ELVIS INTERVIEWS BY JOE KREIN

ED BONJA INTERVIEW

ED WITH ELVIS'S GUITAR

Joe  Krein: WHAT WAS YOUR RELATION TO COLONEL PARKER ?

 

Ed Bonja: WELL, HE WAS A LIFE TIME FAMILY FRIEND. WE CALLED HIM UNCLE COLONEL AND HIS WIFE WAS AUNT MARIE. HE WAS ALWAYS OVER TO OUR HOUSE WHEN WE WERE IN CALIFORNIA. WE HAD MOVED FROM CHICAGO.

IT SEEMS THAT THE COLONEL HAS ALWAYS GOTTEN A BAD WRAP FROM PEOPLE....

OH YEAH ,THEY STILL DO.

YOU KNOW CHARLES STONE TOLD ME THAT THE COLONEL HAD SAID TO HIM" THE WORLD WILL MAKE ELVIS A GOD, AND WILL MAKE ME THE DEVIL." IT SEEMS LIKE THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED.

 YEAH YOUR RIGHT, BUT THE PEOPLE WHO WERE ON THE INSIDE HAVE A DIFFERENT STORY.

CAN YOU TELL ME ANYTHING ABOUT THE SAHARA TAHOE?

I DON'T KNOW. IT WAS KIND OF A VACATION BECAUSE IT WAS SO DIFFERENT FROM VEGAS.

DID ELVIS PREFER TAHOE OVER VEGAS?

I THINK HE PREFERRED ANYWHERE ELSE OTHER THAN VEGAS.

HE DIDN'T CARE FOR VEGAS?

 HE WAS NOT REAL FOND OF VEGAS?

WHY WAS THAT?

IT WAS JUST THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER, AND HE GOT BORED. HE WAS ALWAYS GETTING UPSET THERE FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER.

DID THE COLONEL PREFER VEGAS?

WELL, VEGAS WAS LIKE A SECOND HOME TO THE COLONEL.

 PEOPLE SAY THAT'S BECAUSE HE LIKED TO GAMBLE. BUT THEN AGAIN THERE WAS A CASINO AT TAHOE.

YES I HAVE SPENT MANY YEARS OF MY LIFE GAMBLING IN VEGAS AND TAHOE WITH THE COLONEL

WHEN YOU STARTED TO WORK WITH PARKER, WAS HE ALREADY WITH ELVIS?

 I STARTED DURING THE AUGUST ENGAGEMENT 1970 AT THE INTERNATIONAL HOTEL. I WAS GETTING ELVIS READY TO DO HIS FIRST TOUR. HE HAD NOT TOURED IN MANY, MANY YEARS.

THEY SAY ELVIS WAS VERY NERVOUS .

WELL WHO WOULDN'T BE.

 DID HE SHOW IT?

HE DIDN'T SEEM NERVOUS TO ME. HE SEEMED LIKE HE WAS IN TOTAL CONTROL.

DID YOU TAKE PHOTOS AS A PART OF YOUR JOB ?

 WHEN THE COLONEL FIRST CALLED ME IN JULY, HE SAID THEY HAD DECIDED TO START DOING PERSONAL APPEARANCES AGAIN. SO HE WANTED MY BROTHER AND I TO COME ALONG ON THE TOUR TO HELP OUT ANY WAY THAT WE COULD.  WE WERE LIKE ROADIES. WHATEVER NEEDED TO BE DONE WE WERE THERE TO DO IT. THE COLONEL WOULD ALWAYS CALL SEVERAL TIMES A WEEK WHILE THEY WERE IN VEGAS. HE HAD HEARD FROM MY MOTHER THAT I WAS TAKING A PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS IN SCHOOL. SO WHEN I TALKED TO HIM HE SAID" BY THE WAY I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE TAKING PICTURES. IF YOU WANT TO BRING YOUR CAMERA .YOU CAN TAKE ALL THE PICTURES THAT YOU WANT" IT WAS KIND OF A OPEN INVITATION I WAS NOT SURE IF I WANTED TO DO IT OR NOT. BUT I HAD THIS  OLD CAMERA. IT WAS VERY UNSOPHISTICATED. SO I BROUGHT IT WITH ME.  WE STARTED TO END THE VEGAS ENGAGEMENT.  I HAD TIME AND I TOOK SOME PHOTOS.  THAT'S BASICALLY HOW IT BEGAN. I LIKED IT SO MUCH, THAT AFTER THE TOUR I CHANGED MY MAJOR  TO INDUSTRIAL ARTS WITH A CONCENTRATION ON PHOTOGRAPHY.

