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EDITIONS
Friday, 16 August, 2002, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Elvis's friend recalls highs and lows
Elvis Aaron Presley, USA, 1977
Presley hired Joe Esposito as his tour manager
Joe Esposito was one of Elvis Presley's best friends.

He was with the singer during key moments of his life, including being best man at his wedding to Priscilla Presley in 1967.

Mr Esposito also found Presley dead in his Graceland bathroom a quarter of a century ago.

Elvis and Esposito travelled widely together
Esposito and the singer had a strong friendship
On the 25th anniversary of the demise of the King, Mr Esposito recalled the singing legend.

"He was a big kid and he stayed a big kid all the years until he passed away," he told BBC World Service's Music Biz programme.

"I miss him tremendously, but I guess I'll meet him again someday."

Known to Elvis as Diamond Joe Esposito, the King and his friend not only worked together, but they also lived and holidayed together.

They had met in the army in Germany in 1958 and as Esposito recalled the King instantly made him feel at ease.

Friendship

"I was very impressed by him. I didn't know how to act around him, but he made you feel comfortable and warm," he said.

On Mr Esposito's release from the army, Elvis gave his new friend a job as his tour manager.

"I lived at his house Graceland," Esposito explained.

"What people don't realise is that you weren't just an employee, you were always a friend first of all."

The two men travelled around the world together, both on tour and on holiday.

The pair were inseparable, he said, adding: "We did everything together - we worked together and we socialised together."

Elvis: His best friend remembers
Esposito's rare collection of Presley images have been released on DVD
A close bond, "Diamond Joe" often looked out for his friend.

"Elvis was a warm caring person, but he wasn't street smart," he said.

"He was raised by his mother and she watched over him like a hen, so he really didn't know what the world was like out there."

The singer may have had the reputation as the performer to put the pelvis into rock and roll, but by the mid-70s the high life had begun to take its toll.

'Lonely'

Addicted to prescription drugs and bloated by a diet of fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches, Mr Esposito remembers how his friend struggled to survive.

"It was tough the last couple of years of his life. I think he was depressed because he didn't have any challenges and he was getting older," he said.

Remembering how lonely the performer was, he added, "when you are a big star it's hard to know if someone loves you for your stardom or for who you really are".

On 16 August 1977, Presley collapsed in the bathroom at his home, aged 42.

Mr Esposito attempted to administer CPR before the paramedics arrived, but later the King was pronounced dead from heart failure.

"He died too young... months passed and I thought I was going to see him again," he recalled.

"Then it hit me... it's a day that I will remember all of my life."



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