Linda Thompson was romantically involved with Elvis in the 1970s and, except for Priscilla, was probably the most import partner that Elvis ever had.
She lived with Elvis at Graceland for four and a half years, from 1972 to 1976. When Elvis was admitted to Baptist Memorial Hospital for eighteen days in November 1973, Thompson stayed with him in the same room. The hospital bent its rules and supplied her with a cot.
Elvis' close friends have always stated that without Linda Thompson by his side an earlier death was clear possibility.
As part of Elvis Week 2010, EIN presents a interview special with Linda Thompson - combining Alanna Nash's 2007 interview along with the longest interview Linda Thompson has ever done for CNN in 2002.
In 2007 author Alanna Nash interviewed some of the key women in Elvis' life for the US magazine Ladies' Home Journal.
This led in part to Alanna Nash's fascinating fourth book about Elvis, Baby, Let’s Play House The Women Who Loved Elvis. The women interviewed represent some of those who were romantically involved with Elvis and others who enjoyed a platonic relationship with him. Offering a unique and comprehensive female perspective on Elvis, Baby, Let’s Play House adds immeasurably to our understanding of who Elvis was by offering a unique window to his soul.
Here, as part of Elvis Week 2010, EIN presents a interview special with Linda Thompson - combining Alanna Nash's 2007 interview along with the longest interview Linda Thompson has ever done for CNN in 2002.
Linda Thompson was romantically involved with Elvis in the 1970s and, except for Priscilla, was probably the most import partner that Elvis ever had. Linda Thompson majored in English at Memphis State University and won the talent title of Miss Memphis State, in addition to having been the third runner-up in the Miss USA Pageant. She lived with Elvis at Graceland for four and a half years, from 1972 to 1976. When Elvis was admitted to Baptist Memorial Hospital for eighteen days in November 1973, Thompson stayed with him in the same room. The hospital bent its rules and supplied her with a cot.
Elvis' close friends have always stated that without Linda Thompson by his side an earlier death was clear possibility.
Linda Thompson, - Elvis' girlfriend and close partner 1972 - 1976
Linda Thompson: Elvis was a very tender soul. He had such a good heart.
We literally bought out a pet shop one night. Elvis paid for about 20 dogs, just gave them out to his friends. And we kept this chow, little Get-Low. He was a beautiful dog, but Elvis was going to get rid of him because we read an article that said chows turn on their masters 80 percent of the time. Elvis said, "I don't want to have to be worried about leaving this dog with you, or come home and find you have to have plastic surgery." But I said, "Oh, give the little fella a chance. He may turn out all right." So I raised him, and he turned out to be as gentle as a kitten. He was our sweetheart. But he had a congenital kidney ailment. I don't know if that made him so lethargic he didn't feel like being mean, but he had a wonderful disposition.
About three o'clock one morning, Get-Low was acting really strange, so we had a doctor come over. He said, "I don't think the dog will make it through the night." So Elvis leased a Learjet and flew Get-Low, my girlfriend and me, and the doctor up to Boston to a special clinic for kidney dialysis. We left him up there for about three months. But he didn't live long after that. He was only about a year old. We were on tour when he died, and we were coming home on his plane when they told us. Elvis just cried.
I was with him for four and a half years, from 1972 to 1976. He surrounded himself with people whom he loved and trusted, because he was so secluded from the world, and so sheltered. But a lot of people got very greedy. I think that's one reason Elvis felt lonely at times, he realized that even if they cared about him, they still lost sight of him as a human being. He would get depressed because he felt people didn't love him for being the simple person he was. They forgot about him as just a regular person with feelings like all of us.
I think it's a terrible thing for people to say they couldn't imagine Elvis growing old. Everybody has that right, even if they're a sex symbol. He wanted to live to be an old man. He wanted to see Lisa have children, and he wanted to see his grandchildren. He had no idea he would die so young.
One morning at about seven we were lying in bed, and I felt something wasn't right. His breathing was strange. I shook him, and I said, "Honey, are you okay?" And he said, "I can't get my breath!" He had pneumonia.