DID YOU EVER TAKE PHOTOS OF OTHER CELEBRITIES ?

NO, NEVER.

WELL I GUESS IF YOU START AT THE TOP WITH ELVIS , WHO ELSE IS THERE.

THAT'S ABOUT THE SIZE OF IT. (LAUGHING)

WAS IT HARD TO TAKE PHOTOS WITH ALL THOSE SCREAMING WOMEN TRYING TO GET TO ELVIS?

OFTEN I WAS RIGHT UP ON THE STAGE HIDING BEHIND THE SPEAKERS. WE HAD SECURITY WHO WERE SUPPOSED TO KEEP PEOPLE OFF THE STAGE . THE ONLY TIME I WAS ON THE STAGE IS WHEN WE HAD STACK SPEAKERS. THEY WERE TOO HEAVY TO HANG FROM THE CEILING. OTHERWISE, I WOULD BE ON THE SIDE OF THE STAGE WITH MY ELBOWS RESTING ON THE FLOOR.

 OTHER PEOPLE WERE NOT SUPPOSE TO TAKE PHOTOS. BUT OBVIOUSLY THEY DID.  WAS THERE A RULE "NO CAMERAS"?

 I THINK IT EVEN SAID ON THE TICKETS IT WAS ALRIGHT TO TAKE PHOTOS AS LONG AS YOU STAYED IN YOUR SEAT.

YOU CAN STILL HEAR AFTER ALL THESE YEARS BEING NEXT TO THOSE SPEAKERS?

I ALWAYS WORE EAR PLUGS. ALWAYS.

DID ELVIS?

NO. BUT I ALWAYS DID. BECAUSE IT WAS SO LOUD. BUT WITH THE EAR PLUGS I COULD HEAR ELVIS PERFECTLY.

I'VE HEARD THE COLONEL DID NOT STAY FOR THE SHOWS BECAUSE HE WOULD GO TO THE NEXT ENGAGEMENT. IS THAT TRUE?

YEAH HE WAS THE ADVANCE MAN. BUT THERE WERE TIMES WHEN HE WOULD STAY AND GAMBLE. BUT IT WAS FEW AND FAR BETWEEN REALLY. HE ALWAYS WENT AHEAD AND MADE SURE EVERYTHING WAS SET, AND TO MEET ELVIS WHEN HE ARRIVED.

WHAT KIND OF GUY WAS ELVIS? THERE HAVE BEEN SO MANY STORIES ABOUT HIM. ARE MOST OF THEM TRUE?

WELL I CAN ONLY SPEAK FOR MYSELF. HE WAS ALWAYS JUST ONE OF THE GUYS. HE DIDN'T HAVE TO PUT ON AIRS. HE DIDN'T ACT LIKE HE WAS "THE KING". HE WAS A DOWN TO EARTH GUY.

DID YOU EVER GET TO GO TO GRACELAND?

I ONLY WENT TO GRACELAND ,AFTER WE DID A COUPLE OF SHOWS IN MEMPHIS. WE HAD SOME PARTIES THERE. THEN THE ONLY OTHER TIME I WENT THERE ,WHEN HE WAS ALIVE ,WAS TO SHOOT ,THE PICTURES OF THE ALBUM COVER." RECORDED LIVE FROM MEMPHIS TENNESSEE"

WHERE YOU A ELVIS FAN?

I WAS A HUGE FAN. I GREW UP WITH ELVIS BECAUSE OF THE COLONEL.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST HEAR OF ELVIS?

I HAD NEVER HEARD OF ELVIS PRESLEY UNTIL ONE AFTERNOON .THE COLONEL WOULD ALWAYS TELL US STORIES ABOUT SHOW BUSINESS, AND WHAT WAS GOING ON IN IT. HE SAT BACK AFTER DINNER. HE SAID I FOUND A NEW BOY THIS WEEK. I THINK HE IS GOING TO BE REALLY BIG. HIS NAME IS ELVIS PRESLEY. THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF A LEGEND.

