Many people have looked forward to what seemed to be the final book on Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk a.k.a. Thomas A. Parker a.k.a. The Colonel. The book is written by Alanna Nash who has previously written ”Elvis Aaron Presley: Revelations of the Memphis Mafia” and “Elvis: From Memphis to Hollywood'” (with Alan Fortas).
As with most biographies this book starts with the early years. Knowing the city of Breda only as an important city in the Dutch-Spanish war and as former location of the Dutch Elvis meetings (both dreadful events), it is good to learn something about the old days of the city. For non Dutch people the first chapters may be a bit long as introduction. They might wonder when Elvis is going to pop up, but according to the title it is the story of The Colonel… and Elvis is just coincidentally present.
Although it is foremost the biography of the Colonel, most of us will probably buy it with Elvis in the back of our heads. The beauty of this book is reading Elvis’ rise to fame from another point of view, The Colonel’s (business) view that is. In Elvis biographies The Colonel plays a big role on the background, in this book it is vice versa. The general opinion most people have of The Colonel will not change reading this book; the true colors of this illegal immigrant are clearly shown. His hunger for power and recognition, his greed for money, his need to humiliate others and show them who is the boss and his fear for representatives of the U.S. determine the way he lived, loved and did business. You will have to read the details yourself, but you will not end with a pretty view on this man.
The strange thing is that Elvis and the Colonel had conflicts almost right from the start, but kept there (business) relation going from day one until the very end (and the Colonel tried to keep it going even after Elvis untimely death). The question why they never broke up is not answered in this book and will probably remain unanswered.
On about two third of the book the main focus is lost. The main character is no longer the Colonel, but Elvis. The realization of the 1968 Comeback special is a very interesting read, but it is written from Elvis’ perspective while this is The Colonel’s biography. New for us was that Elvis got so exited during his first stage performance he ejaculated in his black leather suit.
Elvis return to, and demise in, Vegas are the subject of the remainder of the book. Especially Elvis’ drugs / medicine abuse is told in (too) great detail. That, problems in his personal life and the omission of new challenges (would have been great to see him perform at the Pyramids in Egypt) made Elvis loose interest in everything, including life itself. There was nothing to stop it …
Overall the story is told in a pleasant way, and the many anecdotes illustrate a very “interesting” life. There are a few flaws in the book (naming “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” Elvis’ first single, while it was only the flip side) and of course there is some speculation. The one story picked up by the press was of course the allegation that in his early years Dries bludgeoned to death a young woman in his home town of Breda in The Netherlands, before fleeing to America. Although a small part in the book, it is a basis for more speculation on why this man did what he did and the way he did it. But we do wonder if all assumptions can be true.
The question that remains is “who was Takin’ Care Of Business”? Did The Colonel look out for himself or his client, and when did these two subjects shift places and why didn’t Elvis take care of his own business?. He made some decisions at moments to finally do what he really wanted to do, but somehow the Colonel had a control over him and Elvis listened to the old man.
The five years this book took to write and the details Alana uncovered make this a very interesting read. While reading it we learn a lot about this man, and that helps understanding the way Elvis’ career evolved. But the most important questions and mysteries remain unsolved.
The ColonelApril 16, 2004 | Book
Jim Semple wrote on April 18, 2004
The Colonel was far from perfect but neither was Elvis and between them, they were a brilliant team. And the one thing I really admire the Colonel for, is that he was the only person to keep his mouth shut and not sell his story, unlike everybody else who was connected with Elvis. He lived to a great age and could have made millions and millions of dollars in stories, books, interviews but he took everything he had inside, to the grave with him, and I think a few of the other so called Memphis Mafia hangers-on can learn a lot from that.
Jim Semple wrote on April 18, 2004
SandyS- I think you are looking at this through your rose tinted Elvis glasses ! Elvis died at 42 because for many, many years, he was addicted to prescribed medicine, on top of other physical problems, heart disease, stomach, eyes. Your other comments about the Colonel taking 50% commission, insisting Elvis only tour USA, all the movie committments may be true, but nobody put a gun to Elvis's head and told him to sign the contracts. Elvis was fully aware what he was doing, but for whatever reason, and nobody will ever know apart from Elvis himself, he quite happily went along with all these things and never really stood up for himself. And infact, the odd occasion Elvis did challenge the Colonel, Elvis would always diffuse the situation by apologising first. It seems to me Elvis thought the old saying ''Better the devil you know, than the the devil you don't'' !
TonyP wrote on May 11, 2004
On the point that 'Elvis must have thought highly enough of him [Joe Esposito] to give him the position he held', I wonder how highly Elvis would have thought of Joe had he realised that he was reporting to the Colonel about him behind his back? That always strikes me as a little disloyal. I'd certainly not do it to my best friend.
