The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley
Interview with author Alanna Nash
Interview by Ronnie

After reading the excellent book, THE COLONEL, I couldn't pass up the possibility of interviewing author Alanna Nash and ask some questions I had about this legendary rock and roll manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Alanna agreed to an e-mail interview and what follows is our interesting exchange...

Right: the author, Alanna Nash

E.C.: First I must congratulate you on such a masterful read! While it almost reads like a rock 'n roll mystery novel, this is definitely a case of truth being stranger than fiction. I know you had previously written a book about the Memphis Mafia and Elvis? How exactly did this book come about?

Alanna Nash: Thank you for those very kind words. The whole time I was researching and writing the book, I felt like a rock 'n' roll detective! Seriously, I was so amazed at what I was finding that I wanted to tell people about it right then. It was exceedingly difficult to keep the lid on it for the six years it took me to bring the story to completion.

To answer your question, the book grew out of a couple of situations. One, when I was writing "Elvis Aaron Presley: Revelations from the Memphis Mafia," with Billy Smith, Marty Lacker, and Lamar Fike, I went to Las Vegas three times and met with the Colonel and his second wife, Loanne, to try to convince him to take part in our book. The guys were hard on Parker, and I wanted him to have the chance to defend himself. I also thought it would be a great coup to have him go on the record in response to the charges brought against him by the state of Tennessee regarding his mishandling of Elvis. He wouldn't cooperate with the book, but through those meetings, I became completely fascinated by him, and charmed by him, too, even as there was something psychologically predatory and off-putting about him. To be blunt, he could be scary, apart from his usual formidable personality. However, I came to have a lot of affection for him. And I wanted to know what his real story was, his whole story. When he died, my agent suggested I write his biography. I had already offered my services to him to help him craft a book in his last years. But he declined, and I came to see that if I were ever going to find out what he was really about, I'd have to write the book.

E.C.: What has the reaction been to your book by those who knew Elvis and Parker? I'm also curious if you've had any feedback from Parker's last wife, Loanne?

Alanna Nash: I have not heard directly from Loanne, no, and I would like to go on the record as saying that I have a great deal of admiration for her. She can be difficult, yes, but she is an incredibly strong woman, and highly intelligent, and no one could have been more devoted to the Colonel. He was very lucky to have her.

Actually, the reaction to the book has been totally across the board. I've been praised and reviled, both. Which I expected, especially to be damned by someone like Joe Esposito. Many people are intensely loyal to the Colonel, and won't take the time to evaluate everything that the book says. They don't see that, in truth, the book is laudatory of Parker in a lot of ways. While I don't defend some of his business decisions, I do attempt to explain him. I have to say that I was most anxious to learn how his family (apart from Loanne) would receive the book, particularly the murder theory. I know four such family members, both in America and Holland, and to my great surprise and relief, all of them said they thought it was quite possible that he killed Anna van den Enden, though as an accident, in a fit of rage. That's what I believe happened, as well. If he did it, it was not premeditated. He snapped, and spent the rest of his life paying for it in estrangement from his family and denying his country. In some ways, he is a sympathetic figure. If, indeed, he killed that young woman, he was certainly tortured by it, and had to engage in some heavy mental gymnastics to compartmentalize his life and keep going. Of course, it colored everything about the way he handled Elvis. In a sense, Elvis paid the price along with him.

E.C.: In the book, you mentioned that you had three visits with Parker. What were the circumstances behind the meetings? To interview him? Did he know you were working on a book? And most importantly, did you get any relevant information from him, or were the visits simply to observe his character and actions?

Alanna Nash: Whoops! I answered most of this in question number one. Actually, it was impossible to interview him. He wouldn't allow it. All you could do was be there while he held court and spoke about whatever he wanted to talk about. There was no such thing as asking questions, because then he would get angry and "Do the Clam," so to speak. I have a piece about this on my website,, called "Lunch with the Colonel." It's a fragment of a much longer prologue I originally wrote for the book, and then ditched as the manuscript got unwieldy. But yes, he inadvertently gave me quite a few bits of relevant information that ultimately ended up in THE COLONEL. And it was mesmerizing to observe his character and actions, and just the way he held his body. I was also really taken with the way he was completely aware of everyone and everything that went on around him. He missed nothing. Now, you do that as second nature if you are a carny, I think. Or if you are a man on the lam, either as an illegal alien or as someone with a much darker secret.

E.C.: There is one story in the book about Elvis actually firing Parker for a short period in the '70s. However, one of the Colonel's favorite ploys to prevent one of his clients from leaving was to say something to the effect of "that's fine, but we need to settle up first", suddenly giving the artist piles of bills that were 'owed' him. Evidently, this worked as Elvis went back to the Colonel. I feel that by the '70s, Elvis was so dependent on drugs (and bad finances) that he wouldn't have even considered leaving parker. Do you really think Elvis would have left Parker permanently?

Alanna Nash: Larry Geller swears that Elvis intended to do so, and I put a lot of stock in what Larry says in general. I think he tells it as he sees it, and doesn't embellish or hold back. You can't wish for a better interview subject than Larry. But your assessment of where Elvis was in the '70s is certainly correct. One thing that would have held Elvis back from leaving Parker was that he didn't really have the next manager lined up. The people he approached about assuming that position for him didn't work out. So he was in limbo, and not sure where to turn. And quite frankly, I don't think Parker would have let him leave. He would have come up with something to keep him, because Elvis was a human shield against all of his woes. He couldn't afford to lose him.

