Some of Michael McLeavy’s life story could easily pass for fiction – but the Lanarkshire man’s new book is all fact.
Michael moved from Rutherglen to Hollywood in the 1960s, deciding to embark on an American adventure in a bid to meet his hero, Elvis.
Unbelievably, that’s exactly what happened, as he met the King and ended up working in Tinseltown, meeting celebrities like Burt Lancaster, Orson Welles and Mia Farrow in the process.
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Michael, who hoped it would make it as a singer, ended up settling in the USA and carving out a successful career in the insurance business.
Now, he’s penned a book about his life story, called What’s Now? What Next? Where To?, with the autobiography available through the likes of Amazon.
“When I originally joined Facebook I wrote in my comments that I had a varied background and hoped to write a book someday”, explains Michael.
“As writing was not my forte, I joined a class that was full of writers four years ago and that gave me the motivation as I had to have a chapter completed for each class on various subjects, including my own. This prompted me to tell my story.”
The book focuses on Michael’s determination to make it, an attitude that goes right back to his initial decision to move to America.
A singer with local band the Fireflies, Michael’s pals good naturedly teased me about his dreams of meeting the King.
Living near Bel Air, Michael previously told us how he became friendly with Elvis’ friends Sonny West and Jerry Schilling, who eventually invited him to meet the music legend.
“Elvis said: ‘Hi Mike, so glad you could make it’. He made me feel completely at ease.
“He talked about Scotland and how he had touched down at Prestwick Airport on his way home from the Army.
“He said he wanted me to stay the entire day! It was incredible – I felt so lucky. At the end of the day, Elvis himself walked me out and said, ‘I hope you enjoyed the day Mike. Best of luck’.”
When writing his book, Michael says it was that determination, whether meeting Elvis or in his business career, that stood out the most to him.
“When I was looking back for the back, nothing surprised me and I remembered everything. I think maybe my stubbornness and sheer single mindedness to be successful stands out.
“Everybody has tough times and quite a bit I’ve mentioned in the book covers various situations that I had encountered. I picked myself up after one of them and went for a skydive!”
The 79-year-old also enjoyed a spell working alongside Laurence Harvey, star of 60s thriller the Manchurian Candidate and a host of other films.
This meant he attended a string of umpteen parties at Harvey’s beach house, staying within yards of the likes of Burt Lancaster and Doris Day, and meeting the likes of Orson Welles, Mia Farrow and Sharon Tate.
However although it wasn’t quite as glamourous, Michael looks back on his younger days in Rutherglen equally fondly.
“Growing up in Rutherglen at that time was the greatest learning experience for any kid. Great parents and teachers that would give you the discipline that would pay off later on.
“Having good pals who would play from morning to night, and being able to come and chap your door without security and ask, are you coming out to play?”
After retiring from the insurance business, Michael summarized his first love of singing and has since released several albums, before his gigging was halted by the Covid pandemic.
He remains a huge fan of Elvis, and will be intrigued to see the upcoming film biography coming out this summer, with Austin Butler as the and Tom Hanks as his manager, Col Tom Parker.
Michael added: “Anything on Elvis. Especially another movie on him, I reserve judgment on until I see it. Let’s hope it does The King justice.”
What’s Now? What Next? where? is available now here.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.