Home Features Portraits A friend of THE KING: Island City restraurant owner cherishes the good times he had with Elvis Presl
A friend of THE KING: Island City restraurant owner cherishes the good times he had with Elvis Presl
Palermos is filled with photos of Elvis at all stages of his career, as well as memorabilia that includes copies of posters promoting Elviss first and final concerts and a gold-plated version of one of the Kings first records Mystery Train.
The centerpiece of Cascios collection is a jukebox filled with about 100 45-rpm records, 90 percent of which are Elvis records. The jukebox is all shook up now due to mechanical problems but will return after it is repaired. The song box is a popular feature because its price is right it plays three songs for 25 cents and one song for a dime.
Cascio also is keeping Elviss memory alive. With his pompadour-styled jet black hair, trademark lamb chop sideburns, silk shirts and rhinestones Cascio has an Elvis-like appearance.
People often ask to have their picture taken with him and they request autographs. This mystifies Cascio.
I dont think I look that much like him, he said.
Cascios salute to Elvis is heartfelt. He knew the King. Cascio regularly saw and talked with Elvis when he lived in Las Vegas and operated six restaurants. He was frequently invited to Elviss parties by a friend who knew the King.
Cascio said he knew many celebrities in Las Vegas, but few were more fun to be around than Elvis.
I used to be able to pick up the phone and talk to him, Cascio said. If a customer wanted to talk to Elvis I could call him and get him on the line. People couldnt believe it.
Cascio said he once called Elvis and started talking about Barbra Streisands upcoming birthday party. The King said he had been invited and asked Cascio to join him.
Stars like Elvis were more accessible when Cascio first was in Las Vegas in the early 1970s. Las Vegas had just 68,000 people when Cascio first moved there. Today the population is more than a million.
I used to be able to drive from one end of the city to the other in about 10 minutes, Cascio said.
He did Elvis impersonations for several years until the King died on Aug. 16, 1977. Out of respect for Elvis, he has not done any since.
Cascio appreciates the friendship he had with Elvis as much today as when the King was alive.
I never knew that years later he would still be as famous as he was when he was alive, Cascio said. I never thought he would die so young.
He said that Elvis was a man of uncommon generosity. Cascio once heard a man tell Presley that he liked a ring he was wearing.
Elvis took it off and gave it to him, Cascio said.
He also knows a friend who once heard someone tell Elvis that he liked his car. The King handed the man his car keys.
Presley had 107 records that made Billboard Magazines top 40. Cascio seems to know them all plus the Elvis records that were not top 40 hits. Cascios favorite non-hit record was Trying To Get You, which Elvis recorded around 1955 while with Sun Records.
Cascios favorite Elvis songs were both big hits: If I Can Dream (1968) and In The Ghetto (1969).
What was the most poignant Elvis performance that Cascio saw?
One performance quickly jumps to mind a rendition he gave of My Way at a Las Vegas concert in 1977 just months before his death. Elviss health was clearly failing.
He weighed 230 to 240 pounds and was soaked with sweat, Cascio said.
Elvis usually did not sweat until midway into his concerts. This time, though, he started sweating profusely just after starting his first song. Cascio had a front row seat.
Today Cascio has only six photographs of himself and Elvis. He once had more than a dozen. Unfortunately these were among 200 celebrity photos Cascio lost in a fire at a restaurant he had in Simi Valley, Calif., about two decades ago.
Cascio had special rooms for celebrities in his restaurants in Las Vegas and Simi Valley. Celebrities ranging from Karen Carpenter to Telly Savales dined in the private rooms or in the public area depending on their mood. Some always ate with the public because they enjoyed being in the spotlight.
Some stars live for that, he said.
Cascio, who grew up in Brooklyn, first operated restaurants in Las Vegas from 1971 to 1978. He operated a restaurant in Simi Valley from 1978 to 1983 before coming to La Grande. Cascio came to La Grande in 1983 and left in 1991 to go back to Las Vegas, where he stayed until 1994.
The Cascios returned to La Grande in 1995. While in La Grande they have operated the Cock & Bull Villa Roma, first on Washington Avenue and then in the Grande Ronde Plaza, a coffee shop at the local stockyard, and Palermos. The Cascios opened Palermos about four years ago.
They have no desire to return to Las Vegas.
There are too many people. Nobody knows each other any more, Cascio said.
Things are different in La Grande, he said. One of the many things he likes about the area is how people greet and reach out to one another. Cascio will never forget how he was greeted the first time he visited La Grande.
Everybody was saying hello, he said. In other places if you say hello people think that something is wrong with you.
Cascio has a great appreciation for the many friends from all walks of life he has gotten to know through his years as a restaurant operator.
I get to see people all the time. That is what I enjoy most, he said.