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Elvis Presley expected his entourage to do everything he asked them to at any time of day. He called them in the dead of night and expected them to go to him at the drop of a hat. He even pushed for them to do drugs with him. If anyone seemed hesitant, he watched them to ensure they swallowed whatever he wanted them to take.

Elvis Presley wanted his entourage to take drugs with him

Elvis Presley had many long days and kept nocturnal hours. In order to keep up with him, his bodyguards often had to take the same drugs Elvis used.

“There was no other way we could keep up with him,” bodyguard Sonny West said in the book Elvis: What Happened? “He would never get any sleep. Then comes six in the morning for an early call, and we would be beat. So he would give us these uppers and we would drink coffee all day. After a while, we graduated with him into stronger pills like desbutal and escotrol. We were there, right in with him.”

A black and white picture of Billy Smith, Bill Morris, Lamar Fike, Jerry Schilling, Roy Nixon, Vernon Presley, Charlie Hodge, Sonny West, George Klein, Marty Lacker, Dr. George Nichopoulos, Red West gathered around Elvis, who sits in the center.
(L-R, standing) Billy Smith, former sheriff Bill Morris, Lamar Fike, Jerry Schilling, Sheriff Roy Nixon, Vernon Presley, Charlie Hodge, Sonny West, George Klein, Marty Lacker. (L-R, front) Dr. George Nichopoulos, Red West | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

After a while, though, Elvis began expecting his entourage to take drugs whenever he wanted them to.

“There were other times when he was going to get high, he sort of demanded that you get up there with him,” West said. “Sometimes he would stand in front of you and watch you take the stuff because there was some stuff he gave me, I don’t know what it was, but I would break out in a sweat.”

West said that Elvis pushed him to take the medications even when he didn’t want to.

“So often he would give me a handful of pills and I would ditch them,” he said. “He knew this, so he would stand in front of me with a glass of water. The past several years, I just plain refused them and this upset him. Eventually, he quit offering them to me.”

Elvis tried to keep his entourage from sleeping too

Elvis tried to exercise control over his entourage in other ways, too. Once, he forgot his uppers in Las Vegas, he made his friend turn the car around when they were halfway home. Everyone was irritated and exhausted, but Elvis insisted they make the drive. Whenever someone began to fall asleep, he woke them up.

“We’re down and we’re tired and Gene starts to doze off,” West recalled. “Every time he does, Elvis hits him on the chest with the back of his hand and yells at him, ‘There will be no goddamn sleep, do you hear?’ Old Gene jerks awake. ‘No, boss.’ Joe in the back is dozing off and chewing gum at the same time. ‘Joe, goddamn it, I said no sleeping.'”

His bodyguards said they had to hide from Elvis when they wanted good sleep

Elvis had such high energy and kept such long hours, that his entourage often had to sneak away from him in order to get good sleep.

Elvis walks with three of his bodyguards.
Elvis and his bodyguards | Tom Wargacki/WireImage

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“On some of those movies, while Elvis was wired and high as a kite, we would sometimes sneak away off the studio lot and go to a vacant studio and hide under props and stuff and sleep while he was before the cameras,” West said. “It was the only way we could get any real sleep, because he would be going like a steam train all day and only get a few hours’ sleep. In the early days that man had a tremendous constitution.”

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