Thursday, August 16, 2018

Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon

On March 15, 1956, principal photography on Bus Stop began on location in Phoenix. The work Marilyn had done the previous year at the Actors Studio with Strasberg did make her a better actress, as was revealed in this movie. Everything about her as Cherie comes across as genuine and touching, from the way her body slumps exhaustedly in a chair to the exasperation and anger she displays when Bo pushes her around. But this new depth in Marilyn’s acting came at a price. Now there were demons on the set—her own demons that she called up from her past to use in her acting. The past was with her constantly now—and the pressures she put herself under were worse than ever. “She was the most nervous actor I’d ever worked with,” Don Murray said. “She would break out into hives and her body would be covered with little red splotches, and they’d have to cover up with makeup.”

During the production of Bus Stop, a young publicist named Patricia “Pat” Newcomb was assigned to handle Marilyn’s press and would briefly enter Marilyn’s inner circle. A few years later Newcomb would become one of the major players in the last months of Marilyn’s life. Newcomb was young, smart, and fiercely loyal to her celebrity clients. She was also known to have a volatile temper—she would slam her office door so hard that a framed picture of Dean Martin would fall off the wall, shattering the glass “every other day.” Rupert Allan, who handled most of Marilyn’s press relations, told biographer Donald Spoto that Pat Newcomb would take phone messages for Marilyn—many from men wanting to meet her. “Pat intercepted Marilyn’s messages,” Allan said. Then, according to Allan, things went too far. Newcomb didn’t particularly look like Marilyn, but perhaps with the right lighting and makeup she could pass for some unfamiliar people. 

Fred Lawrence Guiles wrote in his biography, “Patricia Newcomb was a twenty-five-year-old Mills College graduate who resembled Marilyn physically. They were almost exactly the same height (almost five feet six); her thick hair was medium blond and hung loose to her shoulders.” Rupert Allan asserted that Newcomb went through “a lesbian phase” but also dated men. Marilyn protested about Pat, ‘She’s not Marilyn!’” It would be nearly five years before she and Marilyn would be in contact again. And at that time Newcomb would become one of the most important and controversial people in Marilyn’s life—known as the keeper of her secrets and one of the last people to see Marilyn on the day she died. The head of Marilyn’s public relations firm, Arthur Jacobs, recommended she give Newcomb another try.  Newcomb entered Marilyn’s life again, but this time the two would work well together and become close. Those who knew Marilyn well in her last years say that the two women would become extraordinarily close. Rupert Allan and Ralph Roberts (among others) would come to believe that Pat Newcomb became obsessed with Marilyn as she became more and more a part of her famous client’s life.

On November 16, 1960, Marilyn was awoken by the phone and, in her half-sleep state, was informed that Clark Gable had died. He died of a coronary thrombosis while recuperating in the hospital from a heart attack. In childhood she had fantasized that Gable was her father. He behaved tenderly and protectively toward her during the harrowing months they spent making The Misfits. Now she had lost another connection to a father figure. Marilyn was overwhelmed with despair. To make matters worse, she worried that perhaps her frustrating absences during the shooting had contributed to Gable’s death. His widow made statements to the press suggesting that the maddening delays in making The Misfits had contributed to his heart attack. Kay Gable never mentioned Marilyn by name, but the implication seemed clear: “That picture helped kill my husband. It wasn’t the physical exertion that did it; it was the horrible tension—that eternal waiting. He waited around forever, for everybody. He’d get so angry waiting.”

Marilyn spent Christmas Eve quietly in her apartment with her new public relations agent, Pat Newcomb. For a present, Marilyn gave Newcomb a mink coat. It was an extravagant gift for a recent employee—and someone she had clashed with and mistrusted in the past. Perhaps it was Marilyn’s way of saying she had been wrong about her initial impression. That evening, however, she received a “forest of poinsettias” from Joe DiMaggio. She invited him to visit her, and they did spend Christmas night alone together. They quietly began seeing each other again. Always very discreet, DiMaggio would visit her at her apartment. He would arrive late in the evening, use the service elevator, enter through the kitchen door, and leave by dawn. DiMaggio remained concerned not only at the apparent wasteland of Marilyn’s emotional life but her increasingly haggard appearance. The release of The Misfits also devastated her. Before its premiere she had tremendous hopes that this performance might be the start of a turning point in her career. So much effort had gone into it and had backfired. Bosley Crowther, in the all-important New York Times, said: “Miss Monroe—well, she is completely blank and unfathomable as a new divorcée. There is really not much about her that is very exciting or interesting.” Despite a few excellent reviews, the critics’ opinions leaned toward the negative. Now Marilyn’s dreams of being taken seriously as an actress seemed as far away as ever. She had let down the Strasbergs. She had let down her fans. She had let down herself.

Fox announced that they planned to cast her in the lead of Goodbye Charlie, by George Axelrod, which had been a Broadway flop starring Lauren Bacall. The plot revolved around a callous playboy, Charlie, who is killed by a lover’s jealous husband and instantly reincarnated in the body of a gorgeous woman—to be played by Marilyn. Although Charlie materializes in glorious female form, his/her mind and mannerisms remain those of a male. The studio was eager to collect the last picture Marilyn owed them on her contract and thought the novelty of Marilyn Monroe playing a man trapped inside her famous curves would be a box-office bonanza. Marilyn, however, was appalled at the idea of having to butch it up. She couldn’t bear the thought of her femininity being questioned. Obsessing over homosexuality during a psychiatric session with Greenson, Marilyn had expressed rage when he informed her that there was something feminine and masculine in both genders, and she became mortified that anything masculine might be perceived in her. Now she was being asked to act masculine on screen for laughs. “The studio people want me to do Goodbye Charlie,” she fumed to the press. “But I’m not going to do it. I don’t like the idea of playing a man in a woman’s body.” George Cukor claimed that she could not be directed: “You couldn’t reach her, she was like underwater.” Her clash with director Cukor during the filming of Something's Gotta Give could be attributed to her difficulties about connecting with a gay director. But Monroe had acted this way with other directors she deemed unsympathetic.

“It’s Pat Newcomb who knows more about Marilyn Monroe than anyone else,” Jeanne Martin (Dean Martin’s wife) commented once. In Monroe biographies, the shadowy Pat Newcomb often comes across as being a not very forthcoming person, mostly because of her silences and dodges when it comes to discussing Marilyn in her very few interviews. Newcomb and Marilyn had psychological traits in common. Jeanne, who socialized with both women, observed that Newcomb, like Marilyn, “had highs and lows.” Both of them used prescription drugs, especially sedatives. Both women relied heavily on their psychiatrists. Newcomb was at Marilyn’s side at almost every major event in 1961–62, hovering protectively on the sidelines. When not working, the two women socialized together, and it was through Newcomb that Marilyn reacquainted herself with Peter Lawford and his wife, Pat Kennedy Lawford, the sister of John and Bobby Kennedy. Newcomb would often stay at Marilyn’s apartment when she was in New York and—at times—at her home in Los Angeles. People who were around at the time go so far as to say that Newcomb became obsessed with Marilyn.

Because of Newcomb’s feverish dedication to Marilyn, her intentions began to confuse the star. Marilyn both craved this devotion and feared it. Some say Newcomb wanted more from Marilyn than she was prepared to give. But—at this stage in her life—without a husband or steady lover, Marilyn needed someone who extended complete dedication, unconditional love. This is what Newcomb offered. In return—as she did with anyone who was devoted to her—Marilyn made extreme demands. If Marilyn tried to call Newcomb at home and got a busy signal, she would become hysterical. When she finally got through she would scream and yell. Eventually Marilyn had a separate phone line installed in Newcomb’s apartment so she could reach her at all times. As always, Marilyn would do her best to repay Newcomb’s loyalty. After she complained that her car wasn’t working well, Marilyn gave Newcomb a new Thunderbird. And after wearing them a few times, Marilyn gave Pat a valuable pair of emerald earrings Frank Sinatra had given her. But after Marilyn’s death, Newcomb seemed to want to distance herself from their intensely personal and multilayered relationship. In spite of what Newcomb had to say, all the evidence shows that she and Marilyn were very close. When Newcomb suggested Rupert Allan he should go through her—instead of contacting Marilyn directly—Allan snapped back that he had been a friend of Marilyn’s for a long time. Michael Selsman, who also worked with Newcomb at the Arthur P. Jacobs agency, claims that there was a lot of talk about a possible lesbian relationship between Marilyn and Newcomb—and it wasn’t coming from the show-business community. The rumors spread among people in Marilyn’s circle “who knew her and worked with her.”

