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Elvis Presley

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Elvis Presley

By Regina Gutierrez

Elvis Presley was a legend in rock and roll in life. He still is the king of rock and roll even in death. He was born on January 8 1935 in Mississippi in 1948 his family moved to Memphis Tennessee, where he graduated high school from Humes High School. He was attracted to music at a young age and began his music career in 1954 with Sun Records label in Memphis. In late 1955 his recording contract was bought by RCA Victor. By 1956 he was an international sensation. He starred in 33 films and did hundreds of shows and specials. This success would eventually lead him to an early death.

Most telling of all, Elvis was the most popular entertainer in the world, a figure of constant attention who came off as the boy next door while his life grew increasingly bizarre. He was fascinated by guns, and in his last years rarely went anywhere without carrying one. He became a nocturnal creature who would rent an amusement park outside Memphis so he could ride the roller coaster at night -- alone except for his entourage. He covered hotel-room windows with aluminum foil to keep daylight out. His appetite for food and dependence on drugs like uppers and downers and painkillers was incredible.

Elvis didn't play out his final years alone. There were other actors in the drama. The Colonel. His father, Vernon, and his daughter, Lisa Marie. The women -- his former wife, Priscilla, and his girlfriends Linda Thompson and Ginger Alden. His bodyguards, Red and Sonny West, and his aides, Joe Esposito and Charlie Hodge. And his doctor, George Nichopoulos. But by 1974, Elvis was a very sick man. And it seemed that none of the people he gathered around him could do anything to stop him from slipping away. Elvis' health plummeted as his weight ballooned. Just how much weight he had put on, and how quickly, became apparent when he arrived at the University of Maryland on September 27th. So great was the change, some of the boys in the band had trouble recognizing him. After that, Elvis didn't work for five months.

It didn't get any better in 1975. On January 8th, Elvis celebrated his fortieth birthday. He worried that he was "getting up there," and that hurt. Twenty days later, Elvis entered the hospital for, among other problems, an enlarged colon. At least that's what the press was told. And it was true. But it was also true that Elvis was there for another detoxification. This, too, would be confirmed years later by Dr. Nick [George Nichopoulos]. At the time, however, Nichopoulos merely stated that Elvis had been sick for several days but was reluctant to go to the hospital. He said it had required several more days of talking before Elvis submitted to the physician's wishes, during which time a suite was held for him on the Baptist Hospital's eighteenth floor.

Finally, on January 28th at five a.m., the telephone rang at the nurse's station. Dr. Nick said he was leaving Graceland with Elvis and would be arriving in fifteen minutes. Elvis, wearing navy blue pajamas and a few days' beard, showed up with his father, Joe Esposito, Linda Thompson and a few bodyguards.

The enlarged colon and drug detoxification were two serious problems treated during his three-week stay. Another more serious problem Hepatitis one never discussed publicly showed up in a liver biopsy. Later, Elvis would joke about the long needle that was stuck into his side to extract a sample of liver tissue, but the findings weren't at all amusing. There was severe damage to the organ, and it was clear to attending physicians that the probable cause was drug abuse. The colon problem was caused by Elvis' poor eating habits, Dr. Nick said. Elvis loved fried foods and sugar, and needed an almost complete change in diet. As usual, Elvis was cheerful and obedient, promising to mend his ways. Of course, he didn't.

The final week in Elvis' life was memorable only because it was the final week. Elvis saw friends occasionally or talked on the telephone when they called. He played racquetball in the court behind his house. He watched gospel shows on television. He talked about the tour that was to begin on June 17th in Maine. Ginger Alden [his last girlfriend] said they continued to make wedding plans, claiming that he was going to make an announcement at a concert in Memphis at the end of the tour. He read his Bible and his numbers book. He ate his cheeseburgers and took his pills.

On August 14th, he started a fast, something he often did to lose weight quickly before going on tour. Oddly, he didn't take any Ionamin, the appetite suppressant he'd favored for so long. Perhaps he believed that racquetball and fasting were enough. Besides, what difference did it really make? At 250 pounds, he was grossly overweight, and how much could he lose in two days?

On August 15th, he awoke at four

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