Priscilla Presley was very much in love with Elvis – even after the couple divorced in 1973. And in the decades since the King’s death, his former wife has naturally spoken fondly of the years that she spent with the musical icon. That said, Priscilla has also told stories about the marriage that have very much raised questions – along with, no doubt, a few eyebrows. And perhaps among the most alarming anecdotes that she has shared is her recollection of what Elvis used to tell her when the pair lay together in bed at night.
Priscilla had been young, too, when she first encountered Elvis. The star – who had been serving in the U.S. Army at the time – initially met the girl who would become his wife at a house party at his German residence. And despite the significant age gap between Elvis and Priscilla – he was a whole ten years older than her at 24 – he was immediately taken by the teenager and made up his mind to date her.
Older men dating much younger women wasn’t an entirely unusual sight in 1950s America – although the prospect may be rather shocking today. Jerry Lee Lewis even married his 13-year-old cousin once removed, which appalled some in the U.K. when he arrived there on tour. According to Lewis’ biographers, however, the practice of wedding a barely teenage girl was normal in his family.
Nonetheless, some of Elvis’ buddies had apprehensions about his new love interest. In 2005 the Elvis Information Network website interviewed an old friend of the King’s, Lamar Fike, about his reaction when Priscilla came into the picture. And Fike revealed, “When I found out [that Elvis and Priscilla’s] relationship was more than just necking, I was afraid we were all going to prison without a trial. Elvis told me he had the whole thing in control. I said, ‘I hope you do. Otherwise, they’ll ship us home in a goddamn cage!’”
Priscilla has since opened up, too, about her first meeting with Elvis. When talking to People magazine in 1985, she recalled that he had asked her, “What are you, about a junior or senior in high school?” Embarrassed, the teenager had apparently then whispered that she was in the ninth grade. Elvis laughed at this revelation, however, and responded, “Why, you’re just a baby.”
Meanwhile, some biographers and friends of Elvis believe that the star was attracted to women who reminded him of his mother, Gladys. Mom and son had been very close, after all; the pair would allegedly even speak in “baby talk” to each other when Elvis was a grown adult. And, interestingly, it was not long after Gladys’ death that Elvis met Priscilla.
Then, of course, Priscilla began seeing Elvis. She recalled this period for People, explaining, “Gradually, a pattern developed. Elvis would call after 7:00 p.m. to let me know that I’d be picked up at 8:00 p.m. I had to dress quickly, trying to find some way to appear older than my age. At times, I’d borrow my mother’s clothes and hope everyone would assume I was at least 16.” And according to Biography.com, Elvis allegedly told his friend Rex Mansfield that he liked Priscilla’s youth; because of this, he could “train her any way [he wanted].”
Yet Priscilla has claimed that she and Elvis didn’t consummate their relationship for a long time. She wrote in the People piece, “I was young, desperately in love, and he could have taken advantage of me. But he quietly said, ‘No. Someday we will, Priscilla, but not now. You’re just too young.’”
Priscilla also revealed to People that Elvis had been keen to give her drugs. As she began falling behind in school after spending lots of time with the singer, he allegedly handed her some “small white pills.” And according to Priscilla, Elvis had then told her, “You don’t need to know what they are; they give them to us when we go on maneuvers. If I didn’t have them, I’d never make it through the day myself. But it’s okay; they’re safe.”
Priscilla apparently opted not to take the drugs, though, and she would go on to say to People, “Later I learned that the pills were Dexedrine, which Elvis had discovered in the army… He told me he’d begun taking sleeping pills shortly before he’d been drafted. He dreaded insomnia and feared sleepwalking, which had plagued him periodically since childhood.”
Ultimately, however, Elvis finished his army service and so moved away from Germany; Priscilla, on the other hand, stayed behind with her parents. And while the teenager’s folks warned her that Elvis would probably forget all about her once he was gone, she refused to believe it. At any rate, Priscilla kept up correspondence with her beau, sending him letters in bright pink envelopes that would make them stand out in amongst his other mail.
