Sunday, June 6, 2010

Reference question of the week

Teen: Is it true Elvis died on the toilet?

I'd heard this rumor before of course, but I wasn't sure if it was actually true or not. I doubted any of our classy database biography resources would go into that type of detail so I started searching the catalog for print biographies, hoping to come across a tabloid style one that might answer this question.

Teen: The Wikipedia entry said he was found on the bathroom floor, but I always heard heard he was on the toilet.

I looked up the Wikipedia page for Elvis. I don't usually use Wikipedia for an answer unless there's nothing else I can find, and even then I remind the patron what an unreliable source it is. One thing I think Wikipedia can be useful for is references if they are properly cited. The reference attributed to Elvis's death in the entry was from the book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, which we actually happened to own. I thought it was interesting that our copy had only circulated once since it's purchase 10 years ago, but another branch's copy had circulated 43 times. I guess we don't serve a big Elvis fanbase here.
We went to the shelves and got the book, which smelled as if the one person who had checked it out had smoked directly into it. In the index, Death of Elvis, The started on page 650.
Me: According to Guralnick, the medical investigator reported that Elvis was found on the bathroom floor, slightly away from the toilet as if he had been crawling and it looked as if he had been using the toilet at the time.
Teen: Were his pants around his ankles?
Me: (reading) It doesn't say that specifically, but hold on...

I flipped a few pages back and started scanning until I found what appeared to be the first page of Elvis's death, p647.
Me: Here is says, "When there was no answer (at Elvis's bathroom door), she (Elvis's girlfriend at the time) pushed on it and discovered him lying on the floor, his gold pajama bottoms down around his ankles, his face burried in a pool of vomit on the thick shag carpet." So, yes, his pants were around his ankles, but he was probably going to the toilet beforehand. Does that answer your question?
Teen: Yeah, thanks! That was some messed up shit.
Me: You're welcome.

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