“Pat Newcomb was the closest confidante to Marilyn,” Milt Ebbins, Peter Lawford’s agent and friend, who was part of Marilyn’s social set, commented. “Was there something sexual between them? I have no proof of that, but they were very close. Constantly together. Marilyn loved her, she was very fond of her.” Susan Strasberg pointed out that “the adrenaline rush that came from Marilyn’s involvement with Pat Newcomb became somewhat sexualized.” Strasberg would say that Marilyn had nicknamed Newcomb “Sybil,” implying friendly “sibling rivalry.” But as their relationship intensified, Marilyn’s feelings grew more complicated, with paranoid undertones. For her there was a clear line of masculine and feminine behavior, and the confusing of genres terrified her. She was paranoid about finding anything masculine in herself. Marilyn began discussing Newcomb in her sessions with Dr. Greenson, with homosexuality a major concern. “She could not bear the slightest hint of anything homosexual,” Greenson wrote. “She had an outright phobia of homosexuality and yet unwittingly fell into situations which had homosexual coloring, which she then recognized and projected onto the other, who then became her enemy.”

“Marilyn’s mother was schizophrenic,” Susan Strasberg observed. “As a result Marilyn’s feelings toward women were complex and ambivalent.” In his correspondence Greenson gave an example of Marilyn’s relationship with a girlfriend named “Pat,” who had put a blond streak in her hair, close to Marilyn’s color. Marilyn interpreted Newcomb’s emulation as an attempt to “take possession of her,” feeling that identification meant “homosexual possessiveness.” Greenson wrote that Marilyn “burned with fury against this girl,” accusing her of trying to “rob her most valuable possession.” So much of Marilyn’s identity, her public persona, was being the sexual desire of men. Her whole projection of herself was based on that. Newcomb’s perceived passionate feelings threatened her. But—with everything in her life becoming more confusing and unclear—she pressed ahead with the relationship. “She could be very touching,” Newcomb recalled. “I always felt a kind of watching out for her. But deep down at the core she was really strong. And you’d forget it because she seemed so vulnerable.” Sometimes Marilyn’s suppressed angst surfaced, and she would say something “quite cruel,” Newcomb revealed. “She could be quite mean.” Newcomb declined all offers to publish a memoir of her time with Marilyn. This may seem an odd stance for a woman whose entire career has been devoted to maintaining the public image of Marilyn Monroe. She only gave interviews to Donald Spoto, Anthony Summers, Lois Banner and Gary Vitacco-Robles.

“Marilyn’s vocabulary included words I’d never ever heard of, and she wielded them like a sailor with no embarrassment,” Susan Strasberg once said. “She had quite a temper when she lost control.” As the months went on, Marilyn’s love-hate relationship with Newcomb would grow more extreme. It would crescendo on the last mysterious day of Marilyn’s life. In mid-June 1962, Marilyn entered a hypomanic phase of activity, socializing and publicizing herself. To combat the ongoing negative publicity of her dismissal from Something’s Got to Give, Marilyn had Newcomb set up in-depth interviews with Redbook and LIFE. Marilyn also agreed to a photo layout for Cosmopolitan. Marilyn was desperately trying to convince the public—and herself—that she was more than a sex symbol. The amount of medication Marilyn was taking cannot be overlooked. Greenson’s family said that he was trying to wean Marilyn from her dependency on Nembutal by prescribing chloral hydrate, a sedative he felt was not as addictive. Newcomb admitted that she and Marilyn shared pills at times. “One time I just wanted to relax, and there wasn’t valium and she gave me a pill and I was knocked out,” Newcomb said. “I was so detached. I was scared.”

On Friday afternoon, August 3, 1962, Marilyn filled two prescriptions at a pharmacy on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. One was for Phenergan, a drug used to treat allergies, and the other for Nembutal. Greenson and Engelberg had been weaning Marilyn off of Nembutal for weeks, substituting the milder drug chloral hydrate. Marilyn would take that with a glass of milk before bed. That evening Pat Newcomb had dinner with Marilyn in a Santa Monica French restaurant, whose name she can’t remember. When talking to Donald Spoto she said, “Afterwards we came back to the house. We just sat around—” Then Newcomb indicated the journalist’s tape recorder, stating, “I want to shut this off.” On Saturday, August 4, 1962, Mrs. Murray found Marilyn quiet and contemplative. She had tentative plans of going to Peter Lawford’s house for dinner in the evening. Some say that Robert Kennedy had planned to make a quick trip from San Francisco to attend the party, specifically to talk to Marilyn. Legend has come down through the years that Marilyn’s foul mood toward Newcomb was because she had been able to sleep for twelve hours straight while Marilyn slept very little. That’s probably partially true. However, there was something else going on that Pat Newcomb has been silent about for decades. Many years later Milt Ebbins evasively said that Newcomb was party to many secret things regarding Marilyn in her last months.

The reason for Marilyn’s fury the last days of her life is that she had come to believe that Pat Newcomb had become romantically involved with Bobby Kennedy—an involvement that would have overlapped with the time frame in which Marilyn had been seeing him. We can only imagine Marilyn’s rage and confusion. Bobby’s desire for her, his love for her, is what was going to make the thirty-six-year-old love goddess feel relevant again. Pat Newcomb was an attractive, sexy, intelligent woman who was four years younger than her. But she wasn’t Marilyn Monroe. If Bobby did have an intimate entanglement with Marilyn’s assistant/press agent while Marilyn was relying on his affection, she must have felt worthless. It was Newcomb, along with Peter Lawford, who had gotten Marilyn involved with the Kennedys in the first place. Now Marilyn felt betrayed by someone she considered a trustworthy friend. She had been demanding explanations and details about the affair from Newcomb all week. Newcomb did admit that she saw Bobby Kennedy shortly before Marilyn died. She could not remember the exact evening but revealed: “I had dinner with him, but it was just before that night.” When you’re fragile, empty, and lonely—as Marilyn was that summer—any slight or rejection becomes amplified. It can feel fatal. It can feel like The End. —"Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon" (2018) by Charles Casillo

In December 1961 Marilyn's psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson labeled her a 'borderline paranoid schizophrenic' in a letter sent to Anna Freud. Rather than work in a vacuum, Dr. Greenson obtained a second opinion by consulting psychologist Dr. Milton Wexler. After taking a doctorate at Columbia University, studying under Theodor Reik, a disciple of Freud, he became one of the country’s first nonphysicians to set up in practice as a psychoanalyst. Also a member of the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society, Dr. Wexler would go on to become a pioneer in the study and treatment of Huntington’s disease, forming the Hereditary Disease Foundation. Wexler also felt strongly that Marilyn Monroe suffered at least from borderline paranoid schizophrenia after sitting in on three sessions with her at Dr. Greenson’s home. “Yes, I treated her,” he said in 1999. “I will say that I agreed with Dr. Greenson that she presented borderline symptoms of the disease that had run in her family. I found her to be very proactive in wanting to treat those borderline symptoms, as well. One misconception about her treatment is that it was Dr. Greenson’s idea that she move in with his family. She never moved in with the Greensons. Instead, it was my suggestion that she spend as much time there as possible in order to create the environment that she lacked as a child. That was my theory at the time and Dr. Greenson agreed.” To ignore the findings of these two doctors makes no sense all of these many years later. However dominant, “Marilyn Monroe” was only one persona among many that emerged from and were created by the original Norma Jeane Baker. —"The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" (2009)  by J. Randy Taraborrelli

