Thanks For The Memories
I was saddened to read a short item on the sports page this morning that Dr. Elias Ghanem 62, Chairman of the Nevada State Boxing Commission had died of kidney cancer in Las Vegas. While I haven't had contact with Dr. Ghanem for almost 30 years, the announcement brought back pleasant memories of my association with him when he was a resident at the Duke University Medical Center in the late 60's.
I first met Elias when he was the maitre'd at the restaurant on top of what was then the Statler-Hilton Hotel. The bar adjoining the restaurant became a sort of a "Cheers" type place with the regulars gathering there each evening after work and staying until closing time. Elias would check in on the bar every now and then and even though he was new to the American/Southern culture, having come to this country from Lebanon to attend college, he quickly adjusted and he was readily accepted by those with whom he came into contact.
He was very handsome and his physical appearance resembled Rudolph Valentino, dark hair and all. He could be very masculine and assertive or very compassionate and vulnerable, depending on what the situation called for. I won't belabor his exploits with the fairer sex, but let's just say that he had "a way" with the women.
I took two trips with Elias, one to Nashville, Tenn. and the other to Montreal Canada for the '68 World's Fair. Both of them were hoots.
I will never forget him outside the stage door at the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, signing autographs as we were entering the building from Roy Acuff's dressing room which was located just behind Ryman. It embarrassed me when I saw him signing the autographs because I didn't want to do anything to call attention to our small group since we had been fortunate enough to have personal invitations to be back stage with Mr. Acuff. When I asked Elias, with some agitation, what he was doing, thinking my question might suggest that he should reconsider giving autographs to the hordes of people who had gathered outside the stage door, he simply replied that he was signing autographs. I almost dropped because I thought maybe he was signing someone else's autograph and that word would get back to Mr. Acuff. I then asked him whose autograph he was signing and he replied "Elias Ghanem". I felt like saying "who in the hell is Elias Ghanem to these people" but I dropped the subject. I was later able to laugh at the incident because he did have the look of a star and his mode of dress complete with black suit and pointed black shoes made him stand out in a crowd.
When we entered Ryman he quickly struck up a conversation with "Pretty Miss Norma Jean" who was Porter Wagner's female vocalist at the time (before Dolly). I couldn't believe it when he came to me and said she wanted to go on a picnic with us the following day. Elias could think on his feet and no, we didn't go on a picnic the following day. The picnic was a part of Elias' line that night but his lines usually worked pretty well.
To show how adept he was with females, I saw him "pick up" a girl who was in an automobile stopped next to us at a traffic light while waiting for it to change. He jumped out of our car and into hers and spent the night with her. I know that because she was still in his room the following morning when I checked by before breakfast.
The Montreal trip lasted a little longer and was just as exciting as the Nashville trip. We went by Virginia Beach where I wanted to look up an old buddy who was playing the banjo at one of the nightspots on the waterfront. I "sat in" with the group and in a few moments he came and asked if he could have the car keys for a while. I asked him what was going on and he said he was going to go to the apartment of a young lady he had met and would not be gone long. I let him have the keys and played the banjo longer than I had planned , if you know what I mean. We left Va. Beach and drove straight through to Montreal. On the way, we picked up two young ladies who were hitch hiking (yes, I know it was dangerous but they looked different and nothing of a sexual nature took place) and they irritated me because both of the girls spoke French and the three of them began talking in French. I didn't think they were talking about me but if you have ever been in a situation like this, it can make you very uncomfortable.
We had been in Montreal for less than two hours when someone broke into my station wagon and stole two of my guitars. Fortunately, they didn't take my Gibson Mastertone banjo which could not have been replaced. It all happened on a city owned parking lot and the rest of the night was spent at the Montreal Police Station filling out forms, etc.
I could go on about Elias, but my recollections would probably mean more to me than to you.
The last time I saw Elias was on television where he headed up the committee appointed to deal with the Tyson-Holyfield mess (ear biting). I did see him from time to time on TV at big boxing events all over the world. I forgot to mention that Elias was Elvis Presley's doctor when EP was in Las Vegas and actually had a room built onto his house so EP could stay there instead of being admitted to a hospital. He was interviewed several times on national TV when EP died and he was mentioned prominently in a book about Elvis after Elvis died.
So goodbye good friend and thanks for the memories.