Over the years I’ve been asked many probing questions concerning Elvis’ spiritual life. One I received recently from a fan named Janet is a big question that relates to all our lives, and so I would like to answer it in some depth. Janet asked, “How much do you think you helped Elvis on his spiritual quest? Do you think he died at peace”?
To begin with, we should all understand as clearly as possible what being spiritual means. Basically, it’s an awakening of our very core, the essence beyond our mind, intellect and ego. When we have even a partial glimpse of the sacred we experience joy, insight, intuition and creativity. In addition, there is the awakening of love, kindness, compassion and happiness. It isn’t just a side of our personality – it’s who were are, an attitude, a way of being.
The first time I styled Elvis’ hair, I became acutely aware that he was basically a spiritual man; he was born with that quality, and fame and fortune never tarnished nor corrupted the shining soul quality that animated his life. Elvis throughout his life Elvis was a vibrantly spiritual person. But it was the afternoon of April 30, 1964 that defined the moment in time when he consciously embarked on a lifelong quest for meaning and enlightenment. For the rest of his life he lived in constant pursuit of that elusive “something else” that gives life real, true meaning.
I was cutting hair at our salon when my phone rang, one of Elvis’ aides asked if I would like to come over to his Bel-Air home and style his hair.
After I blow-dried his hair we became engaged in a profound three-hour conversation that changed both of our lives. At first I answered some personal questions about my background, my interest in reading books on religion and spiritual growth, health, meditation and yoga. Then our conversation quickly turned to even deeper realities of both our lives. Do we really have an immortal soul? Is there life after death? What is the meaning and purpose of our lives? Are fate and destiny pre-ordained? And many other subjects we all think about.
Then Elvis revealed,”This is exactly the kind of stuff I secretly think about all the time, especially late at night when I’m in bed. But I don’t have anyone around me to talk about these things. And I’ll let you in on something. I’ve always felt that there had to be some purpose for my life. I mean, ever since I was a little kid an’ growin’ up, I felt this unseen hand behind me, guiding my life, getting me to the point where I’m at now. Why me…why me?
Elvis leaned forward, his fingers delicately picking something invisible from the air. “Why was I plucked from all the millions of lives in the world; there’s gotta be a purpose in all this, a reason why I was chosen to be Elvis Presley.”
His eyes took on a faraway look. “Larry, I want to tell you something about myself. Listen, I grew up in the heart of the Deep South. Man, we were so poor you wouldn’t believe where I’ve been, and what I’ve seen in this life boggles my mind. I mean, from pain and tragedy to the very heights of glory—way, way beyond my wildest dreams. But deep down, I always felt there had to be real answers to why this all came to me and not some other guy.”
Several hours into this remarkable conversation Elvis told me about his stillborn twin brother Jesse Garon, his experiences growing up going in the church, and many other intimate memories and impressions of his earliest days. Then I stole a glance at my watch and started to pack my hair cutting tools, but in my heart I truly felt something really clicked here. “It’s getting late, Elvis, and I need to get back to my salon. Hey, it’s great meeting you; I really enjoyed our conversation. Look, if you ever need me to do your hair again, I’d love to come back and we could talk some more.”
Elvis studied my face for a moment. “I’ve got a better idea. I don’t know what your working situation is, but why don’t you go back and tell them you’re gonna quit there and work for me full time. Because Larry, I sure as hell don’t believe in coincidences. You came here for a reason more than just doing my hair. Just meet me at Paramount Studios tomorrow morning at eight o’clock. Your name will be with the guard at the gate. And Larry…don’t forget you gotta bring me a few of those books you’ve been talking about.”
The next morning as I was driving to Paramount Studios, my head was spinning. I realized that the responsibility I agreed to wasn’t only for my services as Elvis’ personal hairdresser, which was obviously monumental in its own right. Even more significantly, Elvis was asking me to nurture and mentor his mind, and his deep spiritual urge.
As it turned out, that first conversation served as a model for what was to become a daily experience for Elvis and me. In the following years we spent several hours a day talking about just about everything under the sun. Whether in the privacy of his home, his trailer dressing room in Hollywood, at Graceland, on tour or aboard “The Lisa Marie,” inevitably our conversation drifted into the more philosophical and spiritual aspects of life.
Elvis was a voracious reader. Over the years he amassed an impressive library of books that I selected and brought to him. Man, did he love his books. Two large trunks filled with his favorites went with him wherever he went; his own portable library.
Elvis was a very private person whose spiritual life was shared only with very few of his most intimate friends.
“The world knows Elvis Presley all right,” he said emotionally, “but they don’t know me,” poking his chest. “I want them to know me, the real person. Larry, I’ve always been misunderstood my whole life. When my career first took off, they didn’t know what to make of me; Hollywood still hasn’t figured me out, and there’s a lot of people who still don’t have a clue to what I’m really all about. There’s more to me than that guy up there on the stage: You know, Elvis the image. What my fans and everyone else need to know is that I’m a spiritual person. If they don’t know that, they’ll never really know who I am, and what makes me tick.”
Elvis’ search for meaning and purpose in his life was to understand what was asked of him, what he was called upon to give to the world. He knew his God-given talent and the music he created were a great gift he offered to his fans, and most people in his position would have thought that’s enough, that’s what I’m here for. But it wasn’t enough for Elvis; he believed he was chosen at birth and he suffered in his longing to do more, to give more.
My life has been so enriched and blessed knowing and serving Elvis. I was deeply connected to his life, as his hairdresser and friend, plus more vitally and importantly attending to his most profound spiritual needs.
The essence and soul of all things is spiritual – the spiritual is truly real because it is the life of all there is. Spiritual power is the power that lies at the heart of all things; it’s the soul of the universe. Elvis knew this only so well.
Elvis’ life, and the aftermath of his passing, attest to the fact that he knew, and attempted to convey to the world his depth, sensitivity and abiding faith in God. His music and his spirit live on as testaments to his life on earth, like no other entertainer in history. Yes, Janet, I do believe absolutely that Elvis died at peace.