Elvis Presley spent most of his Christmases at his home, Graceland, over the years. Many of them were spent with family, friends, his wife-to-be – Priscilla Presley – and eventually his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. But just before he got engaged to Priscilla, in 1964, Elvis hosted a small, intimate Christmas get-together. However, when his pals gifted him something heartfelt, it didn’t go how they wanted it.
Over the years, Elvis built up a team of close friends that acted as his entourage. These men – who were known as the Memphis Mafia – were made up of his cousins, relatives, close friends, and employees.
In April 1964, Elvis brought a new member of the team on board: Larry Geller. His relationship began with the star as his personal hairdresser, building his iconic look over the years. But as they spent more time together in the months that followed, Larry had a profound impact on Elvis.
Larry became Elvis’ personal spiritual advisor. Together, they studied ancient texts and discussed topics ranging from “parapsychology, religion and the supernatural”.
However, Larry’s presence in Elvis’ life was not completely welcomed by the rest of the star’s entourage. And this was reflected in the events of 1964’s Christmas.
While everyone was swapping gifts at Graceland, the Memphis Mafia presented Elvis with a customised bible. The star had always been a passionate Christian since he sang gospel songs as a boy with his parents in church. But this was a special gift. The Bible had a tree of life etched on its front cover. And each line of the tree was made up of one of the Memphis Mafia members’ names.
However, Larry’s name was notably absent from the tree.
At this point, Larry was likely a crucial part of Elvis’ life. As well as being his spiritual advisor, he likely spent a lot of time with him on movie sets and before live concerts, acting as his personal hair salon.
Naturally, Elvis was furious.
Elvis refused to accept the Bible. He gave it back to his group of pals and asked them to add Larry’s name to the tree; only then would he take the thoughtful gift from them.
The Memphis Mafia were not the only people who were not fans of Larry. Priscilla revealed in her memoir, Elvis and Me, that Larry’s influence on the star became an imposing presence on those closest to him.
Eventually, he would start pushing his spiritual books on those around him. She said he was “happy to share everything”. Priscilla went on: “He read to us for hours and handed out books he thought would interest us. He announced that in order for us to be perfect soul mates, I’d have to join him in his search for the answers to the universe. To help me, he gave me several large books, including Vera Stanley Adler’s The Initiation of the World.”
As the years went by, it all became too much for both Priscilla and Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
Parker sat Elvis down one day and convinced him to start pushing Larry away from the “inner circle” a little. To give them all a bit more breathing room. Elvis agreed to do so, and Priscilla was thrilled.
“After Larry left,” Priscilla wrote. “Elvis locked away many of his books. I told him I was glad, that they were literally destroying us. We were engaged to be married.”
Elvis asked her: “Would it make you feel better if I just got rid of them all?” Priscilla nodded. And he did so. He burned them all in an effort to rekindle his relationship with the young woman.