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Remembering Elvis Presley, a reluctant rebel

Where were you when Elvis died? That's what we'll be talking about in the future when we remember this grand occasion. Like Pearl Harbor or JFK's assassination, it boiled down to individual reminiscences. Why all our public heroes seem to reinforce our own solitude? Elvis was into marketing boredom when Andy Warhol was still doing shoe ads. That "Having Fun with Elvis On Stage" album released three or so years back consisted entirely of between-song onstage patter so redundant it would make both Willy Burroughs and Gert Stein blush. Now he's gone, who's left they can stand all night in the rain for? Nobody, and the true tragedy is the tragedy of an entire generation which refuses to give up its adolescence. Elvis was the last of our sacred cows to be publicly mutilated; everybody knows Keith Richard likes his junk, but when Elvis went onstage in a stupor nobody breathed a hint of "Quaalude...." In a way, this was both good and bad, good because Elvis wasn't encouraging other people to think it was cool to be a walking Physicians' Desk Reference, bad because Elvis stood for that Nixonian Secrecy-as-Virtue which was passed off as the essence of Americanism. 

I got the news of Elvis's death while drinking beer with a friend and fellow music journalist on his fire escape on 21st Street in Chelsea. As I left the building I passed some Latin guys hanging out by the front door. "Heard the news? Elvis is dead!" I told them. They looked at me with contemptuous indifference. So What. Maybe if I had told them Donna Summer was dead I might have gotten a reaction; I do recall walking in this neighborhood wearing a T-shirt that said "Disco Sucks" with a vast unamused muttering in my wake, which only goes to show that not for everyone was Elvis the still-reigning King of Rock 'n' Roll, in fact not for everyone is rock 'n' roll the still-reigning music. By now, each citizen has found his own little obsessive corner to blast his brain in: solipsism's what the seventies have been about, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the world of "pop" music. How precious the instant Elvis sauntered onto the stage. He was the only male performer I have ever seen to whom I responded sexually; it wasn't real arousal, rather an erection of the heart, when I looked at him I went mad with desire and envy and worship and self-projection. I mean, Mick Jagger, whom I saw as far back as 1964 and twice in '65, never even came close. Lenny Bruce was hip, too goddam hip if you ask me, which was his undoing, whereas Elvis was not hip at all.

Elvis was a goddam truck driver who worshipped his mother. Sexual chaos reigns currently, but out of chaos may flow true understanding and harmony, and either way Elvis almost singlehandedly opened the floodgates. The rest of us are still reeling from the impact. Literally, every time this man moved any part of his body the slightest centimeter, tens or tens of thousands of people went berserk. Not Sinatra, not Jagger, not the Beatles, nobody you can come up with ever elicited such hysteria among so many. If Love truly is going out of fashion forever, which I do not believe, then along with our nurtured indifference to each other will be an even more contemptuous indifference to each others' objects of reverence. I thought it was Iggy Stooge, you thought it was Joni Mitchell or whoever else seemed to speak for your own private, entirely circumscribed situation's many pains and few ecstasies. We will continue to fragment in this manner, because solipsism holds all the cards at present; it is a kingdom whose domain engulfs even Elvis's. But I can guarantee you one thing: we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis. So I won't bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you. —"How Long Will We Care?" by Lester Bangs (Village Voice, August 29, 1977). Article also collected as "Where Were You When Elvis Died?" in Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung (1987) by Greil Marcus

At his first-ever concert hall performance in New York City, his series of four Madison Square Garden shows in June 1972, he bounded onstage in a white sequined outfit complete with a series of tableau poses. Energizing the audience with a mélange of early material and recent hits, his 45-minute show drew mothers and daughters, along with laments by some critics that despite the breadth of his talent, Elvis the rocker had become Elvis the crooner. For the 80,000 fans that witnessed his New York concerts, he was “a visiting Prince from another planet.” There were indeed adoring teenagers by the legion, but his natural shyness, and perhaps a belief that it “was all just showbiz,” told him that it wasn’t Elvis Presley they were adoring; it was just the image. He would poke fun at that image, amused at the caricature he presented on stage, apt to tell the audience, “Here I am in this Superman outfit.” It’s an honesty that appeals to many. In July 1972 he was introduced to a new girlfriend, Linda Thompson, who reigned as Miss Tennessee. He would also begin dating another beauty queen, Memphis actress Cybill Shepherd.

On August 18, he filed for divorce from Priscilla on grounds of irreconcilable differences. Red West recalled: “There is no doubt that his ego was very badly hurt when Priscilla left him. Now I don’t blame her for leaving Elvis. But I do know he loved that woman. He would never have a word said against her. He always told me, ‘I will always have a love for Priscilla.’ Priscilla was one he ever really did love in his life. He didn’t love us. We thought he did. But he did love Priscilla.” The divorce papers decreed shared custody of Lisa Marie. Priscilla received $750,000 in cash; $720,000 over ten years; 5 percent of Elvis Presley Music Inc., and White Haven Music, Inc.; half of the $500,000 sale of a California house; $4,200 monthly alimony; and $4,000 monthly child support. Elvis agreed to pay her attorney’s fees of $75,000. One week after the divorce was decreed, Elvis was admitted to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis for hypertension and headaches. By mid-December he was back in the studio at Stax.

While Presley on stage was a writhing mass of sensuality, offstage he was humble, polite and he never took advantage of who he was. That contrast would prove to be dynamite. “Up until he went into the army,” Red West remembers: “Elvis was only involved with two real girlfriends, both Southern, charming and very pretty. One was Dixie Locke and the other lady was Anita Wood. He still had some pretty strict rules when dealing with women. He would never tolerate any of the guys around him cussing in front of ladies, and he would really get turned off if any of his friends went with a married lady or even a divorced lady.” Presley was particularly generous to his female friends.

Presley met Linda Thompson in 1972, soon after his break-up with Priscilla. A friend of Presley’s, George Klein, a former Memphis disc jockey, introduced them. Linda impressed the boys as extremely religious when they first met her. “It took a heck of a lot of work for Elvis to get her to move in with him.” The West boys remembered, however, that Linda was not shy about receiving gifts from Presley. “She had more clothes than Elizabeth Taylor. Whenever she traveled she had many suitcases with her. I have known her to go into Georgio’s in L.A. and buy a dozen dresses, and that is one very expensive store.

Also in Las Vegas, she would shop at Suzie Creamcheese and buy a dress in every color. Her jewelry is something else again. Elvis has given her at least a quarter of a million dollars in jewelry, and that is a modest estimate. He has also bought her family a house in Memphis and he has got her a beautiful apartment in Los Angeles.” In 1974, Presley was introduced by Joe Esposito to Sheila Ryan, an incredibly pretty girl from Chicago. “He often would alternate taking them on tour with him,” Sonny West recalls. “One time he would take Linda, then the next time he would take Sheila. If ever Linda made a fuss, I would always hear Elvis tell her over the telephone, ‘Woman, take that knife out of my damn back.’” While still dating Linda, the boys remember that Presley introduced Sheila Ryan to a Las Vegas audience as his girlfriend and asked her to show off her new diamond ring.

