Elvis: The furious local girl who SUED Elvis over these upsetting photos – and a sandwich
On June 19, 1956, Elvis strolled into a local diner full of confidence. He was just starting to become a major recording star with his first movie Love Me Tender also on the horizon, but he was still (just about) able to walk around without being mobbed everywhere he went. In the photographs from that day, he is handsome and smiling, a golden young idol revelling in his new fortune. But he was about to learn a harsh lesson that his charms did not work on everyone – and that his life had not always changed for the better.
Elvis had just done a local radio show and wandered into the Gridiron restaurant on Memphis’ Main Street. He was with his girlfriend Barbara Hearn and a group of friends, including photographer Robert Williams and columnist Robert Johnson.
The young star was in high, playful spirits and spotted a local girl, 20-year-old Robbie Moore at the counter and sat down next to her.
Pictures published in fan magazine Elvis Presley Speaks show the star laying his head on Robbie’s shoulder and eating a burger next to her, while Barbara looks on.
Johnson later recalled: “Elvis spoke to her pleasantly as he entered and said something like, ‘How are you? I haven’t seen you in a long time.’ The girl didn’t say anything. Elvis seemed to be trying to be friendly. He was just teasing and having fun.
“He opened her purse, looking at her teasingly out of the corner of his eye, but snapped it back shut and put it on the counter. He took a nibble of her sandwich and a sip of her milk. That was all.
“She still did not respond and Elvis laid his head on her shoulder as if to say, ‘Come on, let’s be friends.’ He was just acting in a boyish kind of way.”
It all sounded like harmless fun until two months later when Elvis received notification that he was going to be sued for $42,500 ($415,000 in today’s money) for invasion of privacy, and assault and battery.
Robbie Moore had remembered the whole event very differently. She certainly did not look very happy in the pictures about what was happening. It seems she was not asked permission to be photographed – and she was even annoyed about the sandwich.
At that time, millions of girls would have been ecstatic to be so close to the pop idol and pictured with him, but it seems Robbie was not one of them and her wishes had not been considered.
When the story went public Elvis said that they had known each other for some years and he had “no idea she would object to the picture.”
The case was settled out of court for $5,500 and widely covered in the press.
According to the account of that day Robbie gave to the Press-Scimitar, she had never met Elvis before their encounter in the Gridiron.
The article said: “She and a friend had ordered cheese sandwiches, and when hers came Presley ate it all and drank all her milk. He also went through her purse and then laid his head on her shoulder, all of these poses being photographed… To worsen matters, when Presley left he made no offer to pay for her sandwich and milk. She had to pay for it itself.”
Not unexpectedly, Robbie found herself facing an even greater invasion of privacy once furious Elvis fans heard about the court case.
While the Press-Scimitar journalist was interviewing her at home, there were numerous phone calls from angry fans.
According to the report: “‘How can you take money from someone as great as Elvis?” a caller asked. Moore responded, “I don’t think he’s so great.'”
She also revealed she had to quit her job as a telephone company operator because her co-workers had become hostile and harassed her over her suit against Elvis.
Elvis never commented again about the case but it was the start of his withdrawal from ‘normal life.’ He started to realise that everybody would now react to him as a star, positively or negatively, and began looking for a more private home where the public could not reach him.
On March 19, 1957, he bought Graceland and retreated behind its gates. The time where he could walk down the street with friends and go into a diner was over forever.