Elvis has disappeared, presumed kidnapped, though no word has been heard from his abductors. Graceland is in a flap. Priscilla Presley arrives from California and summons a police detective who, mindful of Elvis’ wellbeing, advises secrecy. She concurs but Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, is keen to exploit the situation’s commercial potential and thinks otherwise. He flies to New York to brief the boss of RCA Records, knowing that the course of action he prefers will get a sympathetic hearing…

As the President of RCA Records, Rocco Laginestra presided over the affairs of one of the biggest and oldest established major record labels in the world. From his office high up above Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, he could make or break the careers of those artists signed to the label but deep inside he was acutely aware that the fortunes of RCA were nowhere near as propitious as those of his main rivals, Columbia and the WEA conglomerate. The principal reason for this was the innate conservatism that had prevented the company from embracing rock music with the enthusiasm and know-how of their rivals. As a result RCA was slipping and its owners, NBC, were on Rocco’s back to do something about it.
        In England the company was unusually excited about their glam-rock star David Bowie but Rocky couldn’t see this fey British boy, who admitted he was a faggot, capturing America with the ease with which he’d captured Europe. And Bowie’s manager, Tony Defries, was squandering a fortune of RCA’s money on tour support and funding his huge and flamboyant entourage. In Rocco’s opinion John Denver, the guitar-playing hick from Colorado who sang songs about the Rocky Mountains, was a much safer bet. His albums were shipping gold right now, which was more than could be said for Bowie. Then there was Elvis.
        In what was without doubt the boldest move in the company’s history, RCA had signed Elvis Presley to an exclusive and indefinite recording contract for $35,000 way back in 1955. At the time this seemed like an awful lot of money but the investment was unquestionably the shrewdest move RCA had ever made. Elvis proved to be far and away the biggest selling recording artist that emerged in the first phase of the rock’n’roll era, which made him the biggest selling singer in the world, and throughout most of the Sixties – despite intense competition from The Beatles and their successors – he remained a top seller. Then, just as sales were starting to dip in the second half of the decade, Elvis re-emerged after the 1968 Singer TV special and began a new career as a Las Vegas performer, the hottest ticket in town. Naturally, his new-found success on stage translated into record sales and for the next few years Elvis was rarely out of the Top 100 on the Billboard listings.
        In 1972, when sales of Elvis’ Records began to dip again, RCA and Colonel Parker reached an agreement that from Elvis’ point of view was a betrayal of monumental proportions. After a bit of horse-trading, the Colonel consented to a deal in which he and Elvis would relinquish all future royalties on Elvis’ back catalogue sales up to that point in exchange for $5 million dollars in cash that was split 50/50 between Parker and Elvis. Naturally Elvis paid tax on his share – leaving him with just over $1 million for his life’s work. From RCA’s point of view, this deal was as sweet as they come – they now owned Elvis’ back catalogue outright – and for Parker the deal provided a handsome nest egg for his eventual retirement.
        Laginestra and Colonel Parker enjoyed what could best be described as a relationship based on mutual respect, though a shade more respect went in the Colonel’s direction. Laginestra was wary of the Colonel’s ways but also well aware that his and Elvis’ fortunes were tied up with RCA for the duration. There was no way that any other record company could poach Elvis. He was – and would always remain – the jewel in RCA’s crown.

