Interviews

The Enduring Legacy of Elvis Presley

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 6, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Back of the Book" segment tonight, there's no question in my mind that Elvis Presley is the most enduring celebrity in American history. This weekend, yet another mini-series on Presley, who died 28 years ago. And since that time, scores of entertainment projects have chronicled his life. Is there anything we don't know about the guy?

And how about this? Even in death, Presley's estate makes close to 40 million bucks every year. Incredible.

With us now to explain the phenomenon is Lisa Chambers, the senior editor at "TV Guide," and from Los Angeles, singer Pat Boone, a contemporary of Elvis Presley, whose new album, "Ready to Rock," comes out at the end of the month. There he is.

All right. Lisa, ladies always go first here. You know, you're of the generation that was just kids, literally children, when Elvis died.

LISA CHAMBERS, SENIOR EDITOR, "TV GUIDE": Yes.

O'REILLY: And yet he has been able to capture a whole new generation of fans. I'm just stunned. Why?

CHAMBERS: I think that no matter what age you are, Elvis defines cool.

O'REILLY: Cool?

CHAMBERS: Cool. He had the hair. He had the wardrobe. He definitely had the looks. He's good looking. He had the voice. He was an actor. He basically had the whole package.

O'REILLY: All right. So, even today — we're looking at Elvis in his jump suit here in Vegas...

CHAMBERS: Right.

O'REILLY: ... the chubby Elvis.

CHAMBERS: Yes.

O'REILLY: Even today young kids think he's cool?

CHAMBERS: I think so because I think they focus less on the old Elvis and more on the young Elvis.

O'REILLY: On the younger, leather jackets, swiveling hips.

CHAMBERS: The young Elvis. That's kind of what we're celebrating in TV Guide, is when he was young and beautiful.

O'REILLY: Mr. Boone, you have known pretty much every show business person in the last 50 years in this country, and you knew Elvis personally. Far and away he is the most enduring performer in this country's history. Why?

PAT BOONE, SINGER: I think it's because he had such a clear, clearly defined image of himself. It was almost like a comic book fantasy image, but he was true to it. He never tried to be anything but this larger than life guy, who obviously did look like a Greek God from most angles and who could perform. And the audiences always confirmed to him that he was the king. And so he lived that way, and he never tried to be anything but.

Most performers reinvent themselves. Madonna, Michael Jackson, P. Diddy. They reinvent themselves into different kinds of images. Elvis was always himself, an original, and he never tried to be anything but that.

O'REILLY: How important is the class issue and the fact that a truck driver from Tupelo, Mississippi, can become the biggest superstar in American history? That is the American dream. That all of us can, then.... How important is that?

BOONE: I think it's very important. If he'd come from a privileged family, it wouldn't have been the same. But it was like "Rocky." He came up from a very lower income kind of background, same as mine, and his mom and dad were very close. His twin brother died at birth, and I think Elvis always had this impression that he was destined for something big. And so it wasn't a surprise to him when it happened, and he continued to live really a fantasy existence. Priscilla could tell you that.

O'REILLY: Well, I just continue to be amazed. CBS is investing a lot of money in this series.

BOONE: Yes.

O'REILLY: They want 18 to 49 year olds to watch. I don't know if they will or not. I think they will.

CHAMBERS: I think they will, because they're focusing, like I said, on the younger Elvis, how he came up. The story that Mr. Boone was just speaking about, about his young years and how he overcame his poor background. How he sort of fulfilled his own destiny.

You see him trying to break through and get his first record.

O'REILLY: Yes.

CHAMBERS: And people can relate to that. It's that image of the American dream, as you said.

O'REILLY: Well, I think Marilyn Monroe, all right, Frank Sinatra, but they're not in the class of Elvis Presley.

CHAMBERS: Nobody is in the class of Elvis Presley.

O'REILLY: Forty million bucks a year the guy makes,and he's been dead for 28 years.

BOONE: You know, Bill, I think he has...

O'REILLY: Last word.

BOONE: Well, he has — well, I think he has entered the same category as Batman and Superman and Spiderman. He is "Elvisman" and he will always be Elvis.

O'REILLY: All right. Looking forward to your new album there, Pat, because you've hung in there for a long time, as well.

BOONE: Thank you.

O'REILLY: Thank you, sir, very much, and thank you, Lisa.

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