In the following analysis and commentary, I am going to look again at the varying details of the claim that Elvis had bone cancer, a claim that was unceremoniously introduced into the public domain and then left uncorrected for decades by the very people who made the claim in the first place (while knowing for many years that the claim is not true). Instead of looking at the substance of the claim, though, I am going to look at the sources and veracity of the claims, and illustrate where Elvis World has such profound informational failings. Below are five examples of the bone cancer claim, and after each I will outline the flaws.
From Charlie Hodge: “Then he [Dr. Nichopoulos] shocked both of us [Hodge and Vernon Presley], at Vernon’s house. He said what he was about to tell us must be kept in strictest confidence. He said that during the autopsy it was discovered that Elvis had bone cancer that had spread through his entire body.” [“Me ‘n Elvis,” Charlie Hodge, 1984, page 187.]
In this first example, Charlie Hodge, a longtime close friend of Elvis’s and a staunch opponent of the notion that Elvis was addicted to drugs, is telling us that Dr. Nichopoulos visited Vernon Presley’s house* (which connected to Elvis’s property on the SE corner), and informed the two people present, in “strictest confidence,” that Elvis’s autopsy results showed that Elvis had bone cancer. Not only did Dr. Nichopoulos say that Elvis had bone cancer, he added the qualifier that the cancer had spread throughout Elvis’s entire body.
[*Another uncorroborated statement from Hodge has this conversation taking place at Graceland, not at Vernon’s house, on the Friday following Elvis’s death.]
From Larry Geller, quoting Charlie Hodge: “Yeah, well, we just found out today. I was there when the doctor told Vernon. He said, ‘Mr. Presley, it’s a good thing Elvis died the way he did, because the end would have been horrible. He had cancer of the bone marrow, leukemia.” [“If I Can Dream,” Larry Geller, 1989, page 317. Again, Geller is quoting Charlie Hodge.]
In Larry Geller’s account, he is quoting a comment from a phone call he had with Charlie Hodge, on the same day that Hodge supposedly learned of the cancer from Dr. Nichopoulos, and in this phone call Hodge said that Elvis had “cancer of the bone marrow,” or leukemia. According to the quote, Hodge used both terms. This is a lot different than what Hodge writes in his book, that “Elvis had bone cancer” that had spread throughout Elvis’s entire body. Again, Geller is quoting Hodge from the very same day Hodge learned this information. How did Hodge change it from “bone cancer” to “cancer of the bone marrow” on the same day? This is important, because leukemia does not “spread through [the] entire body,” like a “normal” cancer might, and no doctor would explain it this way. Neither is leukemia a variation of bone cancer.
Back to the central questions: Did Dr. Nichopoulos really say any of this? Did he say Elvis had bone cancer? Did he say Elvis had leukemia? How would Charlie Hodge have explained this had he *ever* been held to account? Note that Hodge’s source is Dr. Nichopoulos, and at no time from 1977 to his death in early 2016 did Dr. Nichopoulos *ever* say Elvis had any type of cancer. And this would have been a rather convenient fact to introduce during his trial when he was trying to explain his prescription-writing acrobatics in the last few years of Elvis’s life. Pain medications are viewed through a much more forgiving lens when the patient is dealing with a disease that requires aggressive pain treatment. Certainly this defense would have been front-and-center. (And yet the bone cancer claims were published in books that came out after the Nichopoulos trial.)
Is it worth noting that Hodge’s quote, as provided by Geller, has Hodge referring to Dr. Nichopoulos as, “the doctor,” which would be very unusual given the amount of time Dr. Nichopoulos had been around, and the fact that he was certainly on a first name basis with both men. “The doctor,” a rather generic and impersonal reference, suggests that Hodge was not referring to Dr. Nichopoulos, though we must assume he was.
From Larry Geller, again: “Vernon started crying. ‘He had cancer, Larry. He had cancer.'” [“If I Can Dream,” Larry Geller, 1989, page 318.]
In this second passage from Larry Geller’s book, Geller tells us that Vernon stated to him, directly, that Elvis had cancer. If Dr. Nichopoulos never made this claim, then how did Vernon discover that his son had cancer? How is it possible that this secret, revealed in “strictest confidence,” was told to Geller not once, but twice (see below)? From Hodge, first, and then again from Vernon Presley?
