|PATTI PARRY TALKS TO ELVIS EXPRESS
Originally published in the January/February & March/April 2004 Editions of The Elvis Express Fanzine
By Lee Dawson
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It only seems like yesterday when I first spoke with Patti Parry over the telephone, it certainly does not seem like 7 years ago! And now here I am writing that a
friend has passed away. Here I would like to reprint the very first interview I did with Patti back in 2004 when I ran the Elvis Express Fanzine.
For 17 years Patti Parry was a little sister to Elvis & is the only female member of the 'Memphis Mafia'. Patti also became Elvis' hairdresser but, has never
bragged about her association with him. It is therefore a pleasure and a proud moment for me to get a chance to talk to Patti from her Beverly Hills home.
I would like to thank my dear friend John Wilkinson for letting Patti know all about us and helping us to become friends.
Patti Parry - Hi Lee, you sound different to what you do on email. (Laughter!!!!)
Lee Dawson - Your originally from England aren't you!
PP - I sure am, you're in Brighton right!
LD - I am yeah
PP - I have found memories of Brighton, when I was a little girl we would go to Brighton all the time. I remember there was no sand on the beaches, just rocks,
and I remember seeing people sitting on the deck chairs and the sun would come out and they would open the raincoats and then the sun would go in and
they would close their raincoats. (Laughter....) Very found memories of Brighton.
LD - Where were you born in England?
PP - I grew up in Stanford Hill on Upper Clapton Road with all my family there and it was lovely and as a kid I used to go to the super theatre on the hill and I
used to see all the American Cowboy movies with Roy Rogers and when we emigrated to America in 1953, we got off the QE1 and I expected to see Cowboys
and Indians everywhere?
LD - You were disappointed then?
PP - Well we got off and all we saw were black people, now we had never really seen that many black people in England, in fact I think one of the only black
people we ever saw in England was Prince Munalulu who used to hang down the lanes (a place in Brighton).
But yeah, I expected to see Cowboys and Indians.
LD - Ok, you arrive in the USA in 1953.
PP - Yeah, we went to Buffalo, New York and my father hated it, compared to London, we moved to Chicago for a year and then we came to California and I
have been here ever since. I go back to London almost every year to visit my family.
Next time I am over I will have to visit you guys.
LD - Yeah, I will make you a cup of tea!!
PP - That will be lovely, my family sends me over PG Tips.
LD - lol that's Cool, so when did you first meet Elvis?
PP - It was in 1960 and I was going to beauty school and I, was with my girlfriend in this old Buick and we were on our way to a fraternity party, we were driving
down Santa Monica Blvd and up ahead was this beautiful Rolls Royce, so I said "Let's go see who's in it" I was a very attractive young lady in those days Lee,
and so we pull up next to it and I look over and I said "Oh S**t it's Elvis Presley"
Then I said, "Let's pretend we don't know who he is"! We were good Lee, Oh we were good! So he rolls down his window and he was with his cousin Gene
Smith, Elvis looks at us and says "Hello Girls" so I look at him and say "You look familiar, do I know you?" He knew we knew who he was and he laughed and
told us to pull over He was on his way to Radio Recorders to record 'Flaming Star'...anyway, we pull over and we start talking to him and our personalities just
clicked, I'm British so I have that great personality and we just clicked.
He told us we had to come up to his house and that he would send a limo, I said "Yeah right, my parents would love that, just give me your phone number" so
he did and he went off and we went to our party. The next day I called the number and I think Charlie Hodge answered and told us to come up to the house,
so, we were to meet him at the gate. Now, there are two gates, an East and West gate. Well we went to the wrong gate and my girlfriend is saying his not
gonna come and all of a sudden this white limo pulls up and he says "Your at the wrong goddamn gate" he said "Get in the car" I said I ain't getting in the car,
we'll follow you.
So we followed him to the house which was on Perugia Way and we get in the house and there's no party, just a bunch of guys. Elvis comes out and we talk
and watch television.
