Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Elvis's Vroom Service

Elvis Presley died thirty years ago today, but he left behind many reasons for Denverites to remember him.

Cadillacs, for starters.

When he was in Denver, Elvis regularly stopped by the Colorado Mine Company, the Glendale restaurant run by Buck and Cindy Scott that was a hangout for visiting celebrities (Elvis’s patronage was honored with a special, $50 peanut butter and banana sandwich on the menu), as well as the town’s movers and shakers, including then-Rocky Mountain News editor Michael Howard, grandson of the co-founder of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain. In 1984, a deposed Howard was called to testify before the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee, which was investigating the state’s Organized Crime Strike Force because of allegations of impropriety. For years, Ron Pietrafeso, a Denver Police Department detective assigned to the strike force, had served as Howard's bodyguard; he'd gotten the job through Captain Jerry Kennedy, the head of the DPD's vice squad who also supervised police moonlighting duties -- including guarding Elvis on his visits to Denver in the '70s.

On January 16, 1976, the Howard-edited News wrote about one such Elvis episode. In town to celebrate his birthday, Elvis had invited all of his local cop friends to the party -- Kennedy, Pietrafeso, even Denver police chief Art Dill, who gave the King a gold badge designating him an honorary DPD captain. (It's still on display at Graceland.) A few days later, the drug-addled Elvis gave Kennedy a Lincoln Continental and Pietrafeso a Caddy. (Chief Dill declined a new car.)

None of the cops noted anything odd about Elvis -- not then, not later. Asked about potential conflicts posed by his moonlighting jobs, Kennedy told the News: "Where there are drugs, we make arrests." -- Patricia Calhoun

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun