Elvis Presley pilot shares stories of the King’s lavish generosity
As an incredibly rich and famous rock star, Elvis Presley lived a lavish and lavish life. Over the years, some have claimed that contributed to the excesses that ultimately ended his life at just 42 years old. However, a new book on The King argues that his astonishing generosity throughout his life is often mistaken for overindulgence. Those who knew the star personally time and time again praise him for his kindness, especially through gifts. His ex-girlfriend, Linda Thompson, admitted that she and the Memphis mob nicknamed him Santa at Christmas because of all the jewelry, cars, bonuses and charitable donations he was doling out.
Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to Ron Strauss, the pilot of Elvis’ private jet, the Lisa Marie. His life is the subject of a new book called Destined to Fly, by Elvis history author Sally A Hoedel.
Along with a co-pilot, an engineer and a stewardess, she would be available to The King 24/7/365 for whenever the boss wanted to fly, be it on tour or just for fun.
Ron, a Vietnam Air Force veteran who survived a kidnapping in Nicaragua, did this between 1975 and 1977, during the last two years of Elvis’ short life. He recalled how the King never wavered in his constant generosity to his friends, family and staff, even as he struggled with health problems of his own.
When asked about Elvis’s generosity, the 83-year-old told us: “I still have the TCB necklace he gave me, an Elvis jacket and many other things. He tipped us sometimes $300 or 500, once it was $1000!”
Ron kept these and soon bought himself a yellow 1973 Corvette that he still has to this day.
In fact, he had the honor of driving the prominent sports car at the back of the motorcade on the day of Elvis’s funeral, as requested by High Way Patrol, as it was so easy to spot.
The pilot spoke of how El Rey spared no expense and allowed him and the rest of the crew to have everything they needed to operate Lisa Marie’s plane as comfortably and safely as possible.
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Ron remembered once there was a thunderstorm, he asked Elvis if he wanted to wait before taking off as it was going to be choppy in the air. The King replied, “Okay, as long as you are happy.”
As predicted, turbulence was strong throughout the flight, despite the pilots managing to dodge the worst parts of the weather. After landing safely, Elvis inquired about the radar, which Ron pointed out was as dated as it could get.
Quick as a flash, the star told him to talk to his father, Vernon Presley, who handled all the money, and soon after, a new $18,000 one was installed. The King had been a nervous traveler after a near-death experience when he was younger, so no doubt making sure everyone felt as safe as possible was a priority for him.
Ron also shared an amazing story of how working for Elvis made buying a house so much easier for him.
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The pilot had settled in at work and needed a loan to buy property in Memphis, so Vernon called in a favor for him at The King bank.
When Ron arrived he asked to see the man in charge, but got nowhere until he said, “Would you tell the bank president that the Elvis Presley pilot is here?”
Suddenly, he was ushered into the boss’s office, where they talked about the star for a bit before discussing his need for around $73,000 to buy a house.
Ron received a blank contract, but refused to give his signature, saying it was like signing a blank check.
The bank president explained: “Let me tell you, Elvis has $1 million in an account with me and a lot more. Do you think I’m going to risk that for $73,000?!”
Ron told us: “I said, ‘No!’ And I signed it. He had a check ready for me in a couple of days. The way people in Memphis operated when they knew you worked for Elvis was amazing!
Destined To Fly: The Story of Pilot Ron Strauss – From Iowa to Elvis is out now and can be ordered in the UK from Strictly Elvis herewhile more information about Sally A Hoedel can be found on her website here.
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