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How Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon had one of the strangest White House meetings ever

“We were puzzled. For the first time he traveled alone - without a single bodyguard. Elvis didn't even know his phone number and didn't have a lot of cash on him!"

The story of one strange meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon at the White House

In 1970 year in America there were few people more famous than Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon. AND king of rock and roll, and the President U.S.A were on top of the world and… just a few years away from their dramatic downfall. Rather, that is why the photo of their handshake in the oval office has such weight today. Such a meeting may seem mundane for a celebrity like Presley. However… the outrageous details of this meeting and how it happened qualify it as one of the craziest Elvis stories ever! So: first things first...

Extreme trip to Washington

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley

By the end 60s, after working in the film industry, Presley refocused his career on music. During this period, he also became prone to prescription pill use and erratic behavior... One day in December 1970 year, Presley was very upset that his father and wife found it unnecessary to spend $100,000 for Christmas gifts. After an argument with them, he went to the airport in Memphis, Tennessee, and boarded a plane bound for to Washington DCwhere he rented a hotel room.

He soon lost interest in the city and returned to the airport, jumping on a plane bound for to Los Angeles, California. He stayed in California for one day before deciding he had important business in the nation's capital... Presley's wife, Priscilla, recalled:

“We were puzzled. For the first time he traveled alone - without a single bodyguard. Elvis didn't even know his phone number and didn't have a lot of cash on him!"

Priscilla and Elvis Presley on their wedding day
Priscilla and Elvis Presley on their wedding day

Letter to the President

After boarding an overnight flight in Washington DC, Presley decided to make a formal request to meet with the President Richard Nixon in writing ... Here is a small excerpt from a letter he hastily scribbled:

“Dear Mr. President, I - Elvis Presley - admire you and have great respect for your work ... I believe that you, sir, are among the ten outstanding people of America! I have a personal gift for you that I would like to present to you…”

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley

In his letter to the President Presley expressed concern for the future of the country. In particular, the musician was concerned about the ever-evolving counterculture movement and its impact on young people, and did not hesitate to name those he considered especially dangerous, adding:

“I have no worries or other motives, except for helping the state ... I don’t want to be given a high-profile title or an appointed position. I can and will do more good if I become a federal agent-at-large…”

Elvis Presley, photo: Roger Marshutz
Elvis Presley, photo: Roger Marshutz

In your letter Presley announced his intention to stay at a local hotel under a pseudonym John Burroughsuntil they meet. The King of Rock 'n' Roll provided the exact address, adding:

“I am registered under the name John Burroughs. I'll be here for as long as it takes to get the powers of a federal agent..."

Nixon reaction

Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, the famous handshake...
Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, the famous handshake...

After the letter Presley was delivered to the White House, President Nixon agreed to meet with him that same day. Although he himself was allegedly not enthusiastic about the idea of meeting with the king of rock and roll, his aides convinced him that Presley represented an attractive opportunity to connect with the youth of the country. The meeting was scheduled for 12:30 in the Oval Office, but Presley showed up half an hour early ... Remarkably, he tried to enter the White House with a Colt 45 gauge.

Dubious gift...

Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, legendary meeting at the White House
Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, legendary meeting at the White House

Presley tried to enter White House with a Colt 45 caliber! The product of the Second World War, as promised in his letter, was intended as a gift to the president. Presley was forced by White House security to hand over .45 rounds of ammunition to them before he was allowed in. The gift also included silver bullets, and the Secret Service reportedly "looked rather vaguely at it".

Unfortunately, there is no recording of the dialogue (let alone video evidence of the meeting) between Presley and the president ... The only documentation of their meeting is a note compiled by Bad Krogh, a Nixon official who witnessed it. Krog wrote:

“Presley very emotionally proved to the president that he was “on his side.” He kept repeating that he wanted to be useful, that he wanted to restore respect for the country. He mentioned that he was just a poor boy from Tennessee who got a lot from his country, for which in some way he wanted to repay ... "

Presley vs... The Beatles

Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, iconic meeting at the White House
Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, iconic meeting at the White House

According to Krogh, Presley was not afraid to shed light on a particular group that, in his opinion, was doing a disservice to America: and this group were The Beatles. Elvis spent a lot of time meeting with the president speaking out against the British group, and most interestingly, Nixon fully agreed with his assessment:

“Presley indicated that he believed the Beatles were a real force in the anti-American spirit. He said that the Beatles came to this country, made their money, and then returned to England, where they promoted an anti-American theme. The President nodded in agreement and expressed some surprise…” Krogh’s note said.

Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon
Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon

The meeting ended with Bad Krog called "an unexpected, spontaneous gesture" - Presley hugged the president and they both shook hands. Nixon then turned to Krogh and asked, "Can we give him a badge?" The answer was yes. However ... the federal badge issued to Presley functioned as nothing more than a souvenir. But that hasn't stopped the king of rock and roll from calling himself a "federal agent-at-large." But why Elvis Presley it took a sharp turn "federal agent"?

Priscilla version

The incomparable king of rock and roll Elvis Presley and his wife Priscilla Presley
The incomparable king of rock and roll Elvis Presley and his wife Priscilla Presley

According to Presley's wife, it was all a scheme to legally import banned substances into foreign countries... Priscilla stated that Presley's intentions were less than honest when he went to the White House in order to receive a federal badge. In her memoirs, she wrote:

“The official badge represented for him a kind of supreme authority… For him, it meant legal entry into any country, both with weapons and with any substances he desired…”

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