Before we set off for the Las Vegas convention, Charlie had told me that we would try to meet up with Loanne and Dick, who were both in Las Vegas at the time.
Early on the first day of the convention, Charlie went out to meet Dick Grob to get him into the hall. They came back together, and as we shook hands for the first time, I noticed Dick was wearing my (Kraig Parker) name tag, which made for a humorous situation throughout the day (I thought I was the impersonator). I guess they didn't want to wait at the registration table so Charlie loaned him my pass. Anyway, Dick hung out with us most of the day and I enjoyed hearing him and Charlie reminiscing about their good times on tour with Elvis, along with some events that stood out. Charlie told of one time when he had a gun pulled on him in Miami, Florida by a police officer who told Charlie to let his wife get a scarf!! Another time, there was someone lurking outside the back stage door in Asheville, North Carolina..and when Elvis drove up, the lurker made a move to approach him - looking very suspicious. Dick had to help Charlie restrain this person until Elvis was safely in the building.
That night we all met up for dinner and I had the opportunity to meet Loanne Parker. She told us she had never spoken to an impersonator and had never cared much for them. Since Charlie was her personal friend, she had graciously agreed to have dinner with us. Perhaps my having the same last name intrigued her a bit.
As we ate and talked, it was clear that she had the utmost respect and appreciation for Elvis and all of his magnificent accomplishments. But that paled in comparison to how she felt about the Colonel. Her eyes sparkled every time she mentioned his name. She portrayed him as the kindest, most gentle and caring man she had ever known. Contrary to recent articles, she said he always took the most careful approach concerning Elvis and his career, and he was extremely protective of Elvis' health and reputation with the public. He was more than just a business partner -- he was a caring friend and mentor to Elvis, and Elvis admired him greatly.
Loanne also said the Colonel was a mentally gifted, mathematical genius in thebusiness realm. She told of how he rarely used contracts, since he never forgot a name, a number, or the details of a deal. She said he could think on multiple levels at the same time, make a deal with one client while thinking of, or writing out a separate deal for another, without even missing a single detail. Pretty incredible!
She also said the Colonel generally allowed Elvis to select the songs he wanted to record and perform. However, there was one song in particular that he constantly plagued Elvis to record. Elvis finally agreed to record it for the Colonel. The song was "Are You Lonesome Tonight.," which became another big hit.
I didn't ask Loanne much more about Elvis, but she did tell me that he wore one inch lifts in his shoes to make him taller. She wished me luck and success in my career as an entertainer. She urged me however "to never stop being yourself, people will appreciate you for who you are. Don't try to be just like Elvis, because there can never be another one like him. Just be natural and people will love you." She said she was so glad that people still loved the music so much, and hopes that it never dies. I told her that with so many millions of fans around the world and, of course, all of us ETA's going
strong, it would never die.
The short time we shared together was a great blessing, and surely one of the highlights in my adventures as an ETA.