Elvis...Intimate & Rare (by Joe Esposito and Darwin Lamm)
Elvis in the jeep, riding around on the infield, waving to the fans. Sonny and Joe were in the back seat. (Elvis...Intimate & Rare)
Thin Green Leaf Suit
May 22, 2002
Kirk Kerkorian, the owner of the International Hotel, loaned Elvis his private DC-9 jet to take Elvis and the Memphis Mafia to Houston. The band flew by commercial airline. Elvis, Red West, Sonny West, Lamar Fike, Charlie Hodge, Jerry Schilling and Joe Esposito left Las Vegas on the afternoon of February 25th, for a fun-filled three hour flight. When they landed, the Colonel was waiting at the airport, along with some of his Texas friends and a few thousand screaming fans held back by a tall fence. Elvis strolled over to sign autographs for twenty minutes or so while the Memphis Mafia formed a protective barricade. Then they jumped into the limousines and headed for the Astroworld Hotel accompanied by a police escort. Elvis had constant police escorts everywhere he went because Elvis was truly loved in Texas. The limos pulled up to the rear of the hotel. Then Elvis and the Memphis Mafia walked through the kitchen and went up to the suite via the service elevators. That became usual mode of entry. Elvis never saw the lobbies of the many swank hotels where he stayed. His luxurious western-style suite overlooked the Astrodome. The windows in Elvis' bedroom were outfitted with blackout drapes so Elvis could sleep during the day. Sonny disconnected the bell to the phone in Elvis' bedroom. Sonny and Red set up security at the elevator on Elvis' floor with a list of people permitted to enter. All this became standard procedure. A Lear jet brought Priscilla, Judy West and Joan Esposito to Houston. Red, Sonny, Jerry and Joe Esposito rode over the arena to look over the backstage setup and check its security. Elvis usually ate about two hours before the show. That first night in Houston, their wives joined them for dinner. Talk at the table focused on the immense size of the Astrodome. Elvis began dressing thirty minutes before he had to leave for the arena. Red and Sonny led the way, with Elvis and Joe Esposito following and the rest of the guys would bring up the rear. Each night they left the hotel, they used a different exit in order to avoid the crowds that had been tipped off to their plans by the hotel staff. they got a big kick out of winning that cat-and-mouse game with the fans. About fifteen minutes before Elvis was due onstage, they reached the arena so that Elvis didn't have to linger backstage too long and build up a severe case of nerves. the Astrodome's revolving stage was proportionately small so, before the show, Elvis circled the stands in a jeep to give the audience a closer look. Elvis stood up, hanging onto the roll bar with a white-knuckled grip. A ten-foot wall separated Elvis from the stands and police held the people back, but quite a few fans tumbled over as they tried to get closer to Elvis. The stands were approximately one hundred feet away from a stage that rotated back and forth. Elvis wasn't crazy about this setup, but the audience roared throughout his entire hour-long set.