Then he takes me on a tour of the house right, I was wearing a little short skirt and a girdle. We get to his bedroom and he touched my butt and says "What
are you wearing?" I looked away and said "A Girdle" he said "Don't wear one of those ever again" (Laughter!!)
Well then he came onto me and I panicked, I was saying "Elvis I am a nice Jewish girl and I'm a virgin" that locked it for him, Elvis loved to bring up his women
and from then on I became his little sister and for years guys would try to hit on me and Elvis would take them to one side and say "Patti is family, she don't
fool around". I would say "Elvis what are you doing? His cute or whatever.." (Laughter) But from that moment on I gave up my life for him.
I told Elvis the truth, I was there for 17 years and those guys adopted me, I was everyone's little sister I gave up everything for Elvis and he loved it, he needed
that. Elvis couldn't talk to the guys about certain things but he could talk to me you know! I worked Wednesday to Saturday, I would leave work and were ever
he was he would fly me in and spend all my spare time with the man.
LD - You were 17 when you started hanging out with Elvis Presley. What was the reaction of your parents to this news?
PP - They were not happy about it. I didn't date anybody; I didn't want to be with anybody. I'm going to Elvis Presley's house, you know it was a whole new
experience to me; you know, I lived in a little 2 bedroom apartment with my parents and my brother and I would go to Elvis house and have maids and cooks, I
liked it, it was really cool and I loved Elvis as a brother I don't know why I was chosen by Elvis? I was was just a very lucky girl but he was lucky to have me too
LD - Tell us about the first time you cut Elvis' hair!
PP - I used to cut all the guys hair and one day Elvis walks in and say's "Patti will you cut my hair?" well I freaked out but I cut it and he paid my $750, I was 18
or 19 years old and I was like "Oh my god, thank you" but after that I would throw his money back at him and say "I'm not taking your money, I eat here every
night, I am always at your home so I am not taking your money" so here knew I was there for the right reasons.
LD - You were with Elvis when the Beatles paid a visit weren't you!
PP - I was yeah.
LD - What can you tell us of that meeting?
PP - First you have to realise something... I got into gospel music, I say that I am the only Jewish girl that knows every gospel song there is. I wasn't into the
Beatles, in fact I wasn't into Elvis Presley until I met him, you know.. .But they came up to the house and they were very quiet and all they were doing was just
staring at him and Elvis was getting uncomfortable and so he said "Look guys, if all your gonna do is stare at me, I'm gonna go to bed!" and that kinda broke
the ice and so they started playing music together and had a game of pool and stuff.
But! That meeting didn't make such a mark on me, the thing which made a mark on me was when we did a concert in Long Beach and Led Zeplin was there
right! And I go back stage and Elvis whispers to me "Who are these guys?" so I say "I don't know!" so he says "Patti, your from England, talk to them". And so I
sat and talked to Jimmy Page who was so brilliant, he was like a scholar you know. So I was more impressed at our meeting with them than the Beatles.
LD - Its a tragedy the meeting between Elvis and the Beatles wasn't taped!
PP - Listen honey, there was never a tape of anything darling. You know, in all the years I was with Elvis, I never even thought to take a picture with him
LD - Yeah I know, you always hear from some quarters, "if this person or that person was so close to Elvis why isn't there more pictures of
them together?" Which if you were around Elvis all the time you don't carry a camera around, I don't think I have one picture of me with my
cousin for example.
PP - Exactly, I mean what do these people think? That I was gonna get Elvis to have his picture taken with me all the time? I mean we were family you know!
I know that Joe [Esposito], bless his heart took pictures of everything which is fantastic because we have a record of everything, but I never did. In fact one of
the only pictures I have with Elvis was taken in Vegas and he had just got off stage and looked terrible, he said "I don't want this picture" and on the other side
was Linda Thompson right, so when I did the fan club thing I had the picture cropped, anyway, I saw Linda on the Larry King show and she had me cropped
out of the other side (Laughter!!!!). To be honest Lee, It does break my heart that I don't have more pictures but I have my memories and that is more
important to me.
LD - Did you ever go to many of the movie sets with Elvis?
