no proof that any of these guns, displayed at Sierra
Sid's casino and Travel Center Plaza in Sparks,
Nev., were fired by Elvis Presley at a TV set.
Nev. — I am not so much a fan of Elvis Presley —
sorry, not my generation — as I am an admirer of Elvis
ephemera. All the over-the-top glitz and wretched excess,
all the sequined white-leather jump suits and gaudy
jewelry, I find at once fascinating and lurid.
when I heard that a truck stop-slash-casino outside Reno
was in possession of the by-gawd gun that Elvis used to
famously — perhaps apocryphally — shoot up his TV set
in some Las Vegas hotel suite, I had to veer off
Interstate 80 to check it out.
in the world such an iconic cultural treasure such as that
ended up at Sierra Sid’s casino and Travel Center Plaza
in the low-rise ‘burb of Sparks had to have a great
story attached to it. Did Sierra Sid win it in a
high-stakes poker game? Did Elvis enjoy the bacon
cheeseburgers at the truck stop so much he gave it to Sid
as a gift?
anticipation built as I crested the Donner Pass and
rambled into town one recent morning.
gassing up the company car and buying a Slim Jim from the
convenience store, I went looking for this supposed shrine
to The King.
there it was in a back-lit, laminated display case on a
wall halfway between the coffee shop and the convenience
store. Amid a small but impressive collection of Elvis
memorabilia — rings, and watches and pens, all gold- and
diamond-encrusted — there sat three gleaming pistols
propped up for maximum exposure. The first was a Ruger
Blackhawk .44, the second a Smith and Wesson .38, the
third a Colt .38 WCF, next to a handsome, monogrammed
that these firearms belonged to Elvis came in the form of
photos of Elvis grasping the guns, plus a notarized legal
document from the executrix of the estate of Vernon
Presley, Elvis’ dad.
I don’t know guns at all, but I was betting on the
pearl-handled, midnight black Colt single-action as being
the TV-killing weapon. I could just picture the dissolute,
older Elvis slouching in a Barcalounger, tooled leather
belt and holster around his now-ample waist, making a
quick draw with the Colt to put the poor boob tube out of
there was no display card to show which of the three guns
did the deed. There were placards for other Elvis gewgaws,
from his gold-coin, rimmed-with-diamonds "stage
ring" to a 1.8-carat diamond ring that Elvis had made
for his father in 1976 to a gold Waltham pocket watch with
the inscription "To Elvis."
a crack investigative journalist, I sought answers from
the source: Sierra Sid.
convenience-store clerk shook her head, said Sid had died
years ago and that his family had sold the whole
truck-stop operation to Travel Centers of America, though
his daughter leased back the connected casino and still
back to the cage and ask them," she suggested.
led me down a dark, smoke-smelling corridor, lit primarily
from the glow of rows of slot machines, and eventually to
Marcy Barba, Sid’s daughter, who now owns the casino and
all the Elvis bric-a-brac therein.
had the answer. And it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
no proof that any of those three guns was the one that
squeezed the trigger and mortally wounded the 25-inch RCA
television that, according to many Elvis historians, was
beaming "The Robert Goulet Show" when Elvis got
miffed and went off.
always heard stories about the TV, too, and it might be
one of those guns," she said. "But we can’t
verify it. The executrix of Vernon’s estate never told
my dad that. Sorry."
Barba added, perhaps sensing my disappointment, "this
definitely is the Colt he used to shoot out light bulbs in
the (Graceland) swimming pool."
really? Do tell.
used to shoot light bulbs in the swimming pool all the
time," Barba said. "Elvis would float the bulbs
and then practice his quick draw and shoot it. The Colt
was his favorite quick-draw (pistol).
the pool was just destroyed. There were holes in all of
maybe this was worth the trip, after all. Barba reeled off
another amusing story when asked how her dad, Sierra Sid
Doan, came into possession of all the Elvis keepsakes in
mom (Florence) is a big Elvis Presley fan, and I guess my
dad was, too," she said. "He was contacted — I
don’t know how — by a woman who was the executrix of
Vernon Presley’s estate. They were looking to sell off
stuff Elvis gave to his dad.
dad said he stuck $20,000 in cash in his boot and flew out
(to Graceland) to meet her. He told me, ‘I put out all
my money on the desk. And the woman told me, "Son,
you’re a little light.’"
my dad said he flew back home, got some more cash, stuck
it in his boot, flew back out and bought it all."
just thought it’d make a great showpiece for people when
they came by the casino," she said. "And it does
bring attention. I’ve had people come in and ask about
it and some media people like you."
estimates that old Sierra Sid ended up getting a pretty
good deal on the Elvis memorabilia, given appreciation
over the years.
take the rings in to jewelers to get cleaned, so I know
their value," she said.
Sid’s collection interests ran beyond The King, though.
also is a display case dedicated to The Duke, actor John
Wayne, as well as the .44 Magnum used in the "Dirty
Harry" movies, several cases displaying a
commemorative gun collection from the Civil War era and
Old West said to be one of the largest in the nation, and
weapons used in World War I.
entire arsenal: 230 pistols and 50 rifles.
that these guns are kept within a few yards from a
convenience store and casino, where a lot of cash is kept,
you’d think Barba would be a little concerned that
scofflaws might want to break the glass and use a gun
instead of an ATM card to pay for purchases.
are alarmed and camera-ed, 24 hours a day," she said.
"And, for your information, it’s laminated glass.
have to have a lot of time to try to smash it. Please tell
people that. It’s very hard to steal these.
had some guys come in one night and tried to break into
this case (with the antique guns) with a brick. It didn’t
it may not be the smartest move to have the Elvis display
so close to the main entrance. But Barba said it won’t
be there for long. She is remodeling the casino and plans
to put Elvis front-and-center once construction is done.
expand it, too," she said. "Before Elvis died,
he sent Vernon the complete collection of every album he
(Elvis) ever made. We have all that in our warehouse in
even any bullet holes, alas.
Sid’s casino and Travel Centers of America
N. McCarron Blvd., Sparks, Nev.