Tales of Rock – Love Me Plenty, Presley Pleads

I love that photo of Elvis.

Jan. 8 will be the 85th anniversary of the birth of Elvis Presley. Don’t fear that this milestone will be celebrated too quietly. Elvis 75 (a shorthand moniker for the event itself, as well as the title of a new greatest-hits collection) will bring an onslaught of commemorative festivities and products, like parties at Graceland, concerts with Elvis impersonators and a movie suggesting that Presley, who died on Aug. 16, 1977, has spent the last three decades in outer space. It will bring everything except realistic thoughts of what the uncontrollably self-destructive Elvis might have been like as a 75-year-old man.

Naturally, there are books. Lots and lots of books. Among the standouts — beyond a tell-all by the doctor who knows a lot about Presley’s death and a hagiography from the lifelong buddy who is fond of saying that America has had many presidents but only one King — is Alanna Nash’s long look at Elvis’s bizarre history with women. She has cleverly borrowed one of his most seductive song titles, “Baby, Let’s Play House.”

Since Ms. Nash’s book is studiously annotated and longer than many biographies of American presidents, there is reason to think she may have done some serious work here. Also, she approaches this subject with a running start. As the author of “The Colonel,” about the carny tricks of Presley’s famously Machiavellian manager, Col. Tom Parker, as well as “Elvis and the Memphis Mafia,” she sounds like someone well connected in the Presley world. So it is only a little bit worrisome to see her identified in the jacket copy for her new book as “the first journalist to see Elvis Presley in his casket.”

Elvis Presley and his wife, Priscilla, at their 1967 Las Vegas wedding. He had unusually close ties to his mother, Gladys. Credit Doc Pele/Stills, Retna

That whiff of morbid curiosity turns out to be determinative. So does the genesis of “Baby, Let’s Play House”: Ms. Nash acknowledges that she initially wrote a women-oriented article for Ladies’ Home Journal and then decided to expand it. Thus armed with what she all too aptly calls “an oral history of some of the women in Elvis’s life,” Ms. Nash began padding her story with three kinds of material: her own legitimate interviews (some with women still pining for Elvis 50 years after their fateful encounters), secondhand gossip (from self-serving memoirs and fan publications) and psychobabble. Cobbled together, these elements led her along Presley’s long, winding trail from babes to baby sitters as his life spiraled into sad decline.

“Baby, Let’s Play House” is abundantly illustrated with pictures of Presley with his girlfriends. And the pictures tell a powerful story. He worked his way through a lifetime’s worth of women who looked like his brown-haired, soulful-eyed mother, Gladys. At first they were girls next door. Then, though still from the same cookie cutter, they became ever more beautiful as Elvis’s star rose, to the point where he paired up with women almost as good-looking as he was.

Ms. Nash tells a long, repetitive and dirt-digging version of that dramatic tale. Her central premise, supplied by Peter O. Whitmer (“The Inner Elvis”) in his capacity as this book’s resident psychologist and buttressed by terms like “individuate,” “stuck grief,” “sexual dimorphism” and “estrogen-androgen balance,” is that Presley’s loss of a twin brother at birth set him on a lifelong search for companionship he could never truly find and that his extreme closeness to his mother left no room for other adult women.

Using details too tawdry for even the most voyeuristic fans, the author offers evidence of her subject’s arrested sexual development, physical insecurities and general predilection for the 14-year-old girls who struck him as unthreatening. Sometimes he really did throw pajama parties and teach girls how to put on eye makeup and style their hair.

Some details in “Baby, Let’s Play House” invoke the bottom-feeding biographical style of Albert Goldman. And Ms. Nash, in playing to the rubbernecking crowd, is not shy about using Mr. Goldman as a source. She also replays the memories of each girlfriend who believed herself to be Elvis’s true love (“I was the one who got away”), the creative stylings of too many ghostwriters and the fairy-tale tone of Priscilla Presley, Elvis’s wife. (“I thought I was living inside a dream. Except the dream had come true. I had come home with Elvis.”) Although Ms. Nash usually plays fair with attributions, she sometimes creates the misimpression that material borrowed from fan Web sites is a) current and b) her own.

