Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper Mersey Beat
Alden (left) was the last of Elvis Presley’s veritable army of girlfriends.
The former Miss Traffic Safety and Miss Mid-South, nineteen years younger
than her lover, found the man she alleged was about to marry her dead on
the floor of his bathroom. The bloated figure in a pair of blue pajamas,
his body pumped with enough pills to fill a pharmacist’s prescription drawer,
was a sad reflection of the man who had once had the world at his feet.
Elvis was gifted with the looks of a Greek god and carefully retouched photographs of the star gave the appearance of his features being sculpted from butter. As the most famous singing idol in the world, a multi-millionaire, a box-office film star, he was the object of adoration for millions of women internationally. Ginger was perhaps typical of the Elvis girlfriend. She was a lot younger than him and a former beauty queen. Elvis loved glamorous women: film starlets, singers, showgirls, dancers, beauty queens. He also liked girls with virginal youth and innocence. Compared to other figures in the public eye, Elvis’s affairs were far from clandestine.
Few stars can have had such a history of ‘girlfriends'. Elvis was open about them. He posed for photographs with them, he lavished gifts on them and they have been thoroughly documented in magazines, books and television dramatisations.
very first girlfriend was, reputedly, a little lass from East Tupelo called
Caroline Ballard, daughter of the Reverend James Ballard, pastor of the
First Assembly of God church in Tupelo. Elvis was nine years old at the
time! By 1946 and fifth grade, Elvis was 'seeing' Elois Bedford but allegedly,
as she was boarding the school bus in the afternoon, Elvis handed her a
note that said "I have found another girl".
The other girl was Mary Magdalene Morgan (left) who is often referred to as Elvis' first 'true girlfriend. By the age of fifteen, he’d learned how to balance two sweethearts at the same time. He was dating a skinny little neighbour called Betty McMann and, when she wasn’t teaching him to dance, he was slipping off to serenade thirteen-year old Billie Wardlow. In February 1954, while at the Rainbow Rollerdrome, he was spotted by a fifteen-year-old girl who’d noticed him at the local church. Her name was Dixie Locke and she became Elvis’s steady – and one of the first of the girls he discussed marriage with. However, Dixie became disenchanted with the fact that Elvis was absent with his group so often and broke off the relationship – she later became President of the first Elvis Presley Fan Club.
Another High School sweetheart was Barbara Hearn, who was later to appear in a bit part in the film ‘Loving You'. In 1955, when Elvis began his life on the road, he dated receptionist June Juanico, country singers Anita Carter and Wanda Jackson, with whom he was touring, and Barbara Pittman, one of the minor artists signed to Sun Records.
year saw the beginning of his fascination with Las Vegas showgirls. He dated
two of the showgirls who worked at the hotel he was appearing in, Kathy
Gabriel and Sandy Preston. He also dated singer Kitty Dolan, who he met
in Vegas that year, and other romantic interests of the period were Kate
Wheeler and Sharon Whiley. In 1957 he met Arlene Bradley, who claimed that
their romance lasted until 1963, and during the same year he dated Las Vegas
dancer Dorothy Harmony and had a week-long romance with stripper Tempest
Storm (right). During the same year, in Hollywood, he stepped out
with Joan Bradshaw. Around this time, Elvis also enjoyed the regular company
of three fourteen-year-old girls, Gloria Mowel, Heidi Heissen and Frances
Forbes. The Memphis teenagers were Elvis’s constant companions for a time,
although he didn’t have sexual relations with them.
It’s indicative of how Elvis felt comfortable in the company of girls in their early teens (Lolitas?) and is perhaps a hint at his forthcoming fascination with Priscilla. 1957 was also the year in which he met another girl he wanted to marry, Anita Wood. The nineteen-year old had all the qualifications which appealed to Elvis – she was a small-town southern girl and she was also outlandishly glamorous, with blonde hair, a dazzling smile and a 35-23-35 figure that had won a number of talent contests. Their first date was arranged by intermediaries, a typical Elvis move. Once they began dating seriously, Elvis was said to have discussed marriage: in his eyes she was a ‘good girl'. Anita was the marrying kind, but marriage with Elvis didn’t happen. It was suggested that Colonel Tom Parker vetoed it, advising Elvis that he must wait several years before he considered getting married.
who Elvis called ‘Little Beadie’, later got hitched to a football player,
Johnny Brewer. With Hollywood beckoning, Elvis found a new category of girlfriend
– the actress, usually a starlet or a minor actress. He developed a crush
on Debra Paget, the actress in his first film ‘Love Me Tender’, but she
didn’t return the affection. He said, “I sent her flowers, I was nuts about
her, but she wouldn’t even give me the time of day". As it turned out,
the first actress Elvis dated was Natalie Wood. She starred in his favourite
film ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ and he cited her as one of his favourite actresses.
