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Email Interview With Donna Deen

Mar 19, 2000
Can you share a little about yourself with us?

I love to travel, and have been all over the U.S., Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe. So far I have traveled to Elvis places like Memphis, Tupelo, Las Vegas, Palm Springs and Los Angeles (Hawaii's next!). I've lived in Texas for most of my life. For the past 11 years I have worked as an Administrative Assistant in the Claims/Credit department for a company that manufactures plumbing ware. In the past I have written articles for various Elvis fan club newsletters and for "Elvis International" magazine. I've also written for one of the ice skating publications, back when I followed that sport more closely.
Besides traveling, I count reading autobiographies, spiritual and historical books as a favorite pastime.

How did you become an Elvis-fan?

I sort of had a crush on Elvis when I was a little girl growing up in the 1960s. I remember reading about him in the teenage fan magazines. I especially remember looking at the photos of Elvis and Priscilla's wedding in 1967 and thinking that Elvis' hair looked funny, piled high like that, and Priscilla was pretty, but boy, she sure wore a lot of make-up! I also remember seeing photos of Elvis in 1969 & 1970 and thinking, "Wow, he is handsome!" During the 1970s, I'd read about him in the newspapers--usually about how he gave a car or jewelry to someone.

And I remember when I heard the news that he'd died on August 16, 1977. But I didn't really become a fan until I visited Graceland in 1993. To be honest, I went to Graceland with the idea of, "how tacky is this going to be?" and ended up being impressed with Elvis' achievements by the time I walked out of the Trophy Building! It was a real attitude adjustment for me, because until I became a fan, I thought all Elvis fans were basically trailer park trash. Yes, I was a snob!

What is, in general, your favourite Elvis-stuff?

My favorite "stuff"....well, I'm not into collecting Elvis towels and T-shirts and thimbles and such. I guess my favorite "stuff" would be my Elvis library. I especially enjoy the photo books (my favorite is Joe
Tunzi's "Tiger Man - Elvis '68") and also books written by the fans, like Donna Lewis' "Hurry Home, Elvis" books and Frances Keenan's, "Elvis, You're Unforgettable." Beyond the books, I have a decent CD collection and also a video collection. Wish Tom Parker had been smart enough to tape the 1969 Vegas comeback concerts or the 1976 Pittsburgh New Year's Eve concert!

Name your favorite Elvis-song, -movie and -album.

Now that's tough....how do you choose just one Elvis song? I favor the bluesy stuff, like "One Night" and "Little Sister," and the dramatic stuff like (no, NOT "Hurt"!) "Tomorrow Never Comes" and "If I Can Dream." Elvis was in great voice in the early 1960s, and I particularly like the '69 Memphis sessions and the June 1970 Nashville session. Favorite album -- well, I like Essential Elvis Vol. 4 "A Hundred Years From Now" -- it's great to hear the outtakes and alternate takes!

As for my favorite Elvis movie, it depends on my mood. "King Creole" was his best film, but I also enjoy "Viva Las Vegas," "Follow That Dream" and "Charro!" (OK, it's because he looked so good in that one!). I also like "Change of Habit," mainly because I think Elvis' acting is more natural in that one than in most of the 1960s "stuff" (I'm being polite) he did. I like to think that Elvis was a lot like the Dr. John Carpenter character....apparently Elvis felt an affinity with Carpenter, since he used that name as an alias while traveling!

What is your favorite Elvis site?

I don't do a whole lot of web surfing, but I do like the "Elvis in Japan" website, where I get a lot of my Elvis news. One of the fun Elvis websites is Gregger's "Elvis' Women" website, which is all about Elvis' movie co-stars. I would like to see a "Whatever Happened To....?" website because there are so many co-stars and "Elvis people" who have dropped out of sight. For example, whatever happened to Solomon Sturges, who was great as Billy Roy in "Charro!"? Did Jocelyn Lane ("Tickle Me") REALLY marry into Spanish Royalty? What are the "little girl Elvis co-stars" like Donna Butterworth ("Paradise, Hawaiian Style") and Victoria Meyerink ("Speedway") doing these days? And where are Al Strada and Dean Nichopolous?

Is it okay to place your picture with this article?

Aw c'mon, don't you think your readers would rather look at a photo of Elvis? By special request from Donna a picture of Elvis from 1969.

The questions Bev wanted you to answer:

If you were to write Elvis' Epitaph what would you write?

Part of me thinks that I'm not qualified to write Elvis' epitaph, because I didn't know him. But hey, we don't want to disappoint Bev, do we? One thing that comes to mind are lyrics from my favorite Elvis gospel song, "Where No One Stands Alone":

"And my heart felt alone and I cried,
'Oh, Lord, Don't hide your face from me.'"

I think Elvis was a very lonely man, despite the constant presence of the entourage and the adoring fans. Gospel music was a lifeline for Elvis--maybe one of the few things that kept him halfway sane in his crazy world! I believe that Elvis was searching for God, often in the wrong places, but he wasn't cynical or hip enough to think he didn't need God or that God is dead. And I believe that God is the only one who really knows how lonely Elvis felt, how difficult it must have been for a poor kid from Tupelo to deal with sudden fame and fortune and adoration.

Another lyric that might be an appropriate epitaph for Elvis would be:

"Don't be cruel to a heart that's true."

So many people have used Elvis and have been cruel to his memory by writing self-serving tell-all books. They call it "Truth," but they conveniently omit their own cruelties and faults. Now Elvis was a very weak man in many ways -- but did he deserve so many "friends" who write these books and give interviews on TV? Despite all of his weaknesses, I believe Elvis had a good heart.

I feel that many of the "tell-all" books written by those who knew Elvis, while dealing bluntly with Elvis' frailties and weaknesses, have been less than compassionate or kind. No doubt Elvis could be difficult to live with at times, given the gilded cage he was living in! But I do not feel he deserves the treatment he has gotten from some people claiming to be his friends. 'Nuf said!

What do you think of Elvis fans and the Elvis world in general?

I've learned that Elvis fans aren't this huge monolithic bloc of people. As I mentioned before, I used to think that Elvis fans were uneducated idiots who lived in trailer parks and worshipped Elvis at their homemade altars. In other words, I bought into the media's perception of Elvis fans. Elvis fans are actually a much more diverse group, and for the most part, an intelligent people who just happen to share good taste in music! Some fans are into the music, collecting every CD or boot imaginable; others are more interested in Elvis, the man. As for what I think of the Elvis world in general, let's go to the next question....

And the final two "standards" in our ElvisNews emailinterviews:

Is there anything else you want to get rid of, or share with our readers?

Maybe I'm the only Elvis fan who feels this way, but I find precious little balance in the Elvis world when it comes to Elvis himself. Elvis is portrayed in terms of black and white. He's either a drug-addicted, gun-totin' womanizing jumpsuited pervert, or he's the next-best thing to Jesus Christ, a generous man who loved his Mama and all his fans.

There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of gray, mixing in both Elvis' strengths AND weaknesses. I get frustrated with the "Elvis people" (those who knew him) who are not upfront and honest about Elvis' less-than-exemplary lifestyle. Likewise, I get annoyed with those who concentrate on Elvis' darker and more
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