He loved his dad. But he was closer to his mother, definitely.

KING: Graceland.

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 lived there.

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 Scatter.

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 character.

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 Beatles like?

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, right?

ESPOSITO: Yes, and Elvis would say get out a few guitars. And they sat around and played guitar. They played some old '50s songs.

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 Ghetto."

ESPOSITO: Oh, yes.

KING: What a treat.

ESPOSITO: Larry, thank you very much for having me on the show.

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.







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