But she has done her own dogged research too. And some of it is memorably succinct and tough. Consider this near haiku from Patti Parry, the lone female buddy in Elvis’s inner circle: “Nineteen-year-old truck driver becomes superstar and super stud, which he wasn’t.” Or this from Lamar Fike, one of his closest associates: “I’ll give you Elvis’s relationship with Priscilla in a nutshell. You create a statue. And then you get tired of looking at it.” Or from Sheila Ryan Caan, one of the rare girlfriends who felt free to tease Elvis about his sartorial style: “Does Cruella know you have her cape tonight?”

Regardless of how Ms. Nash accrued and assembled this material, she manages to collect all the madness, badness and sadness of the Elvis myth in one exhaustive and (let’s face it) embarrassingly tempting volume. Though she is sure to be excoriated for leaving the emperor unclothed, she also writes with admiration. And after presenting an endless-seeming parade of consorts (he had declined from young starlets to young bank tellers in his final months), Ms. Nash gets the last word on girl-chasing from Elvis at his weariest.

“Why the hell do you put up with her?” Billy Smith, Presley’s cousin and entourage member, tells Ms. Nash that he asked Elvis about Ginger Alden, the consort who was asleep in the next room when he died. Said the King, “I’m just getting too old and tired to train another one.”

 

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Tales of Rock – Lori Maddox – Part 1

“I LOST MY VIRGINITY TO DAVID BOWIE”

IN THE EARLY 1970S, the Sunset Strip was a magnet for rock stars: Bowie, Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople, The Who. They all hung out in the VIP rooms of louche LA nightclubs like E Club, the Rainbow, and Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. And with them, of course, came groupies. Scantily clad 14- and 15-year-olds like Sable Starr and Lynn “Queenie” Koenigsaecker sipped cherry cola, dropped pills, and evolved into pubescent dream girls for the platform-shoed rockers who could get anything and anyone they desired. 

MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES
MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES

 

 

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Tales of Rock – The King’s Obsession – Part 2

Elvis could have any woman. So why was he only able to form relationships with virginal girls?

This is Part 2 of last Sunday’s Tales of Rock – The King’s Obsession – Part 1

Often these star-struck youngsters were distraught that their idol had not tried to go further and Raphael had the job of letting them down gently.

‘I’d say: “He’ll call you again.” Of course he never did, but with some of the younger ones he’d be like the tooth fairy, slipping hundred-dollar bills into their school books.’

Even in those more innocent times, it seems remarkable that the girls’ parents allowed them to attend such unorthodox sleepovers. But they were as won over as their daughters by Presley’s huge celebrity and charming southern manners.

Presley became ever more paranoid about his skills as a lover – hence his fascination with virgins who would not demand full-on sex

As his friend Joe Esposito recalled: ‘Elvis could talk anyone, particularly women, into anything.’

This plausibility would prove vital in his wooing of Priscilla, the U.S. serviceman’s daughter he met in Germany during his national service.

It’s well documented that Priscilla was only 14 when she was introduced to Presley by an airman named Currie Grant. But this first encounter was far from the chaste affair that Colonel Parker had the world believe.

After meeting Priscilla at a club for service families, Grant took her to meet Presley at his home in the town of Bad Nauheim, near Frankfurt. Petite, dark-haired and with deep-set blue eyes, she was his ideal woman, not least because she reminded him of his mother Gladys in her youth.

‘Elvis jumped up like he was sitting on a hot plate,’ recalled Grant. ‘I had never seen him react to any girl like that.’

According to Grant, Presley soon had Priscilla ‘backed up against the wall, kissing her’. At 8.30pm he took her up to his bedroom and they did not emerge again until 1.30am, when it was time for Grant to take her home.

As their nights together continued, Priscilla’s concerned parents asked to meet Presley. Unaware that he had boasted to an army friend that he could ‘train her up any way I want’, they were instantly charmed by their daughter’s new boyfriend.

Indeed, he was encouraged to see Priscilla by her mother Ann. She had long dreamed of a career in show business and perhaps believed that some of Presley’s star dust might rub off on her.

Elvis Presley,

Elvis and Priscilla with baby Lisa-Marie. Once his wife was pregnant, Elvis no longer wanted to have intimate relations with her, a book claims.

 

While Presley assured the Beaulieus that he and Priscilla just played music together as they spent hours hidden away in his bedroom, they both admitted many years later that they had full intercourse at this time.