Yet Priscilla also had doubts about how faithful Elvis would be in her absence. She wrote for People, “During the periods when I did not hear from [Elvis], I couldn’t help but doubt that I would ever see him again. I gleaned every bit of news about Elvis that I could. But each story about [him] seemed to upset me all the more. He seemed to be romantically linked with many beautiful starlets in Hollywood – Tuesday Weld and Juliet Prowse among them.”
So, Priscilla managed to talk her parents into letting her go to the U.S. to see Elvis. There was even a little bit of subterfuge on the young woman’s part. You see, although her folks said that she absolutely had to send them a letter every day, she actually pre-wrote the letters instead and gave them to one of Elvis’ staff. Then Priscilla went with her older boyfriend to Las Vegas.
And before long, it became inevitable that Priscilla would move in with Elvis. With this big step on the cards, the Presley and Beaulieu families thus came to an arrangement: Priscilla would live in Memphis with Elvis’ parents and would attend a good school. Then, when she had graduated and was old enough, she would become the rock star’s wife.
During this time, Elvis also began telling Priscilla what she should wear. She wrote in the second part of her People piece, “He liked me in red, blue, turquoise, emerald green, and black and white – the same colors he himself wore. He hated browns and dark green – colors [that were] inextricably associated in his mind with the army.”
Nor was that apparently the end of Elvis’ preoccupation with Priscilla’s appearance. Allegedly, he also ordered porcelain caps for her teeth and demanded that she wear lots of makeup. In addition, the singer reportedly made demands on his girlfriend’s hair – wanting it to be dyed black and styled in a way that was reminiscent of his famous pompadour.
This was a whole new world for Priscilla, and it was an odd one to say the least. She wrote, “I was leading a double life – a schoolgirl by day, a femme fatale by night.” But she was also in some sense serving as a mom to her boyfriend. Priscilla added in the People piece, “I loved babying Elvis. He had a little-boy quality that could bring out the mother instinct in any woman – a beguiling way of seeming utterly dependent.”
What’s more, Elvis is said to have done some very strange things while he was with Priscilla. According to the star’s former wife, the King once got his driver to drop both of them off at the city morgue, after which the couple proceeded to view all the dead bodies there. And Priscilla has since explained that she was able to handle this bizarre trip until she came across the remains of a baby – at which point she burst into tears.
Elvis prayed for the baby, however, and allegedly told his girlfriend, “You have to see things like this sometimes. This is the hard, cold fact – reality. When you look at a body, you realize how temporary it all is, how it could end in a matter of minutes.” Elvis’ twin brother Jesse had been stillborn, in fact, and some biographers believe that this knowledge had had a major effect on the musician’s psyche.
Meanwhile, during this period, Elvis was reportedly taking drugs on a regular basis. Priscilla noted in her People piece, “It took [him] at least two to three hours to wake up fully. He was groggy and irritable from the sleeping pills, which were causing him to sleep as many as 14 hours a day. It seemed only natural for him to take some Dexedrine to wake up.”
And Priscilla went on to reveal that she had used drugs alongside him, adding, “I began taking sleeping pills and diet pills, too. Two Placidyls for him, and one for me. A Dexedrine for him, and one for me. Eventually Elvis’ consumption of pills seemed as normal to me as watching him eat a pound of bacon with his Spanish omelet.”
Then there was the problem of other women. The media reported, for instance, that Elvis had become close with Ann-Margret – his co-star in the 1964 musical movie Viva Las Vegas. But while Priscilla was understandably suspicious of these rumors, Elvis insisted that there was nothing going on.
So, Priscilla endured the speculation – until a newspaper claimed that Elvis and Ann-Margaret were engaged. What’s more, although filming on Viva Las Vegas had already finished, the on-screen couple were still being spotted out and about together. And while Elvis was angry at the report, Priscilla was so furious that she threw a vase at the wall.
Priscilla later explained in the People piece that Elvis had hurled her onto the bed in response. Then he apparently told her, “Look, damn it! I didn’t know this was going to get out of hand. I want a woman who’s going to understand that things like this might just happen. Are you going to be her or not?” And it seemed that, despite everything, she was.
