Published On: Sun, Aug 13th, 2017

Elvis Presley: The women who shared his life and love

They were his only wife, Priscilla, and his last girlfriend, actress Linda Thompson.

Linda finally dumped him months before his death when he weighed 25st and was suffering from diabetes, glaucoma, liver damage, an enlarged colon and extremely high blood pressure; conditions if not caused then certainly aggravated by his addictions to prescription drugs and binge-eating junk food.

Although Presley had been divorced from his wife Priscilla since 1973 and had dated then lived with Linda Thompson until Christmas 1976, his personal nurse Letetia Henley Kirk observed: “He was very miserable. More than anything else, he missed Priscilla. He was depressed about ageing and not having a woman to love. His friends kept pimping him with pretty 17 and 18-year-old girls but he had nothing in common with them.”

THE WIFE

Elvis met Priscilla Ann Wagner on September 13, 1959, at a party in Bad Nauheim, Germany, where he was completing his national service in the US Army and her step-father was serving in the United States Air Force.

The chemistry and mutual attraction was immediate. But the press had a field day when they discovered Priscilla was only 14.

To avert a scandal, and even the threat of prosecution, the couple publicly agreed not to consummate their relationship until she came of age and to be accompanied by at least one chaperone on every date.

He was depressed about ageing and not having a woman to love

Letetia Henley Kirk, Elvis’ nurse

In her 1985 autobiography, Elvis And Me, Priscilla describes him, oddly, as being a “very passionate man” who was not, however, overtly sexual towards her.

She claims to have remained a virgin until their wedding night on May 1, 1967, when she was 21 and says Elvis told her: “I’m not saying we can’t do other things. It’s just the actual encounter. I want to save it.”

The ceremony itself was hardly the stuff of fairy tales; an eight-minute “quickie” service at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas with only a handful of guests followed by a brief press conference to announce the nuptials.

Elvis Presley marrying Priscilla - With Linda ThompsonGETTY

Elvis Presley was married to Priscilla and later dated Linda Thompson after his divorce

Elvis’s domineering manager Colonel Tom Parker organised the ridiculously modest and far from romantic wedding schedule because he wanted to minimise publicity so as not to enrage The King’s millions of female fans.

Priscilla, who gave birth to Lisa Marie in February 1968, recalls: “It was difficult, especially at a young age, being a new wife and a new mother and being in rock and roll. I wanted to be a mom and yet I had to travel a lot as Elvis wanted me to be with him. It was a tug of war trying to make it all work.

“I was hated for marrying him and later hated for getting a divorce. Having people being critical but not knowing what your life was and not knowing that you were trying desperately hard to be a good wife, a good mother, a good companion. It was a hard road.”

That road was made infinitely more difficult because of his numerous casual affairs and one night stands and Priscilla eventually had a string of dalliances herself before she concluded that, while they deeply loved one another, she and Elvis simply didn’t work as husband and wife.

They walked out of the courthouse hand-in-hand after their divorce on October 9, 1973, and remained close friends until his dying day, often spending family time together with daughter Lisa Marie despite no longer being legally wed.

Today, Priscilla remains in overall charge of Graceland and is highly regarded as a wealthy businesswoman in her own right. As well as daughter Lisa Marie, Priscilla also has a 30-year-old son, Navarone, from an 18-year relationship with Hollywood producer Marco Garibaldi. She has never remarried.

Elvis and Priscilla weddingGETTY

Elvis and Priscilla remained good friends until his dying days

THE GIRLFRIEND

Actress Linda Thompson, now 67, fell for Elvis in 1972 when he and Priscilla were separated and she attended a private movie screening he was hosting at a cinema in Memphis.

She ended up moving into Graceland in a relationship that lasted four-and-a-half years until she walked out on him just before Christmas 1976 for the same reason Priscilla had ended their marriage; his endless infidelities.

In her book A Little Thing Called Life, published earlier this year, Linda describes how she at first put up with his affairs – just as her predecessor had done – because: “I was too desperately, devotedly and blindly in love to say no to him and move on.”

She also recalls with incredulity a conversation in which Elvis “expounded on his theory about how men and women differ when it comes to affairs of the heart”.

Elvis and Linda ThompsonGETTY

Elvis had a four years relationship with Linda Thompson but she left because of infidelities

She adds: “It’s an opinion I believe many men would second. Elvis said, ‘A man can have an affair, and it means nothing. When you hear that I’m going out with somebody else, most of the time I’m not even having sex. Most of the time I’m reading religious books to them and they’re very disappointed. But on the rare occasion that I have sex with someone else, it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean I’m falling in love with her. Women aren’t built like that. When a woman has an affair, she falls in love. That’s why it’s so important for women to be much more careful about having affairs, because they have a tendency to fall in love’.”

Linda described herself as being “naïve and blinded by my love for Elvis”.

She went on: “I ultimately believed what I wanted to believe. I listened to his words…instead of his actions. In the end, though, none of his words could make up for the fact that I was deeply hurt by his need to be with other women.”

In a statement she issued after finally walking out, Linda claimed to be leaving him because she wanted to live a “normal life”.

Five years later, she married decathlete Bruce Jenner, now better known as Caitlyn Jenner following gender reassignment surgery. They were divorced in 1985.

Lisa Marie PresleyGETTY

Lisa Marie Presley has also pursued a career as a singer-songwriter

THE DAUGHTER

Lisa Marie Presley was just nine years old when her father Elvis died and she became joint heir to his estate with her grandfather Vernon Presley and her great-grandmother Minnie Mae Presley, both of whom died before she inherited it in its entirety when she turned 25 in 1993.

The Presley fortune had dwindled to a mere £5million before his death but – thanks almost entirely to the stewardship of her mother Priscilla, who opened Graceland to the public – had bounced back to more than £100million by the time it was legally transferred to her name.

Though she had been in the mansion when Elvis died – and was kept away from his body by horrified household staff – she recalls him fondly as “the most exciting dad you could imagine. He’d wake me up in the middle of the night so we could sing together.

Lisa Marie Presley and Riley KeoughGETTY

Lisa is mother to actress Riley Keough

“He’d jump on a table and start singing and I’d join in and we’d have our own little concert in the kitchen or wherever.

“He’d be 81 if he were alive today and a lot of his fans probably couldn’t even begin to imagine him at that age. But I can. If he was still here, we’d still be singing the night away whenever we were together.”

Now a 49-year-old four-times married mother-of-four herself, Lisa’s own career as a singer-songwriter has been dogged by controversy, mainly surrounding her unions with second and third husbands Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage.

THE GRANDDAUGHTER

As the granddaughter Elvis never knew, as well as being Michael Jackson’s step-daughter, Riley Keough has lived her entire 28 years in an improbable celebrity vortex.

But she insists: “Growing up felt normal to me because I didn’t know any different.”

The daughter of Lisa Marie and first husband Danny Keough was born 12 years after Elvis died but adds: “I’ve heard so many stories from my mom and grandmother that I feel I know him in a way. There’s definitely an invisible bond there.”

A fast-rising Hollywood star, Riley has featured in 17 major movies with two more due for release next year.

In 2015 she married stuntman Ben Smith-Petersen, but the couple usually shy away from publicity.

In a rare interview last year she said: “The Elvis thing can be a little annoying when his fans recognise me and start asking what he was like, how it was to hang out with him and so on in the belief that I knew him. I didn’t but I wish I had.”

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Elvis Presley: The women who shared his life and love