E.C.: One of the most fascinating points of your book was when you stated that when Parker strictly tied Elvis to bad films (and even worse soundtracks) in the mid '60s, he inadvertently saved Elvis from the fate of other '50s stars and actually gave us the great Elvis music of the late '60s. Do you think that Elvis could have really competed with the British Invasion and the psychedelic fads? Or is it simply one of those eternal questions - like if Elvis would have been as successful without Parker?

Alanna Nash: I don't think Elvis could have competed with the British Invasion and the psychedelic fads, no, for a variety of reasons-he didn't think like that, he didn't understand the mindset or the culture, he disliked the idea of street drugs, and he didn't write his own music. Now, was Parker really savvy enough to keep him under wraps until that kind of music began to blow over? Or did he just get lucky? That's another eternal question.

E.C.: Finding out about the murder that occurred in Holland when Parker was 20 and his subsequent abrupt departure to America - how did this discovery come about? Did you ever expect anything so dark and sinister in his past? I mean, when you combine this with his army record, it is pretty damning information about Parker. Was the psychological profile of Parker that emerged a big surprise?

Alanna Nash: Well, first of all, I want to be clear in saying that there is no hard proof that he committed this murder. In my heart of hearts, I believe he did. Certainly the way he lived his life, for the duration of his years, suggests a secret of that kind of gravity. In other words, if that's not what happened back in Holland, something equally awful did. It is ludicrous to believe his problem was only one of illegal residency. He had lots of chances to rectify that through the years, and once he became famous, he could have reversed it and gotten a passport with one phone call. Anyway, as you know from reading the book, a Dutch reporter name Dirk Vellenga, who wrote the first serious book about the Colonel, received an anonymous note fingering Parker as a murderer, and even identifying the crime. Dirk couldn't write about this in his book because the publisher's lawyers forbade it-the Colonel was still alive. But when Parker died, Dirk wrote about it in the Breda, Holland, newspaper. Parker's Dutch niece, Maria Dons-Maas, along with her friends Angelo Somers and Hanneke Neutkens, gave me a copy of the article, which appeared a month before I visited Holland.

At first, Maria didn't think anything of it-couldn't entertain the idea it might be true. And I didn't put much stock in it, either, mostly because Dirk didn't seem to have a lot of details, even though the note had the ring of truth to it, i.e. I knew the letter writer believed that this was the case. Then, through a wonderful military records researcher named Dick Bielen, I found the army records which identified Parker as a psychopath. When those records came through my fax machine, I could barely believe my eyes. Really, I was completely floored. That discharge paper made me see the entire Elvis story in a new light, and I suddenly realized that Parker was a much more treacherous man than I had imagined. Whether he was to begin with or became that way after a psychotic break, I don't know. But something made him lose touch with reality, and certainly an accidental murder could have done that. Since Maria signed a form that allowed me to get those privileged records, I sent them to her, and said I thought we now needed to get the 1929 police report of Anna van den Enden's murder. I hired lawyers in Holland to go to court for me so I could see them. And Maria, to her great credit, kept an open mind about the whole thing. She is astonishing. I am sorry that the Colonel closed himself off to his Dutch family, because she is a treasure. I've come to love her very much.

E.C.: With all his connections with government people (such as LBJ), why do you think he never tried to obtain U.S. citizenship? This seems to be one of the most convincing arguments for his participation in the murder. Although the evidence is strictly circumstantial, do you actually feel that there was enough evidence to warrant any kind of trial?

Alanna Nash: I think that whatever his secret was, it was so awful that he couldn't risk it coming to light. He ran from background checks his entire life. That's one reason he had the IRS figure his taxes, and why he didn't adopt his wife's son. As for there being enough evidence to warrant a trial, I am the wrong person to ask, though wiser minds have told me yes, there was. But as you say, it is all circumstantial. Oh, one more thing: Lamar Fike told me a couple of years ago that in 1980 or so when he was helping Albert Goldman with his book, he went to Parker's eldest sister in Holland and said, "Let's talk about this murder." And she said, "We don't talk about that."

That's very interesting, I think. Certainly the family was well aware of the possibility he was involved with that murder. When I interviewed Parker's Dutch nephew, Ad van Kuijk, Jr., he knew about it, but said he didn't think it was true unless it happened by accident. As I said before, that's exactly what I think happened. Either he had a lot of emotion invested in this woman, who had just gotten married, and he momentarily lost his wits and struck her in the heat of an argument, or it happened during a botched robbery. Either way, I think he did it, and panicked and fled, probably with the help of his uncle who lived in Rotterdam and worked in the shipping industry. And I think it twisted his psyche and made him into a very strange and walled-off person. You notice he doesn't seem to have an empathetic bone in his body, and that he seemed incapable of expressing much emotion.

E.C.: Do you think there will ever be a movie based on your book? It seems like a natural…

Alanna Nash: Well, I hope so. I agree with you. Thank you for saying that.

E.C.: Finally, what book projects to you have coming up? Any other rock 'n roll related subjects?

Alanna Nash: I'm looking at some early rock 'n' roll photos right now, taken by Lew Allen, who was a high school photographer when he shot some really interesting images of Elvis, and Buddy Holly, among others, in the late '50s. Let's see where that's going to go.

Click here to read our review of this book

Return to the EAR CANDY homepage