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Elvis: What happened? was a controversial book that was going to sell millions of copies
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Elvis: What happened? was a controversial book that was going to sell millions of copies

Elvis: What happened? was a controversial book that was going to sell millions of copies

Mid-1977, a tell-all pocket paperback found a bomb on American bookshelves and revealed Elvis Presley as an over-sexed, gun-loving, drug addict.

Presley's private life was largely unknown until three of his former bodyguards told their outrageous stories about working for the King of Rock & Roll.

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The publication of Elvis: What Happened? as told to Australian journalist Steve Dunleavy, Presley's image changed forever.

The cover of the book promised & # 39; the dark side of the brightest star in the world! & # 39;

It was promoted in a lurid way:

& # 39; A dedicated son. A generous friend. A model recruit for the army. A gifted entertainer. A beloved hero for millions. This is the Elvis Presley who knew and cherished the world.

& # 39; Breeding. Violent. Obsessed with death. Tied up. Sexually driven. This is the other side of Elvis – according to the three men who lived with him. & # 39;

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The book claimed that Presley is a & # 39; beautiful young fan & # 39; was charmed to join him in a drug addiction that nearly killed her.

It said that Presley had thrown a billiard cue at a female party guest who interrupted his game and injured her chest.

It was claimed that Presley had talked about a & # 39; hit & # 39; of the man who, according to him, had stolen his wife Priscilla and had once fired a gun at a television.

Mid-1977, a tell-all pocket paperback found a bomb on American bookshelves and revealed Elvis Presley as an over-sexed, gun-loving, drug addict. Elvis: What happened? was based on the stories of three former bodyguards who had worked for the King of Rock & Roll

Elvis Presley returns to the Hilton Inn with his bodyguards after a concert in Johnson City, Tennessee in March 1976. Four months later, Red West, Sonny West, and Dave Hebler were fired from Presley's retinue and the trio worked with Steve Dunleavy tell an everything. book
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Elvis Presley returns to the Hilton Inn with his bodyguards after a concert in Johnson City, Tennessee in March 1976. Four months later, Red West, Sonny West, and Dave Hebler were fired from Presley's retinue and the trio worked with Steve Dunleavy tell an everything. book

Elvis Presley returns to the Hilton Inn with his bodyguards after a concert in Johnson City, Tennessee in March 1976. Four months later, Red West, Sonny West, and Dave Hebler were fired from Presley's retinue and the trio worked with Steve Dunleavy tell an everything. book

But the most controversial was that Presley was chronically addicted to drugs, including barbiturates and benzodiazepines, had used cocaine, and had used LSD.

Presley's fans were furious with the allegations and a few days after the book appeared in stores, the 42-year-old died in his bathroom in his Memphis mansion Graceland.

The official cause of death was given as heart rhythm disorder caused by an irregular heartbeat caused by undetermined causes.

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The timing for Dunleavy, his publisher and newspaper boss Rupert Murdoch was professional and commercially perfect.

Readers soon started making copies of Elvis: What Happened? in fears of death when Presley's death believed his claims even more.

Even Elvis fans who initially found the book struggling were quickly drawn to the pages as they searched for reasons why their musical idol would die so suddenly.

The book became a publisher's sensation and sold millions of copies.

Dunleavy, who died this week, was a reporter at Murdoch's New York Post when he became the first person to reveal chronic drug abuse by Elvis Presley.

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Elvis: What happened? was based on personal stories about Presley & # 39; s dangerous life given by three members of his so-called & # 39; Memphis Mafia & # 39 ;.

Elvis: What happened? claimed that Presley was a & # 39; beautiful young fan & # 39; had been charmed by accompanying him on a drug addiction that nearly killed her and that he threw a billiard cue at a woman who interrupted his game and injured her chest. Presley is depicted with bodyguard Red West (far right)

Elvis: What happened? claimed that Presley was a & # 39; beautiful young fan & # 39; had been charmed by accompanying him on a drug addiction that nearly killed her and that he threw a billiard cue at a woman who interrupted his game and injured her chest. Presley is depicted with bodyguard Red West (far right)

Elvis: What happened? claimed that Presley was a & # 39; beautiful young fan & # 39; had been charmed by accompanying him on a drug addiction that nearly killed her and that he threw a billiard cue at a woman who interrupted his game and injured her chest. Presley is depicted with bodyguard Red West (far right)