DID YOU EVER THINK AFTER ALL THESE YEARS ,THAT HE WOULD STILL BE SO POPULAR?

I REALLY NEVER GAVE IT ANY THOUGHT .BUT NOW LOOKING BACK I AM A LITTLE SURPRISE. BUT YOU KNOW ELVIS WAS ALWAYS CONCERNED.  WOULD HE BE REMEMBERED?

REALLY ?HE ACTUAL CAME OUT AND SAID THAT?

YES HE DID.  A COUPLE OF THE PEOPLE IN THE ENTOURAGE ,KATHY OR PATTY PARRY HE SAID IT TOO. "I WONDER IF PEOPLE WILL REMEMBER ME IN 10 YEARS"

WELL I THINK HE WOULD BE HAPPY IF HE WAS STILL WITH US.

WHAT DID YOU DO WHEN THE CONCERT WAS ON?

I WORKED THE SOUVENIR BOOTH.

HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT ELVIS'S PASSING?

I HAD LEFT THE SHOW THE BEGINNING OF APRIL. I WAS HAVING HEALTH PROBLEMS.  I TURNED OFF ALL MY PHONES. I WAS SICK OF IT. I WANTED TO BE LEFT ALONE. I WAS TOTALLY BURNED OUT. I USED TO TAKE EIGHT TO TEN GUYS ON THE ROAD WITH ME. ROADIES. THEY WOULD ALL COME OVER AND TRY TO GET ME TO COME BACK. I WOULDN'T EVER DISCUSS IT WITH THEM. I THINK IF I HAD NOT WALKED A WAY FROM IT. I WOULD HAVE BEEN CRAZIER THEN A HOOT OWL. WORSE THEN I AM NOW (LAUGHING)

JUST THINK OF THE PRESSURE THAT WAS ON ELVIS ?

ITS INCREDIBLE THAT HE LASTED AS LONG AS HE DID. PLUS STAYED AS GOOD AS HE WAS.

SO YOU WERE NO LONGER WITH ELVIS. SO HOW DID YOU HERE OF HIS DEATH?

A FRIEND OF MINE WHO TOOK OVER FOR ME. CAME TO MY HOME. THE COLONEL ASKED HIM TO TRY AND GET ME BACK. MY FRIEND HAD ALREADY QUIT THE JOB I HAD GOTTEN FOR HIM HE LASTED TWO DAYS. . IT WAS JUST TO MUCH FOR ONE PERSON. THE COLONEL SAID IT WOULD GET BETTER IF HE CAME BACK. SO HE DECIDED TO RETURN. BUT THEY STILL WANTED ME . I REFUSED TO TALK ABOUT IT. HE KEPT BRINGING IT UP AND I WAS GETTING ANGRY OVER IT. THE TOUR WAS TO START THE NEXT DAY. HE ASKED ME IF HE COULD PARK HIS CAR IN MY GARAGE WHILE HE WAS ON TOUR.

SO I DROVE HIM TO SANTA MONICA. THERE WAS A SMALL JET THERE TO BRING THE CREW TO THE FIRST STOP ON THE TOUR. I STAYED AND TALKED TO SOME OF MY FRIENDS WHO WERE WAITING. THEY ALL ASKED FOR ME TO COME BACK. JUST GET ON THE JET AND LETS GO.

SO RIGHT BEFORE MY FRIEND LEFT. I SAID YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT YOURSELF. YOU KNOW THE WAY ELVIS LOOKS ,HE COULD PASS ANY DAY. SO HE LEAVES AND GOES ON TOUR. I WENT HOME AND GOT INTO BED. ABOUT 9:30 THE NEXT MORNING THE PHONE RANG. IT WAS MY FRIEND. HE SAID" HOW DID YOU KNOW" I SAID HOW DID I KNOW  WHAT? HE SAID "ELVIS IS DEAD"

(ED TAKES A VERY LONG PAUSE)

YOU KNOW IT WAS A SHOCK ,BUT NOT A SURPRISE. ONE NIGHT HE WOULD LOOK GOOD, THE NEXT HE LOOKED LIKE HE PUT ON 40 POUNDS.

WHAT MADE YOU THINK THAT WAY. DID HE LOOK THAT BAD?

