Vail’s tales: When The King came to town
VAIL – Somewhere between Svelte Elvis and Fat Elvis, there was Vail Elvis.
Elvis Presley spent his 41st birthday, Jan. 8, in Vail doing what he usually did: sleeping all day and staying up all night.
It seems The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll stayed in a house on Mill Creek Circle and never ventured out during the day.
He spent his nights doing what many Great Americans do, worshipping the altar of the internal combustion engine. The King rode snowmobiles all night – all over Golden Peak and the Forest Service land around it.
Relax, he had permission. We couldn’t quite find out from whom, but someone told the King it was perfectly fine to crank up those snow machines all night long.
Perfectly … fine.
You won’t be surprised to learn that Elvis brought at least three Cadillacs to Vail and gave them away to a couple of Denver policemen who were working as part of his security force.
A Denver television reporter named Don McKinney got the other one. McKinney was reporting on Elvis’ Vail escapades and made a wisecrack on the air while reporting the story. It seems he said something like “…and Elvis, if you’re watching, I would like one too.”
Not much later a man began calling McKinley’s TV station insisting he was Elvis. No one believed him and hung up the phone.
You don’t get to be The King by giving up easily.
Elvis called several times and each time no one believed him and hung up the phone.
Finally McKinley took the call and became convinced it was Elvis, who offered him that third Cadillac. McKinley talked it over with his boss, a wonderful and understanding man, and accepted the Cadillac.
He drove it for several years and donated it to the Forney Museum in Denver.
Local freelance photographer Susan Biddle got an assignment from a gossip tabloid to get a photo of Elvis’s Vail excursion.
While she was on Elvis watch, it was Biddle who discovered that The King slept all day, took snowmobile trips up to Forest Service land at night, and returned about 5 a.m.
Biddle was nothing if not resourceful. She borrowed a dog from a friend and pretended to be walking it in front of the Elvis house, insisting that she wasn’t going to jump out of the bushes to get a shot. We’re not sure if she got the shot.
Pam Conklin worked for Vail Associates in those days and when cranky callers complained about the Presley Posse snowmobiling on Golden Peak after dark, it was her phone that rang.
Then, as now, Vail police are a curious lot and decided to check it out. When the Vail police arrived, Officer Roy Romero, one of Vail’s finest, became one of the few to have an actual Vail Elvis Sighting.
Romero said the reclusive King was wearing a ski mask and a Denver police badge. At first Romero didn’t believe it was Elvis, but there’s just something convincing when the King says, “Thank you, thank you very much!”
Elvis was being escorted by Capt. Jerry Kennedy of the Denver Police Department, whom The King had hired to work security.
Romero was one of the only people who could ever walk up to an Elvis event and say to the doorman, “I’m on the list. Romero was invited to a party the next day at the Elvis house, but politely declined, claiming other pressing non-Presley police business.
As a post script, McKinney told the fan site Elvis Australia (elvis.com/au) that he was in that Cadillac with his sons in Montana when it broke down. McKinney said later that day he heard the news bulletin on the radio that Elvis was dead.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.