Skip to main content

Elvis Presley’s bodyguards got to know every side of the singer, and they said he had many. Some days, Elvis was funny, thoughtful, and generous. Others, he was angry and quick to lash out. They shared what it was like to spend time around the megastar.

Elvis Presley’s bodyguard said his personality could change rapidly

Over the years, the bodyguards who knew Elvis longest noticed a change in him. Dave Hebler, who met Elvis in the 1970s, said he found it shocking that Elvis was so self-destructive.

“It seems he is bent on death. The thing about him is that Elvis doesn’t care. He doesn’t give a f***,” Hebler said in the book Elvis: What Happened? by Steve Dunleavy. “I can’t find the words to say it strong enough. I mean he is a fascinating person, the most fascinating human I have ever met. He is a composite of contradictions. He is like a Ping-Pong ball going down the hallway.” 

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

Hebler said Elvis’ behavior could change rapidly with little warning.

“You never know from one minute to the next whether he is going to point a gun at somebody, or he is going to kiss them, or what,” he said. “It sounds bizarre, but I am really struggling to find the words to emphasize that particular facet about the changeability in his personality.”

He often stewed on problems for hours

Often, Elvis’ behavior could change overnight. He would seem calm and rational during a conversation and completely switch his stance by the following morning.

“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,” bodyguard Red West said. “Then he would go to bed and get out of it on his so-called medicine, and the next day, man, wow.”

When this happened, Elvis’ entourage knew to stay out of his way.

“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,” West said. “On those days you would try to keep out of his way.”

Elvis Presley’s bodyguard blamed the drugs he took 

West and Elvis met in high school, meaning the bodyguard knew the singer longer than most. West believed the drugs Elvis took changed his personality.

Elvis wears a bejeweled jumpsuit and sunglasses and stands behind his bodyguard, Red West.
Elvis and Red West | Tom Wargacki/WireImage

Elvis Was Obsessed With 1 Co-Star, but She ‘Wasn’t the Least Bit Interested in Him’

“He takes pills to go to sleep,” West said, adding, “He takes pills to get up. He takes pills to go to the John, and he takes pills to stop him from going to the John. There have been times where he was so hyper on uppers that he has had trouble breathing, and on one occasion he thought he was going to die. His system doesn’t work anymore like a normal human being’s. The pills do all the work for him.”

West tried to speak to Elvis about this, but he rarely responded well to his concerns.

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.