How Priscilla Presley Reacted When Elvis Presley’s Life Was Threatened

Elvis and Priscilla Presley went through a lot together as a couple. For example, someone once threatened to shoot the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll during one of his live shows. Here’s how Priscilla tried to find comfort when Elvis decided to take the stage anyway — and how the singer’s father reacted to the threat.

Priscilla and Elvis Presley near a plane
Priscilla and Elvis Presley | Bettmann / Contributor

Did Elvis Presley perform the night his life was threatened?

In her book Elvis and Me, Priscilla discusses her husband’s comeback period. After his famous ‘68 Comeback Special, the “Can’t Help Falling in Love” singer performed multiple times at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. However, there was a downside to Elvis’ regained prominence. While Elvis had bodyguards like Sonny West and his cousin, Red West, Priscilla didn’t think her husband was always safe.

“With the renewed fame came renewed dangers,” Priscilla wrote. “Off-stage he could be guarded by Sonny and Red. Onstage he was a walking target.” Sonny and another associate of Elvis, Joe Esposito, learned some dreadful news. 

Elvis Presley on a stage
Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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“One night that summer Joe and Sonny were tipped off that a woman in the audience was carrying a gun and had threatened to shoot Elvis,” Priscilla recalled. “A true professional, Elvis insisted on going on. Additional precautions were taken and everyone was on the alert. Elvis was instructed to stay downstage, making himself a smaller target, and Sonny [was]… poised to jump in front of him at the slightest sign of suspicious movement in the audience. Red was positioned in the audience with the FBI agents.”

How did Priscilla Presley and her extended family cope with the threat?

The “Return to Sender” singer made it through the evening unscathed. He told his bodyguards that if he was ever killed, they should get the perpetrator before law enforcement could get them. After all, he didn’t want anyone bragging to the media they killed the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

Priscilla revealed how she, Elvis’ cousin, Patsy Presley, and Elvis’ father, Vernon Presley, reacted to the danger. “The show seemed to take an eternity,” Priscilla wrote. “I glanced at Patsy apprehensively and she in turn grasped my hand as we comforted each other, longing for the night to end without incident. Vernon remained backstage, never letting Elvis out of his sight and praying, ‘Dear God, don’t let anything happen to my son.’”

Vernon Presley, Elvis Presley, and Gladys Presley near a curtain
Vernon Presley, Elvis Presley, and Gladys Presley | Bettmann / Contributor

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Elvis’ bodyguards reveal something personal about the singer

According to Rolling Stone, this incident wasn’t the end of the Wests’ connection to Elvis. The Wests and David Hebler, another one of the singer’s former bodyguards, told their stories to journalist Steve Dunleavy. Dunleavy wrote a book called Elvis: What Happened? using their testimonies. The book was an unflattering depiction of the singer’s drug use. Elvis trusted the Wests with his life but that didn’t stop them from making his dirty laundry public.

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