It’s Battle of New Orleans Day AND Elvis Presley’s birthday! In the past I’ve posted my review of Change of Habit, the Elvis movie with him as a doctor, Mary Tyler Moore as a nun and Ed Asner as a cop. I’ve also posted about the musical in which Elvis IS Andrew Jackson – Rock ‘N’ Roll vs the Redcoats. (With an Ann-Margret drag queen as pirate Jean Lafitte. )
This time around I’ll dredge up the often-neglected Orion business from decades ago. It was a fun bit of nonsense that only the most far-gone Elvis Conspiracy Theorists take seriously. As always I consider conspiracy theories, put-ons, hoaxes and ARG’s to be modern variations of myth and folklore.
Yes, Elvis died in 1977. That’s not the point. The point is the way the whole Orion/ Jimmy Ellis/ Elvis Conspiracy rabbit hole deserves to be studied forever because of the way fiction and reality seemingly influenced each other to the point where they became almost inseparable.
If you’re new to these events get ready for the Elvis Presley equivalent of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast. And let me make it clear I’m not accusing anyone of anything. I have no idea what anyone’s motives were regarding any aspect of the following.
I’ll present the tale in the style of the fictional Carl Kolchak – as “items” in a list:
ITEM: Elvis Presley died in August of 1977, yet in the years that followed an ever-increasing body of folklore and myth would develop regarding the late rock star supposedly faking his own death. His motives varied according to the theory.
ITEM: For a time Elvis sightings seemed to outnumber sightings of Bigfoot, UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster combined.
ITEM: The novel Orion was published. Conspiracy lovers often cite either 1977, 1978 or 1979 as the year of publication, so you can see how deep some of the rabbit holes run.
ITEM: Orion featured a very Elvis-like young man from the American south who becomes a sensation as a rock singer. In the end the character Orion is so weary of the stresses of stardom that he fakes his own death to get away from it all.
ITEM: Claims are made that enigmatic power players managed to get the novel removed from bookstores. The claims are sometimes accompanied by insinuations that this was done because the book might have struck too close to reality with its “fake death” ending.
ITEM: A masked singer – who looks like a standard Elvis impersonator except for the mask – appears and calls himself Orion. He begins releasing albums and performing in public. This Orion’s first album, tantalizingly titled Reborn, is released in 1978.
ITEM: Orion releases several more albums from 1978 to 1980.
ITEM: At various public performances there are moments – conveniently captured on film (supposedly secretly and ALWAYS at a distance) – in which the Orion who was just seen singing on stage slips away, passing a similarly masked and “Elvis-like” figure who takes his place for post-concert autograph signings and fan-chats.
ITEM: This repeating set of circumstances ignites speculation that the masked Orion who sings on stage is really Elvis Presley, who faked his death like in the novel Orion. The Orion who appears in photos, signs autographs and chats with fans is speculated to be an accomplice who helps “Elvis” continue his career by letting Presley himself perform while the confederate deals with the stressful fan situations.
ITEM: Skeptical minds (Dare I say “suspicious minds?”) probably wondered if the whole “Oh my God there’s TWO of them” moments were carefully choreographed precisely to fuel such speculation, to increase record and other sales for “Orion.” In other words, that the incidents capturing the two figures on film were set up “accidentally on purpose” to appeal to the Elvis Lives crowd by looking like a coverup was being exposed.
ITEM: The author of the novel Orion later released a book titled Is Elvis Alive? which was published alongside a cassette tape of an alleged interview with Presley recorded long after his death.
ITEM: Years later singer Jimmy Ellis admitted to being the singer calling himself Orion. On top of that, technical analysis of the cassette interview raised serious doubts about the voice on the tape.
ITEM: In the usual Leap of Faith nature of the conspiracy world many people still believe that the singing Orion was really Elvis Presley and Jimmy Ellis simply filled in for the album covers, autographs and chats with fans. Ellis’ shooting death (as a robbery victim) in 1998 provides predictable material for some of those faithful.
There you have it! A look at the way the mystique of wealth and fame can comingle with standard conspiracy theories and posthumous folklore. Human creativity takes many wonderful forms until truth, fiction, pretended truth and pretended fiction become nearly inseparable.
FOR FOUR ADDITIONAL NEGLECTED CONSPIRACY THEORIES CLICK HERE