Presley had a clear picture for most of his career. He is pictured with his wife Priscilla on their wedding day in May 1967. The publication of Elvis: What Happened? ten years later, Presley's great sexual appetite and drug problems exposed a few days before his sudden death

Presley had a clear picture for most of his career. He is pictured with his wife Priscilla on their wedding day in May 1967. The publication of Elvis: What Happened? ten years later, Presley's great sexual appetite and drug problems exposed a few days before his sudden death

Presley had a clear picture for most of his career. He is pictured with his wife Priscilla on their wedding day in May 1967. The publication of Elvis: What Happened? ten years later, Presley's great sexual appetite and drug problems exposed a few days before his sudden death

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The bodyguards' accounts were heavily criticized for being motivated by greed or revenge at the time, but most of their most important claims later proved to be correct.

Elvis: What happened? was published by Ballantine Books in the United States in early August 1977, just days before the death of Presley on August 16.

Murdoch & # 39; s National Star and New York Post led excerpts from the book and on August 19, Ballantine announced that a retail chain had ordered two million copies.

The first post-excerpt was brought forward when the death of Presley was announced and ran under the heading & # 39; new book tells of his decline in Drug Nightmare & # 39 ;.

Elvis author and blogger Alan Hanson has written: & # 39; The drug-related death of Presley gave Elvis: What Happened? almost instant credibility. & # 39;

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& # 39; The title of the book seemed to reflect the question that the whole of America was asking.

& # 39; And when a steady stream of Presley confidants began to speak in the following years, many (but not all) allegations first mentioned in the book were confirmed. & # 39;

Sonny West denied Elvis: What Happened? was motivated by greed or revenge. & # 39; There is love and admiration there, & # 39; he said. Photos from left to right at the White House in December 1970 include President Richard Nixon, Sonny West, Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling and Presley

Sonny West denied Elvis: What Happened? was motivated by greed or revenge. & # 39; There is love and admiration there, & # 39; he said. Photos from left to right at the White House in December 1970 include President Richard Nixon, Sonny West, Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling and Presley

Sonny West denied Elvis: What Happened? was motivated by greed or revenge. & # 39; There is love and admiration there, & # 39; he said. Photos from left to right at the White House in December 1970 include President Richard Nixon, Sonny West, Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling and Presley

The front page of Memphis Press-Scimitar on August 17, 1977, the afternoon after the lonely death of Elvis Presley on Graceland. & # 39; Memphis leads the world in Mourning the Monarch of Rock & # 39; n Roll & # 39;

The front page of Memphis Press-Scimitar on August 17, 1977, the afternoon after the lonely death of Elvis Presley on Graceland. & # 39; Memphis leads the world in Mourning the Monarch of Rock & # 39; n Roll & # 39;

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The front page of Memphis Press-Scimitar on August 17, 1977, the afternoon after the lonely death of Elvis Presley on Graceland. & # 39; Memphis leads the world in Mourning the Monarch of Rock & # 39; n Roll & # 39;

The origins of the book can be traced back to July 1976 when Presley's three bodyguards – school friend Red West, his cousin Sonny West and karate expert David Hebler – were shot at by Vernon Presley, father of Elvis.

Vernon said the three men were fired to save money, but some at the Presley camp thought it was because Elio met the trio about his drug use.

The book they produced with Dunleavy was frank about Presley's troubled life, but was not just a battle ax.

It contained stories about Presley's enormous generosity towards friends and strangers and detailed his deep love for his deceased mother.

Vernon Presley said his son's bodyguards were being looted to save money, but some at the Presley camp thought it was because Elio encountered the trio about his drug use. Others later claimed that the men's techniques had led to lawsuits against Presley
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Vernon Presley said his son's bodyguards were being looted to save money, but some at the Presley camp thought it was because Elio encountered the trio about his drug use. Others later claimed that the men's techniques had led to lawsuits against Presley

Vernon Presley said his son's bodyguards were being looted to save money, but some at the Presley camp thought it was because Elio encountered the trio about his drug use. Others later claimed that the men's techniques had led to lawsuits against Presley

But it refers to Presley's drug use in at least nine of the 22 chapters. Dunleavy told the hosts of the talk shows that the singer has a & # 39; walking medicine cabinet & # 39; used to be.

