Today marks the 75th birthday of the American icon and King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. In celebration of this occasion Elvis fans around the world will gather to commemorate this King’s legacy and mourn his early death.
While it was officially reported that Elvis’ died at the age of 42 from a “cardiac arrhythmia”, it is widely believed that his death was due to an overdose of prescription drugs. His death remains a topic of speculation but it was clear that Elvis had a drug problem throughout his career— a deadly habit that continues to plague Hollywood.
The recent deaths of celebrities like Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Jackson, and Heath Ledger can also be contributed to the abuse of prescription drugs. As the celebrity death toll continues to rise, there has been an increased focus on not just the cause of death but also the star’s entourage members who enabled their situation.
In the case of Elvis, many associate his downfall with his manager Colonel Parker. Parker received admonition for his alleged exploitation of Elvis’ career. It was reported the Parker kept Elvis on a tight leash and tried to control everything about his career and even his personal life. Parker would stop at nothing from milking his cash cow. Many people believe it is this intense pressure from the Colonel which drove Elvis into his deep depression and addiction. Elvis’ drug problem was closely linked with his personal doctor, George Nichopoulos or “Dr. Nick”, who was said to have prescribed the singer with over 10,000 doses of prescription drugs. While there is no hard evidence that Parker supplied Elvis with his “prescription cocktails,” reports suggest he chose to ignore the problem in order to keep his client amenable to his commands. Parker was the puppet master behind Elvis who we can attribute his rise in stardom but also his tragic downfall.
The rise and fall of Elvis closely mirrors that of the recent playboy model Anna Nicole Smith. Like Elvis, Smith came from homely beginnings and quickly rose to become a national icon and suffered the same fate of a deathly drug habit. Smith also endured intense public pressure and surrounded herself with toxic relationships. It could be said that Howard K. Stern was today’s Colonel Parker.
Stern played several roles in Smith’s life including her attorney, business manager, and boyfriend. But Stern also served as Smith’s drug supplier and “principle enabler”. Stern, along with two of Smith’s doctors, is now facing multiple felony charges for supplying Smith deadly doses of prescription drugs and contributing to the star’s death. Witnesses testified that on several occasions Stern was seen cooking drugs and injecting them into Smith just months before her death. At the time of her death, eight out of the eleven medications found in the hotel room were prescribed directly to Stern.
In addition to fueling her drug habit, Stern often exploited Smith’s fame and pushed her out to the media even at her darkest hour. For example, a 2006 video was submitted as evidence against Stern which showed Anna Nicole in full clown make-up while she mistakes her doll for her unborn child. In the background of the tape, Stern can be heard talking about how much money the tape could be worth. This footage also demonstrates Stern’s complete disregard for Smith’s obvious drug addiction and incapacitated state.
The tragic stories of celebrities like Elvis and Anna Nicole make good tabloid headlines but also demonstrate that fame and stardom often come with price. The intense pressure that celebrities face often drives them away from people that love them and towards addiction. And much too often these drug addictions are fueled by those they consider their closest friends and allies.