In celebration of the recent 50 year anniversary of the ’68 Comeback Special by Elvis, we recognize one of the crowning achievements in the life and career of Elvis Presley. We all know how it re-launched Elvis’ singing career after years of strictly making films in Hollywood; we know how a segment of the program was the original “unplugged” innovation that MTV would mimic over two decades later; we all know that it was originally meant to be a Christmas Special and Elvis had to go against the wishes of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker; and we all know that television history was made and soon after, Elvis would also launch his comeback to live performing again. That subsequent “comeback” would not only revitalize and revolutionize Las Vegas, it would literally deliver Elvis to the hometown of millions of fan as he toured the nation the the following eight years …until his dying day. There is no doubt that the ’68 Comeback Special was a pivotal point in both the live and career of Elvis Presley, and in the very history of Rock and Roll Music.

The story has been told, dissected and retold by fans and music historians alike for a full half-century; but in the words of Monty Python “Now for something completely different”.

Anyone who knows my book and documentary series, Elvis:Behind the Image, knows that I am all about going behind the scenes and peeling back the exterior layers to expose the hidden gems that are not widely known.  The following is taken from my book and feature length documentary: The Top Secret Elvis Presley Paternity Suit Uncovered: Sex, Lies and Videotape .

It all started at the filming of the famous ’68 Comeback Special …but we will get back to that.

Fast forward a few years to January of 1970. Elvis had just a single successful engagements at the International Hotel in Las Vegas under his belt in the summer of 1969, and had not yet started touring. On the opening night of his January – February 1970 engagement, a fan named Patricia Parker got close enough to Elvis to have a photo made with him. According the her, what happened next (and up in Elvis’ suite) …was much more than just a photo; Months later, Parker was pregnant and telling the tabloids that Elvis knocked her up.

She went on to file a lawsuit stating that the baby was Elvis’ and demanding money and on-going support. Elvis later publicly denied the charges and claimed “…that chick must have gotten pregnant with a Polaroid camera”, because all he did was let her take a photo with him.  She was obviously banking on Elvis giving her a payoff to get rid of her like many other celebrities have done in the past to make a bad situation to go away- even if the claim is unfounded. Many argue that It’s cheaper than the bad publicity, especially back then- when fans were less forgiving of a stars improprieties. But Elvis wasn’t having any of it. He pledged to fight it to the end,

Original Court Documents: Complaint to establish paternity of unborn child and to prove support – Filed August 14, 1970

 

Just as Elvis predicted would eventually happen, a process server posing as a fan attempted to serve Elvis with a subpoena.  It happened between performances at the Los Angeles Forum on November 14, 1970 . Once at the Forum, he was quickly taken to his dressing room and the decision was made to go ahead and let them serve the papers to Elvis and not prolong the inevitable. The last thing he needed was someone trying to serve him court papers right in the middle of the performance. Another process server came and was escorted to Elvis’ dressing room and allowed to serve the papers on Elvis’ terms.

It was clear that Elvis was going to have no choice legally but to dance the dance.  As the case drug on, John O’Grady, – The private investigator whom Elvis hired to look into the case- had been looking for a man referred to in the world of paternity suits as “Old Harv”.- The guy behind the girl who is trying to make the big score; This was typically the mastermind of the plot and possibly the real father of the child in question.

By the end of 1970, publicity generated over the paternity suit went from newspapers to movie magazines and tabloids, and soon the world knew of Patricia Parker and her paternity suit against Elvis. …but her fifteen minutes of fame came at a price.  As the selfish greed of one despicable individual permeated the air, another greedy leech got a whiff and decided to cash in on their own revealing information about Parker that was vital to the case. (you’ve gotta love the poetic justice!)

In December of 1970, there was a break in the case when Elvis’ attorney was contacted by an ex-friend of Miss Parker’s. She requested an interview, saying she had some information he could use. O’Grady also attended the meeting at the office of attorney Harry Fain. The informant said “I don’t want to see a nice boy like Elvis hurt, and that’s why I’m telling you this.”  But as typical informants do, she wanted to be paid for the information she provided.

The informant said that her Uncle was associated with Patricia Parker and the uncle reported hearing Parker and another girl talking about how they could claim Elvis was the father of her child. Another break in the case came with the information given by the informant of a stage hand at one of the studio’s in Hollywood who dated Patricia Parker for a while. The stagehand basically said that Patricia was a nice girl and said “Elvis knocked her up and should pay for it.” O’Grady was hoping the stage hand was the “Old Harv” he was looking for, but the investigation was far from over.

In some cases, a wealthy defendant in a paternity suit will agree to pay a specific amount for a settlement without trial to avoid the negative publicity, stating that the payment does not mean that he admits to paternity of the child in question. In the case of Parker vs. Presley, no such payment or compromise would ever be made. Elvis’ spokesman made it clear that there would, under no circumstances, be any kind of settlement, regardless of the dangers and consequences. Elvis was anxious and determined to prove once and for all the child was not his. On December 16, 1970, Elvis’ attorney, Harry Fain, filed a motion to request a blood test be performed on Elvis, Patricia Parker and the baby, Jason Peter Presley.

