ELVIS & Ginger
.......Elvis Presley's fiancee and last love finally tells her story
by Ginger Alden
Berkley Publishing Group, USA, 2014, Hardcover (d/j) and Kindle editions, 383 pages, Illustrated, ..............................ISBN-13: 978-0425266335
Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, September 2014
It has been 37 years in the making but finally, Elvis' fiancee and last love, Ginger Alden, has released her account of their relationship.
The picture Ginger paints of Elvis is a predominately positive one. She had concerns about his reliance of medications and his temper, but she also shows the warmth of Elvis Presley and that he wasn’t always withdrawn or emotionally down. Elvis laughed, talked, read books, played racquetball and had fun!
In reviewing ELVIS & Ginger it is necessary to address some of the vociferous claims made against Ginger's memoir and bring some balance to the debate.
While Elvis and Ginger were not always together during the time of their relationship (how many couples ever are?), they did spend a substantial amount of time in, and enjoying, each other’s company. This is well recorded in ELVIS & Ginger as it is in other books such as those by George Klein and Peter Guralnick.
Klein, in his 2010 memoir, Elvis: My Best Man, said of Ginger that she “seemed good for him” and that after her arrival in his life it was good to see Elvis “passionate about something again”.
Similarly, Peter Guralnick, in his seminal book, Elvis Day By Day, states that in order to keep Ginger with him on tour, Elvis flew in Ginger’s mother and sister, Rosemary.
And yes there are factual errors in ELVIS & Ginger, as some fans have been only too willing to point out. Greater care and research could have avoided those errors, which, in any case, are not of earth shattering importance.
The fact that the Jungle Room did not acquire that name until Graceland was opened to the public or that Elvis and Ann-Margret only made one film together does not materially injure the broader narrative. After all, ELVIS & Ginger is a memoir - a personal reflection, not an encyclopedia where attention to factual details is critical.
Rose colored glasses - issues ignored? Respectively, probably and yes. Ginger would hardly be the first person to view a special relationship through her own personal, refracting prism affected by the vagaries of time. Similarly, there are a few issues Ginger could have addressed (and it probably would have helped her in the eyes of some fans if she had), but for whatever reason she chose not to. These issues are well known to those interested in them and I don’t need to mention them here. In any case, autobiographies and memories are implicitly characterised by the author choosing what to mention and what not to mention.
In this context I recall a flood of negativity among fans about Priscilla’s memoir, Elvis and Me, when it was first published, yet today it is generally revered. As they say, time heals all wounds and allows a more balanced perspective on, once contentious, issues.
Some have criticised Ginger for lacking emotion in her narrative. This is an unfairly harsh view, which appears to be driven by a political agenda, rather than a balanced and considered appraisal of her book. While segments of ELVIS & Ginger are descriptive in nature and not surprisingly emotionally detached, there are also moments which reflect resonant emotional intensity:
That particular night in Binghamton, I experienced a complex convergence of emotions brought on by my own feelings of loss, coupled with my ongoing anxiety about Elvis’s dependency on sleep medication and the effects the drugs seemed to sometimes have on his personality. I really wanted to help him. Everything suddenly hit me like a freight train and I began to cry. I just needed to, if only to relieve the emotional pressure.
When he saw my tears, Elvis thought I must be upset with him. “You’re not happy with me,” he ventured.
I shook my head. How could I begin to explain? Then words came rushing out. “Elvis I love you,” I said. “It’s not that. It’s my parents art, it’s all these things.”
Finally, perhaps because I was in such a raw, vulnerable state, I added, “I also worry about you and your medications sometimes.”
If passages like these are uneasy for some readers, that should be their issue not Ginger’s, and certainly such passages should not be derided or stridently dismissed. Ginger, like everyone else who knew Elvis, has the right to publish a memoir. How readers view what she has written is a personal decision, as it should be.
Importantly, throughout ELVIS & Ginger, the author offers glimpses into who she "was" in 1977 and who she "is" today.
For example, in the Author’s Note opening her memoir, there is a poignant and revealing moment when Ginger’s son, Hunter, returns from school one day and says:
“Some of the kids on the bus were calling me Elvis! Who’s Elvis?”
In response to her son’s question, Ginger writes:
That afternoon, I told Hunter the simplest truth. “Elvis was a very famous entertainer,” I said. I breathed a sigh of relief when he ran inside, seemingly satisfied with my response.
Ginger Alden’s memoir is also interesting in that it records a range of minutiae about what Elvis and Ginger did on a day-to-basis when Elvis was away from the stage and his fans. Much of that minutiae will undoubtedly find its way into future encyclopedic records of Elvis’ life. Some of those small but engaging events are:
- Elvis playing a joke on Ginger’s family using McDonald’s vouchers
- Al Strada’s speeding tickets
- Elvis’ deep love for America
- the time fans throwing coins on stage infuriated Elvis as he thought they were trying to hurt him
- Elvis declining to attend a BBQ at the Alden home and the next day apologising to Ginger’s mother, Jo
- Jo Alden sleeping in Lisa-Marie’s bedroom at Graceland
That Ginger’s memoir recently debuted inside the top 20 of the New York Times Best Selling Hardcover Non-Fiction list and has also been ranked #1 on several Amazon best-selling lists is a clear statement that many fans are interested in the Ginger Alden story.
Summary: ELVIS & Ginger is a long overdue memoir and one which many fans will enjoy. It is a release that has already, quite emotionally, divided some fans. Regardless of one’s feelings about Ginger Alden, her book offers a positive and welcome window into Elvis’ final months and provides a record of some of the small things in life......and in Elvis’ case those small things are what countless researchers and authors have striven to find and report over many decades.
Between the lines, Ginger’s memoir also offers insight to what was an unusual relationship and, in so doing, begs questions about both Elvis and Ginger.
Another reviewer commented that “A rosy aura glows throughout this misty memoir of love and loss”. In my opinion, Ginger could have done a lot worse.
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