I called for the nurse, and she brought some oxygen over, and we had to rush him to the hospital. I stayed with him for two and a half weeks. Whenever he went to the hospital, I went to the hospital. So it was "we" went to the hospital.
Elvis needed more love and care than anybody I've ever met. Probably more than anybody in this world ever has. Because he was who he was, and what he was, and yet he had come from obscurity, from Tupelo, Mississippi, and poor parents. And he did enjoy having a mother image around him. But I think it's wonderful if you can be all things to each other. And he and I were. He called me "Mommy." And he was like my father at times.
And we were like brother and sister at times, and we were like lovers at times. It was a full, rich relationship. For a long time, we didn't need anybody else, really. I truly, truly loved him, and I wouldn't have cared if he were John Doe. I loved him as a human soul. Elvis was really a wonderful person. We often thought it would be fun to just go away and live in a little shack on a farm and just forget fame and fortune and all the craziness that goes with it.
For more on Allana Nash's - the best Elvis book released in the last year 'Elvis, Baby, Let’s Play House' - go here to our Exclusive Alanna Nash interview.
In 2002 Linda Thompson was interviewed on CNN.
While it is the longest interview Lind Thomspon ahs given we believe you will find it a totally fascinating read.
Q: Thanks Linda for agreeing to this interview. Is this hard for you?
Linda Thompson: I have been very judicious about the interviews that I have agreed to do through the years. So it is a little bit difficult for me.
Q: So you were how old when you met Elvis?
Linda: Well, you know that Elvis liked them young, so I was very young. I had just turned 22. But chronologically, I was older than I was emotionally, having grown up in the South in a kind of a very sequestered environment, you know, very traditional, very conservative. So I was twenty-two going on, you know, 13.
Q: What was the occasion?
Linda: I was Miss Tennessee. I was Miss Tennessee Universe in 1972, and Elvis was Elvis. And I was invited to go to the Memphian Theatre, which he rented out after midnight to screen films. That was prior to screening rooms. We lived in Memphis. Elvis would screen new movies, some old movies, a lot of karate movies.
He loved karate. And he loved action movies like that. So, I was invited to go to the theatre. And Miss Rhode Island, Jeannie LeMay, was my roommate in the Miss USA pageant. She was living in Memphis. And she and I went to the theatre and were introduced to him properly.
(See EIN interview with Jeannie LeMay)
Elvis said "Hello, honey, where have you been all my life?" See, in the beginning, you know, he was a little smitten, you know, physically.
He wasn't together with Priscilla at the time. I met him July 6, 1972 and he had been separated since December, January. But I didn't know. It hadn't been released to the press. So I was pretty standoffish, because, you know, I was a good Southern Baptist girl.
Q: This was your first date with Elvis Presley?
Linda: He sat next to me. He came and sat next to me during -- he just got up during the film and came back and plopped down next to me. Jeannie LeMay sitting next to me kept poking me in the ribs with her elbow. Then Elvis pulled the old yawn-and-stretch-the-arm over the back of the seat next to me.
Q: What did you think, being 13?
Linda: I thought he was -- you know, being 13 emotionally, I thought he was still married and I was very standoffish. And he finally, during one of his nuzzles, Elvis said, "Honey, you know I'm not married any more," to which I responded, "no, I didn't. But, you know, I'm sorry that it didn't work out for you, but you should have married a southern girl."
Elvis always remembered my saying that, because he said you have no idea how honest that was and how truthful and how right on that was, because only if you grow up in the South do you understand that culture completely. And he was very southern. And so I think we had an immediate kinship. We were like kindred souls right away.
Q: Do you remember the movie?
Linda: No, I don't! It's funny because I didn't remember it the next day. Afterwards I left -- I was staying at my aunt's house, my Aunt Betty. So I went back to her house. And at 4:00 a.m., the phone rang.
Q: So you had given Elvis your number?
Linda: I wrote my number. I was -- being Miss Tennessee. And Elvis said, "I'd like to get your number". And I said, well, I don't have a pen and I don't have piece of paper. So I made him do the work. And he went and got some paper and pen and he wrote down my number on a matchbook. And then I got home and I was kicking myself. I thought, oh, he'll never call me. I should have been a little more attentive than that.