The book described Presley & # 39; s fascination for death, including a story he once broke with friends in a mortuary and gave lectures about embalming corpses.

Legendary journalist Steve Dunleavy, author of Elvis: What Happened? died on Tuesday

Legendary journalist Steve Dunleavy, author of Elvis: What Happened? died on Tuesday

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Legendary journalist Steve Dunleavy, author of Elvis: What Happened? died on Tuesday

Although Presley's drug use is now widely known, the claims at that time were outrageous.

Since the beginning of his career, Presley has been able to maintain a largely linear picture, and the media has grasped every reference to sex and drugs.

The singer said in some reports that he was & # 39; despondent & # 39; and even & # 39; furious & # 39; had felt about the book, but it was quoted as carefree.

The former bodyguards eventually held a joint press conference to deny that they had told their story out of anger or resentment and to condemn Dunleavy for concentrating on drugs.

& # 39; There is love and admiration there & # 39 ;, said Sonny West.

& # 39; I tell you that no one could have been more shaken by the dying than me, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. & # 39;

& # 39; If you read the book, you will find that it is not the drug that stands out, it is the things that made us crazy, the good times, the things we had and how we thought the drugs were about him changed into the person he became. & # 39;

Elvis: What happened? was not quite a battle ax. It contained stories about Presley's enormous generosity towards friends and strangers and detailed his deep love for his late mother Gladys. Presley and his father Vernon are depicted on the day of her death in 1958

Elvis: What happened? was not quite a battle ax. It contained stories about Presley's enormous generosity towards friends and strangers and detailed his deep love for his late mother Gladys. Presley and his father Vernon are depicted on the day of her death in 1958

Elvis: What happened? was not quite a battle ax. It contained stories about Presley's enormous generosity towards friends and strangers and detailed his deep love for his late mother Gladys. Presley and his father Vernon are depicted on the day of her death in 1958

Sonny told reporters that when Presley was not on stage he was bored and when he was bored he took drugs.

& # 39; I mean, the man was limited, he could be in the middle of a crowd and he could be lonely, & # 39; he said.

& # 39; He was one of the lonely men I have ever seen in my life. We tried to be with him and protect him and keep him as good and happy as possible. I swear to God we did it, man. & # 39;

Elvis Presley gives the thumbs up, followed by his bodyguards from Memphis Mafia in the seventies

Elvis Presley gives the thumbs up, followed by his bodyguards from Memphis Mafia in the seventies

Elvis Presley gives the thumbs up, followed by his bodyguards from Memphis Mafia in the seventies

Hebler said it was impossible for Presley & # 39; s bodyguards to prevent him from taking drugs.

& # 39; How do you protect a man against himself? & # 39;

& # 39; I think Elvis was a tortured man in many ways. I think he was a victim of himself, the image and the legend. & # 39;

While Sonny described Dunleavy as a & # 39; sensational & # 39; who had focused too much on Presley & # 39; s drug use, the book did not misrepresent his former boss.

& # 39; Not at all, it is a fact. It is true. & # 39;

Hebler was also & # 39; upset & # 39; by emphasizing drugs in Elvis: What Happened? but said the book was meant to show the & # 39; overall image & # 39; to show.

& # 39; The book shows very clearly that we had nothing but full respect for the man. We wanted more than anything to see him as he was in his prime, on stage, just beating to death. & # 39;

& # 39; We tried to depict that in the book, we tried to be completely honest about it because we wanted to show the overall picture.

& # 39; We are not interested in trying to become even or cut it or something like that. Our thoughts were all positive. We wanted him to be Elvis Presley, the king. & # 39;

Red West died at the age of 81 in 2017 and his cousin Sonny died at the age of 78 in the same year.

Dunleavy, who became a legendary journalistic figure in New York, died on Tuesday at the age of 81 in his home in Long Island.

Presley is a special deputy sheriff from Shelby County, Tennessee. Sonny West is third from the right, Vernon Presley is fifth from the right and Red West kneels at the bottom right

Presley is a special deputy sheriff from Shelby County, Tennessee. Sonny West is third from the right, Vernon Presley is fifth from the right and Red West kneels at the bottom right

Presley is a special deputy sheriff from Shelby County, Tennessee. Sonny West is third from the right, Vernon Presley is fifth from the right and Red West kneels at the bottom right

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