Below are some observations and a bit of commentary on Rick Stanley’s 1992 book, “Caught In A Trap,” plus a few relevant topics and questions that came up during my review. Too often in Elvis World we see stories get slightly altered or shifted on the timeline (or removed from the timeline) and nowhere does this seem to happen more often than in the books by the various members of the Stanley family. Why does so much of the Stanley output not remain consistent?
Rick Stanley wrote that in the early afternoon hours of August 16, 1977, he was eating lunch with some friends at a place called Grisanti’s (about 12 minutes NE of Graceland) when he suddenly got a strong feeling (a “premonition,” he called it) that something was “terribly wrong” and that something had happened to Elvis. He skipped the meal and rushed to Graceland, and upon his arrival he saw an ambulance leaving the property (“I came on the scene when the ambulance was pulling out,” which puts his arrival at 2:47pm). Stanley said he got out of his car, went in the back entrance, and as he walked through the house he noticed that no one had touched the trunks that were packed for the tour. Stanley wrote that, “The men who were supposed to be moving the trunks just sat there.” (Who were these “men”?) Stanley then ordered the men to “get a move on,” and upon entering the kitchen he asked, “What’s going on? What are y’all doing? Why isn’t anyone working?”
All reasonable questions, right? But let’s go back a bit and remind ourselves that Stanley had a “premonition” that something was “terribly wrong” and that something had happened to Elvis. So concerned was Stanley, and so powerful was this premonition, that he ditched his meal and immediately left the restaurant. When he arrived at Graceland, he witnessed an ambulance leaving the property. An ambulance. And, remember, he was concerned that something had happened to Elvis. [Ambulance + Premonition = Check on Elvis], right? Wrong. Instead, we are left to ponder these questions: Why was Stanley focused on the trunks and “the men” and the work that needed to be done? Why did he immediately leave the restaurant, rush to Graceland, see an ambulance, and then ask about…the trunks? He just told us that he thought something had happened to Elvis, and he had seen an ambulance pulling out. Does this make any sense?
Rick Stanley at the restaurant: “Something is terribly wrong! Something has happened to Elvis! I must rush to Graceland! I have never had such a premonition before, and none since [Stanley would later write], but evidently the love and sympathy I have extended Elvis has established a spiritual bond between us with lines of communication that I can’t fathom and wouldn’t want to guess at!” [Yes, he wrote this about the premonition.]
Rick Stanley arriving at Graceland, concerned about Elvis and having just seen an ambulance: “Why isn’t anyone moving these trunks?”
Right, good story. The spiritual bond between Rick and Elvis was so powerful that it compelled him to rush back to Graceland to…check on the trunks.
[I have to ask: If Rick Stanley received this so-called “premonition,” which in some spiritual way alerted him to “something” being wrong with Elvis, why didn’t the premonition arrive a few hours earlier when it would have made a difference? Yes, sure, something bad happened to Elvis, but by 2:00pm that afternoon, the bad thing that had happened was already several hours in the past. Why didn’t the premonition have better timing? (And for clarity, note that a “premonition” refers to an event in the future; what Rick Stanley describes that day has nothing to do with the future.)]
Rick wrote that he arrived at Graceland as the ambulance was leaving, which would have been 2:47pm. Just after his arrival, while Elvis was being attended to at Baptist Memorial Hospital, Rick was told by a housekeeper that Elvis had been found dead. He then saw Vernon and Minnie Mae crying. The phone started ringing, he said, and he ran out of the house and through the gates, where he mentioned the gathering crowds. But wait, this was just minutes after the ambulance had left for BMH. Were the people inside the house operating as if they knew for certain that Elvis was dead? And what about the crowds at the gate before 3:00pm? There were no such crowds at that time; Elvis was not declared dead until 3:30pm, and there was no official public announcement of the death until after 4:00pm.
Another odd thing, on this quick sequence of events: Why did Rick not ask anything about the death, like when it happened, or how it happened, or where it happened…? Was he not at all curious about the details pertaining to what he knew would be a life-changing situation for him and his family?
If we look back at accounts pertaining to earlier that morning, we see this same type of gap regarding the 3:30am Dilaudid prescription, where Rick just leaves out that part of the story. Something is supposed to be there, in the narrative, but it’s not. In his description of the morning’s coming and goings, he mentions that he visited with Elvis, delivered a packet of medication, and then left the upstairs area and went to a bedroom in the basement. Why did he fail to mention the early morning Dilaudid prescription that Elvis had him running all over town to get?
Interestingly, in David Stanley’s book, “Life With Elvis,” David fails to mention the part of the story where he leaves the property to supposedly drive his friend down the street. He “immediately” runs upstairs to Elvis’s bedroom when notified that something is going on with Elvis, as opposed to the long-standing story of David going out the back, getting in his car, driving out of Graceland, and dropping his friend off down the street (even though, according to David, his friend lived in the immediate neighborhood and obviously could have walked).
