It’s part of Elvis Presley lore, right up there with the pink Cadillac and a surreal, bleary-eyed Oval Office meeting with President Richard Nixon. We’re talking, of course, about the time Elvis filled the screen of his 25-inch RCA TV full of buckshot. Because of Robert Goulet.
What prompted this bit of gunplay? It depends on who you ask. The company line was that Elvis, well, just enjoyed shooting stuff.
“There was nothing Elvis had against Robert Goulet. They were friends,” assured Kevin Kern, a spokesman for Graceland — Elvis’s former home, now a pilgrimage for his many fans — to the Associated Press, in 2006. “But Elvis just shot out things on a random basis.”
He sure did. Take a trip to a $45 million entertainment complex which opened in March 2017 across the street from Graceland and you’ll find a television with a bullet hole, among other memorabilia, including sequined jumpsuits, guitars, and, yes, the aforementioned Cadillac Fleetwood.
Goulet himself said that he and Elvis were friends — and, hey, no hard feelings about the target practice and all. In a 2004 interview with Christopher Blank for The Commercial Appeal, the crooner said, “He also shot 50 other people. They told me that he had about a hundred sets in the basement. And he’d shoot the damn thing out – you know he was on pills and he didn’t know quite what he was doing and he’d BANG! and they’d look at each other and say, “Get another set!” …The point is I knew he was not himself so therefore it wasn’t anything to do with me. He shot out Mel Torme. He shot out Frank [Sinatra]. But I get all the credit.”
But one of The King’s closest friends, Marty Lacker, offered a far different explanation in an interview with elvisinfonet.com. Apparently, in the late 50s, when Elvis was in the army and stationed in Germany, his girlfriend at the time, singer Anita Wood, was performing with Robert Goulet and comedienne Buddy Hackett.
Wood dutifully wrote to Sergeant Presley and, apparently, Goulet added a note to one of her letters, informing Elvis that he was personally “taking care” of Wood (wink, wink).
Elvis didn’t appreciate Goulet’s randy sense of humor and carried a grudge the size of Graceland, for years. In 1974, Elvis was relaxing in his swanky penthouse suite at the International Hotel in Vegas when he spotted Goulet on the tube. (The crooner was appearing as a guest co-host on The Mike Douglas Show.) Supposedly, Elvis yelled, “Get that s**t outta my house!” And with that, he aimed and fired.
Not long afterward, the tale of Elvis and his itchy trigger finger would find its way into the newspapers. In Douglas’s 2000 autobiography, I’ll Be Right Back: Memories of TV’s Greatest Talk Show, he claimed that Elvis was concerned that Douglas might have read about the shooting and gotten the wrong idea.
He rang up Douglas to apologize, assuring him that Goulet was the intended target. No hard feelings replied Douglas, who then tried to land Presley for his show, but no dice.