Bizarrely, Presley convinced himself Priscilla remained a virgin because he would stop himself continuing their love-making just before the vital moment. This vaguest of notions of her purity was key if he was to continue finding her attractive, but he considered himself free to see other women as he pleased.

Back in the U.S. in March 1960, with his military service over and Priscilla pining for him in Germany, Presley started work on his next film, GI Blues. He also began dating Sandy Ferra, the 14-year-old daughter of a nightclub owner in Los Angeles.

Chaperoned everywhere by her mother Mary Lou, 25-year-old Presley got no further than kissing Sandy – so passionately that her face was red raw – but he had other intentions. One night he asked Mary Lou if she and her daughter would consider moving to his new mansion, the soon-to-be-legendary Graceland, where he would ‘raise’ Sandy as his future wife.

Sandy’s father vetoed the idea, but Presley had a back-up plan in Priscilla. In 1963, when she was 17, he convinced her parents that she should continue her education at a convent school in the U.S., living with him at Graceland on the understanding that they would one day marry.

‘He was fascinated with the idea of real young teenage girls. It scared the hell out of all of us.’

Unaware that an identical offer had been made to another family only three years previously, the Beaulieus agreed, and so Priscilla began a strange new life in Memphis.

‘I was a prim and proper schoolgirl by day and Elvis’s girlfriend by night,’ she recalled.

Still determined Priscilla should be a virgin when they married, Presley continued with his bizarre definition of what constituted love-making. But this did not stop him capturing his fantasies on Polaroid – photographing Priscilla as she seduced him in her school uniform, or pretending to be her teacher.

Eventually these role-play sessions extended to simulated lesbian sex with another girl, a hairdresser Presley knew. To keep Priscilla awake during these long, late-night sessions, he began giving her the amphetamines to which he was addicted, ignoring the fact that she had to get up for school the next morning.

Slowly Presley turned Priscilla into a doll-like version of his ideal woman – with a giant beehive hairdo and heavy eye make-up – the look he had encouraged Frances Forbes and her little friends in Memphis to want.

‘I was someone he created,’ she said. ‘I was just a kid and I was consumed by him. All I desired was not to disappoint him.’

his weeping mother Gladys

Beloved: Elvis was close to his mother Gladys, centre, pictured weeping as he left for Fort Chaffee.

 

For Priscilla, the greatest fear was that Presley would leave her for another woman. Soon after moving into Graceland, she heard he was seeing Ann-Margret Olsson, 22, his glamorous co-star in Viva Las Vegas.

In a child-like attempt to win back his affection, she began styling her hair like Ann-Margret’s and copying her dance moves from the film.

‘She’d stand in front of a mirror cussing Ann-Margret and all the time trying to be as much like her as possible,’ recalled Jo Smith, wife of Presley’s cousin Billy. ‘It was pitiful.’

At one point, Presley was dating five women including Priscilla. Given that he had proposed to Ann-Margret, it’s doubtful whether he ever intended to marry Priscilla, but in 1967 his hand was forced by his ever-controlling manager Colonel Parker.

Fearful that rumours of the singer’s reckless drug use would reach the studios, he decided that a wedding would reinforce his image as a purveyor of family values.

Priscilla hoped that the marriage would stop Presley’s philandering and make him commit to her, but in fact it achieved exactly the opposite.

She conceived their daughter Lisa Marie on honeymoon in Palm Springs but, as soon as Presley realised she was pregnant, his sexual interest in her disappeared. He was first attracted to Priscilla as a virgin and her pregnancy was proof this was no longer the case.

This made little sense outside of Presley’s own drug-addled mind, but it spelled the end of the marriage, although not his interest in much younger women.

In 1974, just two years after their divorce, he began seeing 14-year-old Reeca Smith, a friend of his stepbrother Ricky Stanley.

According to Smith, that relationship lasted only a few months and never went beyond ‘sweet, innocent kisses’. It ended when she became worried about the drug use that had bloated his body and contributed to the heart attack that eventually killed him in August 1977.

He left behind not just millions of grieving fans, but Lisa Marie, the daughter whose own love life would later link the Presley name with another of music’s murkiest legacies.

In 1994, Lisa Marie married Michael Jackson, just as he faced allegations of child molestation with the involvement of complicit parents. History, it seemed, was repeating itself.

