WEIRDLAND

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: www.cam.ac.uk


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: www.bookbub.com

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: www.elvis-history-blog.com

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: historicalsociety.blogspot.com

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: www.today.com

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: nymag.com

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: moviemezzanine.com

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: www.theguardian.com

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: entertainment.inquirer.net

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: www.amazon.com

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: www.sheilaomalley.com

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Elvis Presley: A Southern Life

Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley reps sue over image use: The King and The blond bombshell’s estates have filed suit against a Big Apple company, claiming they bilked them out of more than $350,000 after breaking a contract. TapouT LLC, Monroe’s estate, and Presley’s ABG EPE IP LLC claim in a newly filed Manhattan Supreme Court suit that Central Mills Inc. failed to cough up remaining funds owed after the companies parted ways in December 2017. Both LLCs control rights to certain pending and registered trademarks for Monroe and Presley and signed an agreement with Central Mills that allotted them various percentages of royalties, provided the company met mandatory minimum sales for any clothing or wares bearing either celeb’s image. But after terminating agreements, Central Mills left the Monroe and Presley LLCs in the dust, failing to cough up a total of $353,500 in royalties and penalties. This is no Lifetime movie. Source: nypost.com

Elvis spared no expense in maintaining and running Graceland. Marty Lacker estimated that Elvis’s payroll ran to about $100,000 a month plus Graceland's maintenance expenses cost about $40,000 a month. As the year 1970 came to an end, Elvis began spending money like water. He bought jewelry for everyone in Graceland, expensive cars for his entourage and Barbara Leigh, put down a $10,000 deposit on a new home for Joe and Joanie Esposito, and developed an obsession with guns. Although Elvis’s income had swelled dramatically throughout his career, in 1969 he had come dangerously close to bankruptcy. In 1971, his net income approached $3 million, and in 1972 it swelled to nearly $4 million. The vast increase in Elvis’s income came mostly from live performances, especially from touring. Elvis did not, however, become rich. His performances grossed on average about $5 million a year during the last several years of his life, but at his death his total assets probably amounted to substantially less than $3 million. Like his parents, Elvis apparently never thought about saving any money for a rainy day. He never bought stocks, corporate bonds, or rental property for investment and income. The final inventory of his possessions filed in the court records of Shelby County show that he did buy a $10,000 US government bond. He probably forgot he had it. Unlike many other high-income Americans, Elvis never took advantage of available tax shelters. Medical doctors, for instance, in the 1960s and 1970s, reaped unprecedented profits due to a relative shortage of physicians to meet the swelling “baby boomer” population. Seeking to escape from federal income taxes that might take away a third or more of their income, doctors bought farms, which provided tax shelters legitimated by the Congress. Elvis did keep horses and sometimes rode, but he rejected the elite’s fiscal model. He spent all that he made as fast as he made it—like the great majority of the fans who came to see him in Las Vegas or Tahoe, Buffalo, Little Rock, or Wichita.

Elvis never became urbane. He eschewed New York, and he never really “went Hollywood.” In Los Angeles, he was practically never in the nightclubs, never at the Oscars, never in the homes of the famous for dinners or social events. Rather, he walled himself up in one of his mansions with the guys. Anyone who wanted to socialize with Elvis had to come to his house. Like other Americans, he partied in Las Vegas and retreated to Palm Springs, but home was home. The first great Elvis image—the “Bad Elvis”—was launched by the young women at the Shell in Overton Park in July 1954. The second Elvis image—the “Good Elvis”—was the creature of the Cold War, clearly visible on the flight deck of the USS Hancock in San Diego Bay in April 1956. The third and final Elvis image, much more complex than the first two, brought back the bad Elvis in another mutation. Now Elvis was “bad” in the sense that bad meant “good,” even “the best.” Liberate yourself and have fun, he urged white Americans tired of black civil rights activists, Communist confrontations, and a demoralizing war in Vietnam. He was self-confident, neither giving nor accepting abuse, joyous, loving life, hedonistic but harmless. His new image was hatched with the Comeback Special and achieved full flight during his first engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas in August 1969. On November 5 and 6, 1971, Joyce Bova joined Elvis as he performed in Cleveland and Louisville. She observed that there were no “high rollers” in the audience such as she had seen in his audiences in Las Vegas. These huge crowds were true believers. 

