There are times in your life when you reflect on a past event that, at the time you were living it, you were not fully aware of what a remarkable situation you were in. What I am about to recount is one of those times.
I have been a diehard Elvis fan for as long as I can remember. I have seen all his films and collected every one of his albums. I have attended every concert I could, including Las Vegas, Tahoe, Tulsa and Dallas. It was in Tulsa where I met the King.
I was 23 years old in 1972 and working as a nurse. One summer day, I heard from the lab assistant across the hall, my friend Donna, that someone wanted to sell their Elvis tickets for that night. Donna and I jumped at the chance and got in the car, only to stop at our respective homes to change clothes. I can’t remember what she wore, but sure remember my typical early '70s choice of wardrobe: Bell bottom jeans with handsewn patches, and a tunic type blouse with flowers on it. My hair was cut in a shag, and I wore no makeup.
At the time, the drive to Tulsa was about two hours as the speed limit at the time was only 55 mph. Once we arrived, we found out we were seated in the upper way back 40. We could barely make out who was on the stage, that’s how far back we were.
The concert was the last stop of Elvis’ summer tour. We found out that Elvis and company were staying at the Fairmont, so we had booked a room there.
After the concert, we got to our hotel and decided to go on an Elvis hunt. No luck. So, we sat down at the bar and had a soda. After a while and no Elvis sightings, we headed to our room. On the way to the elevator, a tall, blond, very good-looking young man stopped me and asked if I wanted to go to a party. I said no, I don’t go out with strangers. His reply, “It’s a party for Elvis Presley in the penthouse.” “And who are you,” I asked. “I’m his brother.” And me, “Elvis doesn’t have any brothers.” “He does now. My mother married Vernon Presley,” the guy said. His name was Rick Stanley, and he was my ticket to E, as he called Elvis. As we rode the elevator to the 18th floor, I panicked, worried that I might be kidnapped by a blond boy visiting Tulsa. Alas, at the third floor, the doors opened and in walked Vernon Presley, and my “date” greeted him with, “Hi Dad.” I was safe and on my way to the top floor… and E.
At the 18th floor, the doors again opened, and there were two security guards seated outside the room. Rick Stanley opened the door, and there he was, in all his gorgeous glory. Elvis. Dang, he looked good. Tan, healthy, trim. He was very cordial, charming even, and a bit flirtatious. I stood there, frozen, looking up at Elvis Presley. My God, Elvis Presley. He was wearing a black shirt, white pants and the handsomest face I had ever seen. Gobsmacked doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. He asked me if I would like a drink, and I replied, “a scotch and soda.” What? I have never had scotch in my life, and still haven’t. I was in disbelief. I settled for a Coke.
There was a record player, and all night long, the Jackson 5 played, over and over.
The whole Elvis group was there that night. The Memphis Mafia, Dr. Nick, Charlie Hodge, Red West, the Sweet Inspirations, and a girl with a square face named Bianca wearing a macrame dress with a bikini under it. I asked Rick “so, where’s Priscilla?” At which time I found out they were divorcing.
Next, I met Hodge, Elvis’ friend from the Army. He’s the guy who played rhythm guitar, stood on Elvis’ right on stage, and handed Elvis his scarves. He wanted to read me his poetry, and he did. I really think his main purpose was to keep me away from those with bad ideas.
I sat with the cast of the Memphis Mafia and had an eye-opening visit. These guys were Elvis’ childhood friends. They were educated in the business of Elvis. That’s what they knew. That’s all they knew. They were there to serve Elvis, as long as he was alive. I often wonder what they’re doing now.
At one point, I went into the bathroom, and lo and behold, the trash can held a bevy of treasures — the liquor list, guest list, a business card and the Las Vegas tour dates. I grabbed them all and stuffed them down my jeans. Now, I had proof I was there.
A couple of hours later, Elvis changed into his karate outfit and gave us a brief performance. He then ordered a Bloody Mary and a steak, medium rare. And then, it was time for us to leave. Because Elvis was going to have dinner with Bianca in the macrame dress. So, he changed clothes again and stood at the door, as we all lined up to leave. When it came to me, he said, with his signature lip curl, “Cyndy dear, thank you so much for coming to my party,” and kissed me on the cheek. A true Southern gentleman. And he remembered my name.
From there we all went to another party the crew hosted, and finally got back to our room at 4 a.m., at which time, the phone started to ring. It was Dr. Nick, asking for my friend Donna. Mr. Rick called, too, and asked me to join them in Vegas. For some reason, my intuition took over and I declined. I did keep in touch with brother Stanley for several years after. He died a few years ago.
I never did get to Graceland.
It was a hot afternoon on Aug. 16, 1977, and I was driving north on the Broadway Extension in Oklahoma City when, on the radio, came the announcement that Elvis had died. I pulled over and cried my heart out. In disbelief. I have always wondered if he knew how many of us he touched. I was so surprised, when in the film "Elvis" he says, “No one will ever remember me once I’m gone.” Guess what Elvis? We do.
Cyndy Hoenig is a businesswoman in Oklahoma City.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Yes, I met Elvis Presley in Tulsa. Here's my story.