Even so, Priscilla was pretty sure that her boyfriend was cheating a lot. Whenever Elvis was linked with another girl, then, she would try changing her hairstyle and clothes to match the other woman. Desperate to remain at the forefront of Elvis’ affections, Priscilla also began accompanying him on his travels.
But while the relationship between Elvis and Priscilla doesn’t appear to have been a healthy one, there were nevertheless moments of intimacy between the pair. At night time, you see, Elvis would apparently reveal his innermost thoughts to his girlfriend.
Priscilla wrote for People, “Each night that I was with [Elvis], he entrusted a little more of himself – his doubts, his secrets, and his frustrations. It was a lot to expect someone my age to understand, but I tried. I listened to his desires to become a great actor like his idols Marlon Brando, James Dean, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger.”
Priscilla went on, “Nights when his mood was calm and peaceful, he would describe his ideal woman and tell me how perfectly I fit this image. He liked soft-spoken brunettes with blue eyes. He wanted to mold me to his opinions and preferences. Fidelity was very important to him – especially on the woman’s part.”
Elvis ultimately married Priscilla, of course – although the wedding was reportedly the result of pressure from Priscilla’s father and the singer’s manager Colonel Parker. The two wed in 1967, with Priscilla then 21. But while the couple subsequently welcomed a daughter, Lisa Marie, their union wasn’t to last; in 1972 they separated and officially divorced the following year.
As many of us know, Elvis then passed away in 1977. The King was discovered on his bathroom floor by his girlfriend at the time, Ginger Alden – a woman he had proposed to but allegedly had no intention of actually marrying. Years of drug use had destroyed his body, and it had finally caught up with him.
And when looking back on her life with Elvis, Priscilla seems to have mixed feelings – particularly with regards to the “molding” part. In 1995 she told McCall’s, “I looked down at these clunky platform heels, and I thought, ‘My God, if Elvis ever saw these things, I don’t think I’d ever live to hear the end of it.’ He would have gone on and on about how ugly they were and told me to change them.”
Furthermore, in her explosive 1985 biography Elvis and Me, Priscilla claimed that Elvis had probably had a need to control her. The book explains, too, that the star’s ex-wife had been “fearful of not pleasing him [and] of destroying [her] image as his little girl.” And the biography itself saw some success, as it was actually made into a television film in 1988.
But, of course, plenty of time has passed since then – enough to give Priscilla further perspective on her life with the King. And in 2015 the actress would speak further on the matter with British TV host Jonathan Ross, saying, “You start losing yourself and who you are. And people always wanted to know… about him, and I do understand it a lot better now than when I was younger.”
Elvis’ one-time wife went on, “I was kind of lost, really, in who I was earlier in my life. I really didn’t have teenage years. I learnt so much about [Elvis] and was with him so much that I thought the way he did. I knew what he liked [and] what he didn’t like; I knew his thoughts. I knew everything as far as you could possibly do when you live together at such a young age.”
And in a 2016 interview on the U.K. TV show Loose Women, Priscilla went even more in depth. Her life with Elvis had been quite a closed one, she said, before explaining, “He didn’t really go out. He didn’t like eating in restaurants because people would take pictures of him… We literally lived in a bubble.”
Priscilla added, “I didn’t have my teenage years as a normal girl, obviously, so I had to adapt, and I guess I did adapt. I just sort of followed what [Elvis] did. I mean, you lived his life; you honestly didn’t have your own life. You lived his life, you saw the movies he wanted to see, you listened to the music he listened to, you go to places that he would go. So you really kind of lost yourself.”
And with regards to the other people she had had in her life at the time, Priscilla explained, “I was with his friends, and I was with the wives of his friends. They were pretty much chosen for me… It was lonely, and I didn’t have any information of what was going on with my age group.”
Naturally, then, life without Elvis took a bit of getting used to. Priscilla went on, “It was a journey. I’ve never had therapy, but it was quite a journey. I didn’t sign a check [until] I was 29 years old… Everything was there for me. But it was as a woman, I didn’t really know who I was… My considerations were his considerations, my fears were his fears, my likes were his likes.”
