By Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 19, 2007
To mark what would have been Elvis Presley's 72nd birthday, the Nixon presidential library is evoking a distinctly Washington memory: Presley's meeting with Nixon in the Oval Office, to ask that Nixon make him a federal drug agent.
For years, the most-requested document from the National Archives has been the iconic 1970 photo of the caped entertainer locked in a grip-and-grin with the gray-flannel Nixon.
The Nixon library in Yorba Linda, Calif., is displaying the clothing the participants wore that day, including Presley's 4-by-6-inch gold-filigree belt buckle. But the best stuff never left here; it's collected on the Archives' special "When Nixon Met Elvis" Web site. Less known but weirder than the collection's famed photo is the note scrawled on American Airlines in-flight letterhead that Presley hand-delivered to the White House, asking Nixon to let him be a "Federal Agent at Large" and "stop by to say hello."
It's unlikely in this age of heightened security that the author of such a note would be allowed within handshake range of the president, much less allowed to bring along a handgun as a gift, as Presley did. Unusual, too, for the president to pin a badge on a pop star with a rep as a walking pharmacy. But it happened.
Not surprisingly, the White House kept the meeting secret, but The Post broke the story in early 1972. Imagine an Oval Office visit today by, say, Michael Jackson staying under wraps for a year.
To relive the 30-minute visit, including White House photos, memos and reminiscences from attendees, visit http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/when_nixon_met_elvis. Don't miss the presidential appointment secretary's memo to Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, saying that "if the President wants to meet with some bright young people outside of the Government, Presley might be the perfect one to start with." Next to the sentence, Haldeman scribbled, "You must be kidding."
Presley's letter is excerpted below:
Dear Mr. President.
First, I would like to introduce myself. I am Elvis Presley and admire you and have great respect for your office. I talked to Vice President Agnew in Palm Springs 3 weeks ago and expressed my concern for our country. The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do NOT consider me as their enemy or as they call it The Establishment. I call it America and I love it. Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help The Country out. I have no concern or Motives other than helping the country out. . . .
I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large. . . . Sir, I am staying at the Washington Hotel, Room 505-506-507. . . . I am registered under the name of Jon Burrows. I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent. I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good. . . .
I am sending you the short autobiography about myself so you can better understand this approach. I would love to meet you just to say hello if you're not too busy.
Respectfully, Elvis Presley