On December 28, 1970, at the law offices of Fain, Lavine, Kauffman and Young in Beverly Hills, California, consecutive depositions were taken of Patricia Parker, her doctor, Martin Schwartz and the custodian of records at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. Elvis’ lawyers filed a motion to subpoena Patricia Parker’s medical records from Doctor Martin Schwartz, and from the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, including all financial payment records. When John O’Grady examined the hospital medical records, he discovered that Patricia Parker’s maternity bills had been paid by none other than “Old Harv” the stage hand. This infuriated Elvis- to have confirmation that the mastermind of the entire extortion attempt was an employee of NBC studios in Burbank, California, where two years earlier he had just taped and broadcast his famous 1968 NBC-TV special. To add insult to injury, RCA , Elvis’ longtime record label, was owned by NBC. A double slap in his face. Elvis’ attorneys promptly filed charges against both Patricia Parker and her accomplice.

The charges against Patricia Parker and her accomplice, stated in part, that they had “Conspired and willfully entered into a scheme or plan to wrongfully extort money from cross-complainant (Elvis Presley) and to gain for themselves personal publicity and personal aggrandizement”. Or in layman’s terms, a wrongful attempt to increase their own financial gain and influence and to draw attention to their own importance.

Elvis also requested that the name “Presley” be removed from the birth certificate. Elvis’ counter-suit against Patricia Parker was for the token amount of one dollar in damages to his name. However, Elvis’ attorney’s said that their acts were done “willfully, recklessly and maliciously” so he said Elvis was entitled to receive an additional $1,000.00 as punitive damages – a relatively small amount considering the irreparable damage done to Elvis’ name and image with all the negative media coverage.  Naturally, Parker’s attorneys filed a motion to strike the cross complaint on the grounds that there were insufficient facts to constitute the cause
of action. The case continued on.

On October 21, 1971 – over a year after the paternity suit charges were brought against Elvis, the October 21st date set by the court for Elvis, Patricia Parker and the baby, Jason Peter Presley, to provide a blood sample had arrived. When they lanced the baby’s foot to take a blood sample, the infant screamed in pain.  This infuriated Elvis, who leaned over to his bodyguard Sonny West and angrily whispered, “Damn her for putting that kid through this!”   The complete story, including hidden camera photos of Elvis’ arrival to the lab (and much more) – is all covered in the documentary in much greater detail than I can expound on here.

At the Brentwood Laboratories in Los Angeles, the blood of Elvis Presley, Patricia Parker and her child Jason, were later tested by blood typing expert Dr. Phillip Sturgeon. By November 19th the blood tests were concluded. After conducting his own detailed testing, Dr. Sturgeon sent blood samples to Dr. Marc Metaxas in Zurich, Switzerland for confirmation of his findings. Dr. Metaxas was a world authority on blood typing and because of the sensitive nature of this lawsuit, Dr. Sturgeon thought it best to obtain a second opinion. The attorney’s for both sides authorized the blood samples to be sent to Dr. Metaxas and his independent results were in agreement with Dr. Sturgeon: “Elvis could not be the father of this child”.

The paternity suit should have ended there, but Patricia Parker and her lawyers were not giving up that easily. They quickly went to work, feverishly attempting to disprove the results of the blood test. As usual, to quench our insatiable appetite for gossip, the newspapers and movie magazines were quick to report every morsel of information they could get their hands on. Additional trial dates were set, continued, postponed and put off the calendar for the next several years.  In January of 1974, over 2 years since the court ordered blood test, Patricia Parker’s attorneys filed a notice of motion to require parties to submit to additional blood tests. They also requested that the now 3 year old child receive $2,000.00 per month in support, and reasonable monthly support also be paid to Patricia Parker. They also wanted Elvis to pay for all her attorneys fees as well.

Just when Elvis thought it was over, he was thrust back into the fire with the real possibility of more blood tests and lengthy trials. It is for this reason that many people in Elvis’ position would concede to settle out of court, without admission of guilt, but with a sizeable settlement, and just move on. Elvis was determined to fight it out  until the end, regardless of how long it took. One can’t help but wonder though how the emotional roller-coaster ride must have effected him through the years.

After more subsequent court dates were set, continued and rescheduled… On March 5, 1974, both counsel for Elvis and Patricia Parker met with Judge Jack T. Ryburn in his chambers and the motion for additional blood tests was denied. Though Patricia Parker and her attorneys contested the motion, and would make continued repeated attempts to re-open the case, for all intents and purposes, in the eyes of the court, the matter was settled. The battle with Patricia Parker that had already lasted for over four years had finally ended for Elvis, although Parker made several attempts to re-open the case. As late as August of 1976, six full years after filing her original paternity suit, she was still claiming Elvis was the father of her child, and petitioning the courts to re-open her case before finally disappearing out of public view, never to be heard of again.  Ironically enough, the Presley name is still erroneously on the birth certificate to this day.

There is no way to know for sure when the plot actually started to brew in the mind of the stagehand who worked for NBC – but at the very minimum, a seed was planted that would later yield a bitter fruit that would directly affect the life and career of Elvis. Always the consummate professional, it is interesting to note that through it all, Elvis never became reclusive and accessible to his fans, although he had every reason to after such a battle that had drug on in court for several years. He loved being around his fans – possibly as much as his fans loved being around him, and it was a part of his life and career that he was not willing to sacrifice because of a bad taste in his mouth left by a malicious few.

Bud Glass

 

References:

Interview about Top Secret Paternity Suit Production after its initial release

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