Q: You wanted to see him?
Linda: Of course. Elvis was an amazing -- well, I grew up on him. You know, I grew up in Memphis and I grew up listening to his music and going to his movies. He was 36 at the time.
He called at 4:00 in the morning, and my Aunt Betty, you know, very southern gracious lady, "hello." And I hear her saying "why, yes, she is. Just a moment, please." Then she goes, "oh, my God. It's Elvis Presley on the phone." So, I said, hi, you know, it's kind of late to call. He said I just want you to know how happy that I met you this evening, and, you know, I want to know where you've been and don't disappear on me. I want to see you again. Can you come over tomorrow? I'd like to introduce you to my father, Vernon, and I'd like you to see Graceland.
Q: Did you go over the next day?
Linda: I went right over the next day, yes. Jeannie and I went over 'cos I said, you know, I'd like to bring my friend because I was still, you know, very much an innocent and kind of naive. And I said, I'd like to bring my friend. And he said, certainly, she's more than welcome.
Elvis was sitting in the Jungle Room, which was the TV room. There was a big waterfall in this room. And he was waiting for me there. And I met his father. I met a lot of the men who worked for him, Red and Sonny West and Joe Esposito, and, you know, a lot of the guys. And we just ended up riding the golf cart together. He had golf carts on the property, and old corn rows in the back of Graceland, which were bumpity-bump, you know, when you went riding on these little golf carts. It was a thrill ride.
Q: Was he forward on that trip?
Linda: Not at all. He was a very respectful. He had kissed me the first night in the movie theatre. But the second day, he was very respectful and very much the southern gentleman. He was a very dichotomous human being, very paradoxical. On the one hand, you know, he had this raucous image, and he did have a raucous sense of humour, irreverent sense of humour. But he was very pious on another level and very puritanical...
Q: What happened in the ensuing days?
Linda: Well, interestingly enough, I disappeared for two weeks. I went on vacation with my aunt and uncle to Golf Shores, Alabama. I told Elvis I was going, but it didn't quite register. And I didn't leave him a forwarding number. And so I literally disappeared for two weeks after having met him those two nights in Memphis, and having connected as intensely as we did. I left his house. I left Graceland and said, I'm going on vacation, I'll be back and hopefully I'll see you again. And when I returned two weeks later and, you know, I agonized when I was away.
Q: Did you think of him a lot?
Linda: All the time. And I played his music, and, you know, I was saying, Aunt Betty, do you think he'll call, and maybe he'll forget about me. I didn't have his number. I mean, it was like -- you know, I would have never asked him for his number. And he had my number.
But moment I walked back into my Aunt Betty's house, he was calling on the phone. It was Joe Esposito actually. He said, "I have memorized your number. We've looked high and low. We've looked everywhere for you. Where have you been? Elvis wants you here tomorrow." I had just arrived in the evening.
Elvis got on the phone and said, "I have been looking for you and I have been desperate for you. I want you to be here tomorrow. I'm going to Las Vegas." This was in August and I said, well, I don't know if I can pull it together in time. I just got back from vacation. And he said, "Just bring a toothbrush or don't even worry".
Q: So did you go to his Las Vegas opening?
Linda: Well, he was there for rehearsal, so I was there for two weeks of rehearsals and then for the opening. And he sent me to a store called Suzy Cream Cheese and she made all these outrageous gowns. And, you know, I had my collegiate clothes, my little pleats and, you know, my little innocent clothes. And he sent me over to Suzy Cream Cheese and she outfitted me appropriately. (EIN Note - see right!!)
Q: What was the first night like with Elvis?
Linda: You know, when I first arrived in Las Vegas and Elvis said here's our room, and I said, you know, I really would prefer to have my own room. And he said, "Honey, you can trust me. We can be here together. We can get to know each other very well, so don't worry about intimacy too quickly".
