Editor's Note: Elvis Presley died 40 years ago this month, August 16, 1977. We listen back to a story about Elvis' Denver friendships that originally aired January 8, 2016.
If Elvis Presley lived, today would be his 81st birthday. Perhaps he would still visit Denver, where it turns out "The King" struck up some close friendships in the 1970s. Presley was even made an honorary captain on the city's police force, as retired Deputy Chief Robert Cantwell chronicled in his book, "The Elvis Presley I knew."
Cantwell first got to know Presley in 1970 while working as a guard in a hotel the night Presley played the Denver Coliseum. When Presley emerged from an elevator, Cantwell wasn't sure it was him. So he asked for identification.
"He was definitely a country, Southern gentleman," Cantwell tells Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. "Off the stage he was a different Elvis. He was a superstar on the stage and a super friend off the stage."
For more memories of Presley's time in Denver, Warner also spoke with Nick Andurlakis, the owner of Nick's Cafe in Golden, who made peanut butter and bacon sandwiches that Presley ordered dozens at a time.
Details from the interview:
- Presley had a well-documented fascination with police badges and uniforms. He showed officers his gun collection, bought a Denver police uniform and was photographed in it by Cantwell. "He always thought he would become a police officer, but these were his words, 'God blessed him with a voice,'" Cantwell says.
- Presley gave away cars, including a Cadillac to Cantwell, who worried about the message it might send. Cantwell only accepted the car after Presley became upset that he wanted to turn down the car and insisted Cantwell accept the gift as a token of true friendship.
- Upon hearing that Denver police officer Merle Nading was killed on East Colfax Avenue in the line of duty on Oct. 3, 1971, Presley donated $5,000 to help complete a memorial gym for officers.
- Andurlakis, at the time a 16-year-old cook at the now-closed Colorado Mine Co. restaurant in Denver, introduced Presley to the Fool's Gold sandwich. The sandwich consists of one pound of peanut butter, one pound of jelly, one pound of bacon, and one pound of French bread. Presely ate half a sandwich the first time he tried it. He later ordered two dozen more for his daughter Lisa Marie's birthday.
- Cantwell said in 1977, upon hearing of Presley's death, he went to Graceland with his police partner. The two found themselves at the side of Presley's casket and Cantwell touched Presley's body. He foresaw that rumors would emerge about whether Presley had really died. "Somebody's going to say something and I'm going to say, 'Yeah, I touched him. I know. He was cold,'" Cantwell says.
Click on "Listen" above to hear the entire interview.