Michael Hoey has written a book about his experiences with Elvis and Hollywood.
By ANDREW GOOD
It took two-and-a-half movies before Elvis stopped addressing screenwriter Michael Hoey as "Mr. Hoey."
Leave it up to The King to be formal with titles.
"It was just part of his background, the southern gentleman being polite," said Hoey, a San Clemente resident who is only four months older than Presley. "It blew me away. We were the exact same age, and here I felt like I was an older man to him!"
Anecdotes about Presley – who would have turned 73 on Jan. 8 - are what you'll find in Hoey's new book reflecting on his work as a Hollywood screenwriter, including six films starring Presley. "Elvis, Sherlock and Me: How I Survived Growing Up in Hollywood" follows Hoey's career as a screenwriter, director, and producer.
The son of English actor Dennis Hoey, best known for his role as Inspector Lestrade in Universal's Sherlock Holmes series, Hoey was born into the movies. Living in Beverly Hills in the 1940s, he remembers sneaking through broken fences onto studio back lots. It wasn't the glamour of Hollywood he found alluring, but the magic of storytelling that seemed to dwell there.
When he was 10 his father took him to the set of a Sherlock Holmes film, where Hoey watched a stuntman leap through a fake plate glass window made of spun sugar. The director gave him a chunk of spun sugar to keep.
"That was what intrigued me," Hoey said.
He became a part of that storytelling first as an editor, then a screenwriter. He first met Elvis during a wardrobe meeting for 1965's "Tickle Me." It was a polite meeting, but they soon warmed up, and he found Presley to be a boisterous personality with a great sense of humor.
Elvis loved telling jokes and pulling practical jokes – more than once Presley and his entourage, known as the Memphis Mafia, ran through a set tossing water balloons at one another, and sometimes the cast and crew as well. Hoey added that Presley had an appetite to match his personality: He'd send someone for a box of donuts and eat the entire thing himself.
That said, it wasn't easy getting close to The King. Presley often appeared to be aloof; in time, Hoey realized he was terribly shy. He thinks that's why the Memphis Mafia – made up of relatives and army and school buddies – followed him wherever he'd go.
"Between takes, he wouldn't hang around on set. He'd go hang with the guys," Hoey said.
In his book, Hoey writes that Presley would sometimes mistreat his entourage, but he had a softer side, too. Shortly after the birth of his daughter, Lisa Marie, Presley spied Hoey on the set of a film and waved him over. They walked to another set, decorated as a bedroom. Presley laid out five or six photographs of his daughter on the bed, beaming over them and saying "That's my little girl."
Though the quality of the films he starred in waxed and waned, Presley was quite a good actor, Hoey said. Movies like "King Creole" and "Live a Little, Love a Little" proved that. Hoey thought Presley was best at humor and fight scenes.
Hoey worked with Presley until 1968. Shortly afterward, Presley returned to a hard-living life on tour, taking diet pills to keep his weight down, and downers to sleep after taking diet pills, Hoey said. The combined addiction is what Hoey believes led to his tragic death.
In his book, Hoey writes more about his reflections on Presley and his own strained relationship with his father. His next book will be about his experiences with the television show "Fame," which he wrote, directed and produced for its first five to six years.
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