The romance became serious and Elvis took her home to stay with him and
his parents in Memphis. It’s said that they’d decided to elope to Las Vegas,
but Colonel Tom Parker intervened and, together with Gladys Presley, talked
him out of it.
Elvis also dated actresses Rita Moreno and Dolores Hart. Dolores appeared with Elvis in ‘Loving You’ and ‘King Creole'. He often gave nicknames to the girls he liked and he called Dolores ‘Whistle Britches'. She later entered a convent as a nun, which gave rise to speculation that she did it because of her unrequited love for Elvis. Immediately before he left for Europe he had several girlfriends, including the Las Vegas showgirl Dotty Harmony, who accompanied Elvis when he arrived at the Kennedy Veterans’ Hospital in Memphis for his army examination. After the physical he took her to the airport and put her on a plane to Los Angeles. Other girlfriends included June Wilbank, Yvonne Lime, Jana Lund and Venetia Stevenson. When Elvis was drafted and stationed in Germany in 1958, his appetite for beautiful young girls was unaffected. He was soon seen with a teenage Russian actress, Vera Tschechowa, nightclub dancer Anjelika Zehetbauer and a sixteen-year old girl, Margit Buergin, who he called his ‘little puppy'. The most important relationship in Germany was forged when he met a fourteen-year-old American girl, Priscilla Ann Beaulieu.
between the star and a girl who was merely a child would seem to be somewhat
bizarre. When she was introduced to Elvis, the child, who he was to call
‘Cilla’, was wearing a blue and white sailor-suit dress with white socks.
Her stepfather (her father had died when she was six months old) allowed
them to date on condition they were chaperoned, and they continued dating
throughout his tour of Germany. Elvis invited her to Graceland and then
asked her stepfather’s permission for her to live at Graceland permanently,
with Elvis as her guardian. With an assurance that she would be enrolled
at school and would be chaperoned by Elvis’s father and stepmother, Joseph
Beaulieu agreed. Priscilla was being groomed to become Elvis’s wife and
the couple were eventually married in May 1967. All indications were that
it was Colonel Tom Parker who insisted that Elvis marry Priscilla, who had
just turned twenty-one. In the meantime, Elvis embarked on a Hollywood career
in earnest and his attention returned to romances with actresses.
He dated Nancy Sharp, a wardrobe mistress, when he was filming ‘Flaming Star'. In 1961 he was often spotted with actress Connie Stevens and by 1963 was dating actress Sharon Hugueny. Other actresses his name was linked to included Peggy Lipton and Cybill Shepherd. Cybill was later to come to prominence following her appearance in ‘The Last Picture Show’ and found fame in the television series ‘Moonlighting'. She was seventeen and a former Miss Teenage Memphis when the thirty-one-year-old Elvis began dating her in 1966. The actress most associated with Elvis is Ann-Margret, who was called ‘the female Presley'. She co-starred with him in one of his most popular movies, ‘Viva Las Vegas'. Stunningly beautiful, intelligent and a talented singer, dancer and actress, she completely charmed Elvis and the two began a serious relationship which lasted after the filming had ended. It came to an abrupt end, however, without any explanation. Elvis, at one moment completely besotted by the vivacious star, suddenly became uninvolved. Rumours abounded that the split came after Ann-Margret had committed the unforgivable – she’d discussed their romance with the press. While in London Ann-Marget mentioned that Elvis had given her a huge, pink double bed and that the couple were considering marriage. However, the other theory is that Ann-Margret had a career of her own, while Elvis wanted his wife to be the little woman who waited for him at home. He realised that a relationship between two career-minded people wouldn’t work.
During the mid-Sixties
Elvis dated some singers, went out with Jackie de Shannon for six months
and also went on dates with Bobbie Gentry. Kathy Westmoreland, a member
of the Sweet Inspirations, Elvis’s backing singers, claimed that the two
of them had slept together, although they didn’t have any sexual relations.
The details of their affair were outlined in her book ‘Elvis and Kathy'.
Some of his girlfriends went on to marry celebrities. Venetia Stevenson
married Don Everly in 1962; Judy Powell, who he dated in 1958, married
millionaire Adolph Spreckles and Sandy Ferra, a girlfriend in 1960, was
to marry Wink Martindale of ‘Deck of Cards’ fame.
