Transforming Tragedy Lessons fromThe King
S ometimes legacy is sparked from bitter tragedy. In moments of suffering and trial, lessons can be learned that shape a lifetime and a legacy . The focus of this special edition is legacy: it is fitting that we feature a conversation with someone deeply touched by the legacy of The King, Elvis Presley. David Stanley is the stepbrother of Elvis and spent many years at home and on the road with him. I, Hugh Ballou, Co-Publisher of Nonprofit Performance Magazine , spoke to David about his initiative to prevent deaths like Elvis’ from drug abuse. While David obviously has a deep admiration for his brother, it was the challenge of watching the downward spiral that Elvis endured that shaped his journey to impact others. Nonprofit Performance Magazine: I interviewed you in 2007 for my book Transforming Power , about your leadership skills and putting together a movie team. Your themes have been around your brother Elvis. Give us a little background on yourself, your relationship with Elvis, and why this vision is so important to you and to others. David Stanley: I am excited about the new My Brother Elvis Foundation, which is a charity designed to educate and support the fight against drug abuse. I spent seventeen years with Elvis Presley, beginning in 1960 when I was four, when my mother divorced my father and married Vernon Presley, Elvis’s father. I became Elvis’s stepbrother and lived in Graceland. Elvis
was a wonderful human being. He took me into his family. He really raised me. He was my father figure, my mentor, the person I looked up to. In 1972, I went to work for Elvis as his personal bodyguard, being part of his entourage and trav- eling with him everywhere. When I toured with Elvis, I saw a chink in the armor: Elvis had a drug problem. He started off taking a couple of pills to help him sleep. That number increased gradually until, by the late ‘70s, Elvis had a very serious drug addiction problem. Unfortunately, we lost him to a drug overdose on August 16, 1977. I was there and discovered his lifeless body. I wrote a book to tell the story about Elvis’s tragedy. It’s called My Brother Elvis: The Final Years , and it’s about the final five years of my life with Elvis on the road. The importance of this book and the Foundation is that we can find hope even in the midst of tragedy. Elvis was such a giver. He was always giving his time and money to charities. He kept writing checks to different charities throughout the world. That was his ultimate gift. I was brought up this way. But I saw the tragedies of what drugs can do, and now I am telling his story. Elvis’s death does not have to be in vain. Sure, it was a tragedy. But I want to communicate that what happened to Elvis can happen to anyone. So I wrote the book and, as a result of writing the book and desiring to increase the impact, the My Brother Elvis Foundation was formed.
22 I Nonprofit Professional Performance Magazine
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