Think about this. Dr. Nichopoulos *never* publicly stated that Elvis had bone cancer. If Dr. Nichopoulos did know something like this, and revealed it in “strictest confidence” (never mind the ethical questions here), then certainly he had no reason to remain silent on it years later when Hodge, Geller, and Grob all revealed (or, with Grob, planned to reveal) the confidential information. So much for keeping a secret, huh?
Note that Geller is also, like Hodge and Grob, a staunch opponent of the drug addiction claims.
From Dick Grob: “In a conversation between Vernon Presley, Dick Grob and Charlie Hodge, Vernon stated that the importance of his son’s autopsy was utmost because they feared he may have committed suicide or overdosed on some type of drug. [Paragraph] Elvis’ death, at that moment in time, was a very kind deliverance. The autopsy proved, beyond any shadow of a doubt that he would have been dead in a few short months. His eventual death would have been slow, excruciatingly painful and intolerable to witness. Elvis was dying of bone cancer.” [“The Elvis Conspiracy” manuscript, Richard Grob (with Dan Mingori), 1979.]
In this account, Dick Grob writes that Vernon Presley told him and Charlie Hodge that the “autopsy proved, beyond any shadow of a doubt” that Elvis was dying of bone cancer. This account does not cite the alleged visit to Vernon’s house that Hodge mentioned, it does not mention Dr. Nichopoulos as the primary source, it does not mention cancer having spread “through the entire body,” and it does not mention the claim of leukemia. What it does include, though, is the categorical assertion of fact, that the presence of terminal bone cancer was discovered and was documented by medical evidence. Grob states this as fact, not as a secondhand claim lacking direct, tangible proof; quite the contrary, he states that the proof is there. Note that like Charlie Hodge, Dick Grob is a staunch opponent of the notion that Elvis was addicted to drugs, and in this manuscript Grob calls such a charge, “pathetic.” Also note, and this is important, that Grob made this claim of bone cancer in a manuscript that was presumably still in the early/working stages, and was not intended for public consumption. It was only when Grob was asked during his 1979 deposition that he was forced, under oath, to admit that the bone cancer claim was false. The exchange went like this:
Q: [Referring to the bone cancer claim in Grob’s manuscript] How did you gather that information, Mr. Grob, if you have never seen the autopsy report?
A: That’s as good an ending to a manuscript as any others.
Q: Is that ending substantiated in any way upon a factual basis?
A: Not at the present, to my knowledge. There is a number of speculative items such as that, but…
Q: Is this a fiction, Mr. Grob?
A: Well, I imagine it’s part fiction and part non-fiction, sir.
Q: All right. Is that part of it fiction that I just read?
A: To my knowledge, since I haven’t seen the autopsy report, I can’t determine that it is, in fact, factual.”
A question or two later, Grob says, “As I said, I have not seen the autopsy report.” However, just a bit earlier in the deposition, he was asked if he had seen the autopsy report, and he stated, “Yes, I think I saw it.” This question is obviously asking if Grob had seen the autopsy report, as in *read* the autopsy report. But in an effort to purposefully play around with the meaning of everyday words, Grob says, “One of the individuals…had a large envelope with what appeared to be many documents contained therein.” Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is what Grob would have us believe is “seeing the autopsy report”: viewing a folder sitting on a table that may or may not contain the report.
Now, let’s step back and take stock of what Grob has said about the bone cancer claim. In his deposition, he has admitted that the bone cancer claim is fiction, meaning it was not true and he made it up. But here are a few key questions: Did Grob later drop the bone cancer claim because he was forced to reveal in the deposition that the claim was not true? What if he had not been asked about the bone cancer claim…would he have still presented it sixteen years later in his 1995 book? Simply, did Grob drop the bone cancer claim only because he got caught lying?
If we look at the meaning of disinformation, and the meaning/concept of lying/deception, don’t we have clear examples of both of these right here in Grob’s words? Can anyone argue that Grob was preparing a flat-out lie in his manuscript, and had planned on running with the lie when he published the book? Remember, Grob admitted this was a lie *only* because he got caught in the deposition; logic tells us that had he not been caught, the “Elvis had bone cancer” claim would have taken on a life of its own in 1995.