Increasingly, Elvis was seeing himself as the messiah to the masses. His mission in life, he kept telling Joyce, was to make people’s dreams come true. She saw guns and books scattered about in his hotel room, and he always carried his badge from the Bureau of Narcotics. After the November tour, Elvis flew to Memphis, then to California, and then back to Memphis where on Saturday night, December 11, 1971, he took Joyce Bova to a private screening at the Crosstown Theater. Increasingly, Elvis talked to Joyce about moving into Graceland with him, but she worried about his rapid mood swings—and the pills they both were taking. Plus, he was still married to Priscilla. On Sunday, he and Joyce flew to Washington and checked into the hotel where they had first consummated their love. On Tuesday, he flew back to Memphis and on Saturday Priscilla and Lisa Marie arrived from California. Now it was Priscilla who had some news for Elvis. Priscilla told Elvis that she did not love him anymore and was separating from him. She and Lisa stayed for Christmas but flew out the night before New Year’s Eve. Joyce tried again to talk to him about his drug use. The drugs were a part of his mission, he said. The drugs were to gain “silence.” “Silence is the resting place of the soul,” he said. “It’s sacred. And necessary for new thoughts to be born. That’s what my pills are for, to get as close as possible to that silence,” he explained. Joyce left the next morning while Elvis was still sleeping.

Rita Moreno was another conquest in the early 1960s who had been baffled by her intimate experiences with the King. “Elvis asked me out several times,” she recalled in Rita Moreno: A Memoir (2012). “His real self was a shy boy from Tupelo whose favorite book was the Bible. Our sex activity felt short of my expectations and needs, typically ending up in my Sunset Boulevard apartment. My dates with Elvis always concluded in a tender tussle on the living room floor. This was called 'grinding' and it was all he really wanted to do, with no culmination. At least, the red glare of the traffic lights lent a carnal glow to our activities. I was a fully grown woman with adult desires and I already had been with Marlon Brando.”

The number of girls streaming in and out of Elvis’s bed diminished while Linda Thompson stayed with him, but not to zero. Linda had wanted a career in show business and a measure of financial support. Elvis helped her move toward a career, and he was very generous to her in a material way, buying her a house and giving her a 30.000 $ credit card as farewell gift. His divorce settlement with Priscilla had amounted to two million dollars. Elvis was a considerate man as well as a generous one. But years on a psychiatrist’s couch might not have sufficed to untangle the painful emotional threads that made up Elvis’s being at that point in his life, September 1974. One vital thread was his fear that he was not really the highly sexual man that he thought he ought to be. According to Sheila Ryan, “Elvis was just this guy who had this wonderful charisma and things got blown way out of shape. But he was always just this innocent little guy. Elvis had qualities that no other human being has had. Some of them are so hard to describe because the qualities he had were almost not of this world, angelic. It was his innocence, his vulnerability.” Sheila was increasingly unwilling to go on tour with Elvis. “There wasn’t much at stake. I was his friend, I was his little pal.” She was relieved when he took Mindi Miller, a model and dancer, with him for the first part of his tour that began in Macon, Georgia, on April 4, 1975. Elvis wanted Sheila to go with him for his third tour in 1975, seventeen days that began on July 8, but by then she was practically living with actor James Caan, so she couldn't join Elvis on tour. Elvis seemed to accept the end of their relationship. 

Ginger Alden was not easily readable. In her dark good looks, at five-eight and with appropriate fullness of figure, she was not a teenager. She was twenty. From the first, it seems, Elvis chose her—not as simply another girl in his usual game of revolving doors but as a permanent bedmate and companion. Ginger had, as Billy Smith said, “that virginal look” that was so important to Elvis. In the order of Elvis’s women, she ranked with Anita Wood, Priscilla Beaulieu, Joyce Bova, and Linda Thompson. Back in Tennessee, Ginger was supposed to go with Elvis to Nashville on Thursday, January 20, 1977, for a scheduled recording session for RCA. At the last minute, Ginger backed out. Elvis postponed his departure for a day, and he had a prolonged and acrimonious argument with her. The next day he went to Nashville without her but would not go to the studio. He spent much of his time in the hotel room calling Ginger. For three days the backup singers, the band, and the technicians waited in the studio for Elvis to appear. Finally, Elvis flew back to Memphis without recording anything at all. Elvis’s intense involvement with Ginger and her family strongly suggested that he was into the traditional progression of love and courtship that would end in marriage. But Ginger seemed detached at times. She was not as pliable as one might think on first impression. She had a mind and a will of her own, and she acted accordingly. And Elvis was not used to rejection. He tried to make Ginger jealous with other girls, but he had neither the energy nor the interest. So he asked Ginger to marry him. He thought Christmas or his birthday might be the right date—maybe he would even announce it at the Memphis concert ending the tour. Ginger agreed to become Mrs. Elvis Presley. Elvis envisioned his second marriage would be his own creation. He did not need the Colonel. 