I’m stunned by all of this. I always loved Elvis and I am struggling with who he really was now.

 

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Tales of Rock – The King’s Obsession – Part 1

Elvis could have any woman. So why was he only able to form relationships with virginal girls?

The scene was set for a night of heavy passion, as Elvis Presley welcomed one of Hollywood’s most beautiful young actresses into his suite at the exclusive Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Then 21, Presley was the biggest heart-throb in the U.S. and his date on that September night in 1956 was 18-year-old Natalie Wood, the Oscar-nominated star of Rebel Without A Cause and a wild-child with many previous lovers.

Realizing the publicity value if the two got together, Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker had arranged for them to meet earlier that day on the set of his movie Love Me Tender. For Wood the attraction was instant, but less than 20 minutes after entering Presley’s bedroom that night, she stormed out of the door.

‘What’s the matter with your boss?’ she asked his hangers-on. ‘He’s all hands and no action. I thought he was supposed to be king of the sack, but he doesn’t want to do it with me.’

Elvis Let's play baby

 

Never lonesome: The King lapped up attention from his young female fans

She should not have taken Presley’s lack of ardour so personally. As a disturbing new biography of the ‘King’ suggests, the 18-year-old siren was simply too old for Presley. Shockingly, he preferred girls who were barely more than children.

Most famously there was his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu, who was just 14 – ten years his junior – when they met in September 1959. Although sexual from the start, their relationship was portrayed as a sweet and innocent triumph of love across the age divide. In fact, it was just one of Presley’s many unsettling liaisons with minors in the years following his rise to fame.

‘He was fascinated with the idea of real young teenage girls,’ said Lamar Fike, a former member of his entourage. ‘It scared the hell out of all of us.’

Such behaviour had its roots in Presley’s dysfunctional childhood, beginning the moment he was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 8, 1935, an identical twin whose brother Jesse died in the womb.

His mother Gladys, having lost one child, was smotheringly protective of the other. Even when Presley was an adult, mother and son shared a secret language in which ice cream was called ‘iddytream’ and milk was known as ‘butch’. When she died of hepatitis in 1958, a 23-year-old Presley was so distraught that he tried to throw himself into the grave after her.

Priscilla Beaulieu in 1960 she later married  Elvis Presley

Young fan: Priscilla Beaulieu in 1960, aged 15, the year after she met Elvis

Gladys’s controlling influence left Presley emotionally stunted. A man-boy who looked to others to take care of him until the day he died, he was insecure when it came to adult matters.

This was most obvious in his relationships with women. Fearing that he might not measure up to their expectations, Presley became ever more paranoid about his skills as a lover – hence his fascination with virgins who would not demand full-on sex and could not compare him to other experiences.

Even as his fame grew, and he embarked on relationships with an endless parade of beauty queens – which Colonel Parker ensured were exploited for maximum press coverage – Presley was on the look-out for young ‘cherries’ as he called them.

Among the first was Jackie Rowland, 14, whose mother Marguerite took her to see a Presley concert in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1956. They were thrilled to be invited backstage, but Marguerite became concerned when Presley took Jackie off to a side room.

A few minutes later she opened the door to find Presley teaching her daughter to ‘kiss in a grown-up way’. Unabashed, he asked Marguerite if he could take Jackie to a bar, promising to take good care of her, but she had seen enough.

‘No sir,’ she told Presley. ‘My little girl is under-age and she is coming home with me.’

Before she left, Presley made Jackie a promise. ‘When you grow up, you are going to be mine.’

Elvis Presley

Love Me Tender: Elvis wed Priscilla in 1969 after pressure from his manager

But within months, she had a rival for his affections in a harem of three adolescent girls, including a petite dark-haired beauty named Frances Forbes. She was 13 when she began hanging around the gates of Presley’s home on Audubon Drive, in a fashionable suburb of Memphis.

‘He didn’t pay any attention to me then, but when I was 14, he noticed me,‘ she said. ‘Fourteen was a magical age with Elvis. It really was.’

Along with her friends Gloria Mowel and Heidi Heissen, both also at that ‘magical’ age, Frances was invited to private pyjama parties in Presley’s bedroom.

