As a member of the Memphis Mafia, Esposito was Elvis’s road manager, right-hand man, and close personal friend from the time they were discharged from the Army up until Elvis’s death on Aug. 17, 1977.
Esposito rew up on Chicago’s near-northwest side was just a few years out of Marshall High School when he was drafted into the Army in 1958. Elvis was already a huge star when he reported for duty at a small army base in Friedberg, Germany, three weeks after Esposito had arrived.
The two saw each other around the base but didn’t actually meet until six months later. A mutual friend invited Esposito to play football with Elvis and some friends at a house Presley rented near the base.
“The day I met him I looked at his eyes and saw the smile on his face, I said, this guy had an aura about him that I hadn’t seen in anybody before,” Esposito recalled. “It was something God gave him. You couldn’t help but feel the beautiful energy he had in his body.”
When both were about to be discharged from the army, Elvis asked Esposito to come work for him.
“My whole life changed from that day forward,” Esposito said. “I took care of all his business, movie locations, concerts. We did everything together and I was there until the day he passed away.”
Esposito was the only one of Elvis’s male entourage that Presley didn’t fire and rehire after a cooling-off period. It was Esposito and another member of the Memphis Mafia, Charlie Hodge, who tried to revive Elvis after he was found unconscious in an upstairs bathroom at Graceland on Aug. 16, 1977.
The loss of his friend is still profound, 35 years after Elvis’s death.
“We were very upset and couldn't believe he was gone. It’s still hard today when I think about him,” Esposito says. “I see pictures of him and it reminds me of different things we did together.”
Although he likes to keep his stories about Elvis positive, Esposito admits to there being concerns about Elvis’s growing dependency on the prescription drugs that eventually killed him.
Asked if Elvis would have benefitted from the type of addiction treatment offered to celebrities by the Betty Ford Clinic, which opened five years after Elvis’s death, Esposito said it had been discussed.
“We talked about him going into rehab,” Esposito said. “Elvis didn’t want the world to know that he was screwed up. That’s why he never went.”
Today, Esposito travels the world talking about his years with the King of Rock and Roll, answering fans’ questions and hoping to dispel some of the “fake, bad stories” about Elvis.
“Elvis loved life. He didn’t have a dark side,” Esposito said. “He was a very religious man and believed in God. Any gospel song he sang, you can tell he’s singing from his heart.”
These days Esposito goes by the name “Diamond Joe,” after the 1920s-era, Chicago mobster, a nickname he earned from former CNN host Larry King, who remarked on Esposito’s diamond-studded “TCB” necklace that Elvis gave to each member of the Memphis Mafia.
“A Dinner with Diamond Joe” happens from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 23) at the Hilton Oak Lawn. Cost for the dinner is $100 and includes dinner and an open bar, and an autographed copy of Esposito’s book, Elvis Intimate and Rare, a collection of Esposito’s personal vacation photos with Elvis. Only 50 tickets will be sold.
Esposito will discuss the day the Beatles met Elvis (he says the Beatles were extremely nervous meeting their idol) and take questions form the audience.
Afterward, Esposito will head over to 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionnette Park, to judge the second annual Elvis Tribute Artist contest, hosted by Joe "Elvis" Tirrito.
For more information, call 847-445-7522 for visit OneDayTwoLegends.com.