Regardless of what he said publicly, Elvis had long been bitter about the restraints that he felt Colonel Parker had placed upon his artistic creativity. Since the late 1960s, Elvis had wanted to fire the Colonel, but Parker had bound him hand and foot financially. Elvis made millions, but he had no millions to buy Tom Parker out. If he fired the Colonel he would essentially be broke. In effect, the Colonel had been loaning Elvis one-sixth of the profits they made from each tour since they signed that agreement in January 1976. Now Elvis agreed to pay back all those moneys at the end of 1977 and he was in surviving mode. When Elvis set out on his first tour of 1977 on February 12, he insisted that Ginger come with him. He made the most of Ginger’s presence on the tour. It was the usual routine that he relished so much. She would be publicly introduced as his girlfriend, the very image of love fulfilled. The fans loved this charming play. They melted into the romance; they were a part of it. The King had found his Princess. Elvis fans had come to yearn for Elvis’s remarriage. Ginger later said that “they always would come up to me and say, ‘You’re what he’s searched for a long time.’ ” Eight days into the February tour, to keep Ginger happy, Elvis flew some of her family to Johnson City, Tennessee, and carried them on to Charlotte, North Carolina. 

If Ginger didn't come with him to Graceland, Elvis would wail to Billy Smith: “Where is she, man? Why don’t she stay here?” He desperately needed Ginger to count on, to be in his bed when he awoke and when he went to sleep. Rosemary, Ginger's sister, not only had access to Elvis’s private precincts on the second floor of Graceland even when Ginger was not there, she also took a proprietary attitude toward her sister’s fiancé and demanded fidelity to Ginger. This had to be a shockingly new situation for Elvis. Neither Linda Thompson nor her relatives had ever dared such presumption. Then again, he had never proposed marriage to Linda. Elvis was obsessed with the idea of having a son. “He’ll have my eyes and, of course, my face,” he said, “the best looking and the most perfect kid in the world.” His name would be Elvis Presley Jr. On August 27, at home again in Memphis, during the first of two shows he would announce his engagement to Ginger. His fans, seeing their hopes and dreams for his happiness coming true through his marriage, would be filled with joy. When Ginger woke up in the big bed about 8:00 a.m., Elvis was in bed beside her, reading. He couldn’t go to sleep. “Precious, I’m gonna go in the bathroom and read for a while,” he said. “Don’t fall asleep,” Ginger said. “I won’t,” he replied smiling, and shut the door to the bathroom. —"Elvis: A Southern Life" (2014) by Joel Williamson


Elvis has a co-writing credit on, and actually participated in the composition of two songs from the early 60s - "That's Someone You'll Never Forget" (1961) and "You'll Be Gone" (1965). Sweetheart we're alone. And you are mine. Let's make this night a night to remember. Don't make our love a cold dying ember. For with the dawn, you'll be gone. Hold me close in your arms as the night withers away. Oh please come to my arms and say you'll love me forever. Your lips pressed on mine is heaven descending. And I could die because it is ending. For with the dawn, you'll be gone.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Elvis Presley—Where No One Stands Alone

The groundbreaking new album, Elvis PresleyWhere No One Stands Alone (2018), releasing on August 10, features 14 original performances of gospel songs with newly recorded instrumentation and backing vocals, all in support of Elvis’ original lead vocal recordings. “Saved” is an energetic gospel-rock call-and-response tune with some fun rhythmic twists, sassy lyrics and Darlene Love jumping in on background vocals. And in classic Elvis fashion, the king testifies as he gives up his errant ways. Produced by Joel Weinshanker, Lisa Marie Presley and Andy Childs, Elvis Presley—Where No One Stands Alone introduces newly recorded instrumentation and backing vocal contributions from music legends who’d performed on-stage and/or in-the-studio with Elvis, including Darlene Love, Cissy Houston, The Imperials and The Stamps. It also includes a reimagined duet with Elvis and his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, on the album’s title track and spiritual touchstone. “It was a very powerful and moving experience to sing with my father,” wrote Lisa Marie in her notes for the album. “The lyrics speak to me and touch my soul. I’m certain that the lyrics spoke to my father in much the same way.” Plus, the 50th anniversary celebration of the Elvis ’68 Comeback Special is coming to theaters in August, 16 and 20. Source: parade.com

