elvis’ golden caricatures volume 8 (love letters from the 70s)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 6 min­utes.

THE ELVIS OF THE ’70s in his fan­tas­tical jump­suits and ex­panding waist­line has found at­ten­tion from artists who seem de­ter­mined to give an ugly ren­di­tion of the man. Partly due to the many car­i­ca­tures of Elvis as grossly obese and sloppy-looking, many non-fans have it in their heads that he was gross and sloppy during his life. 1

This was not true: the rounded, bloated look of his past few years was due to the ex­tra­or­di­nary amount of drugs he ingested—not a slothful lifestyle. But the July 1976 issue of Na­tional Lam­poon fea­tured a nasty car­i­ca­ture of Elvis with a huge beer-belly and thick thighs, both bursting the seams on his jumpsuit.


It is, alas, this image of the “fat Elvis” that re­mains in many peo­ple’s memories.


It is this image of him—one that lasted only a rel­a­tively short time, that re­mains in many peo­ple’s memories—although that’s the way it wasn’t in the ’70s. The over-the-top take on Pres­ley’s ap­pear­ance was in line with the gen­er­ally crude humor that the Na­tional Lam­poon’s fans enjoyed.

The mag­a­zine cover ac­tu­ally re­ceived far more at­ten­tion than Pres­ley’s new record­ings were re­ceiving at the time. Be­cause of the im­por­tance of that mag­a­zine image, I have de­voted an en­tire ar­ticle to it: The (Un­for­tu­nately) En­during Image Of Fat Elvis.”

While Pres­ley’s appearance—good and bad—are just tar­gets for any car­i­ca­turist, I did not se­lect any that I thought re­flected in­spi­ra­tion from the Na­tional Lam­poon cover. 2


Golden Caricatures Volume 8: photo of Elvis on stage in Philadelphia on June 28, 1976.

This is what Elvis looked like at the time that Na­tional Lam­poon hit the news­stands: this photo was taken at the Philadel­phia Spec­trum on June 28, 1976. The bloating of his face is ob­vious but what is surprising—or at least should be to those thought­less caricaturists—is his rather trim waist. But things went down­hill quickly after this.

There have to be others!

Finally—and this is very important—with few ex­cep­tions, all of the car­i­ca­tures of Elvis that I found on the In­ternet are of re­cent vin­tage. In fact, most of them were cre­ated after the In­ternet be­came a house­hold application.

De­spite Pres­ley’s world­wide fame from 1956 through his death in 1977, there are very few car­i­ca­tures of him done while he was alive. Hirschfeld’s draw­ings from 1956 and 1968 were the only ex­am­ples I could find. 3

Below I have linked the artist’s name to an ap­pro­priate web­site for more of the artist’s work when­ever possible.



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Pablo Lobato.

Artist: Pablo Lo­bato

This highly and sleekly styl­ized ren­di­tion of Elvis is a modern nod to­ward one of the first ex­pres­sions of modern art, Cu­bism. It de­picts Elvis from the mid-’70s: round-faced, heavy side­burns, custom shades, showy outfit.



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Jota Leal.

Artist: Jota Leal

This could be Elvis in the ’50s or the ’70s—I see the latter and so this image is in­cluded here. I am un­cer­tain as to what is going on here: Elvis looks surly, the swollen lips and squinted eyes look more like “If you’re looking for trouble, you’ve come to the right place,” than they do “Any way you want me, well that’s how I will be.”



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Steve Roberts.

Artist: Steve Roberts

Don’t know why, but this drawing of a happy, sleek Elvis re­minds me of a youthful Dennis Quaid.



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Bryagh.

Artist: Bryagh

The artist placed the young and beau­tiful face of Elvis from the ’50s atop a body drawn from the 1973 Aloha From Hawaii Via Satel­lite tele­vi­sion special.



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Zack Wallenfang.

Artis: Zack Wal­len­fang

The drawing was in­spired by scenes of Elvis re­hearsing for the filming of the MGM movie That’s The Way It Is, re­leased in late 1970. If it wasn’t for the ex­ag­ger­a­tion given Pres­ley’s lower lip and chin, this might not qualify as a caricature.



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Gero.

Artist: Gero

This drawing could have been in­spired by al­most any year in the ’70s, al­though the huge side­burns and the high collar sug­gests the middle years.



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Petar Pismetrovic (sketch).

Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Petar Pismetrovic (painting).

Artist: Peter Pis­metrovic

I found the artist’s sketch­book for this drawing and in­cluded it as the drawing of the King there is harsher and uglier, looking some­what like an Elvis from Bizarro World.