AT THE END I DID NOT GET TO SEE HIM MUCH. HE WOULD FLY IN. DO THE SHOW AND THEN LEAVE. THE PROCEDURE WAS. I WOULD CALL THE HOTEL HE WAS AT AND I WOULD  TELL THEM TO HEAD IN . EVERYTHING IS SET TO DO THE SHOW. JOE ESPOSITO TOOK THE CALL . ELVIS CAME AND WENT. ELVIS DID NOT LIKE TO HANG AROUND.  I SAW VERY LITTLE OF HIM TOWARD THE END. YOU DID NOT GET A LOT OF TIME TO SHOOT THE BREEZE WITH HIM.

DO YOU SEE ANY OF THE ENTOURAGE ANYMORE?

I SEE SOME OF THEM AT CONVENTIONS.

DID YOU EVER GET GIFTS FROM ELVIS?

NO THAT WAS A LINE THE COLONEL WOULD NOT LET US CROSS. THE COLONEL HAD HIS MEN . ELVIS HAD HIS. WE WERE NOT ALLOWED TO EXCEPT GIFTS FROM ELVIS.

ED WERE YOU A SNOWMAN?

YES I WAS, BUT I DON'T HAVE ANY OF THE CARDS OR BOOKS ANY MORE. THEY HAVE BECOME VERY COLLECTABLE.

I HAVE SOME OF THE SNOWMEN BOOKS AND CARDS.

WHENEVER THE COLONEL AND I WENT SOMEWHERE. I ALWAYS CARRIED ABOUT 10.000 DOLLARS FOR THE COLONEL. JUST IN CASE HE WANTED TO BUT SOMETHING.

I ALWAYS CARRIED A STACK OF SNOWMEN CARDS IN MY BRIEFCASE JUST INCASE THE COLONEL WANTED TO MAKE SOMEONE A SNOWMAN.

YOU KNOW ED AS A COLLECTOR. MY DREAM IS TO FIND A COLONEL TOM PARKER AUTOGRAPH. ITS SO RARE . HE ALWAYS SIGNED THE COLONEL.

WELL ON CONTRACTS HE SIGNED HIS FULL NAME. I REMEMBER ONE DAY. I WAS WORKING IN THE OFFICE AND ANDY GRIFFIN WALKED IN. HE SAID "HOWDIE IM LOOKIN FOR TOM PARKER. I SAID THE COLONEL IS OUT OF TOWN. HE SAID HE WAS ALWAYS TOM PARKER TO ME AND WILL ALWAYS BE TOM PARKER.

SO YOU MUST HAVE KNOWN THE COLONEL WHEN HE WAS EDDY ARNOLDS MANAGER.

I REMEMBER ONE DAY WE WENT DOWN TO THE THEATER . I WAS ONE OF TEN KIDS. WE WENT TO SEE EDDY IN CONCERT.

THE LAST TIME I SAW EDDY . THE COLONEL AND I FLEW IN A CITATION JET TO RENO. WE SAW HIS SHOW. AFTER THE SHOW EVERYONE ONE WAS HURRIED OUT EXCEPT THE COLONEL AND I. EDDY CAME OUT WE HAD A FEW DRINKS AND THE COLONEL AND EDDY TALKED. I WAS THRILLED TO BE SITTING THERE WITH EDDY ARNOLD.

ED I THANK YOU AS A ELVIS FAN FOR TAKING THOSE WONDERFUL PHOTOS THAT WE ALL ENJOY. I WILL SEE YOU IN A FEW WEEKS. I AM HEADING TO VEGAS.

YOU CALL ANYTIME JOE. SEE YOU IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS.

 
Ed Bonja roulette story
 
Parker had made a deal with the pit boss at the Sahara Tahoe. you see the colonel played roulette a lot. So the pit boss would come out while Parker was playing. you never new when he would do this. he would come out and they would spin with 2 balls. now this made the odds for the player a lot better then they were when the normal rules applied. so the colonel would try to play every number on the wheel. throwing money at Ed to  cover numbers. but Ed also wanted the great odds of playing and wanted to play the numbers as well. Parker lost millions playing at Tahoe and Las Vegas
 

one day ed stops playing. he just said that's it. I am tired of playing. the colonel looked at him and said what are you doing? ed said . I don't want to play anymore, the colonel said well it is now apart of your job to play roulette with me. so get going and play. he meant it!