Ann-Margret was known at the time—just after her breakthrough in Bye Bye Birdie—as the “female Elvis,” a high-voltage sex symbol who could sing, dance, and act. She described herself and Elvis as “eerily similar.” Just as intriguingly, Ann bore a likeness to Priscilla. The Swedish star and Elvis' part-Norwegian fiancé had pouty lips, pert noses, wide-set eyes, and heart-shaped faces; as Priscilla grew older, it often became difficult to distinguish her from Ann in certain photographs. Elvis and Ann-Margret had a relationship that was both intimate and friendly. His nicknames for her suggested as much: He called her either Rusty or Scoobie. “They had a great time and were madly in love,” in the opinion of Joe Esposito. “Ann and Elvis liked a lot of the same things. They were always happy.” Even Joe’s wife, Joanie, whose loyalties would lie with Priscilla, considered Elvis and Ann “terrific” together. Elvis was at a turning point in his personal life, faced with a choice between two women, Ann-Margret and Priscilla, that would determine the direction of his future. Several of the Presley aides—Marty Lacker, Lamar Fike, Billy Smith—would contend that Priscilla was Elvis’s second choice. Patti Parry, who had no ulterior motives and spent time observing Elvis with both Ann and Priscilla, considered Ann “the love of his life,” and it was clear, both then and later, that Ann-Margret felt the same way about Elvis. 

Although Ann refused, out of respect for Elvis, to discuss their love affair publicly, she referred to him in her 1994 memoir as her “soul mate.” She knew Elvis had promises to keep, and he vowed to keep his word. Ann-Margret was obviously referring to the Beaulieus’ arrangement with Elvis for Priscilla. “I really believe Elvis told Priscilla’s parents that he was going to marry her… and that was the deal,” Joe said. Ann-Margret made Elvis get outside his comfort zone; in many ways he liked that, but was also afraid of that. Elvis was threatened, in the judgment of virtually everyone who knew him, by Ann-Margret’s fame and independence. Patti explained: “I was in awe of Priscilla, but Ann-Margret—she and Elvis were equals. She was the best girl, the most fun. They would have been the perfect pair. But she wouldn’t give up her career, she wouldn’t be with him twenty-four hours a day, and he wanted someone who would be there twenty-four hours a day.” Other Elvis’s intimates shared this opinion. “Elvis knew Ann had a career and wasn’t going to give it up for him. He wouldn’t expect her to. And he knew he could never be with someone who was in the limelight; when he wanted them there, he wanted them. Not like ‘I’m on location, I can’t do it.’ Priscilla he knew would be there whenever he wanted her,” Joe reported. Priscilla enrolled in a dance class in Whitehaven, the Memphis suburb where Graceland was located, then tinted her long hair Titian and pulled it back from her face in a mod-style bouffant, like Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas

“The one person Priscilla wanted to look like, when she did her hair, was Ann-Margret,” confirmed Dee Stanley, who was fashion-conscious herself and noticed the transformation. “Everything like Ann-Margret she wanted to become.” “That’s because Ann-Margret was the love of his life, and Priscilla knew it,” commented Patti. Elvis’s feelings for the actress remained constant throughout his life; from 1964, when they broke off their relationship, until August 16, 1977, the date of his death, he sent her roses before every one of her performances. Elvis reconnected with Ann-Margret after one of her performances in Vegas that year. He called her late that night while she was with her husband, Roger Smith, hinting that he wanted her to come to his room to rekindle their relationship, but Ann declined.