Priscilla added that it had taken her until she was 27 years old – the age she had been when she had split with Elvis – to finally gain a sense of self. She told the panel on Loose Women, “I did not divorce him because I didn’t love him. He was the love of my life, truly. If anything, I left because – and I still loved him – I needed to find out what the world was like, really.”
The actress also claimed, “The greatest thing about our relationship was that we still loved each other.” And yet, she revealed, throughout all her time with Elvis, she had “always had a little bit of make-up. He never wanted to see me getting dressed, he wanted to see the end result.” Now, Priscilla herself is that end result.
Yes, it’s true that Elvis and Priscilla’s relationship continues to fascinate the public to this day. After all, the fact that the singer’s life was cut tragically short only adds to his enduring legacy. And so, it’s only natural that rumors and questions surround Elvis’ final moments here on Earth. What exactly caused the legend’s untimely demise? Did he utter any poignant final words? And could the undisputed King of Rock and Roll have known that his 1977 show in Indianapolis would be his last?
Few who attended Indianapolis’ Market Square Arena on June 26, 1977, could possibly have known that they were witnessing a major piece of history. But that was the date of Elvis Presley’s final live concert ever. Indeed, less than two months later the King of Rock and Roll would be dead.
As you would expect from the days long before camera phones, footage of the show remains relatively scarce. Yet the details that have emerged suggest that the music icon did his live farewell in style. And, perhaps, that he appeared to sense that he might not ever return to the stage, either.
The historic show was certainly an emotional one. As well as delivering strong renditions of his biggest chart hits and several well-chosen covers, the musical pioneer also welcomed a whole host of pivotal figures in his life to share the spotlight. So, here’s a closer look at that momentous concert.
It’s fair to say that Elvis Presley wasn’t in a very good place at the beginning of 1977. What’s more, various members of the press appeared to take great delight in his downfall. In a particularly scathing piece, writer Tony Scherman described the star as a “grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self.”
To be fair, though, Elvis did give journalists lots of ammunition. He lasted barely an hour during a show in Alexandria, Louisiana, for instance. Meanwhile, a show in Baton Rouge had to be pulled when he couldn’t summon the energy to crawl out of bed. And three other dates also had to be canceled owing to the faded star’s erratic behavior.
Presley himself either wasn’t aware of or didn’t particularly care about the outside world’s opinion of him, mind you. He spent his spare time reading spiritual books or staying in his room, sometimes inviting his cousin to discuss his favorite sketches from Monty Python. But he also regularly fell into a state of paranoia – inevitably thereby drawing comparisons with famed recluse Howard Hughes.
Presley released what would be his final single, “Way Down,” in the first week of June that year. And shortly afterwards, he recorded two live shows for CBS’s Elvis in Concert special. One of the writers present at the first gig, Peter Guralnick, said that the singer was “a small, childlike instrument in which he talks more than sings most of the songs, casts about uncertainly for the melody in others and is virtually unable to articulate or project.”
That said, the same writer was a little more impressed by Presley’s second performance in South Dakota’s Rapid City two days later. Guralnick in fact noted that the star both “looked healthier” and “sounded better.” And yet the critic also said that the King’s face was “framed in a helmet of blue-black hair from which sweat sheets down over pale, swollen cheeks.”
But despite the less-than-stellar response to his shows and his worrying general wellbeing, Presley returned to the stage just days later. Yes, on June 26, 1976, the rock-and-roll legend hit the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis for what would be a historic show. And almost 18,000 fans showed up to see him in action.
And doubtless some of those attendees had only booked last-minute tickets for the event thanks to The Indianapolis Star’s cheeky article about the show. The local newspaper read, “If you admire Elvis Presley’s back, you still can buy $15 seats behind the stage for his concert at the Market Square Arena tomorrow night.” This price tag, for the record, would amount to roughly $60 in today’s money.
Concertgoers were then treated to various opening acts – ranging from a brass band to a stand-up comedian – before the King took to the stage at 10:00 p.m. The set opened with a version of Richard Strauss’ late-19th-century tone poem “Also Spake Zarathustra.” And Elvis then performed 12-bar-blues classic “See See Rider.”
