“Every true story ends in death.” Ernest Hemingway
TO ELVIS, WITH LOVE, 1978 (also known as “Touched by Love”) – A remembrance authored by Lena Canada.
Even after all these years, Elvis Presley remains a controversial figure. His fame would eventually overtake him, but in his lifetime, he reached millions. One of those millions was a little girl named Karen. Karen, afflicted with cerebral palsy was left wheelchair bound and institutionalized by her mother.
The “Brown House” became the institution for a large variety of castoff children. There, Karen would meet Lena Canada, a volunteer-worker who would help Karen find herself and some meaning to this life. Lena, who describes Karen as a “wounded sparrow” does all she can to help draw her out of herself. In time, she discovers that nine year old Karen loves music: the music of Elvis Presley. Karen treasures a bubble-gum photo of the King of Rock and Roll, holding it in her trembling hands, crying herself to sleep.
Lena comes up with the idea of writing to Elvis about Karen, who eagerly agrees. After a month, there’s no response. Karen herself writes a second letter and it is sent.
Months go by. Karen and Lena’s hope fades. They surmise their hero is too busy or that the letter was forgotten by one of his secretaries. After seven months, finally the magic letter arrives. The King answers. Karen, seeing the letter, has a seizure, is given an injection and sent to bed. But, it is the beginning of their pen-pal friendship.
In one of her letters, Karen remarks that she thinks she’s not pretty. Elvis replies that looks aren’t important, it’s being real that counts.
Lena comments that there aren’t many celebrities, (then or now) who would take time out for their fans unless the camera is watching. Her story would not be told until after Elvis’s death.
In 1980, “To Elvis, with Love” became a movie, retitled “Touched by Love”, starring Deborah Raffin and Diane Lane. Raffin would receive a Golden Globe nomination.
Diane Lane (as Karen) really captures the pure essence of this sad, sweet, broken angel. She is true to the character from the book.
Since 1977, a lot of lurid details have emerged about Elvis. This book and film are rare examples of his humanity.
“To Elvis, with Love” remains out of print and the film version “Touched by Love” never made it to DVD. It is available on Amazon Prime Video.
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