Priscilla had become more confident of her standing in Elvis’s life, even instituting changes at Graceland. She never had to balance a checkbook and had an unlimited clothes budget. To a different young woman, a life of leisure with Elvis Presley might have been a fabulous fantasy, but for Priscilla, who craved variety and action and full-throttle sex, it was a form of exile. Heavy make-out sessions continued to be Elvis’s sex of choice with Priscilla; he seemed to get more pleasure, other sexual partners would attest, from dry-humping than from intercourse, due at least in part to his performance anxiety. “Yeah, he had hang-ups,” confirmed Sheila Ryan Caan, one of Elvis’s girlfriends. “He never completely grew up.” This was in some measure, Sheila believed, a residual fear of getting a woman pregnant and being sued for paternity. “Plus, he was a southern small-town guy. I mean, he kind of never grew up and dry-humping was kind of a thing. Actually, I kind of liked it. He liked the playing part. He was not perverse at all.” Elvis’s reluctance to complete intercourse with Priscilla left her frustrated often. Elvis was a victim of his sexually omnipotent image. As Priscilla analyzed: “I heard that the same phenomenon happened with Marilyn Monroe. She was a sex symbol, a sex goddess, and anyone who was with her expected to be blown out the door with ecstasy. And because of that, she was very insecure in that area. So it’s something that I can honestly see how he felt like that, because women talk about it, you know?” In a certain way, it begged the question whether Elvis and Priscilla had intercourse in Germany as Currie Grant claimed. Elvis felt that if he withdrew before the "sensation hit", it kept the woman as a virgin, in his mind anyway, so maybe he did think she was a virgin when they married, even though it was just an illusion. Being in Memphis while Elvis was shooting in L.A. or recording in Nashville was tantamount to solitary confinement to Priscilla. “Because I didn’t have anything to do!” she complained. “He didn’t want me to work. I remember shopping every single day!” Rumors began circulating through Elvis’s entourage that Priscilla was having an affair with her dance instructor Steve Peck. 

The prim, “good-girl” side of Priscilla’s split personality had deceived even Joe Esposito, who had known her since she was fourteen, for Priscilla admitted in her memoir that she had a sexual liaison with someone from her dance class, identified pseudonymously as “Mark.” “We knew about it,” said Charlie Hodge, who believed Priscilla’s lover was Steve Peck. “In fact, we were talking about it in a group with Elvis, and one of the guys said, ‘We could get a detective to follow her.’” But Elvis forbade them to use a private investigator to tail Priscilla and would not allow anyone to say a disparaging or unkind word about her in his presence. “Elvis said, ‘Anybody does that, they’re fired.’” The affair was reminiscent of the teenage Priscilla, back in Germany, when she maintained a double life with another boyfriend while Elvis was thousands of miles away in the United States, believing her to be faithful. Priscilla’s barely buried resentment came out years later, after Elvis died and she assumed control of the estate, when she would refer to certain members of the entourage as “has-beens and leeches”. 


In 1968, Elvis followed the TV comeback special with two critically and commercially successful singles, “In the Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds,” and the comeback briefly revived his dormant sexual relationship with Priscilla, though it was still a “different kind of relationship,” in her words, meaning there was little intercourse.  She and Elvis, Priscilla said, usually had sex on the nights he opened and closed in Vegas each January and August, a ritual that resembled the mating habits of some exotic species, since they were seldom intimate on other occasions. After one of Elvis’s 1970 openings in Vegas, Priscilla missed her period for two months and thought she was pregnant. She told Elvis, and he was “elated. He was calling me every single day to see if in fact I was. And then when I told him that I wasn’t, it was a disappointment.” She was not happy in her lifestyle with Elvis; this was plain to all who knew Priscilla and from everything she said after their divorce. One of her primary complaints was that she and Elvis did not spend enough time together, but by show business standards, theirs was a relatively standard marriage in terms of family time as a couple: From 1967 to 1970 they took regular holidays in Hawaii, vacationed in the Bahamas, and spent Christmas at Graceland. Becky Yancey, the Graceland secretary, remembered Elvis buying Priscilla expensive jewelry—diamond rings, watches, charm bracelets.

This would have been some women’s Cinderella story, but the glass slipper did not fit Priscilla. She was restless, sexually unfulfilled, dissatisfied, and bored—as she had been, in truth, from her first days at Graceland. The difference now was that she had realized her goal—to marry Elvis Presley—and she could move on. Nancy Rooks, the longtime Graceland maid, always felt, interestingly, that Priscilla “was not as much in love with Elvis as he was with her.” Elvis once told Kathy Westmoreland, his friend and backup singer after 1970, that Priscilla “never loved him, she only wanted a career for herself.” Elvis was still searching for answers to the spiritual questions that both haunted and compelled him, issues that did not intrigue Priscilla or most of his male entourage, whose interests were more shallow. Elvis told actress Barbara Leigh that the spiritual dimension was missing from his relationship with Priscilla. A declaration signed by Elvis in his divorce papers attested he knew about Mike Stone by December and that Priscilla informed him, that Christmas holiday, that she wanted her freedom; Becky Yancey confirmed this in a book she wrote in 1977. Elvis spent his birthday, January 8, at Graceland with Joyce Bova, while Priscilla rejoined Mike Stone at their apartment in Belmont Shore. Ed Parker later wrote of a conversation he had with Elvis around this time, when Elvis told him Priscilla was leaving him: “He poured out his soul that night, and I saw him cry for the first time.” 