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Paul Moyse.

Artist: Paul Moyse

For some reason, this re­minds me of actor Bobby Can­navale, who lit up the third season of Board­walk Em­pire as the so­cio­pathic mob­ster Gyp Rosetti, and the coke-sniffing, party-loving head of a small record com­pany in the ’70s in Vinyl.



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Don Coker.

Artist: Don Coker

Here the King looks drunk­enly sloshed—a state of being he ap­par­ently never experienced.



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Luis Felloe.

Artist: Luis Felloe

The Aloha Elvis with a gi­gantic jaw and chin. I never thought of Presley as having that promi­nent a chin, but as other car­i­ca­tur­ists focus on it, I as­sume others see it more readily than I.



Golden Caricatures Volume 8: caricature of Elvis by Zack Wallenfang.

Artist: Zack Wal­len­fang

Ex­cept for the ex­ag­ger­ated fa­cial fea­tures, this is as close to a loving por­trait of Elvis as can be found on this page.

It is, alas, the image of the so-called fat Elvis that re­mains in many peo­ple’s mem­o­ries. Click To Tweet

Elvis caricature 72 Covaciu 750

FEATURED IMAGE: Artist Bogdan Co­vaciu put a baby-faced Elvis (from the Sun Years but with dyed-black hair) atop the shoul­ders of the mid-’70s jump­suit with the high, stiff collar. In this drawing, I see a young Nicholas Cage.

Fi­nally, most of the artists rep­re­sented in this se­ries of ar­ti­cles of mine are young; they did not live through the years when Presley was alive. many of them are un­aware that the neg­a­tive things about the man that af­fects their con­cep­tual judg­ment of how they see and render Elvis are things that were not known about Elvis while he was alive.

While his fluc­tu­ating weight was fair game in the ’70s, the ugly side of the man—real and not so real (such as many of Al­bert Gold­man’s revelations)—was rarely on public display.

Un­less you at­tended one of the con­cert per­for­mances where Elvis lost it, you couldn’t know about his temper. During most of his life, Presley was known for his un­failing po­lite­ness, his tem­per­ance, his gen­erosity and good deeds, and his good humor.

Many of youthful artists who car­i­ca­ture the Elvis of the ’70s seem obliv­ious to these things. Oddly, Pres­ley’s count­less in­fat­u­a­tions with women and his seeming ob­ses­sion with hand­guns and po­lice mem­o­ra­bilia are rarely ad­dressed by caricaturists.


Elvis 1957 goldsuit standup 1000

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, I have planned four vol­umes of car­i­ca­tures of Elvis in the ’50s, and two each for the ’60s and the ’70s. There are at least two artists who have done enough high-quality car­i­ca­tures of Presley to merit a volume of their own, Al Hirschfeld and Al­berto “Sting” Russo. Here are links to the volumes:

The First Pub­lished Car­i­ca­ture of Elvis Presley
Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 1 (Rockin’ the 50s)
Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 2 (Rollin’ the 50s)
Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 3 (Rat­tlin’ the 50s)
Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 4 (Shaggin’ the 50s)
Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 5 (Stuck on the 60s)
Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 6 (Wild in the 60s)
Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 7 (Elvis by Hirschfeld)
Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 8 (Love Let­ters from the 70s)
Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 9 (Aloha from the 70)
Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 10 (Elvis by Russo)



1   The de­signs on Elvis’s jump­suits were usu­ally very spe­cific and often in­cluded pop­ular and ar­cane sym­bols of re­li­gion, phi­los­ophy, and mys­ti­cism. To Pres­ley’s de­trac­tors, these suits were merely so much gaudy excess.

2   While the Na­tional Lam­poon may have orig­i­nated with a group of Har­vard grad­u­ates and their ex­pe­ri­ences with the uni­ver­si­ty’s satiric paper the Har­vard Lam­poon, most of its humor is de­cid­edly low-brow.

3   This can’t be right—there have to be other car­i­ca­tures of Presley done while he was alive! If you are aware of any, please con­tact me.


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Agreed.Sadly I will never have that problem.

Do not hold your breath.I have not been a 34-inch waist for 25 years.Even then I was a re­ally a 36 in denial.As Sinatra said Thats Life.

All in all Elvis was only badly over weight for the last year or two of his life.This was made so ev­i­dent by that sad ill con­ceived Elvis In Con­cert tv show which even as a life long Elvis fan I cannot watch.Too sad.He gave these id­iots what they wanted ie fat Elvis and they have milked it to this day.Fuck them all.