PP - Yeah, the first one I went to was 'Kid Galahad' and he had a lovely house were that was being shot, in fact one of my favourite memories of walking into
Elvis' house was the smell of bacon, you always smelled bacon, so when ever smell bacon I think of Elvis. (Laughter!!!)
I was also on the set of 'Wild in the Country' and also Viva Las Vegas'
LD - So all the stories of the fun on set was true?
PP - Oh yes, but you have to remember that it was so boring on the sets, they would do like 3 minutes of shooting and then 3 hours of moving sets around so
Elvis and the guys used to play cards and stuff. You must remember, Elvis was a prisoner of his own fame. We could not go anywhere, whatever house we
were at, there would be around 50 girls at the gate, so we couldn't go out. We watched television most of the time, the Dick Van Dyke show or football, we
watched a lot of football. We had to make our own fun and we all had the same personality, we all Knew what was going on in each others heads, we made our
LD - Did Elvis ever tell you he was tired of doing the movies?
PP - He hated doing them....King Creole was before my time with him but he wanted to be a good actor and he could have been a really good actor. He was
brilliant in King Creole but the Hal Wallis movies and the others just cut to songs and he hated them, he was bored!
LD - On the subject of the movies, Loanne Parker, Colonels widow, she stated that Elvis never did a film that he didn't want to do. What is your
opinion on that?
PP - Elvis and Parker had an incredible deal and he did the work he was supposed to do and he did it. But I know he wanted to do better things.
I mean, he had a chance to do 'A Star Is Born' but Parker turned it down because of billing and stuff but Elvis was very excited about doing that film, he would
have been brilliant in that.
There were a lot of things he didn't do which he should have. I remember one time in Vegas, they wanted him to do a show for all the crowned heads of
Europe and Elvis made fun of that, he could just picture singing in front of this crowd with crowns on their heads. Elvis was a funny man, a very funny man, he
had the most incredible personality. But he was a baby, you know....He was very shy and got thrown into a world he wasn't used to and that is why he had us
all around him, we were his family. He changed my life you know, I didn't get married until I was 32, I don't have any children. I gave my life up to the man and it
was all worth it. He was a good man, he loved his friends and we were good to him!
LD - Was there ever any jealousy from Elvis' girlfriends towards you?
PP - No, there never was. I was always there and when ever a new girl came in, I was introduced as part of the family. So they knew there was nothing
romantically between us and to this day, Linda Thompson, I love and indeed all the women.
LD - Elvis took you on a personal tour of Memphis didn't he!
PP - Yeah, he said "Do you wanna come to Memphis for Christmas?" so I fly in there and I get to the house and I'm like, my god, I'm a Graceland.
Anyway, he takes me on this little golf cart and I thought we would have this nice little tour but this cart had like jet engines on it and he would fly through the
woods and stuff. Well, he took me to Humes High and Sun Records and he took me to his Mothers grave and the funny thing is I'm standing there and he says
to me "Patti, your standing on my Mother" he had a very very funny personality.
LD - Lana [my wife] is so jealous at the fact the you were in the audience at the 68 Comeback.
PP - Have you seen me in that?
LD - No I haven't!
PP - Do you have the show?
LD - Oh yes!!
PP - I will tell you exactly were you sets mo, when he sing Trying To Get To You' and righl after they pan the camera and there I am with my hair up, big big
dark hair and eye make up and I'm wearing a white top. I was a babe then darling!! (laughter) Every time he looks over in that special arid laughs, he was
laughing at me.
LD - You had been around Elvis since 1960, what was it like seeing him there, doing the special and how was he feeling?
PP - He was so nervous about doing that show, but you know what? The best thing about seeing him back was that he loved entertaining. That was what he
loved. When he came out in Vegas, I was there every night and when he walked out there.. .Elvis was different on stage to what he was at home. .He loved to
entertain and every show was different personality wise. I remember one birthday, my whole family was with me at the front of the stage and he gets down on
his knees in front of me and starts singing 'Love Me Tender' and I'm going "Get away from me, get away, don't embarrass me, get away from me" and he is
laughing and band is laughing....But he loved being on stage.
