Today marks the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. The iconic singer spent a great deal of time in the Centennial State and had many adventures. In honor of the King, Backbeat is sharing some of these stories.
See also: - John Bucci on being the proud owner of the church pew Elvis once sat in at Holy Family - Retired Denver police officer Bob Cantwell on The King's "nurse" making a house call - Bob Kortz on tracking down a black diamond for The King in the middle of the night - Velvet Elvis's Top 10 favorite Elvis songs in honor of the King's passing - Gym Elvis helped Denver Police Department build to be torn down - Jonny Barber recording Elvis singles at Sun Studio tonight
Elvis Presley's generosity is almost as legendary as his sideburns and white jumpsuits. Case in point: Denver Police Captain Jerry Kennedy, who received a brand new Lincoln Mark IV courtesy of The King. Kennedy first met Presley through the DPD, when the former was in charge of running the department's off-duty operations and The King needed security when he came to town. Presley himself had wanted to be a policeman from the time he was a kid.
Presley, who recorded his first single ("That's Alright Mama") when he was nineteen, was clearly on a career path that would make it impossible to follow through with his law enforcement aspirations. More hit singles followed, and then the films, the groupies and everything else that made Elvis, well, Elvis. By the time the singer befriended Kennedy and other local officers in the early 1970s, he had vast reserves of money and an unquestionable flair for eccentricity. So what does a mega-pop star do once he's bought everything there is to buy? Elvis might answer: attempt to turn a childhood dream into reality.
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That's why he liked to surround himself with officers -- Kennedy, Bob Pietrafeso and Bob Cantwell, chief among them. At one point, Elvis even had a double-breasted police coat made for himself by a tailor on 14th Street. He loved carrying a pistol and had cop-themed jewelry (including a gold police badge). No doubt, Presley loved the law enforcement look.
The Lincoln came about, in typical Elvis fashion, as the result of a series of spontaneous decisions. To hear Kennedy tell it, Elvis was sitting at home in Memphis one night, watching television with his road manager, Joe Esposito. He saw snow skiing on some channel and said he wanted to go to Aspen. And, just like that, Presley was on a plane headed to Denver.
Kennedy and other officers joined Elvis and Esposito for their winter vacation in the mountains, winding up in a posh rental house in Vail. Kennedy and his fellow officers wound up spending ten days with The King, and, by all indications, they had a blast. Near the end of Presley's stay, he asked Kennedy what kind of car he drove. "I said I got an Audi Fox," Kennedy recalls. "He said, 'I wanna buy you a car like mine. I'll get you a Lincoln.'"
It was that easy. Presley asked Kennedy if he knew of any Lincoln dealerships in Denver, and he mentioned the Kumph Motor Car Company, formerly at 8th and Broadway. Kennedy called the dealership and asked if they had any brand new models in stock. They had a royal blue Mark IV that was part of the Bill Blass designer series. Kennedy said he'd take it. True to his word, Elvis wrote a personal check for the car, paying $13,386.69 for the new ride. "He said his dad would shit his pants when he saw the canceled check for this," Kennedy recalls. (Presley's father Vernon had been handling his son's finances by 1976.)
Presley bought other cars for other friends and girlfriends, including a number of Cadillacs. Kennedy kept his for twenty years, selling it, finally, in 1996 to the Tupelo Automobile Museum. Kennedy sold it for the same price as what Elvis paid -- $13,300 -- and hasn't regretted it at all. "It's in a better place now," he says.
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