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 a correspondence with her beau, sending him letters in bright pink envelopes that would make them stand out 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.