Elvis, once past his initial anger over Priscilla’s betrayal, slipped into a frightening decline. The maids at Graceland noticed that he lay around much of the time, exhibiting “a lot of depressed feelings and loneliness,” as Nancy Rooks stated it. “There was a lot of talk about his mother. On Mother’s Day he would cry. He wanted her picture by his bed.” The catalyst was Priscilla’s departure: “He thought they should always be together.” Elvis and Red West wrote, and Elvis recorded, the song “Separate Ways” that year, a transparently autobiographical account of his breakup with Priscilla. Barbara Leigh had little sympathy for the story Priscilla would later tell of her hellish life with Elvis: “I think she tries to paint herself as the good one in the picture, when I know, in truth, that she broke his heart forever.” Ed Hookstratten, who handled the divorce, held Priscilla responsible as well. “After that, Elvis started to slide,” he said. “And after that, he slid and slid, until he finally died. The divorce was the turning point, and I was close to that situation. I saw it with my own eyes.” It was Elvis who filed for divorce from Priscilla on August 18, 1972, six months after their final encounter in Las Vegas, though the instigator was clearly Priscilla. “He did not want the divorce,” asserted Ed Hookstratten, who filed the petition for Elvis. After Elvis' death, Priscilla became the executrix of Elvis’s estate.

Elvis' physical decline had worsened when his relationships with Sheila Ryan and Linda Thompson ended late in 1976. His entourage would say Elvis dismissed Linda, who was having an affair with a musician named David Briggs; Linda’s account was that she moved out voluntarily, tired of Elvis’s “vampire” life. Quite probably it was a combination. “I think that Linda was growing tired of it all,” said Shirley Dieu, who was living with Joe Esposito then. “If you were with Elvis, you had to stay in a locked room with foil on the windows. I think she got fed up, and she heard that David was worth a million dollars and she latched right on to him. Everybody felt that Elvis knew it but didn’t want to be embarrassed by it, and he made it look like he was getting rid of her before she left.” On November 19, 1976, George Klein ferried the Alden sisters, Terry and Ginger, to Graceland to meet Elvis. 

Elvis had an immediate, almost out-of-body experience upon seeing Ginger Alden. “His first words to me were, ‘Ginger, you’re burning a hole through me,” she recalled. “When I like someone, I really like them a lot,” Elvis mumbled on their first date. “It’s not just a fling. I don’t like one-night stands.” “I don’t like one-night stands, either,” Ginger replied. Elvis told Ginger she resembled his mother, and in truth she did, particularly around the eyes, which, like those of Elvis’s mother, were brown, deep-set, expressive, and soulful. “When I see Ginger, I feel like I’m falling into my mother’s eyes,” Elvis told Larry Geller. Elvis became instantly obsessed with Ginger and telephoned her parents the next weekend to invite her to join him on his tour. By December, less than three weeks later, while Elvis was appearing in Vegas, he was picturing them married. “Elvis told me when he closed his eyes he kept having visions of me in a white gown.” He called Jo Alden, Ginger’s mother, during the Vegas engagement and said, “Mrs. Alden, I’m in love with your daughter and I want to marry her,” according to Ginger. On January 26, back at Graceland, he proposed to an incredulous Ginger. The setting, as it had been with Priscilla, was a bathroom. “I noticed a lot of commotion at Graceland,” Ginger recalled. “People coming in and out and phone calls being made often. He called me into his bathroom, where I sat in a chair as he knelt down in front of me. He said: ‘Ginger, I’ve been searching for love so long, and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would find it. I’ve been sixty percent happy and forty percent happy, but never a hundred percent. I’ve loved before but I've never been in love. Ginger, I’m asking you: Will you marry me?’ and then presented a gorgeous diamond ring. I was so surprised as I said yes.” 

