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IS SCOTTSDALES JOHN SMITH THE SECRET LOVECHLD OF ELVIS PRESLEY? John Smith is the secret love child of Elvis Presley. And he has, he swears, the DNA evidence to prove it By Robert L Pela (Pheonix NewsTimes)
It's a story as old as rock 'n' roll itself: Rock star has sex with groupie and blows town the next day, leaving her pregnant. It's very likely the world is bursting with the offspring of Chuck Berry and Leif Garrett and especially — given his status as the King of Rock 'n' Roll and his reputation for having been nothin' but a horn-dog — Elvis Presley.
"Elvis was the most famous entertainer in the world, he loved women, and he wasn't faithful in his marriage or to his girlfriends," says Cooper, who points out that people have been claiming to be Elvis' kid since before the King died. "But I don't think Elvis has three dozen offspring scattered around the world."
Yet the parade of would-be Presley kids just keeps on coming. There's 53-year-old Desirée Presley, a former Los Angeles model whose mom wrote the infamous Elvis tome 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' about her supposed 24-year-long secret romance with Presley. And Lisa Johansen, the 43-year-old Swedish woman who filed a $130 million lawsuit against the Presley estate for defamation and emotional distress, claiming she is "the real Lisa Marie Presley" who was forcibly exiled to Sweden after her father's death and replaced by an imposter — a fake Lisa Marie who went on to marry Michael Jackson, among other things. Johansen's own memoir, I, Lisa Marie, was scrapped after her publisher sued her for refusing to take an agreed-upon DNA test.
More famously, there is Philip Stanic, a former circus performer from Gary, Indiana, who changed his name to Elvis Presley Jr., in 1990, opened an Elvis museum, and began a career as an Elvis impersonator. His birth mother, he claims, is actress Dolores Hart, now a cloistered nun in Connecticut, who admits to an affair with Presley on the set of the Elvis flick Loving You in 1957.
And then there's Deborah Presley Brando, a onetime Hollywood movie extra and unemployed law clerk who once was married to Marlon Brando's late son, Christian. Brando was told by an appeals court in 1988 that there was insufficient evidence to rule that she couldn't possibly be Elvis' daughter, which she took to mean that she is "legally illegitimate" and, therefore, entitled to half of the Presley estate.
"My father's company made $33 billion last year, and I'm two minutes from having to live in my car because the house I'm renting is going into foreclosure," Brando tells New Times by phone last month. She talks nonstop, her non sequiturs tumbling together, posing questions but never pausing to hear any answers. "I know he's my daddy, but Colonel Tom Parker was never going to let my parents be together; he wanted Elvis to marry Priscilla, and she is like the pit bull of the estate, you know what I mean? Did you know that the company that bought Elvis Presley Enterprises also owns American Idol? So what does that tell you? They own the rights to Muhammad Ali and my father, and I'm looking for a job and a place to live, but I have a lot of faith and a lot of support, so I'm doing fine, I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm going to be fine. I'm going to just walk into the Supreme Court and demand half of Elvis' estate, because I can, you know."
Actually, she can't — and neither can any of the other would-be Elvis offspring. Because his will provides only for "my daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, and any other lawful issue I might have." In other words, any children born to a woman to whom Elvis was legally married — and he was only ever married once, to Lisa Marie's mom, Priscilla Presley.
Alice Tiffin found out that the road to riches doesn't necessarily start as one of Elvis' "bastard babies". Tiffin, who changed her name to Eliza Presley in 1999, started out claiming to be Elvis' daughter. When that got her nowhere, she announced she was actually his sister. "Her birth mother had lived in Memphis and played pool with Elvis a few times," Cooper explains with a sigh. "The birth mother is in her 70s and is so disgusted by her biological daughter's Elvis claims, she told me she wishes she'd just had an abortion, instead of giving the kid up for adoption."
"Why is everyone in such a rush to be Elvis' kid?" laughs music writer Serene Dominic, who has written for everything from Creem to New Times. "It's not like millions of Elvis impersonators don't have that area well-covered. And it's not like it's helped Lisa Marie's career any — and she's a legitimate heir!"
So, too, is John Smith — he swears it. He also promises that John Smith is his real name. "It's not the name on my original birth certificate," he writes in his gonzo memoir, "but my new birth certificate has John Smith on it." In the interim, he's gone by numerous other names, both on and off stage, including John D. Smith John D. Smith Presley John Smith Presley John Dennis Smith Jon Dennis Smith Dennis Smith, and John Starr. In recent years, he's become better known — at least to people who will believe anything you tell them — as "the son of Elvis."
Smith says he was born in 1961 to Zona Marie Anderson Roach and claims he was adopted by Ira Dee Smith, the brother of Elvis' mother, Gladys Smith Presley, when he was 16 months old. Ira Dee and his wife, Etta, also adopted John's two sisters from one of Zona Marie's previous marriages — a fact that doesn't seem at all unusual to Smith.
"We were a pretty close-knit family," is all he'll say when asked why Elvis' middle-aged aunt and uncle would adopt two little girls who weren't related to the King. "I guess they just wanted to keep us together."
Smith began singing as a toddler and performed in local hoot nights and a talent show called The Louisiana Hayride in his hometown of Shreveport. Later, he joined the live touring version of The Lawrence Welk Show. ("It was quite an honor to be in Lawrence Welk's company," says Smith, who also claims to have been a regular on Welk's TV show, although he appears in none of the published cast credits for any of the show's episodes. "He said I was the greatest singer he ever heard in all time.") After his stint with Welk, Smith recorded a couple of singles and tried his hand at songwriting in Nashville.
Although he was interested in a career in music from an early age and was an adopted relation of a world-famous rock star, he says it never occurred to him to ask if he might one day meet Elvis Presley and maybe chew the rag about getting ahead in the music biz.
"I was a busy little boy, and I was used to being a local child star in my own right," Smith explains, somewhat unconvincingly. "I didn't stop to think about who I was related to or what that connection could do for me." And yet his singing voice and physical appearance were, he says, constantly being compared to Presley's. "All my life I heard, 'Oh, you look like him! You sound like him!'" In fact, Smith looks more like actor Randy Quaid than he does Elvis Presley, and guys who sing like (EER Add: or as it should state, guys who, TRY to) sing like the King can be found in casino lounges (and white polyester jumpsuits) in most any town. Continue To Page 3