“Picture Of Nixon And Elvis Worth A Thousand Words,” reads the headline in this morning’s Los Angeles Times, and, sure enough, the article by Faye Fiore, the paper’s Washington reporter, that appears below it spends about a thousand words (or more) describing the circumstances that brought about the now-familiar image of the thirty-seventh President and the one and only King meeting in the Oval Office.
(Interestingly, the photo from that day most often seen, with Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley both looking at the camera, is passed over in favor of an image of the President facing the camera and Elvis looking at him.)
The article is based on the eyewitness accounts of the event given by former White House advisor Egil “Bud” Krogh and Jerry Schilling, Elvis’s close friend, when they appeared at the National Archives last week. Most of what they tell has appeared in many books about Elvis and/or Nixon, notably Krogh’s own volume The Day Nixon Met Elvis (which includes a foreword by RN penned just before his death), and Schilling’s book Me And A Guy Named Elvis.
But at the archives, some interesting sidelights were mentioned. Krogh remarked on the little-known fact that toward the end of his Presidency, when Nixon was being treated for phlebitis, Presley phoned to wish him a quick recovery. (And in 1975, when Elvis himself was hospitalized, the President phoned him from San Clemente.)
Krogh also pointed out one remarkable aspect of the 1970 meeting at the White House; despite Presley spenting several hours in the White House after the meeting, getting a tour and meeting several dozen thrilled White House staffers (and their wives), not one word leaked out about the King’s visit for more than a year, until columnist Jack Anderson, looking at an advance copy of John Finlator’s book The Drugged Nation, found a passage about it. (Finlator, the former deputy director of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, had helped arrange for Elvis to be presented with a BNDD special assistant’s badge.) It’s hard to imagine a megacelebrity’s visit to the Oval Office could be kept that much under wraps today.