During these sessions, he taught the girls how to put on eye make-up the way he liked it – heavy on the shadow and mascara. The evenings would continue with much tickling and kissing, which often went beyond friendly play-fighting.

‘He’d get serious and you’d just push him away,’ said Gloria. ‘But I think if he had really pushed, I would have done it.’

Although he continued to see the trio, Presley’s appetite for such encounters was such that in 1957 he asked his agent Byron Raphael to begin procuring more girls for him. There was no shortage of choice, with hundreds desperate to meet him wherever he went.

Though Presley boasted that he liked sex ‘hot and heavy’, Raphael confirmed that he was far more interested in heavy petting than anything else, particularly when it came to his ‘cherries’.

He recalled one evening when he brought three young girls into Presley’s bedroom. Soon they were all naked, but Presley stayed in his underwear, kissing and fondling them, and eventually falling asleep with his arms around them, as his records played in the background.

Read Part 2 next Sunday, July 29th at 8am!

 

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Tales of Rock – Elvis Presley Liked Schoolgirls, Pajama Parties … and Dudes

Elvis Presley is considered the first true rock star, and as such he got the combined amount of rock star pussy accumulated over thousands of years of human civilization. The way the man shook his hips made ripples in the fabric of reality that are still causing spontaneous female orgasms to this day.

His deep voice, jet black hair, and aforementioned hips turned Elvis into an immortal sex icon — men wanted to be him, women wanted to do him, and hound dogs wanted to kick his ass for dissing them (you can’t win them all).

What He Was Really Like:

Elvis sure loved the ladies, but he had one very specific type: They had to be young (like, school age), and if they looked like his mom, even better.

Elvis used to creep out his friends with his obsession with young girls. In fact, his wife, Priscilla, was introduced to him when she was 14 and he was 24, and according to people who were present that day, the relationship became physical right away. The fact that Elvis was grieving his mother at the time and that Priscilla sorta looked like her makes it even creepier. There are also pictures of Elvis groping a clearly uncomfortable 17-year-old Kay Wheeler, the president of his fan club, who later said, “He should have been under arrest.”

But the man also had a tender side. When he wasn’t trying to touch their boobs, Elvis liked to throw pajama parties with teenage girls where he would start pillow fights and teach them to style their hair and put on mascara. Elvis was pretty insecure despite being, well, Elvis, so he preferred younger girls because they didn’t seem as threatening to him. He was perfectly capable of seducing older women, though … and dudes, apparently. Or at least one particular dude. According to Elvis’ stepmother, Elvis had a long affair with his good friend Nick Adams, whom he met while shooting his movie Love Me Tender in 1956.

One Elvis biographer claims that the King’s manager, Colonel Parker, knew about the affair and used it as a way to control Elvis. If he really wanted to ruin the guy, though, Parker could have just revealed that his trademark black hair was actually dyed, because Elvis was a natural blonde.

 

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Tales of Rock – Elvis Almost Had An Album Produced By David Bowie

Dreams can still come true, especially when you’re David Bowie. In the winter of ’77, Bowie received a phone call from Elvis himself.

In 1997, country star and occasional actor Dwight Yoakam met David Bowie, and the pair got to talking about their mutual love for Elvis Presley, which, despite being a music legend, is generally not a person you expect to find yourself talking about while locked in conversation with David Bowie. As Yoakam tells it, Bowie related a story from 20 years prior, when Elvis had approached him to produce his upcoming album.

This happened in 1976, when Bowie had just released “Golden Years,” a song he’d originally intended to ask Elvis to record. But legend has it that when Bowie asked his then-wife Angie to deliver the request, Angie got so nervous about meeting the rock ‘n’ roll legend that she chickened out and never delivered the message.

However, dreams can still come true, especially when you’re David Bowie. In the winter of ’77, Bowie received a phone call from Elvis himself. He had heard Bowie’s latest hit, “Golden Years,” and was apparently so blown away by it he wanted the pop icon to produce his next album. However, because the universe was not satisfied by the current level of irony present in this interaction, Elvis died of a heart attack that same summer, and the two never got to work together.

However, many critics have speculated that the Duke’s last album, Black Star, was a tribute to Presley, who had a little-known song of the same name. So maybe they’ll do some kind of ghost collaboration, which would be an absolute treat to listen to.

 

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