LD - Quickly going back to the 68 special, do you remember what Elvis' mood was like after taping the show.
PP - He was so excited! He was stoked man! Nobody ever forgot him into what he wanted to be, to be an entertainer rather than a stupid movie star
I love the movies, they are cute, but this is what he wanted to do, this was what made him happy and that show was the beginning of the rest of his career you
know! And think about it...BLACK LEATHER!! They're wearing black leather now, Elvis was amazing, he had black leather outfits and he changed the whole
LD - Oh yes, everyone followed Elvis and still do!
PP - Exactly! The man changed the world of music and he changed a lot of lives, he changed mine....And yours too, look what you do and you're just a baby
(laughter!!) I don't do a lot of Fan Club things, I still work, cutting hair in Beverly Hills but a lot of people talk about the ETA's (IMPS) and say they don't like
them but those guys honour my friend and I cannot put them down, I have seen some really bad ones but I have also seen some really good ones. But they
honour him and they helped as raise a lot of money for the Special Olympics and the people come there and they love it because it reminds them of Elvis, you
LD - That's it, it's all about creating an illusion.
PP - Yes it is. I have friend, Nancy Fox who runs an ETA service and she says to these guys "You'll never be Elvis so don't think your Elvis"
LD - Of all the Elvis concerts you attended, is there any that really stand out?
PP - The Aloha special was amazing, he looked gorgeous.
LD - One thing about the Aloha special, Elvis looked absolutely incredible and your cut his hair for that one didn't you!
PP - Honey, I'm a really good hair cutter (laughter); What happened was, he was in Hawaii and he did the rehearsal show and he was not happy with his hair
and so he called me up and told me to get to Hawaii and he flew me in and I cut his hair He looked great, I got there and he had lost weight and he looked so
great. We had the whole 30th floor of the hotel and we all hung out there, but the sad thing was that we were all out on the beach but Elvis was stuck in his
room, he couldn't go out. He really was a prisoner of his own fame, it was very hard you know!
LD - It is very sad and it must have been so frustrating for Elvis?
PP - It sure was, I mean, we had a great time. In Vegas we were like vampires, we couldn't go out and when we
did go to see a show, we would have to enter the show once it had started and leave before the end. I
remember when the Righteous Brothers were on stage, Elvis kept walking across the stage behind them and
the crowd was going wild! He did it just to bug them (laughter). But we had a lot of people come to the suite, all
the stars and such.
LD - You still have your TLC necklace!
PP - That will never come off my neck darling!
LD - How did Elvis actually present them to you guys?
PP - What happened was, there was a place on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills called Swartz's jewellery shop
and Elvis would go there and buy jewellery. The man was amazing, when he went shopping, everybody would
get something, if he bought something, he bought everybody something. He once gave me a Jewish star Elvis
always wore a Jewish star and a cross because he said he didn't want to get shut out of heaven on a
LD - I have always thought that is a great way of looking at religion.
PP - Elvis loved the Jewish religion, but anyway, he just wanted everybody to have something, and he designed something that would show we were all part of
his family and he gave TCB's to the guys and TLC's for the girls.
LD - I have a TCB and I treasure it, Elvis never gave me this obviously but like you I never take the thing off, it means a lot to me.
PP - Listen darling, I love that you love my friend, it's really special too me. People like you keep him alive and I think it's amazing but it would boggle Elvis'
mind you know!!
LD - I did an interview last year for BBC television and they asked me why do I do it? And all I could really say was to say thank you to Elvis for
everything he has done for me. He has given me so much happiness and pleasure...
PP - That is so nice and that makes me feel so happy, that's what it's all about darlin'.
LD - Patti, is it true you have never been invited to England for an Elvis event?
PP - No, I have never been invited to any event in the UK.
LD - Patti, you are invited!
PP - I would love to come, I don't travel a lot and for years I never did any of this stuff and 1 still am careful in what I choose to do. I don't do a whole lot of fan
club things but would love to come to the UK with you guys.
