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For Elvis, firearms not exactly hidden

Elvis Presley‘s notorious gunplay didn’t just involve shooting TVs in the privacy of his home. He was involved in a couple of jaw-dropping public incidents that left his security all shook up.

The scariest one occurred in 1977 in front of law enforcement.

Elvis’ bodyguards Sam Thompson and Dick Grob recalled the incident Sunday during lunch at Jasmine restaurant at Bellagio before attending a panel discussion in front of visiting writers in the hotel’s Fontana Room.

Elvis’ private jet, the Lisa Marie, had just landed after a Rochester-to-Binghamton, N.Y. flight. Grob, the chief of security, had just warned Elvis that they were in a restricted gun-carry area.

It was about 3 a.m. May 26, and a crowd of fans and dignitaries, including Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker, and a high-ranking law officer, had gathered to welcome Presley.

Still wearing pajamalike karate gear, Elvis began descending the portable stairs when the crowd started cheering as a spotlight hit him.

As he lifted his arms to acknowledge the reception, two loaded semiautomatic Colt pistols fell from his waistband and bounced down the steps.

"Elvis had a sheepish grin as he came down," said Thompson, now chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

Waiting was the local police chief or ranking officer, Thompson said.

Presley "completely disarmed the man by shaking his hand and introducing himself," Thompson said. "The guy handed him the guns and said, ‘I believe these are yours Mr. Presley.’ Elvis stuck ’em back in his waistband." The guns are on display at Graceland, Thompson said.

At another concert, around the same time, a loaded .22-caliber derringer popped out of one of Elvis’ stage boots and bounced on the stage right in front of rhythm guitarist John Wilkinson, "who did not like guns," Thompson said.

It was retrieved about 20 minutes later, Thompson said.

He and Grob, with Parker’s widow, Loanne, and Armand Thomas, creative director of Cirque du Soleil’s "Viva Elvis" show at CityCenter, were part of a panel discussion for writers in town to see the show Friday on Elvis’ 75th birthday.

SIGHTINGS

At the Palms on Saturday, Stanford football star Toby Gerhart at N9NE Steakhouse. At another table, rapper Xzibit, who later went to Rain nightclub, host site of the official WickedPictures.com AVN party. Also at Rain, actor Corey Feldman and comedian Dave Attell. At the Playboy Club, retired NFL standout Jonathan Ogden and Dave Navarro. Also at N9NE: Green Valley High’s Brandyn Dombrowski, San Diego Chargers lineman; former Clark County Sheriff Bill Young and John Bunnell, the former Oregon sheriff who starred in "Cops" with Young; Mötley Crüe frontman Vince Neil and wife Lia. … Among the crowd at XS nightclub in Encore on Saturday: Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee and former Pittsburgh Steelers star Jerome Bettis. … Steve and Elaine Wynn, dining Saturday with motivational speaker Tony Robbins and his wife at the Country Club in Wynn. … Ben Stein, at the Country Club on Sunday. … Kid Rock, David Spade and Dana Carvey at The Venetian’s Tao.

THE PUNCH LINE

"Good news for Gilbert Arenas. He got ‘Athlete of the Year’ from Guns & Ammo magazine." — Jay Leno

Norm Clarke can be reached at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.

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