On November 15th, we lost a legend in the Elvis world, the fashion world, in Memphis history and in my world. Bernard Lansky ("Mr. B" to many), passed away at his Memphis, TN home. He was 85. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for the last few years. For those unfamiliar with him, he along with his brother Guy, opened Lansky Bros. on Beale St. in Memphis, in 1946 with $125 borrowed from their father. What started as an Army surplus store, soon found its niche catering to the local blues musicians who fancied loud flashy stylish clothes. This store grabbed the attention of a teenage Elvis Presley. Bernard would talk to young Elvis who would gaze through the store windows. Elvis told him "Mr. Lansky, someday I'm gonna buy your store." Bernard replied "Don't buy me out, just buy from me." That he did. As soon as Elvis started getting success, he started shopping at Lansky's. Bernard dressed Elvis for his Grand Ole Opry appearance. Also all his early TV appearances like "The Dorsey Brothers Show", "The Milton Berle Show", "The Steve Allen Show" and "The Ed Sullivan Show". Elvis would continue to shop at Lansky's the rest of his life. Bernard even provided the suit Elvis was buried in. "I put him in his first suit and his last", he would say. Lanky's would later move to its current location at the Peabody Hotel, just a short walk from it's original location.
I had the honor of meeting Mr. B on many occasions, and would love talking to him and he would of course sell me clothes. He had the talent of selling you something when you only intended on looking. One visit to Memphis I called ahead and talked to his son Hal and had him hold their only pair of white leather shoes they had left, along with a belt. I showed up at the store the next morning as Bernard was just opening up. We couldn't find where Hal had left the shoes. Bernard said "Come with me!" He locked the store back up and away we went down the hall into their other store and into the back room to look for the allusive shoes. I remember along the way chatting with him, asking how he was and how he'd been feeling. He shot back "Fine! Don't I look good?!" He had a way with words. He had so many one liners he could make the most experienced comic jealous. The ones I remember are "just like a broken drum, it can't be beat!" and "it is what it is". I sometimes catch myself using them. We didn't find the shoes until he called Hal to see where he had put them.
One other time when we were at Lansky's on our Fan Club trip, the rest of our group went to close by Rendezvous for dinner. I was finish up my shopping spree, and someone from our group came to encourage me to hurry up because we had reservations. Mr. B quickly picked up the phone and called the restaurant manager and told him to hold on and that I was with him and said "I don't give a sh*t, he'll be there when he'll be there!" He was a very colorful character and everyone loved him for it.
I am so grateful of getting to meet him and know him a little. I sure will miss him. It was so cool to have the same man who helped Elvis pick out his clothes, do the same for me. We even named our Sheltie "Lansky" in honor of him. My prayers go out to his wife Joyce, son Hal, granddaughter Julie and the rest of the family. I have always worn my Lansky clothes with pride. Even more so now. Especially my white leather shoes.
- Brent Cooper