And he was a man of his word. It was months before we became intimate. We were together, but, you know, cuddling. And, you know, he was just -- he was a man of his word. I just knew it was up to me, whenever I said I was ready. And I wanted to establish his feelings for me because that was important to me. I had obviously maintained my virginity for as many years as I had. And it was important to me.
Q: Did you go watch his show every night?
Linda: Every night, yes. Every night. You know, he dedicated songs to me and... it was like being with Prince Charming on many levels, because he was like Santa Claus every day. He was inordinately generous of spirit. He was a big giver. He derived much more pleasure from giving than receiving. You know, his life was lived very biblically. You know, he really followed the bible and he also was on a spiritual quest to find out how other people of other faiths lived their lives. And he used to wear an Egyptian ankh, a star of David and a crucifix around his neck. And when people would say are you confused, he would say, no, not at all. I just don't want to miss heaven on a technicality.
So, he embraced all faiths and he was extraordinarily generous. So, in some ways, it was like living with a saint and being with Prince Charming and Santa Claus every day.
Q: So you ended up living together?
Linda: We lived together for four-and-a-half years. We didn't get married 'cos by the time I reconciled in my mind that this was something that I didn't want to do, Elvis decided he was ready. I was ready more in the beginning. Elvis was going through a divorce and he had been separated for seven months when I met him.
(Right: The memorable photo of Linda in the Jungle Room)
Q: Did you get to see his daughter?
Linda: Oh, yes. I met Lisa right away. I have known Lisa since she was four years old. I still know her very well. Elvis was a great father. He adored his little girl. If love is any measure, and I believe that it is, I believe that's all there is...
Q: Did you meet Priscilla, too?
Linda: I met Priscilla but only a couple of times. Priscilla was really not on the scene as much as people might assume.
Q: And then when he wanted to get married, why didn't you?
Linda: Because I realized that I didn't want to live my life as a vampire. We were awake all night, sleeping all day. I didn't want to bring more children into the world who would have to compromise their hours and the way they lived. Literally up all night.
Q: When he did the shows he couldn't go to sleep?
Linda: Well, not just when he was doing shows. This was back at Graceland. Wherever we were, Palm Springs. Elvis lived his life out of the public eye, so when everybody else was up going to work and doing whatever they did in the daytime, we were sleeping. And then we would wake up at 9:00 p.m. at night and have breakfast. Be up all night, rent movie theatres, watch movies, do whatever we did all night.
Q: Was he going through weight cycles then?
Linda: Yes, he always battled his weight. I mean, Southerners love to eat, what Southerner doesn't? We structure our social life around that. It did bother him. And the criticism bothered him. He was a very sensitive, acutely sensitive person to other people's perceptions of him. And, you know, he just -- it did hurt his feelings a lot.
Q: Were you inseparable those four years? Would you say you didn't see other guys and he didn't see other girls?
Linda: I certainly didn't see any other guys. But I know he saw other girls. Not the first year. The first year we were together, I think he broke his world record for having been faithful. I know that he didn't because we were together the first year 365 days for that first year, 24 hours a day.
And after that, you know, he couldn't do much without it being public knowledge. And certainly I was no dummy.
Q: Did you and Elvis have fights?
Linda: We had arguments about it. And again, I tried to reconcile in my mind, this is Elvis Presley. I understand that he is secluded from the rest of the world, and it's not all about sex. It's not all about being physically unfaithful to me. He wanted to be surrounded with other people who might bring different ideas into his life. He apologized for it when he was caught. Most of the time he denied it.
And then he apologized profusely and said, "You're the only person I love and nobody ever compares to you. And every time I have an indiscretion, it just makes me realize how much more you mean to me". And I would always forgive him.
Q: Was Elvis lonely because he couldn’t go out in public?
Linda: Intrinsically lonely at heart. Yes, he was. And he used to always say, "I'm intensely lonely at heart". We never went out. I mean, the world came to him, literally. He didn't go out. You know The Beatles, everybody came to him. Barbra Streisand came to him, everybody who wanted to have an audience with him came to him. He didn't go out.
Q: He always gave the public everything?
