Phillip Stanic was 21 when his father sat him down and made a startling confession: Stanic was adopted, and his biological father was the legendary performer Elvis Presley.
Today, Stanic, 52, is known as Elvis Aaron Presley Jr. He’s a performer and the owner of the Private Collection of the King on Tour — part of what he touts as the largest private collection of Elvis memorabilia and artifacts outside of Graceland.
The exhibit will be on display through Sunday at the Tacoma Fall RV Show at the Tacoma Dome. Elvis Aaron Presley Jr. — he goes by Aaron — will be at the exhibit during the run of the show in Tacoma.
He says a blood test confirmed he has the same blood type as Elvis, but he’s never had a DNA test that could confirm parentage. That doesn’t seem to matter to the folks who seek him out at public appearances like the one he’s making in Tacoma.
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“When people find out I’m here they cry, they want hugs,” Aaron said Wednesday.
“We got skeptics, too,” he said. “When they come to a concert they are sitting there with their arms crossed. After, they’re lined up at the souvenir table.”
Aaron’s exhibit is housed in a 53-foot-long customized motor home that contains Elvis costumes, jewelry, a motorcycle from the 1964 movie “Roustabout,” army gear and many of the entertainer’s personal belongings.
“This mobile museum is for people who can’t travel, who don’t have the money to go to Graceland,” Aaron said.
Just inside the door of the motor home is Elvis’s army regalia, assembled by Aaron over the years piece by piece.
Other clothes include a promotional “Aztec calendar” jumpsuit and a pinkish lamé suit made to match the cover of an Elvis album. During a photo shoot a gold lamé suit had turned pink under reddish lights, Aaron said.
“Liberace introduced the flashy wardrobe to Elvis,” Aaron recounted. “When they did a fashion shoot together (in 1957) they traded jackets. Liberace said to Elvis Sr., ‘You need more flash.’ ”
There’s even a pair of blue suede shoes, signed by Elvis.
Elvis’s wristwatch from the movie “Blue Hawaii” is a few feet from a collection of pill bottles prescribed to the singer. One of them, Lortab, is indicated for “severe pain.”
“A lot of the stuff I bought in the beginning was trying to get closer,” Aaron said. He eventually bought so much he turned it into the business it is today.
One small section of the display concerns Elvis’s legendary manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
“A lot of fans loved the colonel. Some hated him,” Aaron said.
It was Parker who later confirmed to Aaron the story of his conception and adoption, he said.
During the production of “Blue Hawaii,” Elvis allegedly impregnated Angelique Pettyjohn, a young actress.
When Parker was made aware of the pregnancy he arranged for the baby to be adopted by a couple who performed with Ringling Brothers, Aaron said. He was born Dec. 24, 1961.
“It was hushed up for years,” Aaron said. “I’m the biggest kept secret in show business.”
At the time of the revelation Aaron was an exotic animal trainer and singer. Learning his true identity made him angry at first.
“I like to say I was all shook up,” Aaron said.
“I had to decide — whether I’m going to take my father’s name or be who I am,” Aaron said.
He chose Elvis.
The decision spurred him to pursue a career in singing. Shows and tours followed through the 1980s and 1990s.
During that time one of his managers was Seymour Heller, who was also Liberace’s manager. It was Heller who introduced Aaron to Parker.
“At first Colonel Parker didn’t want to meet me, but later we became friends,” Aaron said. “He wrote some nice letters to me that are going into my book.”
He’s hoping to publish an autobiography in 2015.
Aaron still performs today — both Elvis’s songs and his own. He has a new CD, “We All Nations,” available for purchase. The songs range from country to honky-tonk to techno.
His vocal style is strongly reminiscent of Elvis, whom he calls “Senior” and “Dad.”
“I don’t wear the jumpsuits,” Aaron said. But he does channel Elvis a bit with a pompadour hairstyle and lots of gold jewelry. The fans expect it, he said, but he’s not an Elvis impersonator.
The Presley family, which controls Elvis’ vast and lucrative estate, wants nothing to do with him, Aaron said.
“I’m the black sheep of the family,” he said. “When you’re born out of wedlock ... nobody cares about you.”
If Aaron could lay legal claim to the Elvis empire, it might mean the family would have to share its income, he said.
“If they acknowledge it, they have to pay it,” Aaron said. “But, I’ve never sought any of that.”
It doesn’t matter to him whether people believe he is or isn’t the son of Elvis Presley.
“I have a belief in God that sustains me,” Aaron said. “He gave me a voice. He gave me talent. What I have is what I work with.”
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541