Gary James asks the experts

Elvis: Is He Still With Us?

Major Bill Smith says Elvis is very mich alive. Charles Thompson says Elvis is dead. After talking with both of them, interviewer Gary James says each is convincing in his own way. Read on and see what you think.

An Interview with TV producer Charles C. Thompson

In a recent interview with author Gail Brewer Giorgio (The Elvis Files), we presented the idea that Elvis Presley may still be alive, that he faked his death. "Not so", says Charles C. Thompson II. And he should know. He's spent over 10 years tracking down the truth of what really happened at Graceland and to Elvis on that day in August 1977. Mr. Thompson was a founding producer for ABC-TV's news program 20/20 and is currently a producer for CBS-TV's 60 Minutes. Mr. Thompson, along with Memphis journalist James P. Cole, has authored a book titled The Death of Elvis, What Realiy Happened (Delacorte Press). Asked if the book doesn't raise new questions, Thompson responded. "It may raise new questions, but certainly not new questions about him being alive. If you go through the complete autopsy and you chop somebody to pieces, you're not alive at the end of that process." One of the new questions surrounds the strange actions of step-brother David Stanley at Graceland shortly before Elvis' death. According to the book, Stanley was in a hurry to get out of Graceland because he was trying to smuggle out a friend who shouldn't have been there. No names are mentioned.

Charles Thompson: - It was a girl. We know who she was and had talked to her. There just wasn't any point in naming her.

Gary James: - And why shouldn't she have been there?

Charles Thompson: - They were security conscious. They just didn't want anybody in there who wasn't cleared by Elvis. David was supposed to be on duty and he was late and fooling around. It's a fairly simple story.

Gary James: - What about all the "Is Elvis Alive?" talk and the sightings of Elvis?

Charles Thompson: - Most fans accept the idea that Elvis is dead. But they really don't want to discuss how he died. And others have convinced themselves that Elvis is alive. So, no matter what type of evidence is presented to the contrary, they still cling to that idea.

Gary James: - What of Gail Brewer Giorgio's claim that when Elvis was brought into the hospital on August 16, 1977, a nurse looked at him and said. "That's not Elvis," and she was made to sign a G-5 form, swearing not to reveal what went on in the hospital that day.

Charles Thompson: - I've never heard of that form. There were no federal people there. The people I talked to, the doctors and nurses, were very open and willing to talk about what happened. Elvis was well known by the hospital staff because he was treated there just two weeks prior to his death.

Thompson maintains what's lacking from all of the "Is Elvis Alive?" proponents is "documentation." No pictures, no audio or video tapes exist that can prove beyond a doubt that Elvis is alive. In fact, Thompson states that some of the documents being used to prove Elvis is alive are "bad documents" because they have been altered.

Gary James: - Is it true that a million dollars is missing and has never been accounted for from Elvis' checking account?

Charles Thompson: - They're meticulous at that estate. Priscilla and Jack Soden, the fella who's running it for her, are great business people. They're not missing a nickel. Colonel Parker took 50 percent off the top. Elvis' father got taken on a lot of swindles. And Elvis, as you well know, liked to give away a lot of expensive gifts. They weren't making a whole lot of money and they didn't have a whole lot of cash at that time. They were just going from concert to concert.

An Interview with record producer Major Bill Smith

Major Bill Smith of Ft. Worth, Texas says Elvis Presley is alive and says he talks to Elvis on the phone all the time.

Who is Major Bill Smith? He is 69 years old (at the time of this interview), and he traces his association to Elvis to 1956, when Elvis came to Ft. Worth. Smith, a promoter and record producer, met Elvis and got airplay for him on key radio stations in the area.

How long has the Major known about Elvis faking his death?

Major Bill Smith: - I've known the story since May 1977. Dr. James Wakefield Burke, a novelist and the head of the press in Germany stopped by the mansion in May 1977. Vernon Presley told Dr. Burke in May 1977 what was coming down. Vernon was in on the whole thing with him. I know the whole story from soup to nuts.

Gary James: - How about the sightings of Elvis Presley across the country?

Major Bill Smith: - All the Kalamazoo (Michigan) stuff was true. I never know where my friend is. Well, I do know a lot of times where he is. He calls me. I've got the only two pictures of Elvis after 1977. Everybody laughs at me and and jokes, calls me a fool and an idiot. Let the idiots think what they want to think. Elvis says he's gonna try to come back soon. It will be with the Major and I will be handling the whole damn thing.

