HOLMES BEACH – The lady who was a close personal friend and nurse to rock and roll legend Elvis Presley has shed some light on “The King of Rock and Roll’s” lifestyle up to his death on Aug. 16, 1977.
Letetia Henley Kirk’s appearance on Thursday, Feb. 1, as part of the Friends of the Island’s Travel and Lecture Series filled the Walker-Swift Meeting Room with people, some who had contact with Presley or his family. She wrote a book about her experience called, “Taking Care of Elvis,” which she said was something she always wanted to do.
“I stayed in the closet for 38 years before I wrote it,” she said. “After he died I was hounded by the press and people who wanted to write the book for me.
“They wanted to know more about the drugs and sex,” she added. “I wanted to write about the positive side of Elvis.”
Henley Kirk was only Presley’s nurse. She said she was never a part of his widely storied love life. In fact, Presley moved her and her family to Graceland and her daughters played with Lisa Marie.
She said Presley loved to give.
“If there was a car broken down, he would stop,” she said. “Elvis always traveled with hundred dollar bills in his wallet and if he could take them to a repair shop he would. If he couldn’t, he would give them $100 to cover a tow and repairs.”
She said the staff around Graceland learned to not show interest in a car that they admired.
“If you talked about a car, you might find him handing them the keys to that model car,” she said.
Henley Kirk said Elvis was uncomfortable when someone wanted to give to him. She also said he gave her a ring with diamonds and other gems and she showed it on her finger to the audience.
She said he was very intelligent. He amazed her when he sat at a dinner with Arab sheiks.
“He read all the time,” she said. “He only had a high school education.”
As time passed and he gained weight, his disposition changed.
“He became an unhappy person,” she said. “He became a prisoner in this world that he made.
“If he wanted to go shopping, they would have to close the mall to the public so he wouldn’t be interrupted,” she said. “He couldn’t do his hair. The barber had to come to Graceland.”
Presley did not like the movies he made.
“He wasn’t making the movies he wanted to make,” she said. “That was up to the Colonel (manager “Colonel” Tom Parker), who we saw little of but Elvis did what the Colonel told him.”
During a question and answer session after the lecture, several people asked her about members of Presley’s circle of friends and family, indicating they had some contact with “The King’s” realm.