The image of Elvis wearing his gold TCB ( taking care of business, in a flash ) sunglasses is a familiar one. From 1970, it was rare to see Elvis without these shades, and they were first seen in the film “Elvis: That’s the way it is”. The story goes Red West bought them at a gas station whilst he was driving to California with Elvis, and when E saw them he loved them so much he took them from Red. The cheap aviator style frames didn’t last long, so Elvis asked Dennis Roberts, his personal optician, to make a custom pair with the EP logo.
Larry Geller had been Elvis’ personal hairdresser since 1964, and remained so fairly consistently up until Elvis’s death in 1977: Larry styled Elvis’s hair for the open casket public viewing prior to his funeral. In pretty much every book I’ve read about EP, Larry is described as Elvis’s spiritual mentor. He gave Elvis his favourite book The Impersonal Life, written by Joseph Benner, an American author and spiritual automatic writer. In 1916, Benner said he felt he could no longer resist the growing inclination to give himself over as a vehicle to a larger presence, to let his mind be subsumed by (or co-creatively interact with) a larger Mind or Being. His book The Impersonal Life contained words Benner believed were recorded directly from God, and was first published in July 1914. In the last 13 years of his life, Presley gave away hundreds of copies of the book. A copy was allegedly with him on the night he died.
In Vegas late August 1970, Larry Geller was approached by a guy after a supper show, who said he needed to see Elvis, and wanted to give him something. As Elvis’ friend and close confident, he was used to being approached by the more obsessive fans, and attempted to shoe the fellow away. But as he did so, the guy pulled something out of his pocket which immediately fascinated Geller. It was a piece of metal, no bigger than a paperback book but much thinner. The metal, Larry said, had an “incredible silver white glow”, and set into it were several pieces of what looked like coloured glass. The fan, who called himself Dave, said he’d found the metal at the supposed UFO crash site in Roswell, in 1947, “before the cops and the army got there, and tore the place up”.
When Larry gave Elvis Dave’s gift, E was mesmerised by the silver white hue of the metal, and commented that it would make great rings for him and the Memphis Mafia. But when he held the pieces of glass embedded in the metal up to the light, something very weird happened: Elvis said the world looked strangely beautiful, more colourful, almost like the LSD trip he’d taken in 1965 with Priscilla and Larry. Elvis told Red to call up Dennis Roberts, E wanted the glass fragments made into lenses for the TCB sunglasses.
The strange piece of metal was dispatched to Lowell Hays, Elvis’ personal jeweller. Hays managed to prise out the pieces of coloured glass, but could not melt or shape the metal in any way. “The metal had an incredible iridescence, an almost unearthly glow” said Hays “It would have made fantastic jewellery, but no matter what I tried, the metal stayed in shape, almost like it had a memory of its own”. Hays sent the glass to Dennis Roberts, who set about fashioning it into lenses for the TCB shades, and returned the metal to E.
After having fitted the new “Roswell” lenses, Dennis Roberts returned the TCB shades to Elvis, warning him there was “something very odd” about them. Elvis laughed, and put the new glasses on. He got up and started to walk around the hotel room. Like a man possessed, E started to describe what he was seeing: rambling on about vivid colours, how the music coming from the stereo was a living entity, and how he understood how “plants could talk to each other”. Then Elvis asked Larry to take him up to the roof of the hotel. It was a bright sunny late afternoon in Vegas, but when Elvis looked up to the sky, he said he could see into the Universe, and see billions of stars. When he looked down into the street, he told Larry he could see back into history, when Dinosaurs ruled the earth and when the native Paiute Indians, who farmed huge herds of Buffalo, roamed the meadows. Then Elvis said he could see himself in the mirrors of Larry’s shades, and then fell to his knees and let out a sob “I can see my death Larry, I can see my own corpse!” and with that Elvis ripped off the shades and threw them from the roof of the hotel…….
When Elvis went back to the hotel room, Red West said he looked “visibly shaken”: E said his apologies and retired to his private room, as he was wont to do prior to a gig. Nothing more was ever said of Elvis’s “magic glasses”, but in one interview just before his death, Larry Geller said the day E saw his demise in the reflection of Larry’s mirror shades, everything changed. Larry said “Elvis went even further into himself”, and his drug consumption accelerated. That day marked the beginning of the end for the King of Rock’n’Roll……