LD - In 1973, Elvis wrote down his philosophy for a happy life for you.
PP - I no longer have the original, Jimmy Velvet bought it when I was going through a rough time and had to sell it. But I have a copy and it is in Elvis'
handwriting, Lee, I will send you a copy .(Below is Elvis' hand written note to Patti)
LD - Thank you Patti, I would love to have a copy. Tell me, Why haven't you written a book yet?
PP - The publishers want you to say really nasty things and I won't do it, there are really good stuff and
my memories are the best. I love to talk to fans so people get to know the real Elvis. Maybe one day I
will, I don't know?
LD - The thing I admire more about Elvis, more than his singing is his search to understand
PP - Elvis couldn't figure out why him? He loved being Elvis, he had a great life but he was a regular
guy, he was just like us honey! He took care of us and we took care of him but he couldn't figure out why
him? He knew he was special. People ask me what do I think Elvis would think of all this now and I think it
would boggle his mind?
LD - E.E reader, Deborah Shah asks: "I'm a Jewish girl too and I wonder what significance, if
any, Elvis put on the fact you are Jewish. For instance did you ever talk about it?
PP - He always wore the Jewish star and when I got married, he couldn't come because he was in Memphis and he said "I wouldn't like to step on that glass" so
I said "You couldn't step on the glass Elvis".
He had a real great sense of humour and he would call Israel, IS-REAL and this is funny, I swear I have never told anyone this before, he said to me one time
"You know what Gods real name was?" so I said what was his real name and Elvis said "His name was Hallowid" So I asked him what he meant and he said, "It
says HALLOWID be thy name" (laughter!!!) But he really respected every religion; he was a good man and a great friend. He loved his Mom and he loved his
friends, we were lucky, we were like family.
LD - Deborah also asks that she saw in a video that Elvis was a wonderful human being and that he influenced you. In what ways did he
PP - He influenced me by how good he was to friends, he shared everything. Everything he had, we had. We got to share everything. He changed my life and
hopefully we changed his life too, you know! I would give him so much stick, I would tell him the truth you know and he loved that! I never went on payroll, I was
there as his friend but I would kick his ass and tell him the truth, he needed that but people on the payroll wouldn't do that and unfortunately I got married so I
couldn't travel with him as much and he was left surrounded by a bunch of kids who he couldn't relate too.
He was just like you and me honey; I think about him everyday, I dream about him, people have no idea just how much I miss that man!
LD - The book which was written by Red West, Sonny West and Dave Hebler What are your memories of that?
PP - It divided us for a long time, but listen. Red was special to Elvis and so was Sonny, Dave Hebler was not really part of our family, he was new. It was a long
time ago and I am sure Elvis would have forgiven them, I think they thought they were doing something right! They thought they were doing something right
but it took me 25 years to get back in contact with Sonny, but Elvis was a forgiving man. Maybe they made the wrong decisions and the wrong choices but I
think they thought they were trying to help him. I really hate discussing that stuff but we were family, I have my own feelings on that, I know it hurt Elvis but
forgive and forget. I would like you to talk with Sonny and Red one day.
LD - That would be good, I keep pushing John for that, oh and he sends his love.
PP - I love Wilkinson
LD - His a good man isn't he!
PP - Oh he really is!!
LD - Did Elvis ever talk to you about the future, what his plans were?
PP - Not really, we lived day to day
LD - When was the last time you were with Elvis?
PP - I didn't see Elvis, probably 8 months before he died, I got married, I married a doctor and it was hard for him. One day I told my husband "Do me a favour
and don't tell anyone I know Elvis" you see I lost my identity because everybody wanted to know about Elvis. In fact, when I first met Elvis, everyone wanted to
be my friend and it got really hard and I went to a shrink and I'm paying this guy $85 an hour and he says to me, well tell me about Elvis (laughter).
Hey Lee I think we should write a book together!!
LD - Good idea Patti, We'll aim for a release to tie in with the 35th Anniversary, so we have 8 years....no rush (laughter!!)