In January of 1978, Vernon Presley was interviewed by Good Housekeeping magazine. Vernon had this to say, "I never got to know Ginger Alden well. She's not much of a talker, but awhile back Elvis told me he'd fallen in love with her. 'This is the love I've been searching for,' he said. 'I want more children, a son. And I want Ginger to be my children's mother.' After that, Ginger and Elvis came over to show me her engagement ring. That was one of the few times I'd ever seen her smiling. I assumed they were going to get married. Finally, just a day or so before he died, I told him, 'I keep hearing and reading that you're going to announce your engagement. Is that right? When are you going to get married?' 'Only God knows,' Elvis said." —"Elvis Presley, Reluctant Rebel" (2011) by Glen Jeansonne & David Luhrssen

Friday, August 10, 2018

Elvis Presley: Ginger Alden's lover and protector

A new study shows that men only have to believe they’ve bested another man in competition to get raised testosterone levels and an inflated sense of their own value as a sexual prospect. Scientists found that this hormonal and psychological shift made men more inclined to approach new potential partners. The research team measured hormone levels in men in their twenties, as well as self-perceived attractiveness and confidence in approaching women. Unbeknownst to participants, the competitions in the study were rigged to randomly declare the winner, regardless of who was better. While previous studies have shown that winning can affect male hormones, it was not known whether this was down to the efforts it takes to win or the belief that one is victorious. The latest study, led by biological anthropologists from the University of Cambridge and published in the journal Human Nature, reveals that just being convinced you have won, or indeed lost, is enough to cause male hormonal fluctuations that can influence sexual behaviour. Researchers say this is an example of “plasticity”: the body adapting without altering genetic make-up to suit a change in circumstance. In this case a perceived change in social status, due to the men believing they have defeated a rival. The body attempts to take advantage of this apparent status improvement by inducing chemical and consequently behavioural changes that promote a “short-term” approach to reproductive success, say the researchers. Longman points out that in many animal populations, male social hierarchies correspond with reproductive success, and social status is determined by competition between males. The men who believed they had won received an average testosterone increase of 4.92%, while those convinced they had lost dropped by an average of 7.24%. Overall, men who thought they were winners had testosterone levels 14.46% higher their deflated opponents. The men who felt like winners had a ‘self-perceived mate value’ that was 6.53% higher, on average, than their rivals, and were 11.29% more likely to approach attractive women in an effort to instigate sexual relations. Source:

In death, the allure of Elvis's legendary life and career grew even larger. Unlike celebrities of today, he had kept his private life private, creating an enthralling air of mystery. Elvis and Ginger is a testament that Elvis’s last days were not filled with the torment and misery of a drug filled haze. While there’s no doubt he was struggling with a prescription drug dependency that caused wild mood swings and shortened his life; he was still trying to live life and have fun. With Ginger Alden, he seemed to be seeking refuge in his southern origins and a longing for a stable home life. Elvis requests that Ginger join him on his tours, whisking her away in private suites, and sitting her backstage where he can see her during his shows. Elvis becomes her "mentor, lover, and protector" while emerges from Alden's memoir as an eccentric, jealous, and needy person. Alden writes from the point of view of young woman in awe of her fiance, yet it’s obvious that she was mature beyond her 21 years. Of course he bestowed her with generous gifts including a credit card to use as she pleased. In her own words, Ginger details their whirlwind romance—from first kiss to his stunning proposal of marriage. Above it all, Ginger rescues Elvis from the hearsay, rumors, and tabloid speculations of his final year by shedding a frank yet personal light by revealing the man behind the myth—complicated, romantic, fallible, and human. Fewer than nine months after they meet, she finds Elvis sprawled on the floor of his bathroom, breathing his final breaths. Source:

Billy Smith (1995): “I think Ginger was the first woman he’d run across other than Priscilla who rejected him. You could tell they were having problems. Sometimes she wouldn’t come up for a few days, and he’d get all agitated and sullen and say, ‘Where is she, man? Why don’t she stay here?’ That made him more controlling and paranoid than ever, complaining that Ginger didn't realize he needed her at his side.” ‘He always needed a woman in bed’, said Lamar Fike. ‘The touching and the feeling and everything else meant more to Elvis than the actual sex act. I guess Elvis was the King of Foreplay.’ Elvis gave Ginger a gold bracelet with “Elvis” spelled out on it in diamonds. “Now everyone will know you belong to me,” Elvis asserted. Dr. Max Shapiro, a Beverly Hills dentist who treated both Elvis and Ginger while they were vacationing in Palm Springs, substantiated that their engagement was sincere. “I can verify Ginger’s story,” he stated in 1979. “Elvis told me he loved Ginger very much and that he had asked her to marry him. They were engaged.” He added, “Elvis knew I had invented an artificial heart, and the last thing he ever said to me was, ‘Max, please make one for me and make one for Ginger.'” By August 1977, Ginger says they were discussing the details of their wedding day. Elvis said: “I would like certain people there, public officials and friends. I don’t want this wedding to be a three-ring circus. The limousines should be inches longer than a normal-length limo and in blue. I’ve thought about your gown. The dress should have a high collar and I would like it to have small rosebuds with gold threads through it.” 

Most accusations against Ginger Alden amount to a stream of vague phrases, such as “it seems,” “she might have known,” “we think,” “we guess,” “she probably figured”... And that’s the weakness of all the criticism leveled at Ginger Alden by Billy Smith and his fellow “down-home boys,” Lamar Fike, Marty Lacker, and Joe Esposito. None of them provide any credible evidence to support their negative opinions about the relationship between Elvis and Ginger. It’s time to assess the credibility of the characters on stage during the closing scenes of Elvis Presley’s life. There’s no reason to trust the accounts of any of the guys posing as Elvis’s friends in those final months. The person who was the closest to Elvis during that time was Ginger Alden. Her book “Elvis and Ginger” supports her account of those final days with dates, details, and controlled emotion. Her book is by far the best existing narrative of the final nine months of Presley’s life, leading up to his death.

Elvis told Ginger of his troubles with his entourage. “There’s gonna be changes around here.” When Elvis fell on the stairs coming off stage in Milwaukee, he told Ginger, “People just aren’t doing their jobs. I’m getting rid of Dick, Joe, and whole lot more.” Later, when Elvis told Ginger he felt lonely at Graceland, she reminded him of all the people he had around him. “They’re not my friends,” he responded. “Do you think if it weren’t for their paychecks, they’d still be around?” Elvis nearly always wanted Ginger by his side. He insisted that she stop seeing anyone else, even going so far as to hand her a telephone and asking her to call the boyfriend she had dating and end their relationship. It was just one of many examples Ginger gives of Elvis's controlling nature. Her resistance then and at other times caused Elvis to have angry outbursts. Elvis may have been trying to bring Ginger more under his spell with an endless stream of expensive gifts. In addition to the already mentioned diamond ID bracelet, the amount of jewelry he gave her in nine months time was staggering. 

There were the rings: a gold and diamond cluster ring, one with sapphires and diamonds, another set in rubies and diamonds, another diamond cluster ring, and the engagement ring with a huge center diamond surrounded by six smaller ones. Then there were the necklaces: a diamond and emerald one, a couple more diamond necklaces, another with TLC spelled out in diamonds, and then what Ginger described as the “most singular piece of jewelry I’d ever seen: his own large ram’s head necklace in gold, inlaid with diamonds and emeralds.” Elvis also gave Ginger three new cars, mink coats, design clothing, and her own credit card. Ginger saw only benevolence in Elvis’s serial gift giving. “He saw himself as someone who was in a position to enhance other people’s lives by bringing beauty into it,” she concluded. “He thought that would make them happy.” However, when Ginger refused to immediately call her boyfriend to end their relationship, Elvis had grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and thrown it against the wall. “It troubled me that Elvis had flown off the handle like that,” she recalls, but then she adds a naïve rationalization for it. “As odd as this sounds, it also made me feel good to think that Elvis was really that serious about us.” Weeks later a “deafening bang” awoke Ginger one morning at Graceland. “I bolted upright and saw Elvis standing at the foot of the bed, holding a 57 Magnum pistol in his hand. I risked a glance behind me and saw a bullet hole in the wall above the headboard. I looked back at Elvis, trying to wrap my mind around the idea that he really had just shot a hole in the wall. By way of explanation, Elvis said he had asked for yogurt and I hadn’t responded. ‘It was an attention getter,’ he said.” Although she professed to be “in shock”, Ginger accepted his apology, sensing “on a deep level, that Elvis honestly was sorry.” It wasn’t the last time she’d hear gunfire at Graceland. A running toilet in his bathroom so irritated Elvis, that he “blasted it to smithereens” with what Ginger called a “machine gun.”

