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Elvis Presley was at dinner in Hawaii when his friend, Sonny West, joined two performing singers. Elvis laughed through the unexpected performance but quickly turned on him for it. By the following day, Elvis began treating West coldly. West, who had worked for Elvis for several years, did not appreciate the about-face. He began to think of Elvis as “phony.”

Elvis Presley laughed when his friend joined two singers during a dinner

When Elvis shot Blue Hawaii, he took his large entourage to Hawaii with him. While the group was at dinner one night, West wandered to the bar where he had “too many” Mai Tais. As he walked back towards the restaurant where the rest of his group dined, he noticed a couple singing on a bridge.

Elvis wears a red shirt and a white lei. He strums a ukulele.
Elvis in ‘Blue Hawaii’ | Paramount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images

“On this bridge there was a very attractive man and woman and they were singing the ‘Hawaiian Wedding Song.’ Well, this grabbed me, man. Just two lovers singing this song on a bridge in the middle of this beautiful island,” West said in the book Elvis: What Happened? by Steve Dunleavy. “I thought that was fantastic. So I walked up the bridge and I put my arms around both their shoulders, wanting to be a part of this wonderful scene. I sang along with them and they were beautiful singers.”

West didn’t realize that the two singers were the floor show for the diners. As he sang — terribly, he admitted — Elvis and the rest of the entourage were in hysterics. 

“I didn’t remember too much about it,” West said. “I do remember that a lot of people came out laughing at me and this one woman who stormed up to me, mad as hell, and said, ‘Young man, you have ruined my fifteenth wedding anniversary!’”

Elvis’ friend began to think the singer was phony 

While Elvis laughed through West’s performance, he didn’t want anyone to know this interloping performer was a part of his entourage. The following day, he treated West coldly and made it clear that he disapproved of his behavior.

“He gave me the cold shoulder, and he is telling all the crew what I had done as if it was a big crime instead of something that was quite amusing,” West said. “I started to think that he was a pretty phony bastard. On one hand he is laughing his head off and on the other he gives me the freeze. He was on my a** for the rest of the movie and sort of kept me at a distance.”

He often changed his opinion after stewing on things

According to West’s cousin and fellow entourage member, Red West, Elvis often altered his stance after reflecting on it overnight. He might discuss something calmly before going to bed only to wake up angry.

“You could talk to him quiet, sensibly, about something and maybe that night you would say something that didn’t quite go along with his way of thinking or doing things, but he would talk calmly about it and sort of see your way of looking at something,” Red said. “Then he would go to bed and get out of it on his so-called medicine, and the next day, man, wow.”

A black and white picture of Elvis Presley wearing a white shirt and black jacket.
Elvis Presley | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

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He could get himself so worked up that his entourage had to stay away from him.

“He would stew on something all night and then it would work up inside of him and he would lose total reason and just explode,” Red said. “On those days you would try to keep out of his way.”