August 16, 1977 – The King is dead. Long live The King.
Elvis had become a paranoid, pill-popping parody of himself. He suffered from glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, constipation, and an enlarged colon, brought on by years of drug abuse. In the first eight months of 1977, his doctor prescribed him more than 10,000 doses of sedatives, amphetamines and narcotics.
He had a hard time finishing 45 minute concerts. He forgot words and was unable to enunciate. His lips, tongue, cheeks, neck and fingers were fat and swollen.
Privately he feared the world had passed him by. The Beatles were all the rage and the drug-taking, war-hating hippies considered Elvis the music of their parents. In their eyes he was, in his eyes the worst thing in the world: a square.
A square? The King of Rock & Roll?
In the 70s, “Elvis” was also codeword for cocaine, The King.
People did Elvis in the bathrooms & left railroad tracks on the bar. Everyone did a lot of talking & not a lot of listening. For 20-year-old Ceasers Palace bus boy, Max Steingrout, it was perfect. He bussed ashtrays & plunged toilets. He made $2.20 an hour & all the blow he could find.
Presley was scheduled to fly out of Memphis to begin another tour. Instead he was discovered dead on his bathroom floor.
President Carter issued a statement:
Elvis Presley’s death deprives our country of a part of itself. He was unique and irreplaceable. More than 20 years ago, he burst upon the scene with an impact that was unprecedented and will probably never be equaled. His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. His following was immense, and he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness, and good humor of his country.
The Drug War was just getting started.