Actor Red West, Longtime Friend to Elvis, Dies at 81

Actor and songwriter Robert Gene "Red" West, a longtime confidant of Elvis Presley, has died in Memphis.

Danita Allen of Memorial Park Funeral Home said West died Tuesday. He was 81. His wife, Pat West, told The Commercial Appeal he died at Baptist Hospital after suffering from an aortic aneurysm.

West met Presley in high school and worked for him for 20 years. He was a friend, driver and bodyguard. He also took small roles in some of Presley's films and co-wrote some songs Presley sang including "Separate Ways" and "If You Talk In Your Sleep."

After West was fired by Presley's father in 1976, he went on to help write a book called "Elvis: What Happened?" The book, published shortly before Presley's death, included details about the singer's drug dependency and unhealthy lifestyle. West and his co-authors, Sonny West and David Hebler, said the book was an attempt to encourage Elvis to give up his dangerous ways. However, some fans said it was written out of spite because they were fired.

Afterward, West became a full-time actor and appeared on TV shows and in movies. His most famous role was in 1989's "Road House" starring Patrick Swayze.

Sonny West, cousin to Robert Gene "Red" West, died in May.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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