Designers for Elvis Meet Each Other

May 4, 2006 - Bruce Fessier, Palm Springs Desert Sun

This is an only in Palm Springs story.

The time: A year ago, in the days leading to the annual Elvis Honeymoon Weekend.

The place: Indian Canyon Drive and Tamarisk Road, about a mile east of Elvis and Priscilla Presley's Honeymoon House on Ladera Circle.

The central characters: The King's dressers.

Dennis Roberts, who made 488 pairs of designer eyeglasses for Elvis, made his entrance into this ironic drama when he got a call from an ailing Leonard Lewis, co-owner of the Elvis Honeymoon House.

Roberts was making a deposit in his Palm Springs bank when Lewis called. His wife had been in an accident.

Roberts, who was staging the Elvis Honeymoon Weekend party for the Lewises, rushed to Tamarisk and Indian Canyon to find Ann Marie Lewis shaken, but unhurt. The small car she had rented after flying in from Boston had collided with a 1980 Mercedes Benz, damaging both vehicles.

Two female police officers were interviewing the drivers when Roberts called Leonard Lewis to say his wife was OK.

"Just before Leonard says to me, 'Tell her not to say anything,' a lady police officer says, 'Did you stop at the stop sign?' And Ann Marie says, 'I don't think so.' I said, 'Not say anything? That's over.'"

Then Roberts and Lewis heard the shaken-up other driver say Elvis Presley had gotten him that Mercedes.

"Of course I'm going to have it fixed," Roberts said he heard the man with the thinning silver hair say. "I would never part with that car."

Roberts looked at the driver's volunteer badge from Desert Regional Medical Center. It said Bill Belew.

Elvis' clothing designer!

Belew was the man who created the sexy black leather outfit Elvis wore on his fabled '68 TV "Comeback Special." Elvis loved that so much, he hired him to design his costumes for his return to Las Vegas. Belew created his legendary jumpsuits.

He and Roberts both lived part-time in Palm Springs while Elvis lived part-time there, too. Belew and Roberts hadn't met, but Belew had never met Elvis in Palm Springs, either.

Lewis was reticent to talk about her accident, but Roberts enthusiastically recalled he was so amazed she had "bumped into" Belew, he passed out cards at the accident scene and invited the rubberneckers to the Elvis Honeymoon Weekend.

"You're Bill Belew?" he said he asked. "I'm Dennis Roberts. You did the jump suits, I did the glasses!"

Belew thought Lewis' reaction was "hysterical.

"We're standing there, the two police officers, really nice girls, and the woman from the Honeymoon House," Belew said. "I said something about it being a gift from Elvis and I had never had an accident with it. Well, she went crazy. She ran up to (Roberts) and said, 'You won't believe who I ran in to. I ran into Bill Belew! Elvis Presley gave him the car!'

"She ran back to me and said, 'I can't believe I did this. It's so exciting to meet you finally!'

"I was totally in shock."

Belew said he got a call the next day that perpetuated the bizarre events.

Obviously, it wasn't from an insurance company.

"They call and say they're holding something at the Honeymoon House and would I come to it because it would mean a lot to them," Belew recalled. "I thought to myself, 'Where are these people coming from. You ran into my car yesterday and you're calling me today to come up and sign autographs?' I said, 'No, I don't think it's a good time for me to come up.'"

Actually, Belew said Elvis was responsible for him having that Mercedes, but it wasn't the car Elvis gave him. The Mercedes Elvis gave him was stolen from the driveway of his Van Nuys home and a Hollywood dealership replaced it with a 1980 Mercedes.

Belew is happy the insurance companies enabled him to repair his car, but he doesn't think he'll be driving to this year's Honeymoon Weekend party, either.

Roberts will be there. He feels destiny brought him, Lewis and Belew together, albeit in unfortunate circumstances.

He thinks his little yarn is a great way to promote this weekend's Elvis celebration, featuring associates of Elvis who will greet fans and perform at the house Elvis and Priscilla leased for the 1966-67 season.

"She flew 3,500 miles from Boston to bang into Bill Belew? The week before the Elvis Honeymoon Weekend?" Roberts asks incredulously.

"That's a trillion to one shot. The reason that happened is Elvis wanted that to happen."

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