TCBn with TLC Bet wrote on May 16, 2004
Anyone who makes money from putting chickens on a hot skillet has a problem. Bottomline for the Colonel was his promise to Gladys that he would take care of her boy. When Elvis says, "My boy, my boy" during the '68 special, he is referring to his mama's words more than the Colonel's. That meant making sure there was enough money. Bottomline for Elvis was trusting the Colonel to choose those things that would make the money. Elvis died with a million in checking and a thousand in savings. That was how he handled his bank account, and it shows that he was living it up the way he wanted, and giving, giving, giving. The last thing he wanted was to be involved in something that would jeopardize his career. That was why he fulfilled his promise to marry Priscilla when he actually had outgrown her and was more in love with Ann-Margret. He was being threatened with being sued by her parents if he didn't. It also explains why he took on easy roles and kept touring even when ill. Rather than rebel, he made the decisions based on what he needed to do to keep his financial security, which meant taking care of all those who depended on him.
gribz wrote on May 04, 2004
I love Elvis as much as anyone, but you won't catch me puting blame on the Colonel. Elvis made choices, some great some not so great. The attitude in the end was if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Colonel new he had the greatest star in the world. I don't know what the Colonel thought about Elvis skills and details on his style, but he touted the the title "the worlds greatest entertainer" as their trademark throughout the 70's. When a PR firm approached the colonel and asked if they could represent Elvis , the Colonel said "how much will you pay us to work with the Elvis name". The firm didn't understand, because they are in business to get paid, not to pay out. Elvis name went up, and venues were sold out. Lttle if any radio was needed, because word spread fast when Concerts West announced the Elvis tours'.. Other superstars are promoted thru all media outlets, Elvis didn't have to. Leaving out your personal feelings for the Colonel, no one can deny that they were not a great team....
Flipper wrote on April 21, 2004
Joe Esposito may have been there, but did he ever really understand Elvis or was he just a 'meal ticket'. I think The Colonel just used Elvis to make money. I often wonder what he thought of Elvis as regards talent and skill - if anything but to make lots of money by. Perhaps with another manager Elvis' rise to fame might not have occured as quickly but in the long run it could have been better for him.
Flipper wrote on April 22, 2004
King of Western Bob: on the whole I'd probably agree with most of what you say. Nothing can change now and all arguments would be academic. I wouldn't have expected The Colonel to work for Elvis for nothing, after all he did have a living to make. But I do feel he just used El as a money making machine and didn't have much regard for him as a human being. That's what I feel is sad about the Elvis/Colonel relationship. I believe Elvis would have found success eventually with or without the Colonel. Would the Colonel have found the same kind of fame/riches without Elvis?
King Of Western Bop wrote on April 21, 2004
I think both men made their mistakes through the years. Joe Esposito doesn't agree with the negative comments made about the Colonel and he should know, he was there. We must accept that Elvis was responsible for some of the mistakes in his career. The Colonel's judgement wasn't always the best either. They were human beings after all. Admitting these things doesn't make you disloyal to Elvis. I admire him even more because of his human frailties - the ones we all have. That's why I can relate to him as a human being, and not as some holier-than-thou perfect being. He wasn't, I'm not, you're not. No-one is. But he was set apart by a wonderful and unique talent which still enthralls people to this day. That's a quality that has been given to so few. Admire him for it. I do.
King Of Western Bop wrote on April 21, 2004
Well as to whether Joe Esposito understood Elvis or not is something only he knows, or Elvis knew. But Elvis must have thought highly enough of him to give him the position he held. On a business level he probably had the most responsible job of any of the Memphis Mafia. As to the Colonel, the question "he only used Elvis to make lots of money" is a redundant one. What manager of any music star doesn't make money out of their artist(s)? In the end the are business people. In regard to what he thought of Elvis' talent. The question is, what do you think of his talent?? That's all that should matter. We the fans made Elvis a success because we had the good taste to recognise a great talent. I get the gist of what you are trying to say but at the end of the day it has passed into history. We can do nothing about the "what if's" now except enjoy what he's left us. There is so much he could have done but didn't. But he changed the face of music and popular culture. He left a great legacy of music for us to enjoy. He won't be around a second time so just enjoy what he's left us, mistakes and all.
sugartummy wrote on April 19, 2013
Shall I write the first book report here? I found it an interesting read, especially when towns were mentioned, like Teteringen where my mother is born, that are very familiar to me. I come from Dongen, which is reasonable close to Breda. I think this book shows what kind of person Dries was. I don't like him.