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Memphis: Elvis' family and Graceland
She tells of the presence of prescription drugs from the first time she visited Elvis Presley in America. He took placidyls to get to sleep in ever increasing doses. She tells (p.151) how he would wake up at his normal time around 4:00 in the afternoon but would be groggy and irritable for a few hours from the heavy dose of pills. He started taking Dexedrine to wake up.
Priscilla recounts (p.158) Elvis liked old movie classics revolving around family or struggles to survive in the world such as Les Miserables, Wuthering Heights, It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Skeffington, Miracle on 34th Street, Letter from an Unknown Woman and his favorite, The Way of All Flesh the story of a self-sacrificing father, his wife and children.
Priscilla's book describes several episodes involving Elvis' explosive temper and his jealous nature, including how he went into a rage and threatened to fire a male employee who had acted too "friendly" with Priscilla. Conversely, she writes about Presley's double standard for his own behavior.
His promiscuity with other women led to several confrontations. Priscilla says she was aware he had been dating Anita Wood, a girl from Memphis, when they first met in Germany and that he had continued the relationship for nearly two years following his discharge from the army. When he asked Priscilla to move to Memphis he told her the relationship with Wood was over but she describes later finding a packet of love letters from Anita Wood in the attic at Graceland.
Priscilla says she read every one and writes Presley admitted to her he had a number of affairs with some of the women who co-starred in his films, but they "meant nothing" and all had been before she came to live with him. Nevertheless she understood these affairs were going on while he was professing love to Anita Wood.
In a televised interview on January 14, 2005, with Larry King on CNN's Larry King Live, Anita Wood said that following media reports of a girlfriend in Germany, Elvis "had me believing that she (Priscilla Beaulieu) was just a friend and her daddy was in the Army with him, and there was nothing to it whatsoever."
The Ann-Margret affair
Of the many women involved with Elvis Presley the one who worried Priscilla Beaulieu most was actress/singer Ann-Margret, who co-starred with him in the film Viva Las Vegas. In her book Priscilla devotes four pages to the subject (175 to 178). She writes there was a lot of publicity about a romance between Elvis and Ann-Margret during the 1963 filming and the following weeks when Presley returned to Hollywood to record the music and prepare for his next film.
Despite his denials of an affair Beaulieu went to Los Angeles and stayed with him. Aware Priscilla was there, Ann-Margret took matters into her own hands and suddenly announced to the Los Angeles press that she was engaged to Elvis Presley. The news was picked up by every major newspaper in America and Elvis informed Priscilla that he and Colonel Tom Parker thought it best for her to "go back to Memphis till it calms down." Beaulieu picked up a vase and fired it across the room, screaming that Ann-Margret should "keep her ass in Sweden where she belongs."
But, desperate to please him, she went back to Graceland the next day. Elvis showed up two weeks later, admitted the affair was true but promised he had ended it. Of all the movie stars Elvis Presley worked with, Ann-Margret was the only one to attend his funeral.
The very next line of Priscilla's book says that after the Ann-Margret ordeal she soon suspected there were other women. She started traveling everywhere with him but says she would still "get crazed with worry." Priscilla writes she was afraid that the moment she was away from him another woman could slip in. She says when she heard a rumor about one of the starlets she would sometimes do things like suggest coming to the movie set but he would refuse. In other instances she recites how her insecurities would lead her to imitate the other woman's appearance, changing her clothes, hairstyle and makeup to hopefully please him.
If she forcefully challenged Presley on her suspicions he would threaten to send her home to her parents. One such confrontation led to a screaming match where he told her to get out. Bags packed, chauffeur ready to take her to the airport, he changed his mind at the last minute and she willingly stayed. Priscilla writes that it was years later before she realized his tactics were part of a need to control her. This was all before they were married but in her 2005 made-for-television documentary titled Elvis by the Presleys, she admitted he had affairs with other women during their marriage.
The Beatles' shadow, mysticism and drugs
By 1965 The Beatles had overwhelmed the music industry and Presley’s record sales began to slip noticeably. Uncertain about who he was and where his career was going he turned to spiritualism, dragging an uninterested Priscilla with him. He had not performed live for several years and labeled most of his movies as a joke. Her book says, by the time filming was to begin on Clambake (released 1967), Presley's growing distress with the quality of his films led to a despondency accompanied by overeating and his normal 170 pound (77 kg) weight ballooned to 200 lb (91 kg). The movie studio ordered him to lose the weight in a hurry, marking the introduction of diet pills to the already excessive regimen of placidyls and Dexedrine which would eventually kill him.
