For Joe Esposito the image of his best friend lying face down on the floor is as real now as it was that afternoon in August 1977 when Elvis Presley died at his Graceland mansion.
“It’s amazing and just so hard to believe that it’s been 34 years, it only seems like yesterday,” said Esposito, who was in town on the weekend for the 10th Penticton Pacific Northwest Elvis Festival. “They day he died we were getting ready to fly to Portland, Maine when we got a phone call from upstairs on the intercom from his girlfriend (Ginger Alden) saying Elvis had fainted.”
Presley’s wardrobe manager Al Strada went up first and then called Esposito immediately.
“Elvis had been reading and his heart had just stopped beating,” said Esposito who met Elvis in the army and later became his road manager and confidante. “I bent down real quick and touched him — turned him over and tried to revive him (massaging his heart) and called 911.”
The passing of the king rocked the world but few people felt the pain like Esposito and the others who had become so close to Presley.
Now more than three decades later as Presley’s popularity only gets bigger, his friend is not surprised.
“There is just something about him you couldn’t help but like, there is nobody like Elvis — nobody that had the energy he had,” said Esposito. “You look now, even little kids know his name, people who weren’t even born back then absolutely love him.”
That love was especially evident on the weekend as more people than ever turned up for the performances and competition by the 26 Elvis tribute artists.
Mark Anthony of Adelaide, Australia was this year’s professional winner in the finals at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
With the victory he qualifies to compete with the other preliminary winners in the Ultimate Elvis competition later this summer in Memphis, Tenn.
Runner up was Mark Stevenz of Vancouver, Wa. and Corny Rempel of Steinbach, Man. was third.
Amateur winner was Ron Scott of Vancouver followed by Delta’s Alan Leblanc and Roger Anderson from Bonney Lake, Wa.
Fans also had two opportunities on the weekend to see and hear Ultimate Elvis tribute artist Shawn Klush, who was also winner of the BBC’s The World’s Greatest Elvis competition show in 2007.
Meanwhile for Esposito and the millions of fans around the world the king will continue to live on through his music and festivals like Penticton’s.
“He is the reason we are all here,” said Esposito.