Elvis & The Colonel
(Colonel Tom Parker)
One Woman’s Opinion
First, his name was Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk and he came from Breda, Holland. Although this won’t be known for years.
He was a colonel of absolutely nothing. He took to using the title as part of an old Southern custom of calling a gentleman, “colonel.”
Parker immigrated to the U.S. illegally somewhere around 1929. Details are fuzzy. He did serve in the U.S. Army from 1929-1932, at which time he renounced his Dutch citizenship. But he was never naturalized as a U.S. citizen.
Giving the devil his due, Parker masterminded Elvis meteoric rise to fame. He took an unknown artist with a unique style and made him a huge star. To speculate whether someone else could have accomplished this is pointless. Parker did it. Parker gets the credit.
Then he should have been fired. His self-interests ran contrary to Elvis’ needs.
Sure, Elvis did well throughout his life. But I pose the question, what else might Elvis have been without Parker’s greed in the way?
Elvis dreamed of being an actor performing serious roles like those that came to James Dean and Marlon Brando. And I think he could have handled them. But Parker kept him churning out all those formula pictures which were very profitable but which undermined Elvis’ dreams.
With better management, could Elvis have made a more graceful transition to the new world brought on by the British invasion? Parker kept clinging to the same old – same old.
Which brings us to the light of Parker’s life – money. In the beginning, he took 25% off Elvis, which was heavy but acceptable given what Parker did for Elvis’ career. But by 1967 they renegotiate the contract and now Parker’s getting 50%. Unreal! I have read many explanations as to why Elvis authorized this and none satisfy. It was just plain silly.
After Elvis died, attorney Blanchard E. Tual was appointed by the probate court to represent Lisa Marie Presley. He begins to investigate Parker and his arrangements with Elvis and what he finds astonishes him.
In short, if a deal was good for the Colonel, it got made. Regardless of whether it was beneficial to Elvis or not. But Parker was being paid a hefty sum to protect Elvis’ interests, a fiduciary he violated again and again.
The Presley estate sued in 1981 and an out of court settlement was made. The upshot was that Parker had to surrender all rights to Elvis Presley.
Eventually, some reconciliation was accomplished and Parker sold all his files, photos, memorabilia etc. to Graceland.
Parker died in 1997 of a stroke. He was 87 years old.