Linda: He never meant to throw away a show. There might have been times when he didn't give all he had because he wasn't feeling well, but absolutely he put his heart and soul into it, and he loved his fans, loved his fans.
Q: What about the drugs?
Linda: You know, Elvis fooled himself into thinking he didn't have a drug problem because everything that he took was by prescription. He never did cocaine, not when he was with me. Nothing illegal. He didn't even drink even drink alcohol. So everything that he took was by prescription.
Elvis' Dr Nick eventually got indicted ... and again it was very difficult for people around him, because there wasn't just one doctor. He certainly couldn't control everything that Elvis... There were legal drugs like sleeping medication, pain medication, diet pills, uppers, downers. A lot of pain killers.
Q: How did you live with that?
Linda: It was very difficult, because I'm very -- have always been anti-drug. You know what's interesting is people say "how could you avoid taking drugs?" and I said what was the seduction to watch someone self-destruct was a great lesson in life as to I'd never want to do that. I would never have any...
He tried to stop a few times. We went to the Baptist Hospital together, and there were a couple of doctors there who actually intervened and they actually helped him tremendously, helped him to withdraw from some of the more addictive drugs. I stayed in the hospital with him. I had a hospital bed right next to him. He was in the hospital twice when I was with him.
He got calls from Frank Sinatra and President Nixon. He would have me go to the phone and say, "Is this really President Nixon? Is this really Frank Sinatra? How do I know it's really you? Because he doesn't want to talk unless it's really you."
Then when we called President Nixon back at the White House and I said, "Elvis Presley is calling" they said, how do we really know it's really Elvis Presley? So we had some interesting moments. But he insisted that I have a hospital bed right next to him, and would raise it and lower it as he did his.
Q: What was life like with Elvis, how many cars did he have?
Linda: Who could count, he loved Cadillacs and Lincolns and he did like to drive. You know, he would drive late at night. Once we tried to go to a Peer One Imports, I remember, when it first opened in Memphis. He said, let's drive down to the Pier One Imports on Elvis Presley Boulevard. OK. So we drove down and, you know, didn't make it from the car even halfway across the parking lot before people were chasing us.
Q: What was his greatness?
Linda: Oh, he revolutionized music. You know, he was this young kid from abject poverty who grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee, and you know, was an amalgamation of lots of different styles of music, from black gospel to, you know, hillbilly.
Elvis grew up with black people. In fact, in Tupelo, Mississippi, you know, he was impoverished. And so he had a tremendous kinship, you know. Elvis was a tremendous fan of Martin Luther King. We used to listen to his speeches over and over. And the cadence and the mellifluous tone of Martin Luther King's voice was so inspirational that we would literally -- because we were up all night, I told you, we looked for things to do. Elvis was absolutely a civil rights person at heart.
Q: What was his greatness musically? Why did the Beatles love him so much?
Linda: Because he was an innovator. You know, Elvis changed not only music but fashion, sexual morals, just the thrust of the whole music industry. He loved R&B. You know, he had gospel groups like the Harmonizing Four. He was a good guitarist, not a great guitarist, but a good guitarist. He was a great natural musician. He played guitar, he played piano. We used to sit around at Graceland, the two of us, and he would play piano.
Q: Did he ever sing old standards?
Linda: He sang standards. And he would sing my old sorority songs. I told him a lot of my sorority songs. He'd sing harmony with me, he'd allow me to sing lead.
Q: How good an entertainer was he?
Linda: The best. And I saw everybody in the years that I was with him. He was the best entertainer I ever saw on stage.
Better than Sammy Davis, and I love Sammy Davis. Better than Sinatra. Elvis had an electricity. You know, when Elvis came out on stage, it became electric. And the way people responded to him was such that, you know, I never saw that kind of response toward any other performer.
You know, I went to every show, and he used to say to me, "Honey, you don't have to go to every show. You know, you can sit this one out or you can go see Tom Jones, or you could go see this or that". I said, no, I don't want to miss anything.
And we were so connected. We were just so viscerally connected that I would sit -- no matter how many shows I saw, I would sit and pull for him to make every note and just respond as if it were the first time I had seen the show. I really, really loved it.