* You can hear what Major Bill Smith says is a taped conversation with Elvis by clicking HERE *

An Interview with Elvis impersonator Russ Howe

He calls his show Reflections of the King. Russ Howe is an Elvis look-and-sound-alike and I talked with Russ about his tribute to the one and only Elvis Presley.

Gary James: - Is this what you do full-time?

Russ Howe: - Most of the time. For about ten years I've been in the electrical business doing security alarms, and I really enjoy that. I think I need that to keep myself sane to be honest with you. The Elvis stuff is really at night time, and if I take off 2-3 weeks or whatever, that's basically how it works.

Gary James: - You say you keep the electrical work going to keep your sanity. Can you get caught up in the whole Elvis mystique?

Russ Howe: - You know it is pretty scary when you see sometimes the reaction of the people, because they're out to have fun, and sometimes they get lost a little bit. They just go crazy for that hour, if they want to think that's Elvis up there, that's great. But never forget who I am. I've met quite a few people who do the Elvis show and they're 24 hours Eivis. So, a lot of people who meet me are very happy that they realize I'm myself also, which is a totally different person.

Gary James: - All this talk about Elvis being alive, does that help or hurt ticket sales?

Russ Howe: - Actually, I don't know. It's stirring a lot of people's minds. I personally don't believe it. I know a few people who were with him the night before he passed away. With all the stories I've been told and the people I've met, I don't believe it. Just to show you, two years ago when the "Elvis was alive" was a really big thing, I went to visit my parents in upstate New York. I went fishing. Here I am in the middle of the lake, I'm fishing, a car goes by and the screech of the tires went on and I heard a lady screaming "Elvis". I got home about a week later and I went to the candy store and picked up the new issue of The Star. The latest spot for an Elvis sighting was upstate New York, fishing. (Laughs.) So people I think, see what they want to see. I would love him to be alive, but personally I don't think so.

An Interview with Elvis impersonator Danny Vann

Danny Vann has been imitating Elvis since he was three years old. His professional debut occurred in 1968, when he was 15 years old. Danny Vann is regarded as one of the best Elvis tribute acts in the country. We asked him what it all means.

Gary James: - 1968 had to be a rather strange year to be debuting an Elvis show. The Doors, Hendrix and Janis Joplin were ridin' high on the charts. Why did you decide on Elvis?

Danny Vann: - 1968 was a bizarre time to be doing Elvis. But, I started imitating Elvis many years before that. In fact, I was trying to do Elvis before my voice changed. I got my first guitar in 1968, so I could finally start performing on my own.

Gary James: - You work full-time for Michigan Bell as a computer analyst, and perform your shows, I assume, on the weekend. If you wanted to, couldn't you go full-time with your show?

Danny Vann: - I was a full-time entertainer after high school when I met my wife, and literally sang 5 to 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, for nearly a year. Just me and my guitar at different clubs. I got married to my one and still only wife when we were both 19 years oid. About a year after we were married, I suffered a severe bout of exhaustion. At the time, I didn't work for Bell and had no medical insurance. I laid flat on my back on our apartment for three weeks. Thank God my wife had a full-time job. I came from a broken home and didn't have much of a childhood. I had three weeks to think about no medical, no paid sickness days, no retirement and worst of all, no security. What kind of life would an entertaining career be for my future family? I got my start with Michigan Bell within six months of my recovery. I have had offers since then, but I know I made the right decision. My 14-year-old son, Troy and 11-year-old daughter, Shannon, have a secure life. We have the best of both worlds as they frequently travel with the show and help out.

Gary James: - What do you get out of doing an Eivis Tribute Show? How does it make you feel?

Danny Vann: - I started singing because of Elvis. My first performances were mostly Elvis songs. His music is very beautiful and fun to do. I have written and recorded several original songs, but even when I do my own music or other people's hits, the audiences have called for the Elvis songs.

Gary James: - Do you believe Elvis faked his death?

Danny Vann: - If anyone could have pulled it off, it was Elvis and maybe the F.B.I. But, I feel Elvis has given more than any human being should be asked to, and if he went into hiding, leave him alone. He deserves his privacy.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.