The first celebrity I ever met was Duncan Renaldo, who played The Cisco Kid in the 1950s TV series of the same name. Mr. Renaldo must have been down on his luck when I met him because he had been reduced to appearing at a third-rate county fair in Lake County, Indiana, just outside of Gary, where he was selling autographed photos for two dollars each.
If I remember correctly, Mr. Renaldo charged a little extra if you wanted him to pose for a picture with you.
Before Duncan Renaldo paid Gary a visit, the most well known people in town were Fat Willie Bosco, whose claim to fame was eating 22 Coney Island chili dogs during a half hour lunch break, and Harold Wozniak, who became a prominent professional wrestling referee. So, it was understandable why even a minor TV star, 15 years past his glory days, would draw a crowd. Mr. Renaldo did very good business at the Lake County Fair.
There was, and probably still is, a severe shortage of celebrities in Gary. It’s not like Los Angeles, where you can bump into Lindsay Lohan at a liquor store, or New York City, where you can run into Woody Allen hanging out at FAO Schwarz.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I ran into Elvis Presley on the streets of Gary.
It was an early Saturday evening and I was walking home after spending the day at Gene’s Billiards, playing pool, smoking cigarettes, and trying to win some money on the pay-off pinball machines. I was nearly home when a flashy maroon Cadillac Eldorado, with Tennessee license plates and carrying four passengers, pulled up to the curb in front of me.
One of the Cadillac’s tinted windows rolled down and a voice with a distinct southern accent said, “Son, can you help us out? We’re having trouble finding an address.”
I was hesitant to approach the car. I intuitively understood that a Cadillac loaded with hillbillies is something to be avoided. Still, I didn’t want to be rude, so I said, “What’s the address?”
When the man told me the address, I said, “I know where it is, but it’s a rough neighborhood and real hard to find. I doubt a map would help you.”
“Do you know how to get there?”
The man quickly conferred with his fellow passengers. “Why don’t you hop in the car,” he said to me, “and show us where it is. We’ll pay you for your help.”
“Do I look like some sort of dumbass? What makes you think I’d get in a car with strangers. You might be a bunch of Tennessee perverts, for all I know.”
When I said that, the guys in the car started laughing. Then the rear passenger door opened and the guy I had been talking to stepped out of the Cadillac. I was getting ready to run when another guy followed him out of the car. To my complete amazement, it was Elvis Presley.
Elvis stood on the sidewalk for a moment, looking around and sniffing the fetid Gary air. “Man, this place is a real shithole,” he commented. Turning to me, he said, “You know who I am, don’t you?”
“The address we’re looking for belongs to Mr. Jimmy Reed. He’s a famous blues musician. I want to visit the man and pay my respects, because I’m putting one of his songs on my next record. I would consider it a personal favor if you’d show me to his house.”
I got in the car, sat between Elvis and a 300-pound man named Lamar, and gave the driver directions. After a while, someone asked if we were getting close to Jimmy Reed’s house.
When I said “We’re in shouting distance,” Elvis began singing a tune.
“Big Boss man,
Can you hear me when I call,
Big boss man,
Can you hear me when I call,
You ain’t so big,
You’re just tall that’s all.”
When we parked in front of Jimmy Reed’s house, Elvis went up the door, knocked, and went inside. He spent about 10 minutes in the house. When he came back to the car Lamar asked if he had seen Jimmy.
“Yes I did, but the old boy was passed out drunk in his easy chair. I heard he has always enjoyed hard liquor. But I had a nice talk with his wife. She’s a real sweet lady.”
After we left Jimmy Reed’s house, the guys gave me a ride home. Before I got out of the car, I said, “I recall someone saying I was going to get paid for showing you where Jimmy Reed lived.”
Elvis laughed. “Just give your address to Lamar. I’ll make sure you get paid for your trouble.”
Two weeks later, a sleek, cherry red Cadillac Eldorado was delivered to my door, compliments of Elvis Presley. I wasn’t old enough to drive, but my father enjoyed tooling around town in the Eldorado. Unfortunately, shortly after Elvis’ Cadillac arrived, the Old Man lost the car in a poker game in East Chicago.
I wrote Elvis a letter, explaining what had happened to the Eldorado, hoping he would send me another, but he never wrote back.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to numerous complaints from readers about the frequent exaggerations and outrights lies in Milo’s blogs, The Third City’s fact-checking department has been keeping a close eye on his posts. After weeks of painstaking research, we have been forced to conclude that there is absolutely no evidence, factual or anecdotal, that Elvis Presley ever set foot in Gary, Indiana. And although Indiana’s municipal record keeping is notoriously unreliable, it appears that during the period that the Elvis Presley incident allegedly took place, Milo was serving a lengthy stretch in a downstate reformatory.
However we were able to verify, through employment records at the Armour & Company meat packing plant, that Jimmy Reed did, indeed, live in Gary, Indiana, during the period in question. He was also known to have a drinking problem. Finally, we were able to ascertain that Duncan Renaldo did, in fact, once make an appearance at the Lake County Fair.
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