by Kimberly Gatto and Victoria Racimo
Review, by Marion E. Altieri
On August 16, 1977, Elvis Aaron Presley left the building, for good. When he died, he left a legacy that was so big—so iconic—that, like the man, himself—the Earth was too small to contain it, or him. It was hard for anyone on this planet to wrap our heads around the concept that The King no longer stood on this Earth. Elvis, like his lore, simply could not die—so the harshness of this reality was like a bolt of lightning to the Collective Unconscious of the entire world.
Even the sadness into which The King had fallen in his latter years could not take the tarnish off all that he had achieved, and all he had become. So his death was especially hard for those who just knew in their hearts—that The King was still inside there. Still the man with whom the world had fallen in love in the 1950s. Still, and always—Elvis.
Without going into specifics or writing a theomusicological dissertation, we can note here that Elvis’ talent, drive and yes—his underlying sadness—became the foundation of both his international (intergalactic?) fame and his personal quest for internal, quieting peace.
An extraordinary book, All the King’s Horses: the Equestrian Life of Elvis Presley, will rock ‘n roll (be released formally) on August 14th, 2017.
The book, by long-established, popular author, Kimberly Gatto and actor/director/writer, Victoria Racimo, looks from the outside to be a fun romp on equids, with the King of Rock and Roll. The cover, itself, is beautiful: a fabulous nod to contemporary graphic design, in concert with Mid-Century Modern colors and style. The book’s covers, back and front, at first blush lead us to assume that it’s all fun and games between those covers. A delicious romp through barns and fields with Elvis—what could be more fun than that?
Yes, the book will catch your eye on shelves at Barnes & Noble. It will demand that you pick it up—to experience it, and dive right in.
But don’t dive until you’re ready to make a commitment—this is no one-night stand of a tome. Don’t let the dancehall-girl good looks of the cover lull you into a sense of superficial expectations. This is a book that will make you think—make you feel—make you smile, yes—but also, it will make you cry.
Consider this: Hundreds of humans came and went in Elvis’ life, especially during the course of his early career up until August 16, 1977. Many of those people wanted money—favors—to be seen with The King.
Some of those people genuinely cared for him—dare we say, actually loved him.
Kimberly Gatto, one of the book authors said “Since I was a young child when Elvis passed away, I knew very little about him before embarking on this book project. It was an honor and a privilege to research and write about such an amazing human being. While there were countless stories that we uncovered during research for this book, my favorite was the story of how Elvis bought a young, horse-crazy, little neighbor girl her very own horse. Elvis’ generous heart shined through in all that he did, and nowhere more than in that anecdote."
But the animals who entered Elvis’ life in his early childhood—animals, whom he loved so much that he wouldn’t go bird hunting as a small child—those animals defined his very soul.
Music was his talent, but animals were his soul, itself.
Author Victoria Racimo says "I was amazed and thrilled to discover how much Elvis loved horses and in turn how much love and joy his horses brought him, especially when he needed peace and quietude from the mega pressures of his show biz life.”
While humans came and went—horses were a constant in Elvis’ life—we might speculate that horses were the only constant in his too-often tumultuous existence. But Elvis knew what every horse lover—and every Elvis lover who doesn’t necessarily know horses, but will learn—Elvis knew that, no matter how he looked—how he messed up—what decisions he made, both good and stupid—his horses always, always would love him and be there for him. Horses were more to Elvis than transportation, a means of getting from Point A to Point B.
Horses were Points A and B. They were the journey, and the destination. Horses gave something to the world’s greatest rock ‘n roller that nothing, or no one, else ever had, or ever could: peace.
Whether he was laughingly dodging rabid, screaming fans; mourning a loss or drowning his sorrows—Elvis always went back to his ranch, to his horses. The ranch, itself, was not his consoler, his comfort. No, a ranch is only buildings and grass, rolling hills and water troughs.
But Elvis’ ranch was where Rising Sun and his other treasured counselors resided. For Elvis, walking into the horses’ stalls was to have an open door to the Confessional. There, in the quiet, hay-scented stalls of his horses, Elvis admitted his sins and celebrated his goodness, with the only souls who accepted him unconditionally. Who loved him for who he was—and for no other reason, than that they could read his soul—and he, in turn, opened his heart to read them.
Much had been made ado about Elvis’ religious beliefs—whether he believed, or not. How strong, and via what path. But this writer, having read the final proof of, All the King’s Horses… comes to one conclusion. And that is, that whatever Elvis believed re. God was between him and God, and the horses—because horses, for Elvis (and for many of us) are God’s special messengers. They are not God, but they may very well be the creation that God assigned to help humans in our quest to feel the utterly open, accepting and gentle love of the Divine.
In the Bible, an Angel told Zechariah that horses were, “…those whom the Lord has sent to patrol the Earth.” Surely, horses patrolled Elvis’ life—his ranch, his world—and guarded them with their entire beings. It was their deep, quiet protectiveness to which The King responded. Their devotion to safeguarding his soul was so quiet, and so much between themselves—that no one outside their circle of love could know, or fathom.
