Chairman gets audience with King — Sinatra drops in on Presley after words with guard
In 1997 I bought a Fayette County ranch once owned by Vernon and Elvis Presley, the HoundDog Ranch. I sought out neighbors and acquaintances of Elvis and his entourage to gather stories about parties at the HoundDog and other Elvis stories.
One day in 1999 I had lunch with Joe Gattas and David Disney, a real estate agent who knew Joe. Joe told the following story.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Joe Gattas and Dean Nichopoulous were best friends. Dean was the son of Dr. Nick, Elvis’s personal physician. Joe was the nephew of Fred P. Gattas, the owner of the catalog showroom stores and active with St. Jude and the St. Jude Shower of Stars, an annual program that brought Hollywood stars to the Mid-South Coliseum for a show benefiting St. Jude.
One year the headline act at the Shower of Stars was Frank Sinatra. Joe Gattas was assigned to drive Sinatra’s limousine for the night.
The night before the show, the entertainers had their rehearsals at the Coliseum and afterward were sitting backstage, when someone asked was Elvis in town. Everyone looked at Joe. He called Dean Nichopoulous, who said that yes, Elvis was in town.
And Sinatra said, “Let’s get the limo, I’m going to Graceland to see Elvis.”
Joe drove the limo out to Graceland with Sinatra in the rear seat. He pulled the limo up to the the guardhouse at the gates and stopped. The guard came out to the car and Joe told him he was here to see Elvis. The guard told him to turn around and leave. Joe motioned toward the back seat. At that time the rear window of the limo was lowered and the guard went back to see who it was. A voice from the rear seat said, “Tell him the Chairman of the Board is here.”
The guard, shaken, returned to the gatehouse and used the phone. After a minute the gates of Graceland opened and Sinatra’s limousine drove up the hill and stopped at the front door, where he was greeted by Elvis Presley.
McClain Gordon lives on Belvedere in Midtown.
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