That time, Ginger’s shock turned to anger, she says, and she fled Graceland and ran home to be comforted by her mother. She soon went back to a contrite Elvis, though. While Elvis and Ginger were vacationing in Hawaii in March 1977, Elvis’s anger resulted in him doing what Ginger called the “inconceivable.” It started with an argument between the two because Ginger felt Elvis had been drinking too much juice. When she left the room while Elvis was still talking, he pursued her into an adjoining room and slapped her. “No one ever walks out on me when I’m talking,” he said. “The dark mood had transformed Elvis into someone I didn’t recognize,” Ginger observed. Still, she forgave him. “I could tell by his voice that Elvis was deeply remorseful for having struck me.” Ginger says that in the nine months she was with Elvis, she never saw him sitting at a table to eat. Elvis had isolated himself in his bedroom, that is where he and Ginger were served their meals. Early on in their relationship, Ginger spoke briefly with Priscilla on the phone. “See that he eats right,” Priscilla told her, but Ginger learned that was easier said than done. “I was concerned about his health. When it came to mealtimes, Elvis and I enjoyed eating similar things such as hamburgers, steak, and omelets. I hoped to move us toward a healthier diet, but I just didn’t know how because he was used to getting what he wanted.” Eventually, she thought he was showing “more awareness of his diet.” He was drinking a lot of water and eating less yogurt. But she made that observation on August 15, 1977. It was too late to reverse decades of poor eating habits.

Elvis had popularized the peanut butter and banana sandwich. “When I told his bodyguard Sam Thompson (Linda Thompson's brother) that I had eaten fried shrimps for dinner, he said “I can’t believe you ate that in front of him.” One afternoon, Elvis was asleep and I decided to visit his paternal grandmother Minnie Mae Presley on my own. Right away, Minnie Mae’s conversation turned to her grandson. “I’m so proud of Elvis,” she said. “You know, Gladys was a strong mother. She worried about Elvis.” Minnie Mae told me that Gladys used to cook fish in the house all day and that’s why he hated fish now. It was nice talking with Elvis's grandma. She was sweet, opinionated, and funny. Best of all, she seemed as eager for me to marry Elvis as I was. Minnie Mae told me that she loved me and hoped Elvis and I would have a little boy. “I was tired of seeing that blond stuff come down the stairs,” she said. I wasn’t sure who she was talking about, but Minnie Mae Presley was the first person to really make me feel like part of the family.”

Early on, though, she says she trusted Dr. Nichopoulos to monitor Elvis’s health. Later she began to attribute Elvis’s bad mood swings to the “prescribed medication” he’d been taking. She finally summoned up the nerve to confront him about those medications. “One morning, as Elvis called for Tish to bring him medication, I told him, ‘Elvis, you don’t really need that.’ He looked at me and shook his head. ‘You don’t understand,’ he replied. ‘I need it.’ I wondered if Elvis had built up an immunity to whatever medication he’d been taking on a regular basis, and that’s why he needed an increase in dosage. I wondered if this medication could be harmful to Elvis in the long run. A few times, it seemed clear to me that it had affected his mood and behavior in negative ways.” According to Dr. Nick: “Elvis felt Ginger was the one. I had always thought that if Elvis could work out his relationship with her, everything else would fall in place. Despite their turbulent relationship, Elvis asked her to marry him. Maybe he was just ready for marriage this time.” The peril of an accidental overdose became clear to her one day when a phone call sent her rushing over to Graceland. “In the middle of the night, Elvis called me at home. I suspected he was phoning me from Las Vegas. From his heavy sounding voice, it sounded like he’d taken some sleep medication. “I miss you,” he said. “I miss you, too,” I told him. We spoke briefly, said we loved each other, then said good night. My heart sank as we hung up.

The following afternoon, someone called from Graceland to say Elvis was ill. This concerned me and I was on edge. I rushed over, and when I entered Elvis’s bedroom, I was greeted by the sight of Elvis lying in bed on his side, facing me with his eyes closed and hooked up to an IV. Scared, my heart sank again. I had never seen Elvis like this before. Charlie, Billy, and a few others were standing around. Dr. Nichopoulos was sitting in a chair. “What happened?” I asked. Charlie told me that Elvis had gone to Las Vegas and taken too much medication. It crushed me to see him like this. Everyone stood about the room, quiet. Gradually, Dr. Nichopoulos and the guys began slowly exiting the room. I lay down beside Elvis. I stared up at the ceiling, brokenhearted, and my eyes welled up. Suddenly, I felt Elvis move on the bed beside me. I looked over as he began rolling over onto his back. Turning his head my way, Elvis slowly opened his eyes. He didn’t say a word, but with an unsteady hand, he took his finger and wiped a tear from my eye. The questions swirled in my mind as confusion and anger blurred my vision. All I could think about, over and over again, was how could his people have let this happen? In retrospect, I can’t help but feel that Elvis’s plunge into that kind of extreme depression for those few days was exacerbated by Elvis’s knowledge of the scathingly negative book coming out, written by his former bodyguards Dave Hebler and Red and Sonny West.” Source:

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Elvis Presley, Believing in the American Dream

Elvis seemed to be the epitome of the American dream. But as Elvis’s career went upward, his control over his success sloped inversely downward. He took career advice from a manager who was taking 50% of his earnings (the going rate was 10%) and who pushed him constantly. By 1970, Elvis’s talent had become a commodity over which he had little control. Rather than enabling him to achieve the American dream, his ability was destroying him. His grueling schedule had him increasingly dependent on prescription drugs.

What Elvis wrote to Nixon was that he craved solid middle-class respectability. “I admire you and have great respect for your office,” he wrote. Countercultural figures might call the president and his advisors “the establishment,” but “I call it American and I love it. I will be of any service that I can to help the country out.” Elvis and President Nixon had something in common, and the singer made sure to point it out: “I believe that you, Sir, were one of the Top Ten Outstanding Men of America also.” He gave President Nixon some Presley family photos and a commemorative WWII Colt 45, and warned him that the Beatles had been fomenting anti-Americanism. As the White House notes from the meeting relate: “Presley indicated to the President in a very emotional manner that he was ‘on your side.’ At the conclusion of the meeting, Presley again told the President how much he supported him, and then, in a surprising, spontaneous gesture, put his left arm around the President and hugged him.” The gist of this meeting was that, more than anything, he wanted legitimacy. Elvis wanted to achieve the American Dream—not to be rich and famous (although he certainly was), but to be respectable. Source:

Elvis Presley’s former Bel Air mansion is on the market, and it's no jailhouse! The six bedroom, seven bathroom Regency-style home sits on over an acre of gated and private land with beautiful views of the city and ocean below. When you walk inside, you’ll feel the glitz and glamour of Old Hollywood with a grand round foyer glistening with light from the sparkly chandelier and candelabra wall sconces. The chef’s kitchen features gray cabinets and industrial-style counters and backsplashes. We wonder how many peanut butter and banana sandwiches were made in here. In the spacious master suite, there’s a marble fireplace to keep you warm on cool nights. The master bathroom is huge, with lots of vanity space, a Jacuzzi tub and its own chandelier. Owning this piece of Hollywood history is going to cost you—$23.45 million to be exact. Source:

The mood in America is arguably as dark as it has ever been in the modern era. The birthrate is at a record low, and the suicide rate is at a 30-year high; mass shootings and opioid overdoses are ubiquitous. In the aftermath of 9/11, the initial shock and horror soon gave way to a semblance of national unity in support of a president whose electoral legitimacy had been contested. Today’s America is instead marked by fear and despair more akin to what followed the crash of 1929, when millions of Americans lost their jobs and homes after the implosion of businesses ranging in scale from big banks to family farms.  It’s not hard to pinpoint the dawn of this deep gloom: It arrived in September 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers kicked off the Great Recession that proved to be a more lasting existential threat to America than the terrorist attacks. The shadow it would cast is so dark that a decade later, even our current run of ostensible prosperity does not mitigate the one conviction that still unites all Americans: Everything in the country is broken. That loose civic concept known as the American Dream — initially popularized during the Great Depression by the historian James Truslow Adams in his Epic of America — has been shattered. Unlike 9/11 nvestigations, the Great Recession never yielded a reckoning that might have helped restore that faith. Millennials, crippled by debt, mock the traditional American tenet that each generation will be better off than the one before.

