Elvis and Nixon: a meeting that is “surreal but nice”

Omaggio di Zoa Studio all'incontro tra Elvis e Nixon

Elvis and Nixon. It is strange to put the two names together. However, on December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley met the then President of the United States of America, Richard Nixon. To remember that day we will comment on how it really went.

How did the Elvis and Nixon meeting begin

“Dear Mr. President, let me introduce myself. My name is Elvis Presley …” In the American Airlines Boeing 747 connecting Los Angeles and Washington, the king of rock can’t sleep. He diligently writes, in blue pen, on the airline’s letterhead. He reflects, sometimes erases, puts capital letters where they are not needed. His strokes up and down, drawn feverishly, are not always legible.

On Monday, December 21, 1970, at 7 am, driving to Pennsylvania Avenue, Elvis remembers having Priscilla and Vernon pull up his suspenders the day before. His wife and his father constantly overwhelm him with reproaches. Too much money thrown out the window. For the last party at Graceland he bought ten Mercedes and thirty guns for his guests.

Elvis is 35 and he doesn’t care. He ended his career in Hollywood the year before, he’s lost a lot in it. Also, he began his comeback with a major television show, released an album, “From Elvis in Memphis,” which stayed at the top of the charts for twenty weeks, and started a long series of shows at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. .

He is a rich and famous man who unexpectedly shows up in front of the northwest wing of the White House. Long hair, gold rings and necklaces, large velvet cloak thrown over the shoulder. Dracula? No, the King. The letter he left for “the Boss”, as he calls Nixon, should logically end up in a trash can. Against all odds, he will reach his goal in a few hours. The Presley effect.

There is turmoil at the White House

Dwight Chapin, secretary in charge of planning and travel for Nixon, and councilor Egil Krogh, an absolute fan of Elvis, immediately take care of the case. At 10 am, a memo accompanied by the letter is placed on the desk of the Chief of Staff, Bob Haldeman. He reads it, writes a few words with a fountain pen: «It’s a joke, isn’t it? Then he ends up letting himself be convinced. The argument: Presley, well used, can serve the president in the great drug campaign he has just launched.

He writes an A on the note: approved. Chapin and Krogh rush into the Oval Office, offer Nixon a meeting with Elvis around 12:30, during the break, when he normally takes a short nap. First furious reaction of the Boss: “Who is the asshole who organized all this? The refusal is categorical. What happens next? Julie Nixon, the president’s youngest daughter, is informed of Elvis’s request. She wants an autographed photo and calls hers. father.

Officially, it is the persuasive power of men in the shadows that, it seems, has borne the fruits of her. Nixon grumbles but gives up. She wants to give Elvis five minutes, not one more. Kevin Spacey, who plays him in the film, sums up the situation:

“A story to scream with laughter! The film shows Elvis arriving in the west wing of the White House, accompanied by Schilling and Sonny West, one of the handymen of the” Memphis Mafia “. A secretary precedes them:” Mr. Presley, the White House is beautiful, right? He replies: “Yes, it feels like home. He brought his collection of official badges, photos of his family and a gift that doesn’t go through the Secret Service gate: a Colt45 from WWII and silver bullets in a box of precious wood. All disproportionate “.

Conservative Richard Nixon

The Boss isn’t the cool guy, he’s not the celebrity guy, he doesn’t like commercials. In the middle of his first term, conservative Richard Nixon sets himself up as a model of stability, a bulwark against the push of the counterculture, the riots and demonstrations that invoke civil disobedience, the freedom to take drugs, to show one’s sexuality and oppose the war in Vietnam.

Three hundred American deaths a week at that time. Nixon is an austere, tough, discreet, complex man. Never relaxed. Even when he’s home alone, he’s wearing a suit and tie. None of his friends call him by name. The least we can say is that there is nothing of  rock’n’roll in him. The difference between the two characters borders on the absurd. Yet the meeting between Elvis and Nixon happens.

How did the meeting between Elvis and Nixon go?

The meeting begins with a memorable photo shoot. The photos of Elvis and Nixon, archived by the White House, are still the most consulted today. And then, nothing. No witnesses, no records. The interview, which was supposed to last five minutes, drags on. The film indulges in this empty space: the two men munch on M & M’s, drink Coca-Cola. They evoke Woodstock, the great hippie concert of 1969. “Just a chance to get naked,” says Elvis. He chastises journalists, the Beatles, denounces John Lennon’s anti-Americanism, which he nevertheless received at his home. Elvis and Nixon have the same roots, one is the son of a grocer, the other of a tenant. They both started from nothing.

Above all, they are patriots. Nixon served in the Navy during World War II. Elvis’ entry into the army on March 24, 1958, for two years of military service in Germany, was much publicized, as were his statements. Elvis will eventually get his FBI agent badge, which he forcefully asked for.

Does J. Edgar Hoover, FBI chief, know about all this? He has a 683 page report on Presley. His behavior on stage, described as “striptease without taking off his clothes”, his very suggestive sways (hence the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis”), the hysteria he unleashes in young people of both sexes, all there is denounced. .

Some reports even call it a “US security hazard”. The king’s addiction to firearms and many drugs is a secret everybody knows. Nobody takes it into account. Bad tongues will whisper that Presley needs the FBI badge to move around safely with his guns and medications.


Four years later, as Elvis Presley’s health deteriorates, the ax falls into the Watergate affair. He accuses of Chapin, Krogh and Haldeman, Richard Nixon’s resignation. The boss and the king. Two dizzying falls. But if the former has become the most hated man in America, we still idolize Elvis Presley, inventor of rock ‘n’ roll and autonomous federal agent.



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