Note also that when Grob was asked about the bone cancer, he did not say, “[Dr. Nichopoulos or Vernon Presley] told us that Elvis had bone cancer.” No. Instead, he admitted he made it up. This leads us to a dilemma:
If Dick Grob made up the bone cancer claim, then what the hell were Charlie Hodge and Larry Geller talking about, since they claim that they were told Elvis *did* have bone cancer? Their stories are similar to Grob’s story, and save for small details here and there, it would be reasonable to conclude that these three fellows are talking about the same event (the revelation that Elvis had cancer). But if Grob made up the claim, how did Charlie and Larry stick with it and, to my knowledge, never correct it? Do you see how this is working? The facts become so messy that no one is really sure who said what, to whom, where, or when. Did Dick, Charlie, and/or Larry ever have a meeting of the minds and go over this, or talk about it at at any length, at anytime over the period from 1979 to 2006 (Hodge’s death)? Did it not occur to Dick Grob to ask Charlie and Larry, “Hey, guys, where did you get the bone cancer thing, ‘cuz I told the investigators that I made it up for my manuscript?”?
Does anyone truly believe that Charlie (in 1984) and Larry (in 1989) said that Dr. Nichopoulos, directly or through Vernon Presley, told them that Elvis had bone cancer, when several years before each of their respective books was published Dick Grob admitted under oath (in 1979) that he made up the bone cancer claim? Is it even possible that this series of events occurred without some sort of informational collusion? And here’s the mind-bender: if Grob made up the cancer claim in 1979, and these three guys did *not* plot this out, how do we explain Hodge making the cancer claim in 1984, and Geller making the cancer claim in 1989? What are the odds that 5 and 11 years apart, two people would mimic this fraud, which was safely hidden away in a manuscript? Think about that. Also think about the fact that Grob and Hodge worked closely together in the years following Elvis’s death. Are we to believe this cancer thing was not discussed?
Also worth noting: all of these bone cancer claims were made public after the June 1979 death of Vernon Presley.
Getting back to the simple cancer claim, has the Elvis fan community ever demanded an explanation for this? Has EPE ever asked, or been asked, about this, or explained it, seeing as how all three of these guys were at some point over the years hired as speakers or featured participants at EPE-sponsored events?
How do three people make the same claim, while one of them says he made it up, and the other two stick with it? Isn’t it obvious how ridiculous this is? And this is what Elvis fans have been paying for and supporting for 42 years. The bone cancer claim is just one example.
From Kathy Westmoreland: “That same night [as Elvis’s funeral], one old friend discussed with us, in quiet confidence about how Elvis’ bone cancer had spread throughout his entire body. [Paragraph] I’m still bewildered after all these years and after all the words written about Elvis and his death, just why cancer was never mentioned, other than in two books…one by Larry Geller and another by Charlie Hodge. The press is quick to jump on drugs, but even three Coroner reports proved that heart failure, not drugs caused his death.” [“Elvis and Kathy,” Kathy Westmoreland, 1987, pages 303-304. Note that Westmoreland’s 1987 book predates Geller’s by two years.]
In this passage from Westmoreland’s book (every sentence of which is false), we find nearly the identical wording that Charlie Hodge had used when describing what Dr. Nichopoulos had allegedly told him and Vernon. That is, that the cancer had spread throughout the entire body. But Westmoreland’s account has a huge glitch in it: she is telling us that she learned this information, from an “old friend,” right after the funeral, back at Graceland. This would have been the evening of Thursday, August 18, 1977. Hodge places this conversation as taking place at Vernon’s house, with no specific date, but certainly well after the week of Elvis’s death. [Hodge also stated privately that this information was revealed to him and Vernon three days after Elvis’s death, on Friday, August 19, 1977.] As noted above, Elvis’s funeral was on Thursday the eighteenth, while the full and final autopsy report was completed much later. How does Westmoreland reconcile these glaring problems with her account? The first part of her account is almost word-for-word what Charlie Hodge wrote in his 1984 book, though the information was relayed to him later, at some indeterminate time after Elvis’s death. It was not revealed to Hodge, according to his own words, at the funeral two days later. And, how would Westmoreland explain that the information revealed to her, by her own account, on August 18, would not have been available yet even to the doctors at Baptist Hospital? How would Charlie Hodge have explained this?
Who was Westmoreland’s “old friend”? This does not sound like the way someone would refer to a doctor, especially a doctor that all of these people interacted with regularly and had known for many years.
Finally, there are two more examples to look at, this first one also from Westmoreland’s 1987 book (page 211), where she had initially mentioned the cancer claim:
“However, after Elvis died, I was told in strict confidence (along with Charlie Hodge and Larry Geller) that the autopsy revealed what Elvis had already known: that bone cancer was indeed there and had spread throughout his body.”