In the Digital Century, unlike the preceding American Century, the largest corporations are not admired as tangible goods that might enrich and empower all. They’re seen instead as impenetrable black boxes where our most intimate personal secrets are bought and sold to a shadowy Über-class of obscene wealth and privilege. As the historian Elaine Tyler May, a scholar of postwar America, has written, the Cold War boom projected to the world a “vision of middle-class affluence” that testified to “the benefits of the American capitalist system” over the Soviet alternative. Central to that vision was “the belief that free-market capitalism would benefit everyone” and that its fruits would be distributed equitably, “providing the good life to an ever-expanding middle class.” This bedrock belief in economic fairness “motivated white working-class and middle-class Americans to play by the rules.” The assumption was that the ownership class would play by them too. A 1908 editorial in the Kansas Times, invoking “American dreams,” championed “the equitable distribution of wealth” while making note of the vast discrepancy between the pay of an insurance-company executive and a headmaster: “Why do we accord highest place to money mongers and lowest place to teachers of ideals?”

While the Gilded Age tycoon J. P. Morgan posited that the ratio between a boss’s income and that of workers should be 20-1, today that ratio often exceeds 150-1. As Tyler May points out, it took the Great Recession’s destruction “of what had been the markers of citizenship for more than half a century” — a secure job and home ownership — to make unmistakable to all “the end of the era of widespread prosperity that had characterized the United States in the early years of the Cold War.” It was during the Great Recession that it also became clear how oblivious — or complicit — both major parties’ Establishments were. Perhaps the sole upside to the 2008 crash was that it discredited the Establishment of both parties by exposing its decades-long collusion with a kleptocratic economic order. The moral abdication of would-be liberal reformers only added to the national disgust with elites. As Sarah Churchwell tracks in Behold, America, the original America First movement of the 1920s and ’30s grew in tandem with the widening economic discrepancies of the time.

She reminds us that the plutocratic villain of The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan, is a white supremacist. Up against such powerful villian, the vision of limitless human potential implicit in Jay Gatsby’s innocent American Dream didn’t stand a chance. The Great Gatsby, which was published to disappointing sales and reviews in 1925. It is almost too exquisite an irony that in 1927, the budding real-estate developer Fred Trump would be arrested at a Ku Klux Klan riot in Queens, not far from Tom Buchanan’s home in Fitzgerald’s fictional Long Island enclave of East Egg. The rest is history inexorably leading America to this dark place where, nearly a century later, the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is more and more distant. Source:

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

David Lynch, Wild at Heart, Elvis, Jeanne Carmen

A new biography of David Lynch by Kristine McKenna has been recently released on June 19, 2018. Room to Dream is a landmark book that offers a onetime all-access pass into the life and mind of one of our most enigmatic and utterly original living artists. Unlike the jabs at Hollywood culture displayed in Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire, Wild At Heart (1990) displayed Lynch at his most manic and downright cartoonish. It’s a delirious, bizarre, but incredibly enjoyable ride, that’s also as strangely absorbing as all the rest of Lynch’s best work. Wild At Heart opens with a passionately romantic orchestral ballad serving as background music while fire burns across a black screen. The opening credits begin to roll, with the film’s title zooming onto the screen and landing with an action movie-esque “punch” sound effect. We immediately transition to the opening scene, which shows Sailor (Nicolas Cage), his girlfriend Lula (Laura Dern), and her psychotic, domineering mother (Diane Ladd) at a party in Cape Fear. While True Romance is more greatly remembered, Wild At Heart was released three years before, so it’s easy to see Tarantino being influenced by this film just as much as Badlands and Bonnie & Clyde. Sailor, a walking, talking Elvis figure straight out of Jailhouse Rock (with hints of James Dean thrown in, to boot).

Lula, a hyper-sexualized Jessica Rabbit figure who loves her boyfriend just the way he is, violent faults and all. Odd musical insertions that evoke sleazy grindhouse films and pulp novels are scattered throughout. “It was an awful tough world and there was something about Sailor being a rebel,” explained Lynch. “But a rebel with a dream of the Wizard of Oz is kinda like a beautiful thing.” America’s then-popular idea of what modern romance was is perfectly exemplified in the film’s brutal opening scene: A man so in love with a woman that he’d “kill” for her, but there truly is some kind of innocent spark that’s lying beneath the erotic tension between the two of them. If you want to take a more cynical approach, you could say that Lynch gave it the ending that audiences wanted as opposed to a more shocking one. But in reality, after what the movie says about our society, don't the protagonists deserve each other's love? What brings them back together is the purity of Glinda the Good Witch, and if there’s one creation from popular culture that’s undeniably “pure”, it’s The Wizard of Oz. As the credits roll to Sailor’s rendition of Elvis Presley's “Love Me Tender”. Source:

Elvis and I had a lot in common right from the moment we first laid eyes on each other at a really wild Hollywood costume party. I remember that we clicked immediately because we had both grown up poor in the same part of the South. So we instinctively knew how to talk to one another. I had been raised in the backwoods of Arkansas and Elvis was brought up right around the corner in the po-dunk town of Tupelo, Mississippi. Elvis was actually a shy, well mannered Mamma’s boy. Elvis glanced over at me and our eyes met. They locked instantly and we both looked deeply into each others souls. As we stood there gazing at each other, we searched for the elusive secret, the mystery, the hunger deep inside every individual that defines the real self. My skin began to tingle and my chest heaved. Every cell in my body was alive and standing on end. A rush of adrenaline surged through me. My eyes traveled over Elvis’ torso, his chest, arms and legs. My eyelids closed and opened again halfway in a seductive trance. The sounds of the party filled the air but I could no longer hear them clearly. 

The music, dancing, laughter and chatter faded away as if everyone had somehow retreated into another room. But Elvis didn’t respond the way I thought he would, the way I expected him to. He didn’t approach me. Instead, he continued to hypnotize me from across the room, bringing me further and further under his spell until I was swirling in his orbit. There was no escape. I resisted at first but he pulled me down on the couch directly on top of him. Our lips came together in an embrace that seemed like it was going to last for eternity. We rubbed against each other and explored each other in a bath of kisses that made us lose ourselves in ecstasy. I was overcome with emotion as his lips found their way to my neck and my breasts. I felt like I was drugged, half crazed and drunk from kissing. Then, while still locked in an intimate embrace, we fell off the couch and rolled onto the floor. I looked into Elvis’ mysterious eyes and saw another person. My excitement level was rising to the point where I would soon lose touch with myself. I was feeling the pull of wanton abandonment. When I could no longer take it, I collapsed to the floor. He massaged my back and ran his fingers through my hair. He reached around and kissed me tenderly. Then suddenly he lifted me up into his arms. Then our gyrations became slow and dreamlike. It was as if we were in a surreal world where no one else lived and nothing else mattered. He rolled me over and over until I cried out in a combination of pleasure and pain.