In an August 2003 interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” David talks about removing his friend, Mark White, from the property:
“DAVID STANLEY, ELVIS PRESLEY’S STEPBROTHER: I was in the pool room when Amber, a friend of Lisa’s, walked in and said, something wrong’s with Elvis. I had a friend of mine named Mark White, who was somebody I’d known for years. And I said, Mark, listen, I need to get you out of here. I didn’t think anything bad. I didn’t think the worst. Obviously, I mean, Elvis had been sick, but to think the worst was not my first thought. I said, Mark, I really need to take you home. So I buzzed him down the street, which was around the corner from Graceland. As I came back, an ambulance was pulling into the driveway. [In this account, Stanley is placing himself outside the house, on Elvis Presley Boulevard, at the time the ambulance arrived.] And I followed the ambulance up, and the ambulance went to the front door, and I went to the back, ran up the steps. And as I rounded the corner, Joe Esposito and Charlie, Vernon Presley, Sandy Miller, Vernon’s friend, and some others were converged around Elvis.”
In this interview, David is saying there was not yet an ambulance at Graceland when he drove his friend down the street, and that the ambulance pulled up just before he returned. But in “Life With Elvis,” Stanley writes that as Lisa Marie was telling him that her father was sick, he “suddenly realized that an ambulance was pulling into the Graceland driveway.” [Here, Stanley is placing himself inside the house, in the pool room, at the time the ambulance arrived.] He then says he ran up the back stairs and arrived in Elvis’s bathroom at the same time as Joe Esposito and Al Strada. The pool room at Graceland has no windows, so how did David “suddenly realize” an ambulance had arrived? How does this story fit with the other story (from the CNN interview), that David drove his friend Mark down the street, then arrived in the upstairs bathroom at the same time as Joe and Charlie? David is describing two different stories, with varying details, but these two stories have nearly the same ending: arriving in the bathroom at the same time as Joe (and either Al or Charlie). According to all other accounts, this did not happen.
In “Elvis Up Close,” David Stanley is quoted as saying that as he was heading down the driveway to remove Mark White from the property, the ambulance entered through the gates and headed towards the house. [Here, Stanley is placing himself outside the house, heading down the driveway towards the gates, at the time the ambulance arrived]. Stanley also states that he dropped off Mark White “across the street.” Apparently, Mark White was unable to walk down the driveway and cross the street by himself.
From what we’ve been told over the years, the ambulance arriving (2:33pm), Joe and Al entering the bathroom (2:20pm+), and David Stanley arriving in the bathroom (undetermined) did not all happen at roughly the same time, and yet this is what David is telling us. In “The Elvis Encyclopedia,” of which David Stanley is a co-author, he states that he arrived in the upstairs bathroom before the paramedics had arrived, and upon his arrival they turned Elvis’s body over. But by all other accounts, this happened just after 2:20pm, when Al and Joe arrived in the upstairs bathroom, at the same time that David Stanley was driving Mark White down (or across) the street.
David says he had to drop off his longtime friend, Mark White, at his house, which was “around the corner from Graceland.” But White was supposedly just visiting Memphis and did not reside there, and was staying at a house that was at the intersection of Timothy and Hermitage, approximately 0.7 miles from Graceland. To drive the friend home, then, would have required 5-6 minutes, so did David drive his friend home, or did he drop him off on Timothy, or did he drop him off on Dolan? Why didn’t he just show Mark White out the back door and tell him to cut through Vernon’s yard onto Dolan, then walk two blocks down Hermitage? Simple, right?
The larger question, though, is why did David Stanley have to drive Mark White anywhere? Because the friend wasn’t supposed to be there on the property? Well, this doesn’t really fly, given the circumstances: David was aware of Elvis having some sort of trouble, and he was aware of an ambulance arriving at the house (by his own account), but he still figured he should waste valuable time driving his friend home? Really? And keep in mind, this is all happening while David is supposedly on duty. Here is what David was pretty much saying to Mark White:
“Mark, I really need to take you home. I am on duty now and the person I am paid a salary to take care of, my step-brother whom I profess to love more than anyone else ever, is having some sort of medical emergency, but instead of going to help him and asking you to find your own way home, I am going to waste 5 or 6 minutes driving you down the street, so that I can then attend to the person I am being paid to look after.”
Again, why did David Stanley have to drive Mark White anywhere?
Elvis fans have become inured to the differing and contradictory accounts we are given, but it should be clear to anyone that these situations and events outlined above are perfect examples of stories that have simply not remained consistent.
A few closing points:
David also mentions speaking with Rick back at Graceland…but Rick doesn’t mention this. In the Stanleys’ “Elvis We Love You Tender,” an encounter at that same moment between Rick and Lisa Marie is described; in Rick’s book, he leaves out this encounter.
In “Elvis We Love You Tender,” Rick enters Graceland through the front door; in “Caught In A Trap,” he enters through the back door.
In “Elvis We Love You Tender,” Rick goes to Grisanti’s for lunch with his friend, Jill; in “Caught In A Trap,” he “met some friends there.”
Makes you wonder, how many other “shifts” have there been, and why are so many critical details left out, or altered…or moved around…and not just by the Stanleys, but by all of these folks?