PLUS: Section II: The 2:20pm Emergency Call

Taking another look at the Ambulance Video, focusing on the events listed below.

Video sequence of events:

Event1 @ 00:04-00:11: Unidentified car starts to go up right side of the drive (at the fork), stops, backs up, then goes up the left side of the drive;

Event2 @ 00:34-00:40: Datsun 280Z enters through the main gate after turning right from the second lane and cutting off the car in the far-right lane, then turns up the left side of the drive; the car in the far-right lane backs up as the 280Z turns in front of it;

Event3 @ 00:44-00:46: movement in front of the ambulance;

Event4 @ 00:50-00:55: stretcher is loaded into rear of ambulance;

Event5 @ 00:56: Dr. Nichopoulos’s car (below);

Event6 @ 01:09: Dr. Nichopoulos gets in ambulance at 01:09 (rear door closes);

Event7 @ 01:10: ambulance leaves front of house at 01:10;

Event8 @ 01:29: ambulance exits main gate, turning right/north.

In Event1, the unidentified vehicle is driving towards the south end of the house, up the right/south side of the driveway, but stops just past the fork and backs up. The vehicle then proceeds up the left side towards the north end of the house. We do not know if the ambulance is already parked in the location we see in a few seconds since we do not know if there is a break in the recording. There does, however, appear to be a break, which means we cannot construct an accurate timeline (which is fairly obvious). It is likely that something visual caused the driver to change course at this point.

The key questions here:

Q1: Who is driving this vehicle? The only person unaccounted for (so far), based on what we’ve been told of the locations and movements of people that afternoon, is Al Strada, who is alleged (by Nancy Rooks) to have been off the property at the time of the 2:20pm emergency call from upstairs. Is this Strada returning to the house? If so, and if he did see the ambulance in front of the house, then how do we explain Strada arriving after the ambulance/EMTs? Every account, from those onsite as well as those telling the story over 4-plus decades, tells us that Ginger called downstairs and asked Nancy Rooks who was on duty, and while Rooks did not reply that David Stanley was on duty, she instead replied, “Al is here.” But then many years after the fact, Rooks added a critical detail to her story: Al Strada was out running errands when Ginger called for help. How do we reconcile this? (More on the Strada question below.)

Q2: Why did the driver stop, back up, and proceed up the opposite side of the driveway? Did he see the ambulance parked there and not want to block it on the south/right side? If so, this means that the person arriving on the property was doing so after the ambulance had arrived, which means after 2:33pm. If the driver did not change course due to the ambulance parked in front of the house, then why did he back up and proceed a different way?

Further on these events:

In Event2, it is interesting that the person filming somehow knew to focus on the 280Z driving north and turning right to enter through the Graceland gate, even cutting off another car to do so. Did the person doing this filming see this same car driving south a few minutes earlier?

Also interesting that the driver of the car in the far-right lane, that is cut off by the 280Z, has the immediate reaction to back up his vehicle.

More broadly, I am curious how the person filming this footage was able to capture quite a bit of [nothing much happening], but missed the ambulance entering the property. And if the film has been cut in multiple places, and we go from the arrival of the 280Z directly to the stretcher being loaded in the back of the ambulance (two events that were supposedly about 20-25 minutes apart), why did this amateur videographer fail to capture this huge block of time? An ambulance is in the front of Graceland for 13 minutes and that wasn’t worthy of filming? Or, looking at it another way, how did the person filming this know to start up the video camera literally seconds before the ambulance departed? Or literally seconds before the 280Z drove by? For the sake of discussion let’s assume that David Stanley drove his Datsun 280Z onto the property at 2:25pm, having just driven his friend down the street (see previous posts for a detailed discussion of this). And let’s also assume that the ambulance left the property at 2:46pm-2:47pm. This means that the video captured the 280Z arriving at 2:25pm, then the camera was shut off for 21 minutes, then the camera was powered back on right when the ambulance was leaving. What would be the odds? What was the thinking process for this camera operator, “Something is going on here, so I’ll turn my camera off for awhile”?

The video posted here is a clipped section from the longer video, and shows some of what the people who made this video were doing (filming their van, filming the front gates, etc.). After the ambulance leaves Graceland property, the footage (in the long version) then switches to what appears to be scenes from later that day, and then subsequent footage shows relevant events from that immediate time period. The footage has obviously been butchered…there are seemingly breaks/cuts all over the place…so that introduces the question of whether key parts of the footage have been removed. [To be fair, it is also possible that footage where nothing happens was removed; but, I would argue that there would be differing opinions on what is important and what is not important (that is, “nothing is happening” could, in fact, be, “something important is happening”). To that end, the footage should not have been cut at all.]

The flip-side is that if there is not a break just after we see the 280Z enter the property, or if there is just a short break there, then we must conclude that the 280Z entered the property closer to 2:45pm, and not 20 minutes earlier at approximately 2:25pm.

I will note that David Stanley has said he was not treating the matter of removing his friend from the property as urgent, but this position is brought into question with Stanley’s speed and driving maneuvers as he approaches the gate. This was obviously someone in a hurry, not someone who may or may not have needed to return to the house to sit down and make a few phone calls to change tour plans.

