Elvis Presley, Me, and Our Irritable Bowels

Here’s an interesting fact: Elvis Presley did not die, as was originally thought, from a heart attack brought on by his addiction to prescription barbiturates. It would be decades before it was revealed that he died from constipation, but then I suspect that anyone who spends most of their waking life in trousers that tight is always going to be a bit constrained in the bowel department.

It gives a whole new meaning to All Shook Up – or would have done, had the man received treatment he was apparently too proud to have.

The singer’s official doctor revealed that Elvis’s colon was twice as long and twice as wide as it should have been, and that a four to five month old stool was found in it at the autopsy. 

If only I had been armed with this information the first time I visited Las Vegas. How many more friendships could I have formed, in the city that celebrates the singer on every street corner? 

“Do you know Elvis’s stools caused him to have “accidents” on stage?” I could have asked, as I watched fellow diners’ enormous mouths descend on burgers as big as buses? “Don’t you realize the trouble you’re storing up for your stools?” 

I could have entertained them at length about the real reason for Elvis’s weight gain: namely, that his gut couldn’t digest and dispense with all the muck he was feeding his body. 

I could have told them of my own problems in the irritable bowel department and my experience of colonic irrigation that was filmed for a TV show, and the pronouncement that I had “stubborn stools.” Oh, yes; how very different my Vegas trip could have been.

But instead, I found myself writing up an entirely different set of experiences as I returned to the oasis of calm that was Los Angeles, where I was living at the time.

Now, there can’t be many times in the history of print that this combination of words have appeared in the same sentence; but returning to the city after a week in the chaos and often sheer hell that was Vegas in 2010, I felt a calm that was not a million miles away from being classed rigor mortis.

I had never been to Vegas and, despite being a fan of boxing, had only ever seen televised fights. So, on the encouragement of a friend, who assured me that the Floyd Mayweather/Sugar Shane Mosley welterweight confrontation was going to be huge, I secured a ticket and booked six nights at the Bellagio, famous for the dancing fountains that separate the hotel from its lake. I had only ever seen them on the TV show Las Vegas, a drama that portrayed casino life as one long endless arena of glamour and intrigue, and thought I was in for a classy experience.

I was therefore spectacularly unprepared for the reality: the miles of slot machines, and the awful racket as the likes of Lobster Marina and Kitty Glitter flashed their lights with the promise of riches that never seemed to materialize. The endless rows of isolated, sad looking individuals, exercising a single arm as they pushed coins into slots or built turrets of chips (in many cases, castles) on numbers at the roulette wheel; the smoking that was allowed on the casino floor. God, yes; the dreadful, disgusting smoke.

Shell-shocked, I spent the first night in my room, only to be woken at dawn by the couple next door having the mother of almighty rows: so bad, in fact, that four security people came to check on the wellbeing of the screaming woman. Her take on things was that the argument had come about because hotel staff had been too noisy in the corridor – a logic that escaped the security people, and also me, by then in my dressing gown, also in the corridor, for fear of missing a slice of the action.

Just when I thought that life couldn’t get any worse, there was breakfast: a cafeteria style room reminiscent of a cheap holiday camp, crammed with screaming kids, and, in my section, presided over by a waitress for whom the notion of having two tea-bags was proving even more of an uphill task than if she had gone to Ceylon and picked the necessary leaves with her teeth.

The tea-bag issue has always been something of an issue for me the world over. In Paris hotels, where they have heard only of Liptons, I have to ask for at least a box of the stuff if I am to stand a chance of my finished cup appearing even slightly off white. 

In LA hotels, they think all the British drink is Earl Grey, which I loathe. If and when you manage to get served English breakfast tea, it arrives with honey and lemon. The operation to explain the reason for, and finally get your milk, is so tortuous and long, that by the time it arrives, the tea has to go back because it is stone cold. 

When you can’t even acquire tea-bag number two and are told that the tea will be strong enough with one, Oliver Twist’s “Please, sir, can I have some more?” starts to look like a gastronomic walk in the park.

By that point, my bowels were really irritable, along with the rest of me. Had I not been looking forward to the boxing on the Saturday, and had I not also agreed to be a witness at a friend’s wedding in the Little White Chapel, I would have been out of the city quicker than an Elvis stool at a colonic convention.

Instead, I phoned the concierge service that came courtesy of my all-singing, all-dancing black Amex Centurion card (long gone now – those were the days), and spoke again to the wonderfully efficient and charming Hayden, who had arranged my whole trip.

Hayden quickly got me moved to another hotel in the Amex program, the Mandarin Oriental, and I packed up and moved out of the Bellagio – although not before I had used the $100 voucher for lunch that came with the Bellagio package. 

That was a lot of food for one in the Olives restaurant, I can tell you (all of the deals were for two people), and with oysters, steak and cheese, I still managed to spend only around $60. 

If I wasn’t yet looking like Elvis, my innards were a getting a pretty good idea of what it might be like to feel like him. 

Love Me Tender? Not until I’d spent an hour in the rest room.