The Story of Gladys Stephen King knows. Sure. Sometimes, when an object, like a car or a house, or a sprawling old hotel, is owned by a person with a strong and charismatic personality, that object seems to take on the persona. For better or worse. King shared with us that story of Christine, the car that assumed the characters of, well, a not-so-nice owner. Ours is a more charming story, and one that is even stranger than fiction...
In 1955, the Coupe deVille moved slowly down the assembly line. Not just any Cadillac was this one; she had been custom ordered, down to her hot pink paint, for a driver who would dominate the record charts for the next twenty years. She gleamed, she roared, she demanded attention just like her new owner, even before they met. Just a year after “Heartbreak Hotel” had crashed into the music scene, that shiny car with her purring engine rolled into the streets of Memphis to greet her first owner, and her only love. And Elvis loved her, too. He named her, out of regard for his mother and his only other love, “Gladys”.

Beautiful Gladys and her handsome owner went everywhere together. Gladys allowed other women to ride only grudgingly, and then often misbehaved out of jealousy. In 1956, when Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, Gladys was the only one who escorted him there. It was the greatest performance of her life; those who saw her praised her shine and beauty. But in 1957, Gladys’ life began to change, and there was no way she could have seen what awaited her down the road in the little village of Ellicottville, New York.

Having heard about the opening of a new ski area called Holiday Valley, Elvis (as he was wont to do) had a spontaneous urge; this time to conquer slopes and skis. He loaded Gladys up, and she willingly and lovingly transported him through the snow to the great white north. Not long after arriving in Ellicottville on that fateful day in 1958, Elvis determined that he would stick to singing and cavorting anywhere but on skis. Aching and miserable with tow-rope burns and frostbite, Elvis humbly (a rare feeling) sought lodging with a kindly but rather odd fellow by the name of Pete Chudzik. Chudzik fed Elvis and gave him a bed for the night in an odd boat, dry-docked as it was, at the foot of the slopes. And respecting Elvis’ new found chagrin at being rather unaccomplished at skiing, Chudzik kept Elvis’ presence in Ellicottville quite secret.

A few nights aboard Pete Chudzik’s boat convinced Elvis that he had found a true and lasting friend. In return for Chudzik’s secrecy and hospitality, Elvis rewarded him with the only gift he had to give, the beautiful Gladys. The unsuspecting Coupe deVille sat patiently in the parking lot, waiting proudly to serve her master. Imagine her feeling of loss and abandon as she watched Elvis depart on that Blue Bird bus bound for Memphis! Pete Chudzik, sensitive to such oddities such as Gladys’ soul and her devastation, tried everything to revive the Cadillac. But as the days wore on, she was harder and harder to start, her seats began to sag, her windows lost their luster, and even her sparkling pink topcoat began to fade. Desperate, Pete tried to contact Elvis and return the car, only to find that Elvis had left Memphis for the Army. While Elvis served his country, Gladys mourned.

Having no luck in reviving poor Gladys, Chudzik sold her for a song to a used car dealer. As you may suspect, Gladys got no better, speeding deeper and deeper into depression. Her valves clogged, her horn stopped sounding, her taillights only gave off a faint little glow. So began the long and tangled tale of Gladys’ displacement, as she was hauled around from owner to owner. None could replace Elvis. It’s impossible to unravel the path of the various garages she found herself in; we know only that she moved in and around Ellicottville sporadically, and that she finally returned in 1992 when she was purchased for $500 by Peter Seeley. By this time, of course, Gladys had learned of the death of her only true love, and she was near death herself. But Seeley, truly a lover of fine Cadillacs, nurtured and babied Gladys (she is a woman, after all!) until he finally convinced her to turn over. By 1993, Gladys would reluctantly offer Peter a ride from time to time, but her heart was still in Memphis.

Haunted by the feeling that Gladys truly had a human soul, Seeley searched for the perfect owner. He would gladly give Gladys up, if only he could find the driver that would make her happy again. And just when Gladys seemed terminal, Peter Seeley did just that.

Sometimes, in the life of a person, or in the life of a car, there are moments of fate that must be seized. For Gladys, Peter Seeley recognized such a moment. In 1994, Seeley discovered Jack. Jack’s passion for Cadillacs was unsurpassed anywhere in the world, and although he had collected many classics, Jack had been searching all of his life for that one unique and special caddy that could be the focal point of his life. Seeley, match-maker that he is, brought Gladys and Jack together. This moment of fate sparked the life back into Gladys, mad Jack’s life-long search a success, and it created the enterprise known as Cadillac Jack’s.

Today, Gladys’ pink coat is pretty again. True, she’s not the beauty she once was, but she proudly sits in welcome at Cadillac Jack’s. Now it’s a Bovine Bistro and Poultry Palace, but to Gladys, it may be the Ed Sullivan show. As is often the way with life’s mysteries, it just so happens that this is the same parking lot in which Gladys once sat waiting for Elvis to emerge from Pete Chudzik’s boat. Well, it’s no mystery that Jack loves Gladys, and that Gladys loves Jack.

But we all know that our lives are never quite forgotten, and that true love never dies. Listen. At night, after the crowds leave and Jack turns off the lights, listen closely to Gladys’ radio. It barely works...use your imagination just a little. Do you hear what I hear? It’s a familiar tune. Tell me dear Gladys, are you lonesome tonight?

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