Q: Did you ever write for him?
Linda: You know, I wrote poetry for him all the time. And in my ignorance, I never would allow him to let anyone put it to music and record it, because my aspiration then was not to be a songwriter. It was maybe to publish a book of poetry one day, coupled with photographs that I had taken. And so I was very naive and ignorant about publishing and royalties and residuals, which is kind of sweet. He probably loved me for it. But I wish I hadn't been so ignorant.
Q: How much of a sense of humour did Elvis have?
Linda: Raucous, rowdy, irreverent, inane. Great sense of humour. He laughed from his toenails.
Q: What about his close friends, the Memphis Mafia, and Elvis?
Linda: Elvis was loyal to everyone that he loved. And ironically enough, and oddly enough, I never felt that he was unfaithful to me emotionally. I felt that he loved me deeply and was never unfaithful to that love. He might have been physically unfaithful a few times, but I always, always felt loved by him. So he was a very faithful, loyal human being. And I mean, he'd get in the trench with you if he were your friend.
He needed them and they needed him, absolutely. And they were loyal to him for many, many years. And they loved Elvis. And they had a great camaraderie and a boyish kind of antic, you know, went on all the time when they were together. They used to set off fireworks. Some of them were friends from childhood like Red West. Red defended him in a near bathroom brawl where some guys -- some bullies came in and were going to cut Elvis' hair and beat him up.
Q: Why did you break up in the end?
Linda: Well, after four-and-a-half years of the yo-yo back and forth of other women, up-all-night, sleeping all day, the drug abuse, you know, it was too much. I just realized that I probably was never gonna be able to help him the way I wanted to help him. There was no Betty Ford Center then. There was no place for him to go, and he kept falling back into this prescription drug dilemma.
Q: How did you handle it?
Linda: Elvis helped me actually. Because I was in San Francisco with him and he said, "Honey, would you like to fly back to Memphis? I have brought the Jet Star in to take you back". And, you know, deducing that he was not going to bring the plane in just for me, I figured he brought another girl in from Memphis, and that was his way of saying, you know, there's another girl here, but you know, you want to go back to Memphis for a few days. He was playing the Cow Palace.
And I said yes, that's fine. I'll go back to Memphis, but I'm sure you've brought someone else to be with. Elvis said , "Oh, no, honey, I would never do that".
The last time I saw Elvis alive he looked me in the eye and said, "I want you to know something, honey, before you leave. No matter what you ever hear, no matter what everybody ever tells you, I just want you to know that I love you. I don't love anyone else. There's no other girl here, and you're the one I love. OK."
That was the last time I saw him alive. But we spoke after that. I wrote him a letter. This was late November, and I wrote him a letter just before Christmas, and he died in August. He died eight months after we broke up.
Q: What did you say?
Linda: Just that I have known the pain of too much tenderness. That he would always remain the love of my life, but I never wanted to love that fully and completely without reservation again.
Q: Where were you when he died?
Linda: I was in Los Angeles at my apartment. My phone rang, and it was Lisa Marie, who was only nine years old at the time, and she used to call me from time to time because we were very close. As I said, I loved her a lot then. I love her a lot now. And she said, Linda, it's Lisa.
I said, I know who you are, little goobernickel. But she had this desperate tone in her voice, and I thought he was playing. I thought maybe she was just out of breath. She said, my daddy's dead. My daddy's dead. And I threw the phone in the air. I just threw the phone away. I said, no, no, he's not.
And then I looked at the phone on the ground and I thought, here's this little 9-year-old angel who has the presence of mind to call me long distance directly. I have got to pick up this phone. I have got to say something to her that's gonna help her. So I pick up the phone. I say, honey, are you sure he's not just going to the hospital and he's not just having an episode or a problem, a breathing problem?
No, no. They told me, he's dead. So I just started trying to say things to her to comfort her. Like your daddy loves you so much. You'll always have that love, and that doesn't die. And my brother who was working for Elvis took the phone from Lisa and said, Linda, you have to come home.