PP - D'you know something Lee? In all the years I was friends with Elvis, I never took anyone to the house, but I took my husband up and Elvis said to him "In
15 years she never brought anyone here and if she loves you, I love you" he then gave him a gold watch and stuff. But it was very hard for a man to live up to
Elvis, I would be with my husband, when Elvis would call me on the phone and I would just leave to attend to his needs. It was very hard for any man because
Elvis was first and foremost in my life.
PP - I really think we should do a book together Lee. I'm being serious darlin', I have
never had the urge to do a book but I think you and I could do a really positive book
about my friend Elvis.
LD - We'll Patti, I think we need to get that done and look into things.
PP - We really should do this Lee!
LD - We'll see how things develop? Patti, what are your memories Aug 16, 1977?
PP - I got a call from Memphis and I freaked, I just freaked....I called Linda Thompson and
went direct to her house, but I could not get a flight, Linda went and I couldn't and I didn't
get to Memphis to say goodbye to him and it breaks my heart everyday. I should have
been there! But I went nuts, it broke my heart, I was lucky to have him when he was alive
but it still bothers me after all these years, I should have been there. But I was with him
when he was alive and I know that I gave him what I could.
LD - My daughter Emma asks if you like the new song "Rubberneckin"?
PP - I love it, isn't it amazing, Elvis has been dead 27 years and he has got the number
one song around the world. Elvis is amazing, he hasn't left us and he never will. Lee, its
guys like you make me so proud that you love my friend and honour him.
LD - Believe me Patti, on behalf of all Elvis' fans it is our pleasure.
PP - He's up there looking down at all of us and he loved it!!
LD - Larry in Iowa USA asks did Elvis wear a wig at the end of his life?
PP - No...Elvis had really, really fine hair and when and what I find funny is people say that all his supposed love children have his same black hair and blue
eyes. And it was Number 51 Clairol, Black velvet gave him his hair colour Elvis had sandy blonde hair and we dyed his hair But he had really fine hair and
we had to use a lot of hairspray.
LD - Larry also asks, do you think Elvis truly understood how much his fans cared about him and his music?
PP - Of course he did, he would never ever put down a fan. He loved the fans and appreciated them totally. I mean, he would get down into the audience...Of
course he appreciated the fans. He knew where he came from and he appreciated what he had and he shared that with everyone. He wasn't one
of these arrogant celebrities. He would talk to everyone and he would buy total strangers a new car he was so generous.
LD - Patti, I think I should let you go now!
PP - Oh you're fed up with talking to me now? (laughter)
LD - No! No! I could talk with you all night.
PP - Ok c'mon, I'm Here, I'm ready, I'm hanging with my buddy!
LD - That's good of you! When did you first notice it falling apart?
PP - I don't think it ever really fell apart, his mood was always great but it was hard for him, as I say, he couldn't go anywhere. Put it this way, if you were locked
in a house and couldn't go out 24/7 it's really difficult. He got mad sometimes but he would try and cover it and say sorry, he was a good guy, he was a gentle,
sweet man. He was a baby, the guy was just like you and me darlin' he was my friend. People should learn from Elvis, he really was an amazing man, giving,
loving and trusting!.....Lee, what time is it there now?
LD - It's 2:05 in the morning
PP - It's very nice talking to you and I am so glad we got together! And I hope that we are going to meet one day! And you stay in contact ok honey
LD - I will make it my mission! And Patti, I now know why Elvis loved you so much, you're a wonderful lady
PP - Thank you honey, that is really sweet of you, I appreciate that a lot! Get me over to the UK. And say hi to Lana for me.
LD - Thank you Patti, the fans will love you and we will meet soon. Goodbye.
A friend of both mine and Patti's, Sandi Pichon summed her up very well in an email to me...."Patti died so much when we lost Elvis; she was never the
same. Of course none of us were, but we all had lives; Patti didn’t she had given everything to Elvis, just like Charlie. I know she is happy
|Patti stands in back row, 2nd from right