Colonel Parker’s flight had arrived in New York shortly after nine o’clock the previous evening and an RCA car was waiting to take Elvis’ portly manager straight to the suite he had booked at the New York Hilton. Tired after being aroused early in the morning in Palm Springs and the events in Memphis, he went straight to his room, undressed, climbed into bed and was soon asleep. The following morning he breakfasted on bacon, sausages, eggs, fried potatoes and toast, all of it washed down with sweet black coffee. By 10 am he was on his way to RCA’s offices on Sixth Avenue, sitting in the back of a black limousine smoking his first cigar of the day.
        On a previous visit to RCA’s offices in New York Parker had famously become trapped in the lift doors that refused to open sufficiently to allow him to leave. When he’d stabbed the button to open them he’d become trapped, with half his immense bulk inside the lift and half outside while the doors repeatedly slammed against him. Some saw this strange incident as an augury, a sign that the RCA behemoth was somehow avenging Parker’s shifty greed, but no such unbecoming calamity befall Parker on this visit.
        Rocco Laginestra ushered Colonel Parker into his office and dismissed his secretary. It was most unusual for Parker to come to New York for a meeting at such short notice and he was eager to learn the reason. The two men sat opposite each other across a coffee table strewn with music trade magazines. Parker relit his trademark cigar and settled back into the armchair. There was little need for pleasantries.
        “Are you sure we can’t be overheard?” asked the Colonel.
        “Quite sure,” replied the company man warily.
        “Very well... first I must have your word that everything I am about to tell you is in the utmost secrecy, that for the time being you will not repeat any of this to anyone, no one at the company, not your wife, not your mistress, no one.”
        Laginestra winced. How did the Colonel know he had a mistress? “Very well,” he replied. “You have my word.”
        “Well then,” said Parker, lowering his voice for effect, “Elvis has been kidnapped.”
        “What?” Laginestra’s voice registered the same shock and disbelief that had afflicted Lieutenant Shriver the previous day.
        “You heard me... kidnapped, abducted, whatever you want to call it.”
        “You’re joking.”
        “No. I am being absolutely serious. Elvis was kidnapped two nights ago while riding his motorbike. The man who was with him was knocked unconscious and didn’t see the kidnappers. Eventually he came to and returned to Graceland with the news. We haven’t heard a word since from whoever took him, or from Elvis of course. We have no idea where he is.”
        “How could this happen?”
        “That’s what I wanted to know... lax security, stupidity.”
        “How many people know?”
        Colonel Parker went on to tell the RCA president everything he knew, including the visit of the police lieutenant to Graceland, the presence of Priscilla and how they were attempting to keep a lid on the story.
        “If the press got hold of this....” began Laginestra.
        “Exactly,” interrupted the Colonel, cutting him off to allow his imagination to run wild.
        When Laginestra had fully absorbed what the Colonel had come to tell him, the pair discussed the situation at length. Like Parker, Laginestra was quick to realise that if the news were to be made public, then sales of Elvis’ records would skyrocket overnight. Neither wanted to be the first to mention this. Eventually the RCA man broached the subject. “What, if, let’s say, the news were to leak out or Elvis were to... er, come to some harm... heaven forbid.”
        “Heaven forbid... that would be terrible,” replied the Colonel.
        “Maybe it might not be a bad idea to press up some extra Elvis records... er, just in case… a precaution…. To cater for potential demand in the event…”
        The RCA man considered the suggestion. “Well, maybe we could do just that. It might arouse some suspicion at the pressing plant but no harm in taking sensible precautions. Staff might assume that we stockpiling records in the event that Elvis doesn’t recover from his present illness.”
        “Yes, that would explain it. No harm in pressing them up at all... sound commercial sense.”
        “And if, er, for some reason or another, news of the kidnapping were to become public, then there might be a demand for more records too.”
        “Yes, but the police have strictly forbidden it... and Priscilla... you know,” said the Colonel.
        “Of course...”
        “But if it were to leak out accidentally...” said the Colonel, an idea forming in his mind.
        “It won’t come from me,” said Laginestra hurriedly.
        “No. But if something like that does happen, I would expect to be able to renegotiate our previous royalty agreements.”
        “I think we could come to some arrangement there,” said Laginestra, who had already anticipated such a request. “Let’s wait until things play out.”
        “Yes,” said Parker. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
        Their meeting over, the two men rose from their seats and shook hands. Laginestra’s secretary showed Parker out and escorted him to the elevator.
        When Parker left RCA’s offices he went back to his hotel and called Graceland, only to learn from Lamar Fike that no one had been in touch with regard to his missing client. Then he took a cab to La Guardia Aiport and flew back to Memphis where he checked into a Holiday Inn near the centre of town. He didn’t want to stay at Graceland where Priscilla and Linda and everyone else would nag him for results – but he needed to be close to the action. When he got to his room he called Lamar Fike at Graceland again to tell him where he was and settled down to get some rest. It had been another long day.

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