Meanwhile, the crowd left waiting in anticipation was reportedly a mixed one. Indianapolis News reporter Zach Dunkin wrote, “The conservative audience was vintage 35-ish, sprinkled with several curious teenyboppers. There were foxy ladies dressed to impress and would-be Presleys in jumpsuits. A few tots had to be carried through the turnstiles because mom and pop couldn’t find a babysitter. Make room for a second generation of Presley fans.”
In any case, over the next 80 minutes those fans got to hear various uplifting Elvis classics performed live – including “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Little Sister.” He also sometimes slowed things down with more melancholic tracks such as “Hurt” and “I Really Don’t Want to Know.” And in addition, he coupled “Don’t Be Cruel” with “Teddy Boy.”
During the show, Presley covered several songs that had been made famous by other artists, too. These included Simon and Garfunkel’s signature hit “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny Be Goode.” And the set list also comprised a few solo performances from various members of Presley’s highly gifted backing band.
Presley wasn’t alone on the stage, after all. With support provided by the Joe Guercio Orchestra, the King had also assembled a group of accomplished musicians to accompany his famous dulcet tones. These artists included pianist Tony Brown, keyboardist Bobby Ogdin, guitarists John Wilkinson and James Burton, bassist Jerry Scheff and drummer Larrie Londin.
Presley introduced each and every musician on stage, as well as several other key names in his life, to the sell-out crowd. And it’s worth noting that this was an unusual practice by the King, too. Indeed, it led some to believe that Presley had had an inkling that he was nearing his end, and perhaps he even wanted to pay tribute to those who had supported him while he still could.
However, there’s another theory as to why the star appeared to be in such a reflective mood. A revealing biography penned by his ex-bodyguards Red and Sonny West was due to be published shortly after the gig. And the chapters about Presley’s substance-abuse issues had reportedly left him fearful about the damage that they could do to his career.
Meanwhile, those who were given shout-outs by Presley while he was on stage included his father and his girlfriend, Ginger Alden, and her family. The King had first started stepping out with the model the year before, and he had later presented her with a diamond-encrusted engagement ring. Tragically, moreover, Alden was to be the first person to discover Presley’s body on the day that he passed away.
Presley then brought the show to a close with an affecting rendition of his popular ballad “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” And before leaving the stage for what would sadly prove to be the last time, the star bade farewell to his captivated audience with the following words: “We’ll meet you again. God bless. Adios.”
Presley’s final performance certainly appeared to satisfy most of the nearly 18,000 fans who had visited the Market Square Arena. But it was a different story when it came to the critics. The most scathing response came courtesy of Zach Dunkin; and the writer for the Indianapolis News definitely wasn’t afraid to speak his mind.
First, Dunkin questioned why the King had put on the show in the first place. The writer said, “[Presley] obviously doesn’t need the money. He apparently doesn’t care about the way his concerts are packaged either.” Yes, the critic also took umbrage with the entertainment that had been lined up ahead of Presley’s arrival on stage.
“It’s like waiting through the sword-swallower and the fire-eater before seeing the REAL attraction in the back room,” Dunkin wrote about the support acts. And the reviewer also wasn’t a fan of the techniques that had been deployed by the merchandise sellers. You see, fans reportedly had to listen to several P.A. announcements imploring them to buy souvenirs.
Perhaps inevitably, however, it was the King who incurred the wrath of Dunkin the most. In fairness, the writer did concede that he’d admired the renditions of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Hurt.” But he was left unimpressed by the fact that Presley had had to perform those songs while looking at their lyrics on a sheet.
Dunkin ended his review with the kicker, “It’s time ardent Presley fans quit protecting their idol and start demanding more. They know ‘the King’ can do better.” And yet the critic’s suggestion had the opposite effect. You see, Presley’s supporters sent Dunkin a wave of hate mail in response to his takedown of their beloved idol.
Speaking to John Krull, Dunkin recalled how many fans had told him that he was simply jealous of Presley’s talents. Others, meanwhile, made more personal attacks. And yet the critic claimed that not every fan was so hostile. In one letter, for example, an admirer of the King agreed with Dunkin, saying that the star “should’ve stayed home.”
