- Elvis Presley Meets Mario
By Jeff Rense
- There has been some recent controversy
as to whether or not Elvis and Mario knew each other or ever personally
had a face-to-face meeting.
- As I've mentioned in the past, Mario's
eldest daughter, Colleen, told me on a number of occasions that Elvis did,
in fact, phone and talk to Mario on a couple of occasions in Italy during
the1957-59 time period. She was adamant about this as she loved answering
the phone...as do many 10-11 year olds. She clearly recalled hearing Elvis'
unmistakable voice after saying hello and said how extremely polite he
was. She said she had, a couple times, been able to hang around and listen
to her father's side of the conversation.
- I asked her what she heard him talking
about. "They talked a lot about how much they didn't like 'Hollywood'
and the people who had caused them difficulty and pain...especially, Dad,
of course." Since they were both RCA recording superstars, they also
traded 'war stories' about people they knew in common and about the business
of making records in general. We have only Colleen's word that these calls
occurred. Colleen's imagination and sometime propensity to exaggerate things
is no secret but that does not necessarily discount what she told me about
Elvis talking to her father.
- Elvis, during his time in the Army in
Germany, would have been well aware of Mario's European concerts and controversies...these
were major entertainment news issues. And since soldiers are not prohibited
from making phone calls during leave and off-time, Elvis certainly could
have easily gotten Mario's phone number from RCA. I can state that Colleen's
anecdotes were sincere and sounded credible, and did not seem merely fanciful
embroidery designed to create interesting conversation. If you knew Colleen
well, you could usually sense the reality of what she was saying.
- To further explore this issue, I spoke
to Terry Robinson (Mario's closest and most trusted friend all during his
Hollywood days). I've known Terry for over 15 years. Since Terry's importance
and near constant presence in Mario's life is legend, let me just add that
I have never met a more honorable and gracious man; a man whose recall
of his many years with Mario...and the minute details about his career...is
stunningly detailed to say the least. If you have been able to listen to
Terry's appearances on my radio program, you will hear his dignity, sincerity,
and great character with no difficulty whatsoever.
- Terry was the closest thing to a brother
Mario had...in fact, many brothers would do well to be so devoted. Terry
was with Mario nearly constantly from 1949 until 1957. Since Mario didn't
like to drive, Terry drove him nearly everywhere...including to every single
recording session up until the time he and the family went to Italy. Terry
was in the studio for every take of every song and aria for RCA, MGM, and
Warner Bros. Further, Terry went with Mario on his concert tours and was
on the set of every Hollywood film, every take. Terry even acted as his
stand-in during the production of several films including The Great Caruso.
Louis Mayer insisted that Terry live with Mario at the studios during the
filming of Caruso...Terry took Mario home only on weekends. Terry knew
Mario as well as anyone probably could.
- Mario relied on Terry for a multitude
of things...most importantly his steadfast friendship and support through
the brutal crises that nearly continually plagued his life, personally
and professionally. Mario asked Terry repeatedly to come with him and the
family to Italy but Terry chose to remain here to look after Mario's parents.
That's the kind of man Terry is. One can only speculate how Mario's European
sojourn would have turned out had Terry been there to act as a rudder...and
- I called Terry on 4-27-99 and asked him
directly if Elvis had ever met Mario. Here is a transcript of our conversation.
- TR: Oh Yes. They did meet in person...just
one time...in Beverly Hills. Steve Scholls was the 'A & R' man at RCA...meaning
'Arts and Repertoire'...and Steve used to come around (to visit)...especially
with Mario being 'Numero Uno' in RCA sales.
- There was a kid coming up who RCA signed
and his name was Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley's favorite singer was Mario
Lanza. And, he (Scholls) brought Elvis to the house one day. And Mario
said, 'Sure, I saw him on the Sullivan Show' and this and that.
- JR: At which house or location did this
- TR: At 810 North Whittier Drive...in
Beverly Hills. And he (Scholls) brought him into the home...I was there...and
he said to Elvis, 'This is Mr. Lanza.' I was (introduced as) 'Mr. Robinson.'
Everything was 'Mister.' That was the time Elvis met Mario.
- The next time Elvis saw me he was a major
star. He was in the Beverly Wilshire hotel where my friend Ed Parker was
putting on a (Karate) show for a group of orthopedic surgeons that was
having a conference at the hotel.
- (Terry describes how legendary Karate
Master Parker came to put on the demonstration for the doctors).
- I told one of the doctors who I knew
who was putting on the conference that I could bring a fellow in (Parker)
who can break large boards with his fingers and can still play the ukelele
as good as anybody. He'll break bricks with his fingers and nothing happens
to them. He said, 'I'd love to see that! It would be great for our doctors.'
- So, we advertised the show and then I
got a call from Mr. Elvis Presley and he said he would love to see the
show but that he didn't want to be introduced or anything...he would stand
in the back of the room. He would 'love to watch Mr. Parker perform.' So,
I arranged that, and Mr. Parker met Presley and he became Presley's Karate
- Now, regarding Mario...when Elvis Presley
met Priscilla her favorite singer was also Mario Lanza. His favorite singer
was Mario Lanza...so both of them...and I found this out from a kid who
traveled with him, Jerry Shelly. Jerry was the one who told me that they
used to listen to Mario all the time.
- Now, whether Elvis called Mario in Europe,
I don't know. When I used to speak to him (Mario) in Europe her never mentioned
he had spoken to Elvis. Colleen says she used to talk with him on the phone
but I do know she never met him.
- JR: When Elvis visited Mario in his home...how
long did he stay?
- TR: Not long, they (Presley and Scholls)
stayed about a half hour or so. They were spending the day going around
to all the record shops that day (and didn't have a lot of time).
- JR: Did they talk and laugh and so forth?
- TR: Oh, yes. He was so polite, that kid.
We played some of Mario's records and he sat there...you know, sort of
- So, there you have it from the man who
was there. Elvis did have one brief meeting with Mario Lanza.
- Jeff Rense