An excerpt from
For some, Paradise is a resting place for meritable souls. For others, the heart of Sin City is a place to reinvent the future through pivotal deals, impulsive exploits, serendipitous encounters, and premeditated plans.
On the night of August 19, 1974, on the thirtieth floor of the Las Vegas Hilton, Elvis was feeling slightly tired but a little bit wired. He had just finished his second show, and it was two in the morning. In lavish suite 3000, he draped his scarf on a lamp, stripped off his concert whites, dropped his heavy belt, kicked off his shoes, and headed to the bathroom to take a shower. Twenty minutes later, he dressed in blue jeans and an embroidered patchwork jacket he wore as a shirt, unbuttoned from his neck to his chest. He came out to join Glen, James, Jerry, and Ronnie, grabbed a hot dog from a tray that had been set out, and left the room to make a phone call.
“Come back,” Ronnie called.
Elvis ignored him. He dialed the front desk and explained what he wanted.
The clerk was stunned by his request but thought she could make it happen.
As though nothing out of the ordinary was about to transpire, Elvis returned to the gathering, grabbed a Pepsi, and cleared his throat. Glen began to play “Down In The Alley” on the piano, and Elvis sang, even though his voice was tired. The phone rang at three, and Elvis left the room to take the call.
“Do you need a car?”
“Sure. And make sure the driver knows where we’re going.”
Manny knew Vegas as well as his own reflection in the rearview mirror. He drove Elvis southbound down Paradise Road and took a right onto Harmon Avenue. Shortly before they reached the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard, he pulled over and stopped at the curb.
“See that building back there?”
Elvis lowered his window and peered into the darkness. Inset between a warehouse and a cluster of condominiums, the single-story medical office bore a discreet sign that read Las Vegas Fertility Associates.
“Yep,” Elvis told the driver.
They sat in companionable silence until a man in a white lab coat turned a light on and came to unlock the front door. Elvis jumped out of the limo and went to meet the doctor, whose name was Wendall Johns. They studied each other as they shook hands. To Elvis, Dr. Johns looked like a serious-minded professional, whom he hoped regarded confidentiality as highly as the Pope revered the sacraments. That the doctor would don his white coat in the middle of the night to meet him seemed to be a good sign.
Dr. Johns had heard many stories about Elvis over the years and wondered how many of them were true. Tonight, the star’s blue eyes were mere slits behind his gold-framed, aviator-style glasses, and his dark hair, swept back from his forehead, hung past his ears, nearly hiding his mutton-chop sideburns. He didn’t appear as heavy as he looked on film, and his tan seemed faded. A diamond-studded, gold Maltese cross hung from a chain around his neck, and his face looked wan in the moonlight.
The doctor ushered him inside and gave him a seat by his desk. “You sure you want to do this?”
Elvis stared at his vintage crystal opal and diamond pinkie ring like he was trying to recall where he’d bought it. He looked up suddenly. “Just give me a cup and a magazine,” he said, straight-faced. “And I expect you to keep my identity a secret. You can provide prospective mothers with genetic information, but—”
Dr. Johns had heard about the various paternity cases filed against Elvis, and he wondered how many of the King’s affairs had resulted in offspring. He also wondered about Elvis’s drug use, erratic behavior, and lack of sexual interest in Priscilla after she became pregnant on their honeymoon in Palm Springs. Though he was not trained in psychiatry, Dr. Johns read plenty of psychoanalytic material, and it seemed that the virgin-whore dichotomy or Madonna-whore complex—wherein a virginal, young wife would begin to be seen as a mother and therefore not sexually attractive—fell in line with Elvis’s intense devotion to Gladys. This also correlated to why Elvis seemed obsessed with virgins and why the star dated girls as young as age fourteen,
even as he entered his twenties and thirties. They were girls, not mothers, so he could sexually desire them. If Elvis faced the obvious contradiction inherent in wanting children but desiring only virginal women, this was a bizarre way to fulfill his fantasy. He could have a child without compromising a woman’s chastity.
“Little Lisa Marie isn’t enough?”
The King leaned back in the chair and gave a halfhearted smile, his upper lip raised slightly but the sides of his mouth tense and tired. “Oh, sure, she’s all that and a fleet of new Cadillacs. But now that I’m divorced from Priscilla, I’m not likely to father any more children, and if I did, they’d be unintentional. But this here has been well thought out. It’s anonymous. It’s clean. It’s uncomplicated. And if you know anything about me, that’s hard to come by. I can do it, and when it’s time to say howdy to the Good Lord and go catch up with Mama, I can leave knowing I’ve left a little more of me behind.”
“Another way of leaving your mark,” the doctor acknowledged. He had heard this before from other sperm donors who had contemplated their mortality.
Elvis was as serious as a sober Sunday. “Make sure the woman are beautiful, if you can. It’d be nice to have some gorgeous kids. And, preferably, unmarried, just wanting to have a child in their life.”
“Should they have good singing voices?”
Elvis shrugged. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Why don’t we add virgin to the list while we’re at it?” Dr. Johns suggested, trying to sound jovial, but deadly serious.
Elvis sat up straighter in the chair and couldn’t hide his genuine grin. It was clear to Dr. Johns that he loved the idea. “Why not? That sounds absolutely perfect. Add virgin to the list.”
Dr. Johns wrote down “virgin” and thought, Freud, you were one smart cookie.