(Right;Happier times with Linda, Elvis, Lisa Marie and brother Sam Thompson)
Oddly enough, every light in my apartment went off. I was the only apartment in my building that had no power. And I lit candles all over the apartment just to pack, just to get ready to go back to Memphis. I went outside, and I said has everybody lost power? No, just your apartment, which I thought was a little strange. And my friends were coming over to console me, and they said, oh, you're lighting candles for Elvis. And I said, well, actually, no, I'm trying to see to pack.
Q: What was the funeral like for you?
Linda: Surreal. It was very difficult for me. Priscilla was there, and his last girlfriend Ginger was there, and his family members were there, and of course Lisa and my family was there and his father. Colonel Parker came.
It's kind of crazy. My mother went to the funeral. We were in the third car behind the hearse. We were there all day as the body lay in state. We were there all night. We were with the family. My family is very close to his family. And my mother saw him lying in state. My mother saw him being buried, being put in the mausoleum.
You know, I was shocked, yes. You're never ready, no matter -- even if you have an elderly parent.
Q: Didn't you save Elvis' life at one point?
Linda: Many times, yes by doing any number of things. So it was not a surprising occurrence, because I had to reconcile that in my mind when I left. Probably no one is going to be stupid enough really to take care of him as selflessly as I did for so many years and to keep him alive at my own expense.
I loved him.
Q: And didn't Elvis almost shoot you once?
Linda: Well, accidents happen. No. He was a gun aficionado, and he had a collection of guns always around him. And we were in the Las Vegas Hilton and he was just lying down across the sofa and there was this big bullseye that they used to promote his concerts.
And he just decided he would try to hit the bullseyes, and he was a good marksman, so he did. But he forgot that my dressing area was just behind this bullseye. And I'm just getting out of the shower and I hear ping, ping, ping, crash.
And I look and my dressing room door is shattered, and I open it and the doors outside are shattered. Then this guy who worked for him came in and said, "Linda, are you OK?" I said, yes. What was that? He said, Elvis was having a little target practice, and I look at the toilet paper holder and there was a hole in it in the metal like that. So I put the robe on, and I went outside, and I said, what are you doing? And he was ashen. He was -- looked horrified. And he said, "Honey, I'm so sorry. I had no idea".
I said, you know, it's OK. But just -- what are you doing? Think about what you're doing here. You can't just shoot inside a building. But he did it frequently. He shot out television sets.
Q: Was his character childlike?
Linda: Very childlike. Part of his charm, part of his downfall. Elvis wasn't concerned with the business of his career, no. He was concerned with the business of his fans, how they perceived him, what he was giving to them, if he was being the best he could be for them.
So he was -- and music. He lived for the music.
Q: Was Elvis self-critical?
Linda: He was self-critical. And self- deprecating in his humour as well. He made fun of his own fame. He would like snarl his lip and say, what is that? What are they responding to? And sometimes he would pull his pyjamas up to his chest like a little old man and black his teeth out and come into the bedroom and say, ready for bed? He was just a silly man. He had a great sense of humour.
Q: Do you often think of him?
Linda: You know, it's over 25 years since his passing. He had a tremendous impact on my life, my perception of life, my perception of love and what romance and marriage and family should be, could be.
So, yes, I think of him even in subliminal terms sometimes. He influences my music and lyrics, as do all the people that I have loved in my life, from my mom and dad to other people that I have loved.
(Right: Linda Thompson in 2009 at the Las Vegas King's Ransom Museum)
Interview by Alanna Nash & CNN 2002 - EIN presentation by Piers Beagley.
--Copyright EIN August 2010
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Other Elvis books by Alanna Nash
- The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley (2003), Simon & Schuster, Inc.
- Behind Closed Doors: Talking with the Legends of Country Music (2003), Cooper Square Press
- Elvis Aaron Presley: Revelations from the Memphis Mafia (1995; reissued 2005), HarperCollins - (Contributors: Billy Smith, Marty Lacker, Lamar Fike)
Alanna Nash on Wikipedia
Read EIN's review of Alanna's book:
The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley
See the first part of EIN's in-depth interview with Alanna Nash
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