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December 03, 2016  -  Gold Coast Bulletin  /  Elvis Express Radio
THIS is a story about a little-known, predominantly Gold Coast-centred “mafia” crew.

Like all mafia, they are tight-knit but unlike the traditional mafia crime families from Sicily, this bunch are happy to reveal their members, their origins and all details of their activities.
And as far as Coast Weekend is aware, they don’t shoot members who break ranks.

They are officially known as the Memphis Mafia International (MMI), a group of Elvis Presley-loving locals, dedicated to cherishing the legacy and music of the king of rock and roll.
Founding members include Gold Coast businessman and frozen daiquiri king Brian Seoud, Gold Coast DJ and Freddy Mercury impersonator Craig Pesco plus entrepreneur and
former Australian pool and snooker champion Craig Duffy.

Sydney comedian Rob Shenadie is another founder while members added since include Moo Moo restaurateur Steven Adams, Wiggles performer Greg Page and Hollywood
identity Brody Jenner.

The group aren’t just a quirky bunch of Elvis nuts. Up until his death last week, their MMI president was Joe Esposito, the famed right-hand man and closest friend of Elvis
throughout his groundbreaking music and movie career.

Mr Esposito, 78, died at home in California after a year of battling illness.

Outside of Elvis’ former wife Priscilla, Mr Esposito was probably the closest person on earth to Elvis. He was the best man at his wedding, escorted him to thousands of his shows,
organised his limos, planes, hotel rooms and was among the first to find the King dead on the floor of a bathroom at Graceland in 1977 aged 42.

So just how did Joe Esposito come to not just endorse the Memphis Mafia International crew but be its president?

A not-so-chance meeting between Mr Seoud and Mr Esposito on an elevator in Las Vegas about 10 years ago sowed the seeds.

Mr Seoud, who at 52 is a self-proclaimed Elvis fan of 50 years, said he had heard Mr Esposito was working as a VIP host at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas.

Dying to meet him, Seoud booked in at the Wynn during a visit for a trade show while promoting his daiquiri products.

“You know how sometimes you want something?” Mr Seoud told Coast Weekend.

“Well I booked in there at the Wynn and was going down the elevator — and it had that elevator music going on and I’m tapping my feet just thinking about things — and I look up
and there is Joe.

“I said ‘Joe?’ and he said ‘Yeah’. I said ‘I don’t want to alarm you but I’m a big, big Elvis fan, I have loved Elvis since I was two and I’ve always wanted to meet you and it’s just really
bizarre that I’m now meeting you in an elevator’” he recalled.

The pair went for coffee, hit it off and became friends.

Outside of Mr Seoud, Mr Duffy is probably the biggest Elvis Presley fan on the Gold Coast if not Australia.

Mr Duffy, the owner of Hollywood Showgirls strip club in Surfers Paradise, is such a big fan he has a Ferrari with a numberplate that says TCB (a.k.a Taking Care of Business), one
of Elvis’ favourite mantras. Hollywood has a drink on the menu called the Elvis Presley and another of his car numberplates is MMI.

Back in 2014 former Gold Coast nightclub kingpin Billy Cross even told Coast Weekend Mr Duffy “thinks he’s Elvis — someone needs to tell him he’s not”.

When Mr Duffy heard about some Gold Coast guy called Brian Seoud having a friendship with Mr Esposito he decided he had to get in touch.

Mr Seoud recalled: “Duffy had this 80-foot boat at Palazzo Versace at the time. So I go down there to meet him, I get on the boat and he’s got these Elvis sunglasses on and got the
mood happening, got the Elvis videos going on … and, by the way, it’s not him preparing for me, it’s just him socially.

“He goes ‘I hear you know Joe Esposito’. and I said ‘Yes, do you want me to call him now?’. He said ‘No no no’. He got really nervous.

“Anyway long story short — Duffy was planning to go Vegas and I was coming a week later and was going to introduce them.
“But he met Joe before I arrived and said I was his friend and it broke the ice.”

