When Elvis Presley launched onto the music scene in the mid-1950s, he was a controversial figure. Not only was it surprising to hear a white man singing music usually performed by Black singers, but his live stage presence caused a lot of concern. His gyrating hips were, at the time, scandalous; but teenage girls absolutely loved him for it. He quickly earned the nickname Elvis the Pelvis. And then things got ugly for the young star.
Elvis defended his dance moves, simply positing that they were a natural reaction to his music. “I don’t roll my — what they call pelvic gyrations,” he explained. “My pelvis has nothing to do with what I do. I just — I get rhythm with the music. I jump around to it because I enjoy what I’m doing.” But his actions went all the way to the top. A judge in Florida threatened to arrest the star for his “indecency”.
Elvis’ ex-girlfriend June Juanico said of the controversy: “[The judge] felt Elvis’s bumps and grinds were objectionable for the teenage audience, and he ordered Elvis to tone down his act.”
Elvis biographer Chris Hutchins recalled that Elvis was even sent with kidnap and death threats because of his moves.
Hutchins said: “An anonymous phone caller had warned of a plot to kidnap him. The FBI had barely had time to react before a second call was made … Soon afterwards, a third warning came, this time claiming Elvis would be shot on stage.”
Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, wasn’t sure if his artist was safe, nor how long his fame would last after these threats. So, as a way of securing his own financial future, Parker signed a $40,000 deal which would turn Elvis Presley into a brand. Through this, officially licensed Elvis products were released and sold. This included – but was not limited to – jewellery, record players and clothing.
Elvis earned a reported $22 million in revenue, and Parker grabbed 25 percent of all the profits. But that wasn’t enough. In order to make sure Elvis was getting every piece of the pie, he did something drastic that would capitalise on those who hated him.
Parker and Elvis released anti-Elvis pin badges that had negative slogans splashed across them. These included such sentiments as “I hate Elvis” and “Elvis is a jerk”.
Although it was promoting “negative” publicity for the King of Rock and Roll, the profits were going directly into his pocket. As a result, he reportedly earned even more money, racking his revenue up into the millions once again. Of course, Parker continued to take a hefty 25 percent of the profits – and did so until Elvis’ death. By the time Elvis died on August 16, 1970, Parker had reportedly earned more than $100 million through the King.
However, he couldn’t keep hold of it if he tried.
Parker was a noted gambler and spent all of his money in Las Vegas while Elvis was on stage during his residency slot.
The manager died on January 21, 1997, aged 87-years-old, after suffering a stroke. At the time his estate was worth a relatively meagre $1 million.
He was shown as the villain of the story in the recently released biopic, Elvis, where he was played by Tom Hanks.