A more sympathetic review of the gig came from The Indianapolis Star’s Rita Rose. She wrote, “As the lights in the Arena [were] turned down after intermission, you could feel a silent plea rippling through the audience: please, Elvis, don’t be fat. At 42, Elvis is still carrying around some excess baggage on his midsection. But it doesn’t stop him from giving a performance in true Presley style.”
And while Rose may have started off her piece in skeptical mode, she soon changed her tune. She praised Presley’s performances of “This Time You Gave Me a Mountain” and “It’s Now or Never” in particular. Plus, the critic noted how excited the sell-out crowd had been to see their idol in action.
Rose wrote, “Elvis has limited his karate movements. But the stances he takes with his guitar generated screams and shrieks from delighted fans.” Many female audience members also jostled to catch one of the various scarves dangled by the King from the stage. In fact, Zach Dunkin claimed that the King threw no less than 46 different scarves during the set.
And in 2018 fan Todd Slaughter discussed how thunderstruck he had been by seeing his hero on stage in Indianapolis. He told The Big Issue, “It was a special show. He sang his heart out. Having only seen Elvis on stage in Las Vegas in previous years in front of an audience of 2,000 people, the atmosphere was equally electrifying [at this show]. And the whole audience erupted when he announced that in the audience there were 250 Brits.”
Slaughter, for his part, himself holds a special place in the history of the King of Rock and Roll. Indeed, the Brit – who has presided over a U.K. fan club for more than half a century – later met his idol at the airport in Indianapolis. And the footage of this event is reportedly the last ever to have been captured of Presley before his death.
There has never been an official release of the concert’s recording. However, grainy footage of the show can be viewed on YouTube. And years later an unofficial bootleg of the gig was made available by A.J. Records under the title of The Last Farewell before being re-released as Adios: The Final Performance.
Presley had made his last ever official recording at the end of October the year before. Yes, the star had entered the Jungle Room studio at his Graceland home to record a vocal overdub on a track called “He’ll Have to Go.” And the song appeared on Moody Blue, Presley’s 24th LP, which hit stores just a month before his passing.
Yet the last number that Presley ever sang wasn’t actually at Indianapolis’ Market Square Arena. In fact, it was a piano-led version of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” performed just hours prior to him passing away at his Graceland home. The song had been a hit for country legend Willie Nelson two years previously.
Presley was in fact due to head out of his Memphis hometown that same day to kickstart another wave of live shows. But the King never stepped foot outside his Graceland home again. You see, early that afternoon Presley’s girlfriend, Ginger Alden, found him lying completely unresponsive on the floor of one of his many bathrooms.
Alden’s eyewitness account read, “Elvis looked as if his entire body had completely frozen in a seated position while [he was] using the commode and then had fallen forward, in that fixed position, directly in front of it. It was clear that, from the time whatever [had] hit him to the moment he had landed on the floor, Elvis hadn’t moved.”
Presley’s death was officially confirmed at the Baptist Memorial Hospital at 3:30 p.m. later that same day. Around 80,000 fans subsequently thronged the processional route from his Graceland home to Forest Hill Cemetery following his funeral on August 18. And the King was buried alongside his mother, Gladys Presley, who had died in 1958.
Sadly, the venue of Elvis’ historic final gig is no longer standing. After its demolition in 2001, the space once occupied by the Market Square Arena would serve as a parking lot. However, a memorial marker was placed there to celebrate and commemorate such an important piece of rock-and-roll history.
This plaque was later moved along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail before being displaced during the building of the distribution headquarters of engine manufacturer Cummins. Then in 2018 it was moved to 320 E. Market St., just outside a Whole Foods store. And a time capsule featuring a recording of the gig was also sealed during the ceremony to celebrate the plaque’s new home.
Taking Care of Presley Memorial Benefit Committee co-founder Kay Lipps helped to organize the memorial. And interestingly, Lipps was also one of those lucky 18,000 fans who had crammed into the Market Square Arena on that historic day in June 1977. She was in the very front row, in fact.
Lipps told the Indianapolis Star that she had enjoyed Presley’s rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in particular. And the fan added, “It was one of his better late shows. I was happy to see him. He was in a good mood, and he was Elvis. His vocals, of course, were amazing.”