The FBI kept a massive file on Elvis Presley for more than 25 years — from the moment in September 1956, when he stepped onto the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show and into the hearts of millions of Americans, until five years after his death on Aug. 16, 1977. Agents reported on his dress, his onstage gyrations, his off-stage love life — and the host of crooks and crazies who tried to cash in on his incredible fame.
And although Elvis himself once declared notorious FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover “the greatest living American”, the agency itself dismissed all of Elvis’s requests for an audience with Hoover.
A released report from 1970 records agent Milton Jones observing: “Presley’s sincerity and good intentions notwithstanding, he is certainly not the type of individual whom the director would wish to meet. It is noted at the present time he is wearing his hair down to his shoulders and indulges in the wearing of all sorts of exotic dress.”
To illustrate his point, Jones attached a picture of Presley in the costume he wore to meet President Richard Nixon. And Director Hoover was conveniently “out of town” when Elvis came to visit Washington, D.C.
The released files show that the Bureau began to keep a dossier on the King after receiving complaints about Presley’s effect on American youngsters.
The revelations include:
* That a spurned dermatologist threatened to expose Presley’s love affair with teenage beauty Priscilla Beaulieu, who later became his wife.
* That death and extortion threats poured in throughout his career.
But the most bizarre revelation of all is that Elvis fell victim to a team of Mob-connected con men who paid for his JetStar plane with checks that bounced, mortgaged the aircraft for $1 million and got Elvis to cough up nearly $400,000 extra for repairs that were never made.
They were caught and some were convicted, but Elvis died before the plane was returned to Graceland, his Memphis estate. His lawyer, D. Beecher Smith said: “The plane came back and so did most of the money. There was talk that some of the defendants had exotic connections that may have been the Mafia.”
The loss of Elvis’ plane may have been the most successful attempt to steal his money, but FBI records show extortion attempts and death threats going back to his earliest days of success.
His behavior aroused the passions of Bible Belt America, prompting the editor of a religious newspaper in Wisconsin to write in 1956: “Presley is a definite danger to the security of the United States.
“Eyewitnesses have told me that Presley’s actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth... Presley signed autographs on a girl’s abdomen... fan clubs that degenerate into sex orgies... I would judge that he may be a drug addict and a sexual pervert.”
But Presley got it from both ends of the political spectrum. A 1957 entry from an FBI agent in Mexico reported a communist campaign to ban his music. According to the agent: “A campaign has been successfully initiated to prevent the playing of any Elvis Presley recording over any Mexico City radio station. University students are planning a protest where Elvis Presley music, magazines and recordings will be publicly burned. The Communists, quick to ban rock and roll dancing from Mexican meetings, are taking the lead.”
In 1959, the Pentagon alerted the FBI about a letter purportedly from a soldier in East Germany who said the Red Army was hatching a plot to assassinate Elvis.
In 1968, a man made repeated calls to Graceland to report Elvis’ death. The caller said Elvis had died in a plane crash and his body was in a Louisville, Ky., funeral home.
In 1970, an anonymous caller to a Las Vegas hotel said he wanted $50,000 to reveal the name of “a madman who was going to shoot Elvis with a silencer.” Earlier, the same caller had warned that Presley would be kidnapped, and offered to sell the Bureau details of the plot.
Though Presley died in 1977, the last hundred pages of his FBI file cover 1981–1982, which is when a New Jersey man asked the FBI to help determine if a 1955 red Corvette convertible he bought for $34,000 was worth the price. He claimed the former owner found a bill of sale under the seat that listed the original owner as Elvis Presley. The FBI concluded that Elvis had not owned the car.