When Elvis split with Linda he began stepping out with a succession of girls, including Malessa Blackwood, an eighteen-year-old girl from Memphis, and glamour girls Mindy Miller and Ann Pennington. Elvis’s last major romance was with another live-in lover, Ginger Alden. At the time of Elvis’s death Ginger, who found his body, claimed that he had proposed to her on 26th January 1977 and that they had intended getting married the following Christmas. Ginger later said that she was able to contact Elvis via psychic dreams.
With so many girlfriends out in the open, it would seem uncharacteristic for Elvis to have had secret love affairs – but since his death there have been claims by numerous women. A bizarre element is the number of claims from women who said that they had been either married to Elvis or involved in lengthy secret affairs. In several cases the women revealed their marriage secrets in publications such as the National Enquirer – but in most cases confessed that their marriage certificates and other evidence of their wedlock to The King had been lost. Barbara Young claimed she began a two-year romance with Elvis in 1954 and gave birth to his daughter, Deborah Presley, in March 1956. Strikingly similar is the claim by Barbara Jean Lewis, who said that she met Elvis in North Carolina in 1954 and gave birth to his daughter, Deborah Presley, in 1955.
Terri Taylor claimed she met Elvis in 1955 when she was a fifteen-year-old singer. She alleged that she became pregnant with his child, Candy Jo, who was born in December 1957. A Hollywood waitress, Patricia Ann Parker, took out a paternity suit in August 1970, claiming Elvis was the father of her child, Jason, but the case was dropped when blood tests proved negative. Jane Clark, a dancer, claimed to have been Elvis’s secret lover since they first met in 1959. Virginia Sullivan alleged that she’d been Elvis’s secret lover for 14 years, from 1963 until his death. Deborah Watts claimed to have been his secret lover between the years 1972 and 1977. Zelda Harris alleged that she and Elvis were married in Mobile, Alabama. Ann Farrell said that she married Elvis soon after they met in 1957. Billie Jo Newton said she was Elvis’s first wife and bore him three children. She claimed that he married her when she was 14 and divorced her in 1956. Lucy DeBarin claimed that she and Elvis carried on a 24 year relationship and that she bore him a daughter, Desiree Presley, in August 1968. Her claims were detailed in her book ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’
preferences veered from the angelic to the temptress, from the tender young
innocent to the overtly sexual. There seems to be no middle ground. Such
a firm pattern lends itself readily to analysis and no doubt a psychological
profile would provide some insight. Elvis had a stillborn twin brother,
Jesse Garon. Gladys insisted that she had been carrying identical twins
and impressed upon Elvis a belief that the personality of his stillborn
brother had been transferred to him. Possibly Elvis felt he had two people
inside his head. There was also the influence of his mother, Gladys. He
adored her – and any future wife and mother of his children would also be
placed on a pedestal. His future wife would therefore be chaste…while he,
on the other hand, could continue to sow his wild oats!
While Priscilla had been living at Graceland and studying at local schools, Elvis had moulded her into the image of his various fantasies, encouraging her to dye her hair black because he liked the colour of Debra Paget’s hair. Yet the decision to marry Priscilla was the Colonel’s. The man who had prevented Elvis marrying other amours literally ordered him to propose – and then took control of the wedding arrangements and resulting publicity. Exactly nine months after the marriage, Elvis’s only child, his daughter Lisa Marie Presley, was born. The marriage didn’t even survive five years and the couple split in 1972 when Cilla became romantically involved with a karate teacher, Mike Stone. Elvis divorced her the same year.
Priscilla then sought a career in show business, although she turned down the role of Tiffany Welles in ‘Charlie’s Angels’ before appearing as Jenna Wade in the ‘Dallas’ series. In recent years she has appeared as the romantic foil of Leslie Neilson in the ‘Naked Gun’ comedy movies. Through the years she has also been involved in affairs with a number of men, including actor Michael Edwards, hairdresser Ellie Ezerzer and writer Marco Garibaldi. She gave birth to Garibaldi’s child, Navarone, in 1987. Priscilla Presley who, at first, appeared to be a little girl easily manipulated, developed into a strong, mature businesswoman with a mind of her own. The fact that his own wife would reject him for another man shattered Elvis’s confidence. For the King to be cuckolded was humiliation enough, but many of his friends felt he began to go downhill after such a blow and began to lose himself in drug dependency.
Women would still flock round him, he could still take his pick of beautiful, teenage girls – and continued to do so – but something within Elvis had died when Priscilla turned out to be a Delilah.
|Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.|
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