Westmoreland is stating that Elvis “already [knew]” he had bone cancer. This is categorically false. She is also stating that Geller was present when she was told, which would mean that Geller was informed of the cancer in person at the funeral, then informed again later on the phone with Vernon, and then informed once again by Charlie Hodge. Three times.
And finally, this, from Westmoreland’s website years ago:
“Q: Is it true that Elvis was dying of bone cancer? And when did Charlie Hodge & Dr. Nick tell you about it – 1976 or 1977? Is it true Elvis had maybe 3 heart attacks before the last one?
Kathy Westmoreland: Yes, Elvis had bone cancer. He told me himself when I first met him in August 1970. Also, the doctors told three of us the day of the funeral, that it had been confirmed during the autopsy. It had spread all over his body, but is NOT what killed him. Just caused SEVERE PAIN and exhaustion.”
There are so many false claims in this response from Westmoreland. Briefly, I will just say that, 1) Elvis did not have bone cancer; 2) Elvis could not have told anyone about a disease he did not have; 3) plural “the doctors”…who were these “doctors”?; 4) there was no bone cancer thus there was no confirmation; and, 5) there was no bone cancer, thus it had not spread throughout his body. (Westmoreland goes on to write that Elvis had three heart attacks just prior to his death, which is absolutely false, but we’ll get to that later.)
Are we to believe that Westmoreland was told in August 1970 that Elvis had bone cancer, and that over the next 7 years she didn’t bother to ask about it? “Hey, Elvis, what happened with that bone cancer thing you told me about in 1970?” It didn’t strike her as odd that Elvis had cancer but never received any treatment for it?
Here is what Dr. Nichopoulos finally said about cancer in his 2009 book, page 135:
“[The doctor] felt that the cells were not cancer cells.”
Nichopoulos notes that he learned this from the doctor *after* the doctor investigated the cells further. (These tests were not completed by August 18 or August 19, nor was any such information on the cells provided to Nichopoulos.) It is very interesting to note that in the 32 years between the time of Elvis’s death and the publication of Dr. Nichopoulos’s book that he *never* claimed that Elvis had cancer, while also *never* refuting the claims by Grob, Hodge, Geller, and Westmoreland that Elvis *did* have cancer. Why did he remain silent if he knew the facts? And, why did he supposedly tell these people that Elvis had cancer, then not correct that information, in real time, when he learned the facts? After all, when Dr. Nichopoulos was supposedly telling these people that Elvis *did* have cancer, he did not know for certain whether cancer or any other disease was present.
It is interesting to note that Nichopoulos (in 2009) didn’t identify the doctor who provided him this information.
To close, the facts:
Grob: Says Elvis had bone cancer, no evidence, no correction.
Hodge: Said Elvis had bone cancer or leukemia, no evidence, never corrected.
Geller: Says Elvis had bone cancer, no evidence, no correction.
Westmoreland: Says Elvis had bone cancer, no evidence, no correction.
To close, why do Geller, Grob, and Westmoreland not explain these bone cancer claims, and more importantly, why do fans let these people continue, year after year, to *not* explain these claims? The question here is not whether Elvis had any type of cancer, but why fans allow these claims to go unchallenged.
UPDATE (02/22/20): The following information/claims were provided by Charlie Hodge on March 27, 1980, in a statement taken as part of the criminal investigation into Dr. Nichopoulos:
–Dr. Nichopoulos informed Vernon Presley and Charlie Hodge that Elvis had bone cancer while in the den at Vernon’s house on Dolan Drive.
–Dr. Nichopoulos stated that Elvis had bone cancer and that it had spread all over his body.
–Dr. Nichopoulos made this statement during “the last part” of 1977. Note: This could mean anytime between August 16 and December 31, but likely refers to the latter months of the year.
–Sandy Miller was in the kitchen when this statement was made.
–In 1979, Larry Geller told Charlie Hodge that Elvis had told him [Geller] that he [Elvis] had cancer. Geller subsequently told Kathy Westmoreland this same information. Note: This would be the FOURTH time Geller was informed that Elvis had cancer: from Elvis himself, from someone at the funeral, from Vernon on the phone, and from Charlie Hodge.
–Charlie Hodge does not recall if he told Dick Grob about Dr. Nichopoulos’s statement that Elvis had cancer. Hodge did, however, after being told about the cancer in “strictest confidence,” reveal it to, or talk about it with, Larry Geller, Joe Esposito, and Billy Smith.
Four people have made these cancer claims. The claims are inconsistent, the times and places are inconsistent, and the means of dissemination are inconsistent.