SECTION II: The 2:20pm Emergency Call

The differing accounts of the comings and goings at Graceland around 2:20pm, and the questions that arise from the ambulance video, lead me to also take another look at the emergency call, based on the “new” information from Nancy Rooks in her 2005 book (yes, “new” is a relative term here). Let’s start with the more-recent claims she makes that, as far as I am aware, were not part of the Elvis 8/16/77 historical record until this book came out.

Here, we see that Ginger asked if Rick Stanley, Al Strada, or “any of the other bodyguards” were close by. Rooks does not volunteer David Stanley as being available or present, and Ginger does not ask for David Stanley by name. Elvis fans have been told for 4 decades or so that when Ginger called downstairs for help, the response she received from Rooks was, “Al is here,” but Rooks has seemingly changed this detail. We now have no mention of anyone being present to help Elvis, and that Al Strada was not even on the premises. (In the Memphis Police Department Offense Report, Joe Esposito, Al Strada, and Ginger Alden all stated that Ginger called downstairs, spoke to the maid on duty, and in response Al Strada went upstairs immediately.)

It is interesting that Rick Stanley was on duty that morning, and then in the afternoon he claims he had to run some errands, and yet here in the “new” Nancy Rooks account we have Elvis’s aunt and one of his off-duty aides (Strada) running errands, presumably for Elvis and/or in preparation for the tour. Why didn’t Rick take care of these errands when he was on duty before 12:00pm, or why didn’t David Stanley take care of these errands when he was on duty after 12:00pm? Tell me again what their jobs were…?

(There was a Walgreen’s purchase made for “merchandise” on August 16, in the amount of $135.37. Who made that purchase?)

Anyway, according to Rooks, we now have two people who were not present: Strada and Aunt Delta. Who was driving the car that came up the driveway to the right and then changed course and drove up to the left, at the same time the ambulance was possibly parked in front of the house? Was this Strada returning to the property, or was it Aunt Delta, or was it someone else? Or could this vehicle have arrived prior to the arrival of the ambulance? Hard to say.

[Note: Jo Smith (Billy Smith’s wife) was also out running errands at this time; could she have been the driver of the unidentified vehicle? Probably not, as she says she arrived back at Graceland when the ambulance was exiting the property. She does not mention seeing her husband and David Stanley leaving the property just after the ambulance.]

Rooks then tells us that she went upstairs on her own, going the “back” way to Elvis’s bathroom, and then returned downstairs. We’ll discuss this brief excursion in a bit. For now, she comes back downstairs and upon reaching the first floor (the kitchen area, presumably) she sees Al Strada entering through the back door. At that point, she indicates that Strada recognized that something was wrong due to the look of panic in Rooks’s eyes, and we have no mention by Rooks that Strada had seen an ambulance out front. (So, perhaps the unidentified vehicle was not being driven by Strada, since the ambulance had not yet been called.)

At this point, Rooks says Joe Esposito came running into the house from the back office, where he had received a call from Ginger to come upstairs. Esposito himself (in his book) says he had been sitting in the room now known as The Jungle Room, and a call had come from Ginger upstairs asking who is on duty, to which Mark Jenkins (not Nancy Rooks) replied that, “Al is here.” Esposito writes that Jenkins then handed the phone to Strada. Moments later, again according to Esposito, Strada called downstairs on the intercom and asked him to come upstairs to assist.

Why would Ginger have called the back office? How would she have known that Esposito (or anyone else) was there? Did she seek help from someone in the office because Rooks had left her with no offer of assistance and had hung up on her?

Rooks then describes Vernon and Patsy Presley entering the house and walking through the kitchen, then going upstairs. They had come from the back office, presumably, based on Rooks’s description of them entering through the patio door. At this point, unless someone had alerted Vernon and/or Patsy by phone, neither would have known that Elvis was having trouble, and they would not have been so visibly shaken and upset. So going by this sequence of events as described by Rooks, a call was placed out to the office and at that point Vernon and Patsy learned that something was seriously wrong with Elvis. It is interesting, though, that Vernon’s reaction was described as being so extreme when, at this point, he would not have known the true nature of the emergency. “Visibly shaking” and “crying” and asking God to save his son, and yet he didn’t even know what was wrong…?

Charlie Hodge then enters the scene and also goes upstairs.

At no time does Rooks mention the presence of David Stanley on the main floor.

Ginger Alden writes in her book that she called downstairs using the phone in the bathroom and asked who was on duty. She says that Nancy Rooks replied, “Al Strada,” and then within a few moments Strada rushed upstairs and entered the bathroom with Ginger. There is no mention of a delay between the call downstairs and the arrival of Strada, save for the brief time it would have taken him to climb the stairs. There is no break in the sequence that would have allowed Rooks to go upstairs, enter the bathroom from the north side, then return downstairs (see, “The Rooks Excursion” for full discussion). At this point, Strada called downstairs and spoke with Esposito, and Ginger notes that this is when she realized that Joe was in the house. This is in conflict with Rooks’s claim that Ginger had called Esposito out at the back office.

Ginger then describes Vernon arriving upstairs, with Patsy and Sandy Miller. She does not mention the presence of David Stanley during the entire resuscitation effort.

To close, an examination of the 2:20pm-2:46pm time-frame should follow the sequence of events that has been set in stone as part of the historical record, from presumably eyewitness accounts, with everything occurring (roughly) in the order that most of the people present have described. But did things really happen this way? In this sequence?