Those who have seen the new biopic “Elvis” have gotten a taste of Colonel Tom Parker and his leech-like ways. The real Parker was Elvis Presley‘s greedy manager, who stole money from him and constantly mismanaged the star. While the film is a look into Elvis’ life from birth to death, it was mostly a look into the relationship between Elvis and his misguided manager.
A few times throughout the film, Colonel Tom Parker–played by Tom Hanks–referred to himself as “the Snowman.” We’re wondering, why? What was the reason behind the nickname, and was it real? Also, what did it really mean?
The answers: firstly, yes it was real. The real Parker did call himself “the Snowman.” Secondly, it was a play on the term “showman,” which is what Parker considered himself to be. It combined the term “showman” with the slang term “snow,” which at the time meant “to fool,” “fleece,” “pull the wool over,” etc. Parker was proud of his ability to con someone; he took heavily to his own joke, and nicknamed himself “the Snowman.” He even created the Snowman’s League of America, a play on the Showman’s League of America; ScreenRant features a photo of the manager in his office, with a banner hanging above his desk proclaiming the club’s name.
Over the course of his time as Elvis’ manager, he took over 50% of the star’s merchandise earnings. His deeds never came to light, until 1980, when his deceptions were finally figured out by the courts.
Who Was Colonel Tom Parker, and Why Was He Called ‘The Snowman’?
Colonel Tom Parker was born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk in the Netherlands. He hid his Dutch citizenship and name for many years, claiming to be born in the US. Parker started out as a carnival worker in the Netherlands, which is probably where his dubious and showman-like nature came from. He took to cheating people out of their money with carnival acts, and had a knack for making people believe he knew more than he did. Many people have called him sleazy, but in the same sentence have described him as “a lovely man.” His skills as a carny aided him in pulling the wool over the public’s eyes.
This came in handy when he entered the entertainment industry. He could still swindle people out of their money, but it was much more than pennies at a carnival, now. He signed Elvis, and things were on the up for a while. Then, in the 60s, Parker started forcing Elvis into contracts for films that Elvis couldn’t escape. Parker didn’t stop to consider if the films were good or bad. He simply wanted the money. He rearranged his contract as well, bumping his take from 25% to 50%.
Parker also arranged Elvis and Pricilla’s marriage for the publicity. Years after, when Elvis died, reports say Parker was callous; he went to New York first to work out a deal and prepare for high demand of Elvis’ merchandise. He was concerned only with Presley’s image, and persuaded Elvis’ father to sign over the rights to his son’s career.
In 1980, attorney Blanchard E. Tual investigated Parker’s contract and handling of Elvis’ career and found that his cut of 50% was much higher than the industry standard. Tual found that Parker was exploiting Elvis, and that his management of the star was “unethical.”