Yes, Elvis Presley did stay at the Macon Hilton.
Because of the hotel's recent financial problems and numerous name changes, some question whether Elvis actually stayed there, or if it was just a publicity gimmick to glamorize the now closed building. Those names include the Macon Hilton, Crown Plaza, Macon Downtown Hotel and Ramada Plaza.
But I know for sure Elvis stayed there. I was one of the reporters who launched an all-out blitz to corner Elvis and get all the information we could from the King during one of his concerts at the Macon Coliseum.
It was April 24, 1975, and several of us reporters left the newsroom and headed to the Macon Hilton's parking area in hopes of grabbing Elvis for a quick interview before he became a recluse in the hotel's Penthouse.
Instead of Elvis, we got Colonel Parker, the King's manager and self-appointed shield from reporters.
"Can we get a few minutes with Elvis?" I asked. "Don't know. I'm not the one to ask about that," Parker said. "Aren't you the colonel?" I said. "Yes, he replied, " But I'm not the one. Excuse me." The colonel walked away without another word.
To this day, I don't know how they snuck Elvis into the Hilton, perhaps tucked him away in a cello case. But they somehow got him inside, where he remained holed up until concert time.
The reporters retreated to the newsroom to plan coverage of the concert and discuss the possibility of sneaking someone into the Penthouse Suite to get some photos of Elvis.
Rick Harris, now the director of Corporate Communications for Norfolk Southern, got the Penthouse assignment.
I talked with Harris earlier today, and he remembered it well.
"I went through the kitchen and got on his floor before someone asked what I was doing there," Harris said. That someone was one of the Elvis goons who wore a TCB badge. In Elvis circles, TCB meant, "taking care of business."
"I had a camera in a grocery bag," Harris said. "I think that's what gave me away. I remember that I was escorted out."
While Harris was getting jerked around at the Hilton, Chris Bonner and I went to the Coliseum, still harboring notions of getting to interview the King. Regardless, we'd be able to cover the concert and we'd be situated in an area near the stage.
About 30 minutes before the concert, then Macon Mayor Ronnie Thompson walked up. Thompson said he was going to meet Elvis in his backstage dressing room. "I'm going to give him a Certificate of Honorary Citizenship and a key to the city," he said. Thompson invited us to go backstage with him and meet Elvis.
Chris and I jumped at the opportunity.
When we got to the dressing room, a couple of the TCB goons escorted Thompson inside and shut the door behind him.
"We're supposed to be with the mayor," I protested. "That's right," echoed Bonner.
So the goon opened the door and told Elvis there were a couple of guys outside who say they're supposed to be with the mayor.
"They're with me," Thompson said.
Elvis gave an affirmative nob and inside we went. But Elvis bristled when Thompson told him we were a couple of reporters. He'd had some bad experiences with reporter who weren't nice guys like Bonner and me. Despite his misgivings, Elvis let us stay and witness Thompson making small talk with the King and giving him the honorary citizenship and key to the city.
Macon's League of Women Voters distribute brochures that have names and contact information of local elected officials. I had one of those brochures in my pocket. So I pulled it out and asked Elvis for an autograph. He looked at me, didn't speak and gave me the autograph.
On stage, Elvis began the concert with "C.C. Rider" and followed that with "I Got a Woman." He concluded the hour-long event with "Dixie" and "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You".
Afterwards, the King went back to the hotel where he spent the night. So, yes, those who doubt, Elvis stayed in the Hilton and slept in the Penthouse.