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Rock and roll legend Elvis Presley was known for being a man of contradictions.

His closest friends, loved ones, and associates – including those in the Memphis Mafia, his tight-knit group of employees, security personnel, and confidantes – claimed that he was both a generous, giving friend and a troubled man with a dark side. He was well-loved by those who knew him, but many of his colleagues also knew him to be impulsive and sometimes plagued by an explosive temper.

One anecdote shared by Sonny West, Presley’s former bodyguard (along with his cousin, Red West) and longtime friend, in his 2007 book Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business, exemplified one of the King’s darker moments. West alleged that Presley, while under the influence of drugs, hit a young woman with a pool cue hard enough to knock her over.

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley | RB/Redferns

Presley’s friend claimed he could sometimes be ‘impulsive’ and ‘unpredictable’

In Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business, West reflected on a story that, to him, exemplified both Presley’s substance abuse issues as his career heated up and his friends’ subservience to him, for better or for worse.

Over time, West wrote, members of the Memphis Mafia began to notice that Presley’s drug use went beyond the typical partying associated with the rock and roll lifestyle. He alleged that Presley began to doctor-shop for various pills, which could sometimes make the usually friendly, gregarious, and warm singer become “impulsive, mercurial, and wildly unpredictable.”

One evening, West took Judy Alden, an actress he was casually dating, to a party at one of Presley’s homes on Bellagio Road in Los Angeles.

Presley was shooting pool with the guys as usual when West walked in with his date. But he could tell that the singer wasn’t his normal self. He seemed cold, aloof, and put out. West said Presley “grew increasingly frustrated” during a game of eight ball, “as he missed a lot of easy shots he normally would have made.”  

Elvis Presley with bodyguard Red West
Elvis Presley with bodyguard Red West | Tom Wargacki/WireImage

West claimed Presley became incensed at a party over a minor incident

From there, things only went from bad to worse.

West’s date began to grow bored, as she realized that meeting the King of Rock and Roll wasn’t turning out the way she’d hoped. Alden finally told West she wanted to leave and asked him to move his car, which was blocking hers in the driveway.

Presley – who was normally the consummate gentleman with female guests – began to “bark” at his friend, asking “what the hell his date wanted.”

West tried to deescalate the situation by speaking softly, but Presley was having none it.

Finally, “Elvis blew,” West wrote, adding that he screamed explosively: “‘Hell, man, you’re playing pool! Let her get someone else to move the car.’”

Elvis Presley in 'Jailhouse Rock'
Elvis Presley in ‘Jailhouse Rock’ | RB/Redferns

The bodyguard alleged that the singer hit a young actress with a pool cue

After seeing Presley blow up over something so minor, Alden figured out that something wasn’t quite right. Now she wanted to leave more than ever – but it wasn’t going to be so easy.

According to West, Presley screamed and swore yet again when Alden continued to ask if she could go home. Finally, tired of being yelled at, Alden screamed back, telling Presley to “go to hell.”

“At that point, [Presley] threw his pool cue at Judy, striking her in the chest,” West wrote in Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business. “She fell to the floor, and when I ran over to her, she was crying.”

Stunned and still crumpled on the floor, Alden asked why the singer had assaulted her. West realized at that point that there was no good answer he could give.

West speculated that the alleged incident must have been drug-related, since Presley had “taken uppers” that night. Although Presley wasn’t immune from the occasional outburst, West insisted that violence against women in any form was usually unlike him.

Elvis did have a bad temper, but he would never do something like that to a woman if he wasn’t under the influence of something,” Presley’s friend mused.

Elvis Presley with the Memphis Mafia, including Sonny West
Elvis Presley with the Memphis Mafia, including Sonny West | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Presley’s friend admitted that no one stood up to defend the alleged victim

Presley was visibly “stunned and disgusted by his own behavior” after the pool cue incident, but his pride wouldn’t allow him to apologize. Instead, West had to do the apologizing for Presley. He nervously hemmed and hawed about the singer being under stress as he made sure she was OK and led her out of the house.

Obviously, Presley isn’t here to defend himself or give his side of the story, so we can’t know for sure what happened. Still, several other sources close to the singer have since affirmed West’s version of events, according to the Elvis History Blog.

For his part, West was shocked that Alden never pursued legal action or any kind of lawsuit against Presley after the incident. He also realized something unfortunate about himself in the process: how far he and his friends were willing to go to protect Presley’s reputation – even if he was in the wrong.

“I hate to admit this, but none of us would have backed her up,” West confessed as to what he would have done if Alden had taken action against the King. “To this day, I don’t feel good about that statement.”