28 Novembre 2016
Joe Esposito, who was Elvis Presley’s right-hand man, close friend and road manager for nearly two decades, died on Wednesday at his home in Calabasas, Calif. He was 78.
The cause was complications of dementia, his daughter Cindy Bahr said.
Mr. Esposito met Presley in 1959, when both men were serving at an Army base in Friedberg, in what was then West Germany. “It was just a click,” Mr. Esposito told Larry King on CNN in 2002. “There was something I liked about him, and something he liked about me, too.” They became fast friends, and Presley asked Mr. Esposito to work for him after they left the Army.
Mr. Esposito, detail-oriented and dependable, became an invaluable assistant, organizing Presley’s daily life, acting as his personal alarm clock and reading lines back and forth on film sets.
“When you worked for Elvis it wasn’t eight hours a day or 10 hours a day,” he told The Las Vegas Sun in 2007. “It was 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because we did everything together. We went on vacations together. We traveled together. Everything we ever did we all did it together.”
A native of Chicago, Mr. Esposito was an anomaly in the so-called Memphis Mafia, the entourage of Southerners surrounding Presley.
When Presley toured, Mr. Esposito was his road manager, hovering over performances, shepherding his star virtually step by step and catering to the sometimes unusual demands of a Presley concert. When Presley walked offstage, for example, Mr. Esposito and his team met him with buckets of ice water so that he could submerge his arms and soothe the scratch marks left by frantic fans as they grabbed for the silk scarves he handed out.
Mr. Esposito was a best man, along with his fellow Memphis Mafia member Marty Lacker, at Presley’s wedding to Priscilla Ann Beaulieu in 1967. His wife at the time, the former Joan Roberts, was matron of honor.
In 1977, after receiving a distress phone call from Ginger Alden, Presley’s fiancée — Presley had divorced his wife in 1973 — Mr. Esposito rushed to find Presley dead in a bathroom at Graceland. He later broke the news to Priscilla Presley and to Tom Parker, Presley’s manager. He was a pallbearer at Presley’s funeral.
“We were close,” he told The Las Vegas Sun in 2010. “He was my best friend. I’m always reminded of him, whenever I hear a song or his name or the title of a show somewhere. It amazes me, still. I’ve had a hell of a life because of him.”
Joseph Carmine Esposito was born on Jan. 22, 1938, in Chicago to Italian immigrant parents. His father, Frank, worked as a mechanic for the Chicago Transit Authority. His mother, the former Antoinette Pecora, was a homemaker.
After graduating from Marshall High School, he was drafted into the Army. Like Presley, he did his basic training at Fort Hood, in Texas, although the two did not meet there.
Their paths first crossed in Germany, where Mr. Esposito was given the job of payroll clerk at the Friedberg base. A friend of his, the base photographer, who often took pictures of Presley, invited Mr. Esposito to take part in one of the touch football games that Presley organized near his rented house.
In a sense, Mr. Esposito’s job, on leaving the service, was to be both friend and concierge.
“I set up his itinerary for him,” he told The Las Vegas Sun. “I made sure he knew where he had to be, where security needed to be. I made sure transportation was all set up. I’d make sure the valet had all his clothes together.”
After Presley’s death, Mr. Esposito worked for the producer Jerry Weintraub as a road manager for Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees and others. He was later a partner in a food company, a limousine-service operator in Los Angeles and a casino host at Wynn Las Vegas.
His first marriage ended in divorce. His second wife, the former Martha Gallub, died in 2012. In addition to his daughter Cindy, he is survived by another daughter from his first marriage, Debbie Esposito; a son from his second marriage, Anthony; a brother, Frank; a sister, Phyllis Soohen; and three grandchildren.
Mr. Esposito did his best to keep the Presley flame burning. He frequently appeared at Presley conventions and was a consultant on numerous documentaries, notably the 1981 film “This Is Elvis” and the 2005 CBS special “Elvis by the Presleys.” In “Elvis: The Movie,” a 1979 television film directed by John Carpenter, he was played by Joe Mantegna, opposite Kurt Russell as Presley.
Correction: December 1, 2016