Elvis and I went out again the following weekend. But this time, instead of being alone, we went out with a large group of people to a Hollywood nightclub called the Mocambo. Then we made our way to the Hollywood Freeway and caravanned out to the San Fernando Valley which was kind of desolate in those days. Once we got to the drive in theater, we pulled off the street and onto a little gravel driveway that led to the ticket booth. He rolled down the window, hooked up the speaker and then reached out and put his hand over mine. A warm feeling ran through my body. He was so masculine and strong. I looked into his eyes and was about to kiss him when a horn blew and shattered the moment. It was Elvis’ bodyguards. I had completely forgotten about them. They pulled up, one on each side of us and eased over the hump next to the speaker. Elvis smiled at them and nodded. It really pissed me off. I wanted to be alone with Elvis. I opened the car door and started to get out when suddenly he pulled me back in and started to kiss me. I resisted at first but within moments I was emotionally and physically overpowered. Elvis was such a passionate kisser. 

He could get me hot and bothered in a flash. He reached his hand behind my head, grabbed a hold of my hair with his fist, pulled my head back and began to kiss my neck. Suddenly there was a knock on the window. Elvis turned around and rolled the window down a crack. It was one of his “bodyguards.” “Hey Elvis, I hate to disturb you but I’m going to get some popcorn. Do you want some?” Then he looked at me. “You want anything hon?” A wave of anger flashed through me. I was in no mood for popcorn so I gave the bodyguard an annoyed look and said loudly, “No, thanks!” Elvis looked perplexed. “I love eating popcorn at the movies.” I started to laugh and buttoned up my sweater. “Elvis, take me home right now or I’m going to call a cab.” He looked hurt. “Why?” “It’s not my idea of a great date. I’m sorry! I really like you. But if we go out again, we’re going to need some privacy. Otherwise I can’t see you anymore.” He looked real hurt and that made me feel guilty. It wasn’t really his fault. It was his fame. —"My Wild, Wild Life as a New York Pin Up Queen" (2006) by Jeanne Carmen

Monday, August 06, 2018

The Unmaking of Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special is in cinemas on 16 and 20 August. Now, 50 years on, Elvis Presley’s famed 1968 TV concert is getting a big-screen reboot, showing at select cinemas throughout USA and UK next week. A new generation of fans will be able to watch the King, wearing black leather and a tough look on his face, swagger his way through one of the best performances of his career. “It feels like only yesterday to me,” Steve Binder, 85, the show’s director, told the Observer. “Elvis went out on that stage cold. He hadn’t performed in eight years, and he’d had few hit records in that time. But he just went out there and did it. That was raw talent.”

The concert, in which Presley reeled off hit after hit, from Heartbreak Hotel to Love Me Tender, came at a crossroads in his career. Written off by many in the industry, he had been in what Binder described as “a creative exile”, making Hollywood movies under the notoriously authoritarian management of Colonel Tom Parker. “The colonel was all about power and his will over others,” Binder said. But it really only happened by accident: “When I took Elvis out to NBC to show him where we were actually going to shoot the show, he said, ‘Do you think it would be possible to put a bed in my dressing room?’” Source:

Following the Freddie Mercury biopic, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which will be released in October, the King himself, Elvis Presley, is to be portrayed on the big screen. On hold since 2014, the project is likely to pick up speed now that director Baz Luhrmann intends to begin shooting in March 2019. As well as taking the director’s chair, Luhrmann (“The Great Gatsby”) will write the screenplay and act as producer. In his role as writer, he will take over from Kelly Marcel and Jeremy Donner, who were previously tasked with producing the script.

The film will be split into two parts focusing on different periods in the singer’s life. The first of these will focus on Elvis between the ages of 18 and 22, and the second will pick up his story at age 35. Casting director Kristy Carlson will be looking for two actors with a talent for singing, to play the role of the King whose wild dance moves sparked so much controversy in his day. The film will be the first major biopic to be entirely focused on an iconic celebrity of the 1950s. The information reported by Discussing Film has yet to be confirmed by Warner Brothers. Source:

Beginning with Presley's army service in Germany in 1958 and ending with his death in Memphis in 1977, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley chronicles the unravelling of the dream that once shone so brightly, homing in on the complex playing-out of Elvis' relationship with his Machiavellian manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Having mortgaged his talent to the machinations of his manager, 'Colonel' Tom Parker, there would be an inevitable price to pay. It's a breathtaking revelatory drama that places the events of an often mistold context. Elvis' changes during these years form a tragic mystery that Peter Guralnick unlocks. Written with grace, sensitivity, and passion, Careless Love is a unique contribution to our understanding of American popular culture and the nature of success, giving us true insight into one of the most misunderstood public figures of our times. Source:

In his first date with Ginger Alden, Elvis got out a copy of Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, indicating she should join him and then asked her for her birth date. She was, he calculated, a number four, which suggested she would be a loyal and sensitive person. Elvis was a number eight, which made him one of the individualist, misunderstood and lonely people. A religious book came next, and the two sat side by side on the bed reading to each other until deep into the night. It was almost daylight when Elvis had one of the guys drive her home, having behaved like a perfect gentleman the entire time, Ginger told her mother, who breathlessly awaited her report. On their next date, Elvis had planned a flight to show her Memphis by night, but then suddenly decided that, along with a couple of bodyguards, they should go to Las Vegas for the night – fifteen hundred miles away. In mid-air he gave Ginger a first gift of a gold bracelet with diamonds. Many more would follow.

Ginger was a little disappointed that they weren’t going to get to see much of Las Vegas: they went straight to Elvis’ suite, and all Elvis wanted was for her to put on some oversize pajamas and come to bed. She was a little apprehensive until he gave her his solemn oath that it was out of spirituality that he was drawn to her, and that he would treat her like a lady at all times. Then he fell asleep as she read to him, and the two of them lay innocently side by side until well into the next day. Larry Geller was concerned that, for all of his talk of the rejuvenating nature of his love for Ginger, Elvis might be “killing himself, striving for her love and attention.” He was very needy and wanted her with him all the time. At the end of May bad news came in the headlines of a tabloid newspaper in Britain which published extracts from Elvis: What Happened? authored by two ex-members from the Memphis Mafia. The section chosen for serialisation was a lurid account of how, off his head on anger, Elvis had asked Sonny West to murder Priscilla’s lover, Mike Stone. According to Ricky Stanley, Elvis tried to minimize the betrayal saying he had to think about plans for his marriage to Ginger. Although he was getting calls from the press in regard to the book his former bodyguards had written, Elvis was more concerned now about his tour and marriage plans. On January 26th, he gave Ginger the ring, and then on January 28th he bought additional jewelry for her to complete her engagement ring. The engagement was confirmed by Vernon in 1978 on the Good Housekeeping interview.

But during a particular disappointing night on his Vegas tour, Elvis started talking about Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ, to evangelist Rex Humbard who came to visit backstage. Humbard recalled, “I took both his hands in mine and said, ‘Elvis, right now I want to pray for you.’ He said, ‘Please do,’ and started weeping.” After a heated argument with Ginger, Elvis complained to Billy and Dr. Nick he was having a “one-sided love affair.” What bothered his entourage was the way Ginger had Elvis running around in circles, doing everything he could to try to impress her and her family. But no one missed the fact that her presence could pick him up, as it had on New Year’s Eve in Pittsburgh, where he gave one of his best performances in a long time. When Ginger asked Elvis about his entourage, he told her the only reason most were around was because of the money. To Kathy Westmoreland Elvis spoke convincingly of his happiness, and Kathy had no doubt that his feelings toward Ginger were real. Elvis's world was now confined almost entirely to his bedroom and his books. He recruited Larry to help Ginger with her spiritual education. Ginger meanwhile was occupied with more mundane matters, like redecorating the bathroom at Graceland in turquoise and white.

