More than 40 years after his death, Elvis Presley remains a pop culture phenomenon. Elvis fans are still digging into the minutiae of his music and daily life, from tours of his home in Graceland to news of his relationships. Those relationships include his wife Priscilla Presley and his manager Colonel Tom Parker.
Tom Hanks has a unique perspective on the Presleys and Parker. He is playing Parker in a new movie from director Baz Luhrmann. Austin Butler will play the King of Rock n’ roll himself. Hanks was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Dec. 16 promoting his latest movie, News of the World. Previewing his Elvis Presley film, Hanks revealed something Priscilla shared with him.
Colonel Tom Parker was in Elvis Presley’s life before Priscilla Presley
Parker was Elvis’s manager throughout his career. Hanks explained how Parker discovered Elvis long before Elvis discovered Priscilla.
“Colonel Tom Parker was kind of like a carnival operator guy who was in the business of promoting the likes of Edward Arnold, Hank Snow, Jimmy Rogers Snow,” Hanks told Colbert. “He took one look at this young kid from Memphis, Tupelo by way of Memphis, saw his effect as he was singing on the audience, mostly of women, girls and women, and realized this was perhaps the greatest carnival attraction on the planet Earth. He had no other clients and Elvis never had any other promoter or manager.”
Colonel Tom Parker was a sketchy character before and after Elvis Presley
Folks doing business with Elvis were suspicious of Parker. Filmmakers lamented Parker’s control over Elvis as an actor, and the music business had to go through Parker too. Hanks understood the general feelings about Parker.
“I will say promoter more than manager and he was both a genius and a scoundrel,” Hanks continued. “He was both a very disciplined man and a guy that you might want to check your wallet to see if you still have all those fives and tens. Huh, son of a gun, I’ve only got singles left in here. You might want to do that.”
Priscilla Presley had no problems with Colonel Tom Parker
Since she was Elvis’s spouse, Hanks expected Priscilla Presley to be especially protective over her husband. Hanks’ wife, Rita Wilson, set up a meeting between Tom and Priscilla for his Colonel Tom Parker research. Hanks was surprised to hear Priscilla had mostly positive thoughts.
“I had a dinner, God bless her, Rita my wife ran into Priscilla Presley that we know from a number of functions in Los Angeles,” Hanks said. “She came over to dinner and I was expecting to hear stories about the distrust she had for Colonel Tom Parker over these many years and she said ‘No, he was a wonderful man and I wish he was alive today. He took really great care of us.’ He was a scoundrel in his way.”