He was one of his dearest and most trusted friends and, in many ways, his spiritual mentor. It was pretty much that way from the moment they met in 1964. One of LA’s premier celebrity hairstylists in the 1960’s, working with the famed Jay Sebring, their clientele read like a Hollywood Who’s Who, with such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Peter Sellers, Steve McQueen, Henry Fonda, Peter Fonda, Robert Wagner, James Garner, Bobby Darin, Sammy David, Jr., Rock Hudson, Roy Orbison, Sam Cooke, Kirk Douglas, Tony Bennett, Jackie Gleason and many, many more.
After styling Elvis’ hair for the first time, instead of rushing off to his next famous client, Larry stayed for three hours as he and Elvis talked about everything from show biz to the nature of life. Larry didn’t realize then how much this day would change two lives – his and Elvis’ – forever.
By the end of the conversation, Larry was no longer just a hairstylist; he and Elvis had begun a close friendship that did not end the day he prepared Elvis’ hair for the funeral in 1977
One afternoon at Graceland in 1966, during a hiatus from making movies, I went upstairs as I always did, to take care of Elvis’ hair and talk. I knocked on his bedroom door and he invited me in. Elvis was sitting on the edge of his bed, and from the expression on his face and his body language, I knew immediately something was up.
I asked him if there was something wrong – he handed me a movie magazine. Its bold headline read, “Elvis still in deep grief over his mother’s death,” placed over a teary-eyed Elvis, a picture actually taken from one of his films.
Elvis was visibly upset, shaking his head from side to side. “Can you believe this? Hey, a lot of reporters do their best to do their job and report accurately; I respect that. But a few of them downright lie and just play on people’s emotions. Anything for a buck I guess.”
Elvis then asked me to read aloud the story itself. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of the article went like this. ‘Elvis’ family and friends are extremely worried about Elvis. He’s deeply grieving over his mother’s death, and he feels desperate without her. They hear him pacing the floors in the wee hours of the morning, lamenting and weeping over her passing. One insider is worried that he’s so distraught he might want to join her.’
“Grieve! Larry, I hope you never have to go through and grieve like I did. But listen, that was 1958, it was eight years ago. Don’t get me wrong; you can never really get over something like that completely, but I’ve come to terms with her death.
“Man, you can’t believe what I was goin’ through back then. I mean everything was just crashing in on me at once, every dream I ever had. Just when everything was going my way, the Army calls me. My career comes to a screeching halt; all the movies I was starring in, my records, TV, everything. To tell you the truth, I actually considered that maybe, maybe nobody would even remember me after I served my time, that I’d be some kind of flash-in-the-pan. You know, people would say, ‘hey, remember that guy, the one that used to shake his body, what’s his name?’
“Then the first thing they do when I’m inducted is buzz my hair off!” Elvis shook his head incredulously. “Can you imagine that, Larry, my hair? And that picture of me with that silly-ass grin on my face – damn man, I was dying inside. Then, when I’m struggling to deal with everything, then the final blow, my mom suddenly dies! My Mom! My mom was the light of my life, my best friend; I mean, she’s the one I could always go to…man, no matter what. About the only one I really trusted. That’s a blow you can never really get over.
“An’ that’s when my real grieving began. Hey, I bought Graceland for my mom and dad. I bought the pink Cadillac for my mom, an’ jewelry, furs an’ whatever I could, just to make everything up to her for all she had to go through her life…make her happy. Cause she knew what pain, poverty and strugglin’ was all about, she lived through it.
“Grieve? Just put yourself in my shoes. I mean my mom, my career, everything, overnight, just like that. Then they send me half around the world to Germany. I’ll tell ya, I wasn’t sure what the future had in store for me. I’d lay there at night in the dark and say ‘Why me, why me Lord?’ I’ve always believed in God, that’s the way I was raised. An’ I’ll tell you, there were times when I really began to wonder.
“And I’ll tell you this Larry; I didn’t have to go into the army the way all the other guys did. They told me that if I wanted to I could be in a Special Services unit; you know, represent the army and tour the other bases around the world, talk to the guys, maybe entertain and sing. I didn’t even have to think about it. I flat turned their offer down. I didn’t want to be treated special or anything like that; I just wanted to let everyone know that I was just like every other guy.
“So I’d just lay there on my cot, and held everything inside. I couldn’t let the guys see my grieving.”
Elvis became very quiet, lost in his memories. “You know me, Lawrence. I’ve always had an inquisitive mind; I want to know what’s behind everything. I can remember when I was a little kid, I would always be askin’ my mom about my twin brother Jesse, you know, why he never had a chance to life. I can still hear her voice telling me just like it was yesterday, “Honey, God took your little brother back home to heaven ‘cause it was part of his plan. He has a plan for everybody: for your daddy, for me…and for you too, Elvis. Someday I’ll be goin’ back home, and someday Daddy’s gonna go home. And even someday – a long, long time from now – God’s gonna bring you home, too. An’ then we’ll all be together again, all of us back home in heaven.’”
Elvis looked at me intently. He leaned forward and with conviction in his voice, said, “And that’s exactly what I believe Lawrence; we’re all going home…someday.”