“How will they remember me?” Elvis asked over and over again. “They’re not going to remember me. I’ve never done anything lasting. I’ve never done a classic film.” But then his mood would change. His mission in life, he said, was “to make people happy with music. And I’ll never stop until the day I die.” Red and Sonny’s book Elvis: What Happened?, had appeared in serialized form in England and Australia, and Elvis fans around the world were exchanging shocked telephone calls. “The first two chapters are about him giving drugs to a girl and how he put a ‘contract’ on Mike Stone,” wrote fan Donna Lewis in her diary. “What horrible lies!” Elvis was anguished, and yet he could still lapse into a state of denial that allowed him to believe the book itself might never come out. That may have been one of the reasons he refused to respond to Frank Sinatra’s camp about doing something serious to stop publication, but Larry thought part of Elvis seemed to accept exposure as the punishment he deserved. On the other hand, sometimes Elvis said that he felt like Jesus betrayed by his disciples. He just retreated to his room and his books and the medication that he needed to take his mind off the pain that never went away. Sometimes Elvis talked to Billy about having Red and Sonny West killed. “He said, ‘Goddamn them! If they hurt my career, I will have them killed.’ ”

Ginger Alden: Billy Smith has told numerous untruths and owes me a huge apology. Elvis warned me the jealousy by others was so thick, you could cut it with a knife. Most people don't look up to the majority of the Memphis Maphia (Dick Grob, Shirley Dieu, etc.) by any means. I have witnessed their character and lies. I do hope Billy reads my book to understand how much he speculated on, and even Billy said I was coming back on the last tour. Elvis brought up marriage numerous times to me, bought me a new car 4 weeks before passing, visited my mother's home ten days before passing to check on the landscaping he had just put in as part of a gift to buy the house for her and while there, he wrote a beautiful note to me, he sang and was having a great time. He also set a wedding date with me hours before passing and wanted to announce the engagement from his show in Memphis. Elvis and I loved each other and were looking forward to many things.

Some have criticised Ginger Alden for lacking emotion in some parts of her narrative. This is an unfairly harsh view, which appears to be driven by a political agenda, rather than a balanced and considered appraisal of her book. While segments of Elvis & Ginger are descriptive in nature and not surprisingly emotionally detached, there are also moments which reflect resonant emotional intensity: That particular night in Binghamton, I experienced a complex convergence of emotions brought on by my own feelings of loss, coupled with my ongoing anxiety about Elvis’s dependency on sleep medication and the effects the drugs seemed to sometimes have on his personality. I really wanted to help him. Everything suddenly hit me like a freight train and I began to cry. I just needed to, if only to relieve the emotional pressure. When he saw my tears, Elvis thought I must be upset with him. “You’re not happy with me,” he ventured. I shook my head. How could I begin to explain? “Elvis I love you,” I said. “It’s not that, I worry about your medications sometimes.” One of the reasons many people around Elvis did not like Ginger is because she was not an enabler to everything Elvis said or wanted. She would say No to him and dared to criticize his increasing dependence on prescription drugs. Ginger Alden was the last girlfriend of Elvis Presley, and at his request she was with him almost every day from November 1976 till August 1977. She went with Elvis on his last tour, and during his last vacation in Hawaii in March 1977. Ginger was the last person he saw.

The debate over Elvis’ death would rage for over twenty years. In the autopsy report, codeine had appeared at ten times the therapeutic level, methaqualone (Quaalude) in an arguably toxic amount, three other drugs appeared to be on the borderline of toxicity taken in and of themselves, and “the combined effect of the central nervous system depressants and the codeine.” Before he was laid in the grave, the legend of Elvis, which was impossible for even the Colonel to register, had been retailed, but now it was overwhelmed in a condemn of his frail humanity. The cacophony of voices that have joined together to create a chorus of uninformed speculation, symbolism and blame, can be difficult at times to drown out. In the face of facts, if we are to hear Elvis’ message, it is necessary to listen unprejudiced: the embrace of a male vulnerability culturally denied, the unabashed striving for freedom. Elvis Presley may have lost his way, but even in his darkest moments, he still retained some of the same innocent transparency that first defined him. Elvis had an awareness of his own limitations, his very faith was tested by his recognition of how far he had fallen from what he had set out to achieve—but for all of his doubt, for all of his disappointment, for all of the self-loathing that he frequently felt, and all of the disillusionment and fear, he continued to believe in a democratic ideal of redemptive transformation.

“Well I’ve tried to be the same all through this thing,” Elvis declared in 1962. “Naturally, you learn a lot about people, and you get involved in a lot of different situations, but I’ve tried to be the same. I’ve always considered other people’s feelings. I never kicked anybody on my way. I don’t just sign the autographs and the pictures and so forth to help my popularity or make them like me. I do it because I know that they’re sincere, and they see you and they want an autograph to take home. It’s simple. It’s just the way I was brought up by my mother and father to have respect for other people’s feelings.” —Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley (2000) by Peter Guralnick

Many of those Memphis Mafia guys cannot be trusted, their memories are tainted by self-interest and guilt, but Jerry Schilling is not one of those guys. He had grown up a bit damaged, never really had a home as a child, and Elvis took him in and bought him a home in Los Angeles, saying to him, “Jerry, you never had a home growing up. I want you to have one.” Traveling with the Elvis entourage was eye-opening for him. There’s a funny story about him sleeping on the couch at Elvis’ house in Hollywood, when suddenly, middle of the night, the front door opens. Jerry is freaked out. Who is it? A woman strolls across the room and goes and knocks on Elvis’ bedroom door. Jerry has no idea who she is, how did she get in, why does she have a key, so he calls out to her, “Miss?” scaring her half to death. She screams at the top of her lungs. Elvis opens his bedroom door, in tears of laughter, having heard the scream, and says, “Jerry, relax, it’s just Annie.” As in Ann-Margret. Jerry was mortified. Elvis thought it was the funniest thing and told everyone about it the next day: Jerry interrogating Ann-Margret in the middle of the night as though she was a burglar.

Jerry Schilling’s relationship with Elvis was purer than most, although many of the same rules still applied. He talks about comforting Priscilla once in the middle of an argument she was having with her husband, and Elvis’ rage when he found out, and how crushed Jerry was by all of it. He was just trying to help. Elvis said, “Don’t ever speak to Priscilla behind my back.” Jerry was in tears. Elvis came to him later that day and apologized. There’s so much dirt out there about Elvis. If by “dirt” you mean womanizing, the man was a sex symbol. Why is his womanizing somehow unique? If by “dirt” you mean being addicted to prescription drugs, well then welcome to America where that is the #1 addiction in the land. Elvis hasn’t quite gone through the character assassination that, say, Joan Crawford did on the heels of her ingrate daughter’s vicious book, but something similar has occurred, at least in the cultural consciousness. Can we still not forgive him for being human? What did Elvis Presley ever do that was just so beyond-the-pale wrong? Punching a gas station attendant once? Making the mistake of dying too young? Trust those who loved him over those who wanted something from him. Jerry Schilling: Elvis knew I was sensitive, and sometimes he’d get pissed at the other guys just because they’d been around so long – but then he’d wink at me, like, “Don’t worry about it.” After a while I realized he was almost as shy as I was; there were days when he would just brood over things, because he was so unhappy with the reality of his accomplishments. And yet he chose to be sensitive – most of the time. Read those words again. “And yet he chose to be sensitive – most of the time.” He made a choice. The majority of stories about him are about his politeness, his kindness, his generosity, and what a good listener he was. This was not an act, it was a choice. It was his desire to do his best on this planet. Very few people operate in this space, let alone stars. A lifetime of people saying “He was the kindest person I’ve ever met’, “He was the sweetest gentlest man” is not a lie foisted upon us by an entitled star pulling the wool over our eyes. Source: