‘Elvis’ Movie: Tom Hanks’ Character Actually Pulled This Surprising Move in Real Life

by Taylor Cunningham

Like all movies, Baz Lurhmann’s Elvis biopic took a few dramatic liberties for the sake of entertainment. But one notable event that many fans thought was made up is actually true. Col Tom Parker actually did make and distribute “I Hate Elvis” buttons.

The buttons are revealed during a scene that celebrates the singer’s first hit single. After Elvis’ record label, Sun Records, warned him that Heartbreak Hotel would fall flat for being overtly depressing, he went ahead and recorded it anyway.

As soon as the song was released, it went straight to number one on Billboards charts and stayed there for seven weeks. It topped both the Country & Western and R&B lists—and it went on to become Elvis’ first million-selling album.

With that song, Elvis began rising to the iconic status that he holds today. So Parker decided to capitalize on the popularity and make dozens of branded items to sell.

In the movie, we see a scene where Elvis’ living room is filled with every type of paraphernalia imaginable. And while everyone is reveling in the merchandise, the singer’s mother unearths the unflattering buttons.

Yes, The King’s sinister music manager truly did create a seemingly terrible campaign that slandered his one and only client. But the idea behind it was a bit genius.

The ‘I Hate Elvis’ Campaign Kept the Singer Relevant While Serving in the Army

According to CBC, the carnival-promoter-turned-music-manager knew that Elvis was obviously on his way to major stardom at the time. But he never imagined that he would have a lasting legacy. So Parker hatched a few crafty plans to get himself rich before Elvis faded into the background. And one of those plans included selling hoards of swag.

But while creating said swag, Parker realized that if people loved Elvis, there would also be people who hated him. Teens and young adults were infatuated with his modern flair, but their parents despised him for pushing his salacious hip-swiveling rock and roll on their kids. Women fantasized over his thick hair and sultry voice, and their husbands fumed over playing second string to a singer.

So, Col. Parker gave those angry anti-fans an outlet with his “I Have Elvis” buttons. But he didn’t stop there, he also gave those people the ability to wear flair reading “Elvis is a Jerk” and “Elvis the Joik.”

Interestingly, the idea worked. Not only did Paker make a fortune off of the concept, but when Elvis joined the army for two years, the battling merchandise helped keep him relevant. So when he came back to the music industry in 1960, it was as if he never left.