Seeing inside someone’s home is a glimpse into so much more than just their visual preferences and sense of style. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons people love peeking into celebrity homes so much (guilty!). So when we interviewed Jerry Wanek, the production designer of Supernatural, for season one of Dark House, our podcast about beautiful homes with dark histories, our ears perked up extra high when he divulged some bonus content about the state of Elvis Presley’s 1975 Los Angeles apartment. You’ve likely heard all about Graceland—and maybe even virtually toured his Bel Air mansion or Palm Springs escape— but we’re guessing you haven’t heard about his Hollywood pièd-à-terre yet. Here’s the scoop:
Back in the 1980s, Wanek was dating an old friend of Linda Thompson, the 22-year-old Miss Tenessee pageant queen who dated 37-year-old Elvis from 1972 until 1976, the year before he passed away (she’s also mother to Brody Jenner). While the couple spent most of their time together at Graceland in Tennessee, according to Goerge Klein’s book Elvis: My Best Man, he introduced the pair, and eventually Thompson “began to spend more time developing her acting career in Los Angeles, where Elvis leased an apartment for her.” Though she spent more time in the pièd-à-terre, he helped decorate it and also lived there on occasion.
Thompson continued to use it for a while after Elvis passed away up until moving in with Caitlin Jenner, at which point she rented it out to friends. And that’s where Wanek comes back into the picture. Thompson was subletting the space to her friend dating Wanek, which meant that he was spending a lot of time there, too. And he disclosed that the apartment was like a time capsule, with most of Elvis’s belongings still intact. “Talk about haunting apartments. All of Elvis’s furniture was still in the apartment,” Wanek confirms. “And it had the most over-the-top, incongruous groupings of furniture. There were big canopied wicker chairs in the dining room and this big urn in the middle of the room by the sectional with all these ostrich plumes sticking out of it, but the kicker was that every window was tin-foiled over,” he continues, making it difficult to know what time of day it was and contributing further to the haunting nature.
There are a few theories as to why the windows were covered, but the wildest part is that the tinfoil window treatments were still exactly as Elvis had left them. Another disconcerting remnant of the King’s lifestyle in the apartment was “a gunshot hole in the wall from a time when he shot through his T.V.” Wanek also remembers a few other tchotchkes and knick-knacks, and, in particular, “the original photo of Richard Nixon and Elvis in the oval office,” which was hanging on the hallway leading to the bathroom. The hallway ended up being the backdrop of Wanek’s one and only brush with the paranormal, oddly enough, and perhaps influenced his days on the set of Supernatural.
“One night, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. As I walked down the hallway, I just felt this really weird sensation,” Wanek recalls. “And it was right in front of that picture of Nixon with Elvis—I’m not sure if you remember, but at one point Richard Nixon, then president, hired Elvis to spy on John Lennon and other rock and rollers that were doing drugs because it was the big war on drugs, which is ironic, of course. But it was a really creepy little chill that stopped me right there in my tracks. I just shuddered and thought, whoa, what was that? I don’t know what it was, but it was definitely something I’ll never forget.”
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So, did Wanek interact with Elvis’s ghost, or was he just groggy? Regardless of which narrative shakes out to be true, we’d definitely like to explore the apartment steeped in so much history, even if it only has a fraction of Elvis the Pelvis’s energy lingering in the hallways. Wanek doesn’t know who lives in the unit now or if they know that it was a place Elvis used to hang out in, but to protect their privacy, he didn’t tell us the exact location—so we’ll have to live with the mystery for now…
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