In his search for a "higher state of consciousness" Presley became fascinated with the occult and metaphysical phenomena. Priscilla relates how during his spiritual quest everyone around them saw Presley's personality change dramatically from vibrant and playful to being passive and introverted. When this phase of his life passed she and Elvis had a bonfire and burned the stacks of magazines and books he had accumulated on the subject. Priscilla writes they tried marijuana during this time but didn't like it because it made them ravenously hungry, with extra weight the unwanted result. Although Presley abhorred street drugs Priscilla tells how they used LSD. While they both thought it had been an "extraordinary experience" they were afraid of it and experimented that one time only.
Marriage, family, and the Nancy Sinatra factor
Priscilla Ann Beaulieu and Elvis Presley were married on May 1, 1967 in Las Vegas, Nevada. She wrote that being called Mrs. Elvis Presley sounded better than live-in Lolita, teen heartthrob or other labels given her in the past by some of the press. After the wedding ceremony Frank Sinatra's private jet flew them to their Palm Springs, California home. Like the romantic she claimed Elvis was, he carried his new bride across the threshold singing "The Hawaiian Wedding Song", then carried her straight to the bedroom.
After a second wedding reception at Graceland for friends and Memphis locals, Priscilla and Elvis went to his ranch near Horn Lake, Mississippi where they locked themselves away for several days of much needed privacy. However the press and the curious showed up, lining a fence on the property's perimeter and standing on the tops of cars to take photos.
Priscilla Presley says they planned on children but not right away and she was not prepared for her pregnancy. She considered an abortion, in part because Elvis had made derogatory comments in the past about "women using pregnancy as an excuse to let themselves go." As a result of her constant sense of insecurity she went on a diet and lost weight so that by the time she gave birth she weighed less than she had before getting pregnant. She wrote that during her pregnancy they had made love passionately until she began hearing rumors about Elvis and his co-star on the set of the film Speedway. When Priscilla Presley asked her husband about the stories he dismissed them out of hand, telling her she was being overly sensitive due to her "condition."
However, six months into her pregnancy, Nancy Sinatra telephoned Priscilla and said she wanted to give her a baby shower. Priscilla wrote that she was apprehensive about such a request coming from a woman she hardly knew but Elvis assured her it was a good idea and she should accept. Priscilla says she went along with it and got along well with Sinatra. All seemed to be nothing more than her insecurity fueled by the never-ending gossip columns until a week or so later when Elvis informed her he needed time to think and wanted a trial separation. Numb, all she could say was: "You've got it. Just tell me when to leave." She lived in agony for days but he changed his mind without ever saying a thing. Two months later, their daughter Lisa Marie was born in Memphis on February 1, 1968.
The '68 Comeback Special to the end
Free to shape his own career after the MGM motion picture contract expired in 1968, although still bound to complete two more films, Presley accepted an offer from the NBC network to do a television special. Priscilla wrote that NBC executives offered "open development" along with a young director named Steve Binder who was receptive to presenting Presley in a way he could be himself. Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special was an enormous success, the highest-rated television special of the year and his closing song titled If I Can Dream became his first million-selling record in several years.
The television special motivated him and he began recording at the African American-influenced American Sound Studios in Memphis owned by Chips Moman. Priscilla writes that, filled with new energy, he recorded so many songs RCA Records needed a year and a half to release them all. Included in these sessions were hits such as Suspicious Minds that went to No.1 on the Billboard Charts, In The Ghetto and Kentucky Rain. He signed to perform for a month at the new International Hotel in Las Vegas. Every show was sold out with thousands turned away at the door. This success led to a five-year contract for appearances twice a year, with the largest fee ever paid to any singer in history. Unfortunately his renewed popularity brought a large increase in the number of death threats, requiring a significant increase in personal security.
Priscilla Presley said that after years of unhappiness over his career, for a time his triumphant return to a live stage brought new vitality to their marriage. However, before long the renewed stardom with regular touring around the United States and appearances in Las Vegas meant he was away from his family more, reviving the problem of other women in his life. The day he suggested she cut back on her regular visits to see him in Las Vegas only added to her anxieties and things grew worse when she went to their Palm Springs home and found a number of letters from girls showing they had obviously been there.
In her book Priscilla Presley admits she had two affairs of her own and their up and down marriage was irreparably broken down by 1972. The last straw came when Elvis, possibly having learned of the second affair with her karate instructor, forced himself on her in his Las Vegas hotel room, telling her, "This is how a real man makes love to a woman."
Separated on February 23, 1972, the Presleys divorced amicably on October 9, 1973, mutually agreeing to share custody of their daughter. Elvis had made another televised special called Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii in January of 1973 but after not seeing him for several months prior to the actual court hearing, Priscilla was bewildered by his physical appearance, remarking on how swollen his hands were when she held them in hers. Less than four years later, he was dead.
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