This book has all the makings of a best-seller: striking cover, and design. Beautifully, meticulously researched. with citations. Painstaking, chronological notes, detailing virtually every twist and turn in Elvis’ life, and his life with horses. Gorgeous, story-telling photographs. Many wonderful celebrity endorsements. And—most compelling—beautiful, joyous, painful, honest words with which to narrate a story that heretofore was on the back burner of Elvis’ biographies.
If Elvis found any solace in this world—even happy times often are Too Much, and require retreat of the soul. If The King had any need to go somewhere and Just Be—it was his ranch, and with his horses. Rising Sun and his other equine family members knew and understood The King of Rock and Roll better than any wife, manager, friend, colleague or band member ever could. Elvis knew that, while the world saw him as the man in the gold, black leather or white suit—his horses cared nothing about those things. They loved the man, himself. Just pure, unbridled, honest love.
Author Kimberly Gatto notes that “Elvis was also a natural rider, with soft hands and seat, which is clearly visible in the video footage that is available to this day. His love of equines was apparent in every photograph of him atop a horse.”
Even The King craved it, and in his beloved’s deep eyes—Elvis knew the love that no human ever could offer. Elvis may have left the building, but, as All the King’s Horses… assures us—surely, that’s all he left—for the love he exchanged with his treasures, his equine counselors—lives on, 40 years after his final curtain on this frail, temporary stage of Life.
Read this book. But don’t just read it: dive into it, with pen and tissues in-hand, for you’re going to need both. This book is far-more than something to enjoy: this is a treasure to hand on to your next generation. The kind of book that, were Elvis alive today—would require an autograph from The King, himself.
All the King’s Horses: the Equestrian Life of Elvis Presley
Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Racimo and Kimberly Gatto
Regnery History, Publisher
Cataloging-in-Publication data on file with the Library of Congress
About the Authors
Victoria has an extensive career in the entertainment industry as director, producer, writer and actor. She worked with Alicia Keys co-writing the book “The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee”. Victoria staged two theatrical sequences for Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln.” She was Exec. Producer on the award winning film, “Casi Casi” which she sold to HBO.
In November 2015, Victoria won Best Director for her documentary “One Day” at the Equus Film Festival in New York City. She also wrote, directed and produced the award-winning film about horse rescue and rehabilitation. Since, February 2016, “One Day” has been an Official Selection at the Camden Film Festival, SC, the Silver Springs International Film Festival, Ocala, FL, and the Santa Fe Film Festival. It’s narrated by Emmy-nominated actor and People’s Choice Award winner, Josh Charles, and includes an interview with the “First Lady of Racing”, Penny Chenery, famed owner of Secretariat.
As an actress, Victoria had starring roles in 14 major studio films including opposite Charlton Heston in Columbia Picture’s “The Mountain Men”, in John Frankenheimer’s “Prophecy” and in Disney’s “Ernest Goes to Camp”. She starred in over 35 episodic television dramas and several award-winning productions including winners of the Humanitas Award and the Eugene O’Neill Best Writing Award. For acting credits, visit imdb.com.
Victoria has directed productions at regional theaters all over the country: Othello, The King and I, Same Time, Next Year, Sylvia, The Duchess of Malfi and The Glass Menagerie among others. For several years, she was Director of New Works at the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in Los Angeles. Victoria was commissioned by the State of Virginia to write and direct the original drama “Journey of Destiny” to commemorate America’s 400th Anniversary of the landing at Jamestown, VA. “Journey of Destiny” was also broadcast on CBS.
Victoria and Phil Goldfarb are developing the opera, “On the Waterfront” based on the film. Pulitzer-nominated writer, J.D. (Sandy) McClatchy is set as librettist and Tobias Picker is composer. She wrote two animation specials: “A Toucan Can” starring Jason Alexander and “Pirate Jack and the Legend of Halloween” starring Alice Cooper.
As producer, Victoria has had projects in development at Fox Family Films, Columbia Pictures, NBC Productions and dick clark productions. She created and supervised the “Harlem Music Day Care Program” in New York City.
Member: Stage Directors and Choreographers, Actors’ Equity Assoc., SAG-AFTRA She is an avid equine advocate.
Kimberly is a professional writer specializing in equestrian titles and sports biographies. She is the author of fifteen books, including the award-winning titles Belair Stud and Sandsablaze. Kim has written for various equestrian magazines, including The Chronicle of the Horse, Sidelines, Equine Journal, and Blood Horse; and her work was featured in the book Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul.
A lifelong equestrian and horse owner, Kim competed for many years in local hunter and dressage shows. She is currently the proud owner of Grace, a lovely off-track Thoroughbred, and Flash, a handsome palomino quarter horse cross.