The facts and mythology of Elvis Presley's life are so far-reaching that they've spawned dozens of books, examining the King of Rock 'n' Roll seemingly from every possible perspective. Except, oddly, for that portion of his audience he arguably was most eager to please throughout his life: women.'I had already done three Elvis books, but I realized, 'Wait a minute -- there hasn't been a book that looked at him almost purely from the female perspective,' said veteran music journalist Alanna Nash, author of the new biography published this week, Baby, Let's Play House: Elvis and the Women Who Loved Him.'Since he is probably the most important male sex symbol in history,' Nash said, 'the idea seemed viable, and also because he was such a woman-centered man, mainly because of the closeness with his mother.'Nash conducted interviews with 40 to 50 women who had contact of some sort with Presley during his life, including classmates, relatives, girlfriends and costars. Among the relationships she explores are those with actresses Ann-Margret, Cybill Shepherd, Raquel Welch, Mary Ann Mobley, Barbara Eden and Yvonne Craig; she also examines Presley's ties to such pivotal early love interests as Dixie Locke, Barbara Hearn, June Juanico and Carolyn Bradshaw.At the center of it all, emotionally and psychologically, is Elvis' mother, Gladys, the onetime life of the party whose downward descent seemed to begin almost from the day she gave birth to the future King.Because his twin brother died at birth, 'From the moment Elvis was born, mother and son demonstrated a remarkable closeness,' writes Nash, also the author of biographies on Dolly Parton and newswoman Jessica Savitch, in addition to earlier works focusing on key members of Elvis' entourage, including his manager, Col. Tom Parker and the circle of cronies known as 'the Memphis Mafia.'She argues that the already worrisome Gladys became incapable of nurturing her surviving child toward independence as an adult and that his brother's death also left a crucial void in Elvis that no one, certainly none of his romantic partners, would ever be able to fill. After three deaths in the immediate family before Elvis was 1, Gladys 'clung to her son tighter than before, almost as if he were a shield against a treacherous and mercurial world, where disaster could strike at any second and take away all that mattered,' Nash writes Nash examines how that mother-son knot eventually doomed Elvis in his personal relationships and colored his working relationships and career choices.She points out that many of the women Presley was attracted to physically resembled Gladys or his long-lost twin, and that many of them were 14 -- including the only one he ever married, Priscilla Beaulieu -- when they came into his life. It was at that age that Nash argues Elvis stopped developing emotionally. If anything, 'Baby Let's Play House' heightens the heartbreaking aspects of Presley's life. He died in 1977 at the age of 42. 'His tragedy is not simply that he died too soon, without breaking his dependence on prescription drugs and realizing the enormity of his talent in projects that fed his creative Muse,' Nash writes in her epilogue, 'but that he was forever trapped in a loop of dissatisfaction and suffering, stemming from the loss of his twin and the premature death of his mother, with whom he had been lethally enmeshed since childhood. --Los Angeles Times
Just when you thought you knew all there was to know about Elvis Presley the drugs, the diet, the elephantine enemas it turns out that the debonair pill-popper and grits-choffer was also a complete sex addict, a 'randy rooster' who pelvised his way through hundreds of starlets, beauty queens, schoolgirls and strippers. At first the subject matter seems unpromising: surely the King, with his creepy idolisation of his sad-sack momma, Gladys, and his fetishistic interest in teenage girls, was more of a timid mummy s boy than a rock n roll Casanova who troughed his way through more virgin gussets than deep-fried PB&Js Nash has really put her back into it, producing 600-plus pages of anecdotes and spicy reminiscences from tremulous former flings, still obsessed 40 years after they lassoed him with their pantyhose in the lobby of the Las Vegas Hilton. Admittedly, a lot is rehashed from old biographies and articles, and there s reams of lavender-notepaper fill-in such as He kissed like a God. There aren t any huge scoops, unless you count the revelation that Elvis s wife Priscilla, the doll-like minx he met as a 14-year-old in 1958, and married in 1967, probably wasn t a virgin on her wedding night and might have gone to some lengths to obscure this. But the detail is fantastic: the cheesecake hysteria of his early shows, knickerless chicks called Wanda and Sherry lifting their skirts and hopping hungrily over table tops to get to their idol, screaming so loudly that his band had to take their cues from Elvis s body language. We were the only band directed by an ass, recalls his guitarist Scotty Moore. Elvis, who wore make-up and dyed and permed his greasy ducktail hair from an early age, apparently responded with hound-dog enthusiasm, groping his way lubriciously into crowds of girls, sucking fingers ( he proceeded to take Gloria s right hand to his mouth and suck each of her fingers, rotating his tongue around them one by one ) and pressing them up against walls, shoving his tongue straight down their throats. At one point, Parker instructed him to tell the press: 'Well, I have about 25 girlfriends that I date.' It wasn t far off the truth, because Elvis 'had a girl for every night and every occasion', recalls one groupie. He partied until his nose bled: right through his courtship of and marriage to Priscilla, who tried to enliven their dwindling romance by dressing up as a schoolgirl and (yawn) putting on lesbian floor shows. There were famous crushes, too Ann-Margret and Nancy Sinatra as well as moments with Monroe (she took one look at his spotty friends and said no), and 'mad' Natalie Wood who pursued him avidly: 'Tell him I m the best f*** in town.'The various backdrops, kidney-shaped hotel pools, gold bidets, humid film sets, are all deliciously evocative; the author has a high sense of romance, and often seems as aerated by Elvis as most of her subjects, claiming repeatedly things such as, 'Wanda/Sherry was the girl Elvis might have married.' She even goes so far as to suggest that a brush with Elvis ruined his conquests for life. In one of her less forensic examinations, she states: 'Though Jackie went on to marry, Once you d kissed Elvis, it was all downhill ...Her sentiment is common among women who enjoyed any involvement with Elvis...Jackie herself divorced after nearly 42 years of marriage.' No great stylist, Nash is also given to flabby generalisations and cod psychology. Still, when it comes to particulars, she can be refreshingly to the point: teenage girls, white panties, 'nice legs, a decent face, a shapely derriere; breasts were secondary', a lot of kissing and fumbling, a bit of artful penetration. She can be frighteningly anatomical: Presley, a dirt-poor boy with a 'hillbilly [uncircumcised] penis that he called Little Elvis...1 --Sunday Times online, April, 2010
About the Author
Alanna Nash is also ‘responsible for the best Elvis book to date (Uncut magazine): Elvis Presley: Revelations from the Memphis Mafia. A feature writer for the New York Times, she lives in Louisville, Kentucky.