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Elvis Presley’s manager had a shady past linked to murder

The man behind Elvis Presley also imprisoned the woman next to him.

Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was so controlling that he pressured the rock star to marry Priscilla Beaulieu on May 1, 1967. Parker was determined to get those yes words done, even arranging the whole wedding at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, where the die-hard gambler had a history of dangerous debt.

“He wanted to tie him to a woman so there wouldn’t be scandals about women,” said James L. Dickerson, whose 2001 book Colonel Tom Parker: The Curious Life of Elvis Presley’s Eccentric Manager was purchased by Warner Bros. for the new “Elvis” movie – starring Tom Hanks as Parker – which opens Friday.

“He thought women were a bad influence on Elvis.”

Priscilla was just 14 when she met Elvis – 10 years her senior – when he was stationed with the US Army in Germany; three years later, she moved to Graceland before tying the knot at age 21. Presley — who had dated the likes of Ann-Margret, Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno — was reluctant to marry the resourceful and settle down.

Elvis and Priscilla Presley on their wedding anniversary on May 1, 1967
Elvis Presley married Priscilla Beaulieu on May 1, 1967.
Popper photo via Getty Images

But the colourful, controversial Parker prevailed. He had an intense influence on the man who would become king since he discovered him and became his manager in 1955.

“I think Elvis was just afraid that if he went against Parker, he would mess things up,” Dickerson said. “I think he was just afraid of it.”

An unsolved murder

Parker, who was born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk in the Netherlands in 1909, had such a shady past that rumors arose that he was implicated in the murder of Anna van denenden in his hometown of Breda. The 23-year-old grocer’s wife had been brutally clubbed near Parker’s family home in May 1929, just before he left the country.

To date, however, the case remains unsolved.

Elvis Presley performed in 1956
The king, Elvis Presley, performed in 1956.
Hearst Newspapers via Getty Imag

“There’s really no evidence,” Dickerson said. “But we know that Colonel Parker wasn’t a very good man.”

When he illegally immigrated to the United States as a stowaway in 1929, he took the name Tom Parker. “He thought it sounded very American,” Dickerson said. And using his birth name, he added, “would identify him as an immigrant.”

Early on, he was touring the States as a showman: “People were buying tickets to see the Dancing Chickens and he had a hot record that they stood on to make them dance,” Dickerson said.

He also served briefly as a private in the army, but after deserting he was imprisoned pending release, reportedly from a psychotic breakdown. (Parker received the honorary title of colonel in the Louisiana state militia for his campaign work from Governor Jimmie Davis, who was a former country singer.)

Eventually he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he began working with country singers such as Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow. And when Parker wanted to manage Presley, he used Snow to convince the young singer’s parents.

Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley with manager Colonel Tom Parker as he is discharged from the Army in 1960.
Bettmann Archive

“He planned and formed an association with Hank Snow,” Dickerson said. “He knew Elvis’ mother loved Hank Snow. So he took Hank Snow to talk to Mom and Dad.”

But then Parker promptly cut Snow out of the deal to manage Presley. “They had a business arrangement that fell apart,” Dickerson said. “And Hank Snow said that Parker was the lowest human being that ever walked the earth.”

“He never liked music”

Though Parker later helped Presley become rock’s first superstar with hits like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” the two didn’t exactly love each other tenderly.

“Parker was old enough to be Elvis’ father, but they didn’t have that kind of relationship at all,” Dickerson said. “I don’t know if they ever hit it off.”

Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker
Elvis Presley claims to have pointed a gun at manager Colonel Tom Parker in the early 1960s.
red ferns

In fact, Parker didn’t have even the most basic things in common with Presley: “He didn’t particularly like music,” Dickerson said. “He never liked music. He wasn’t listening to music.”

Still, Parker certainly benefited disproportionately from Presley’s record sales and concerts, and took a bigger cut than the norm. “He started out at 25 percent, which was high,” Dickerson said. “Fifteen percent was normal.”

But after Parker’s massive gambling debts landed him in big trouble in Las Vegas, he upped his percentage to 50 percent. “His vice was gambling,” Dickerson said. “He could lose a million dollars in one night in Vegas.”

Parker also urged Presley to shift his focus from music to films. And though Elvis found success with films like 1957’s “Jailhouse Rock,” Dickerson believes films ultimately hurt Presley’s career — especially after he returned from two years of service in the Army in 1960.

Tom Hanks and Elvis Presley there "elvis"
Tom Hanks and Austin Butler as Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley in the new movie Elvis.

“It killed his music,” he said. “Parker branded him a movie star, but he got horrible roles.”

Elvis also potentially missed out on lucrative world tours, presumably because Parker did not have a US passport.

And after Elvis’ big comeback TV special in 1968, Parker signed Presley to a long-term contract the following year with a Las Vegas gig that snuffed out his momentum — and mojo. “It just broke his courage,” Dickerson said. “He was a deeply unhappy man.”

In fact, it was during those Vegas years that Presley became intensely involved with prescription drug abuse. He died of a heart attack on August 16, 1977.

The cover of James L. Dickerson's book Colonel Tom Parker: The Curious Life of Elvis Presley's Eccentric Manager.
James L. Dickerson’s book Colonel Tom Parker: The Curious Life of Elvis Presley’s Excentric Manager has been purchased by Warner Bros. for the upcoming Elvis movie.

Parker was still turning and acting when he arrived at the funeral in a baseball cap and Hawaiian shirt. “He was trying to do business with the people there,” Dickerson said.

He continued to benefit from Elvis after his death, receiving 50 percent of his royalties until he settled out of court with the Presley estate in 1983. It is estimated that the deal netted Parker $100 million.

Although Parker himself would live 20 years after Presley, who died in 1997 at the age of 87, a large part of him died with Elvis. “He mostly lived in the past,” Dickerson said.

https://nypost.com/2022/06/23/elvis-presleys-manager-controlled-the-king-not-a-good-man/ Elvis Presley’s manager had a shady past linked to murder

Emma Bowman

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