Elvis showered the bewildered Ginger with gifts. “He gave her three or four diamond rings at a time,” said Jo Alden. “She told him one time, ‘Elvis, I would be just as happy for a box of candy or flowers.’ ” Elvis responded, “Well, you’re going to have to get used to it.” Ginger recalled that “Elvis said he would love to have a son and he wanted me to be the mother. We had started a list of names.”  For some of his entourage, the entire courtship had an air of almost tragic desperation. George Klein felt Ginger was “misunderstood” by the guys, because, in Jo Alden’s words, she “didn’t pal around” with them, as had Linda, who had been their favorite. Rick Stanley attributed this resentment to Elvis envy. Ricky was present when Elvis called together the guys at Graceland on January 26 to announce that Ginger had accepted his marriage proposal. “He cared about Ginger, he really did,” Ricky recalled. “He told me he was gonna marry her. Showed me the ring, the whole thing.” Kathy Westmoreland, who was still keeping company with Elvis, believed that Elvis had changed, that he was maturing, that he genuinely wanted to be in a monogamous relationship with Ginger. “He was really in love with her. I felt that she was beautiful and sweet, maybe too young to really understand him and cope with his needs at that particular point. And there were a lot of problems in his life too.” Elvis, whose dreams had been broken, saw Ginger as his potential salvation, a means of resurrecting the shattered fantasy of finding his twin soul. Marrying Ginger, to Elvis, was the magic pill—like waving a wand and erasing the regrets of his past.

Elvis and Larry had many deep conversations, occasionally drifting to the subject of Priscilla. Elvis had changed his mind in thinking they were soul mates. He still believed there was a “karmic link” between them, but it had taken on a different meaning in Elvis’s mind. “It took me a long time to realize Priscilla is not my soul mate,” he told Larry during his last few months. “Priscilla came into my life for two major reasons: one, so we could have Lisa and number two, so I could teach her. Priscilla came to learn a lot of lessons about life.” Larry recalled Elvis saying, “I had to push her out of the nest so she could fly with her own wings.” Elvis himself realized, at the end, the paternal—as opposed to carnal or erotic—connection he had with Priscilla. —"The Untold Story of Priscilla Beaulieu Presley" (1997) by Suzanne Finstad

I followed Elvis out of one of the hotel’s back doors. There, gleaming beneath nearby lights, was a brand-new white Lincoln Continental Mark V with white leather seats and a burgundy dashboard. Elvis walked toward the car and everyone gathered around it. I was still confused about why this car was here or what we were doing. Then Elvis looked at me and nonchalantly said, “It’s yours, Ginger.” To say I was overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to describe the enormity of my emotional reaction. I had never even owned a car before, and now I had a Lincoln Mark V? All I could say was, “Thank you.” I was excited to test-drive my new car, but Elvis turned to go back inside. I didn’t know Las Vegas, understood he must be tired, and was okay with following him back up to the penthouse. I was still reeling with excitement. Once we were back in the suite and seated in bed, Elvis asked me, “Have you ever been married before?” “No,” I said, a little surprised by his question. “Were you seeing anyone before we met?” he pressed. I answered, “Yes,” momentarily thinking about Linda’s phone call. I wondered if that was what had prompted this conversation. Elvis thought about this for a few moments, then said, “Well, I would like it if you wouldn’t see anyone else.” He was seriously asking for a commitment! As odd as this sounds, it also made me feel good to think that Elvis was really that serious about us. But how could I be sure? 

What Elvis did next made me believe he felt as deeply about me as I did about him. Without saying a word, Elvis suddenly leaned in and kissed me on the mouth, but not a light kiss like before. Then he slowly began removing my bathrobe. I felt chills as he touched me. Was this it? Were we finally going to make love? I was aroused but anxious, barely able to breathe. I had been afraid of letting go of my feelings, terrified of being hurt by sleeping with Elvis and then have him move on to someone else, but at this moment, I wanted to make love with him. I stayed completely still, letting Elvis open my robe and begin touching me. “Please, love me, Ginger,” Elvis said softly, kissing me again. Then, still partially dressed in our sleepwear, Elvis and I made love for the first time. This crazy tension and our heightened emotions made our intimacy all the more intense. Elvis’s lips were soft and his kisses were filled with passion. He was gentle, yet I felt his determination to prove that he should be the only man in my life. He succeeded. I was experiencing emotions and physical sensations that were completely out of control, and, in keeping with Elvis’s TCB motto, it was all happening lightning fast. —"Elvis and Ginger: Elvis Presley's Fiancée and Last Love Finally Tells Her Story" (2014) by Ginger Alden