There was a time in 1956 when Elvis Presley freely walked the streets of American cities, engaging with people he met along the way. However, a series of unfortunate incidents soon led Presley to build a barrier between himself and the public. These incidents, including fistfights and accusations, convinced him of the need to shield himself from unwanted attention. One incident, in particular, involved a young woman named Robbie Moore and her cheese sandwich.
When Elvis woke up in Memphis on a Saturday morning in June 1956, he was in the mood to seek publicity rather than avoid it. As a national sensation in the music industry, he wanted to reconnect with old friends during his 10-day break from his demanding tour schedule. On that sunny June day, he fearlessly stepped out onto the streets of Memphis.
Elvis’s first stop was the local live TV broadcast of “Dance Party,” hosted by Memphis DJ Wink Martindale. During his appearance, Elvis casually discussed his upcoming charity show in Memphis and other topics. Accompanied by friends and girlfriend Barbara Hearn, Elvis then strolled down Main Street and entered the Gridiron café near the Strand movie theater. With television columnist Robert Johnson and photographer Robert Williams joining the group, the atmosphere was lively.
While some of Elvis’s friends played the jukebox and others lingered near the café door, Elvis and Barbara took seats at the counter. To Elvis’s right, a young woman sat, whom he tried to engage in friendly conversation. However, she showed no interest in him. Photographer Williams captured the moment on camera, while columnist Johnson later recalled Elvis being surprised by the woman’s lack of response. Elvis simply wanted to make her smile, but she remained indifferent.
Though the encounter seemed casual and innocent, it caught the attention of the press. Johnson, seeking to profit from the incident, wrote an article about it, accompanied by Williams’s photos. The piece was published in the one-shot Elvis magazine called “Elvis Presley Speaks.” The story quickly spread across the country, leading to unexpected consequences.
Over two months later, on August 27, 1956, Elvis received a notification from attorney Marvin Brooks Norfleet regarding a $42,500 damage suit filed by Robbie Moore. The suit alleged that Elvis invaded her privacy and committed assault and battery when he laid his head on her shoulder in the café on that memorable June day. Norfleet, seeking a settlement, was contacted by lawyers representing Elvis. Eventually, a settlement of $5,500 was agreed upon to avoid going to court. Norfleet and Moore split the amount equally.
When the case became public in late September 1956, Elvis confirmed the settlement and expressed surprise at the lawsuit. He claimed to have known Moore for several years and had no idea she would object to the picture being taken. Journalist Johnson had a different interpretation of the events, describing Elvis’s actions as an attempt to be friendly and teasing in a boyish manner.
Robbie Moore, however, provided a contrasting account. She claimed to be a total stranger to Elvis and accused him of eating her sandwich, drinking her milk, and going through her purse without permission. She also alleged that Elvis made no offer to pay for the consumed food. Moore’s version of the story differed significantly from Elvis’s, leaving room for speculation.
The article sparked public interest, with Moore receiving numerous phone calls, both at home and at work. Some callers expressed outrage that she accepted money from Elvis, while others sympathized with her. The incident, along with other disputes Elvis faced in Memphis during 1956 and 1957, taught him the dangers of openly interacting with strangers. As a result, he retreated behind the walls of Graceland, keeping both fans and potential enemies at a distance for the remainder of his life.
In conclusion, Elvis Presley’s encounter with Robbie Moore was a turning point in his public interactions. It highlighted the need for him to protect himself personally and professionally, leading to a more guarded approach to his fame. The incident remains an intriguing chapter in the life of the iconic musician, forever etched in the history of Elvis Presley.
“Your information on Robbie Moore is incomplete. She was harassed not only at home but also on her job, leading her to quit. Despite having the opportunity, she never told Elvis to leave her alone.” – Joyce (November 2015)
Go to Elvis 1956