Mr Duffy, who last saw Mr Esposito several months ago in California before his death, recalled first meeting him in Vegas almost a decade ago.

“We started to hit it off pretty good as mates. We obviously had a shared interest in Elvis but other than that we were very similar, we liked the same stuff.

“Joe was almost 70 years old when I met him but he was honestly the coolest 70-year-old guy you have ever met in the world.
“I could see why Elvis had him as his best friend because the guy was the coolest,” Mr Duffy said.
“He was so switched on and that’s why Elvis had him in charge of his affairs.”

Elvis’ entourage, including Mr Esposito, was famed for getting around together in a pack and all wearing dark sunglasses, leading to media dubbing them the Memphis Mafia.

It was a nickname Elvis reportedly liked and Mr Seoud and Duffy — with Mr Esposito’s blessing — one day decided to form the global offshoot called Memphis Mafia International.
They even came up with an MMI necklace logo with a lightening bolt through it, just like Elvis’ famed TCB and lightening bolt which translated literally to taking care of business in a

“Joe thought it was hilarious, he loved it, thought it was just the funniest thing of all time,” Mr Duffy recalled, adding during one of his many subsequent visits to the Gold Coast, Mr
Esposito asked to be the MMI president.

“We were having dinner at the Hilton, across from Hollywood Showgirls, and he said ‘Guys I think I should be the president of this MMI’. At the time Brian was president but he said it
would be his pleasure to relinquish.

“He expressed an interest and obviously we said yeah,” Mr Duffy recalled.
“What’s funny now is as a result of this and the Joe connection, if Brian and I go to an Elvis show, normally the Elvis people know who we are and they introduce us to the crowd as
MMI. So it’s growing as a bit of a known thing.

“It’s more a fun thing — there is nothing particularly serious about it. It’s just a fun passion. “Don’t get me wrong, we do take our Elvis Presley passion very seriously but it’s a fun
thing at the end of the day, harmless fun and we love it.

“And Elvis’ music beats the hell out of anything playing on the radio today.”
Mr Seoud added: “It’s kind of weird, Duffy and I starting this thing, but now all these Elvis fan clubs around the world know us very well because of MMI I think.
“We have fun get-togethers. We’re like the Elvis freemasons.”

The group’s official MMI Facebook page notes they are the only “officially recognised offshoot of the original Memphis Mafia”.
MMI’s stated mission is “search the world for original Memphis Mafia members and seek their support and counsel in assisting us continue the legacy of the Elvis’ original Memphis
Mafia entourage”.

The MMI members, through their ties to Mr Esposito, have been able to meet Elvis’ first wife and true love Priscilla Presley, daughter Lisa Marie, his friend and fellow performer Tom
Jones, boxing legend Mike Tyson and singer Lionel Richie. They have also established a friendship with Linda Thompson who was Elvis’ partner at the time of his death.

But despite the famous connections, Mr Esposito always remained grounded.

MMI founding member Craig Pesco said MMI always had dinner Mr Esposito during his repeat visits to the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise.

“The weird thing about Joe is he’s so casual that it takes a bit for it to sink in that you are sitting there with Elvis’ tour manager and his best man.”

Mr Pesco recalls he signed some albums for him during a first meeting on the Gold Coast. At a catch up in Las Vegas, despite having only meet Mr Pesco twice, Mr Esposito
introduced him to a group of Vegas entertainment and booking agents who were having a conference that weekend.

“Joe started telling them I was the best Freddie Mercury in the world and I’m going ‘I can’t believe this is Elvis’ tour manager and he’s promoting me to these people in Vegas’.
“As much as it is a bit of fun and a boys’ club on the surface, deep down MMI is about more.

“There is a generation of guys from that time who need to be interviewed and go on record about what it was actually like because in a few years time there will be no one alive who
will know what it was like first hand,” Mr Pesco said.

“Joe was just amazing to me, a great guy, he’d obviously seen a lot, done a lot and lived life to the fullest — and it’s sad to see him go.”

The MMI group are planning a trip to the US in January to pay tribute to Mr Esposito during a memorial function scheduled at that time.