Book Review

A Little Thing Called Life  On Loving Elvis Presley, Bruce Jenner, and Songs in Between

Linda Thompson

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, September 2016

HarperCollins, 2016, 369 pages, Illustrated, ISBN-13: 978-0062469748. Available in Hardcover (with d/j), Kindle, Audible and Audio CD formats. EIN Note: The audio CD edition is narrated by Linda Thompson.

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Somewhere near, a baby cries
Somewhere far, somebody dies
And everywhere you’d swear
There were a pair of hidden eyes
When the moon sets, the sun will rise

“A Little Thing Called Life”, lyrics by Linda Thompson

The title of Linda Thompson’s memoir is the title of one of her many songs.

From its opening dedication the reader is struck by a searing honesty on the part of the author and a warm respect for those she is writing about. Displaying Linda’s obvious intelligence and storytelling flair, hers is a memoir you won't forget.

It has taken a long time for Linda’s book to finally be published. In A Little Thing Called Life On Loving Elvis Presley, Bruce Jenner, and Songs in Between she reveals why it has been released now and not before.

Not surprisingly, out of respect, she waited to protect the secret about her first husband, Bruce, now Caitlyn, Jenner. That secret was one that Linda herself kept for nearly 30 years. Linda comments:

It has always remained of crucial importance to me that Bruce be allowed to reveal his own truth on HER own terms. As Caitlyn, She is doing that.

The first half of A Little Thing Called Life covers Linda’s years with Elvis, her time as a beauty queen and the beginning of her multi-faceted and highly successful career on television (fifteen years on Hee Haw, and with her sons, Brandon and Brody Jenner, in the reality television series, Princes of Malibu)…….. and in music.

The second half recounts her two marriages to Olympic decathlon champion, Bruce Jenner, and musical genius, David Foster, as well as her reaching new career heights as an award winning songwriter. That career has so far brought Linda (and David Foster) an Academy Award nomination in 1993 for Best Song: I Have Nothing (sung by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard) and an Emmy Award for Aren't They All Our Children featured in the The Concert for World Children's Day in 2002.

Throughout her life journey there is a sub-theme of the search for finding love and great insight into the personalities of the three world famous men in her life who were her confidant and companion. Linda’s story traverses the stately grandeur of Elvis’ Graceland mansion and the busy beaches of Malibu to the breathtaking but brutally cold environs of Moscow's Red Square and many places in-between.

The following passage is important in understanding an underlying context driving Linda’s account of her years with Elvis:

Trust is a critical component in every relationship. Elvis trusted me so completely that he allowed me to see him at his most vulnerable. He shared his deepest fears, sorrows, joys, memories, and aspirations with me. Elvis was beautifully complex figure.

I do not intend going into too much detail on Linda’s years with Elvis, they were well documented long before A Little Thing Called Life, suffice to say that she recounts both the light (great joy) and dark(ness) of their relationship with an intimate honesty. Through her story, the reader gains a great appreciation of not only who Elvis was, but who Linda is.

The stories are broad ranging, from Linda losing her virginity to Elvis (‘the perfect Southern gentleman’) and how Elvis talked of marrying her, to the excitement of the Aloha satellite show, and the fun of being together. There is also an interesting anecdote of Elvis attending a parent-teacher meeting at Lisa Marie’s school and an even more intriguing account of Linda and Priscilla co-hosting Lisa Marie’s birthday party in Las Vegas.

Some readers will be surprised to read of Elvis’ substantial porn collection and more than passing interest in plastic surgery, while Linda’s raw account of Elvis’ twin demons, drug abuse and infidelity, gain a new dimension being framed from the perspective of his loyal companion and lover.

Linda’s erudite narrative shares observations which prompt pause for thought. Arguably hinting at not only a part of Elvis’ psychological identity, but also the often obtuse aspects of close relationships, she records:

Elvis couldn’t resist baby talk. He spoke it fluently, received it hungrily. I understood both the intensity and the silliness of the gibberish.  He always called me by pet names, such as Ariadne.....or more commonly, Mommy.

Looking back now, these both seem a little odd to me, but at the time, they felt quite natural.

On hearing of Elvis’ death from Lisa Marie, Linda recalls:

I stared at the phone for as long as it took me to gather my senses enough to realise that this incredibly bright and sensitive nine-year old child had had the presence of mind to pick up the phone to share this devastating occurrence with me.

Numbly, I threw the phone across the room. I stood there, catatonic, gazing at the receiver. He smothered in the carpet, repeatedly raced through my stinging mind.


There is a photo section at the back of the book, but of the sixteen photos of Linda and Elvis almost all will be familiar to Elvis fans.  

One of our favourite photos – and not often seen - is the one of Linda, Elvis and Red that nicely captures the camaraderie that she had with Red West, as well as others in Elvis’ group.

It is also noteworthy that the rather sad photo of Linda and a bloated Elvis, from 1976, that has been frequently used by the tabloids to promote this book is not actually included in this biography.

Like her time with Elvis, the Bruce Jenner story, one of great internal struggle, is well known, and it is a testament to Linda’s love for Bruce and her integrity as a person, that she delayed publication of her book until Bruce had revealed his story to the world. After meeting the “world’s greatest athlete”at the Playboy mansion, and with their early relationship being complicated by Bruce reconciling with his estranged wife, who then became pregnant, Linda and Bruce finally married and enjoyed four happy years, until Bruce revealed his unimaginable inner struggle.

The joys of being in love and of enjoying life (from the little things such as walks along the beach to raising a family) resonate throughout Linda’s heartfelt account of her years with the man with whom she thought she had the perfect life.

An early photo with Bruce Jenner - at the Hotel Bora Bora after promoting his movie with the Village People, Can’t Stop the Music.


At one point in the narrative Linda describes Bruce and Elvis as being “almost like different incarnations of the ideal man”. Linda also comments that, despite his inner turmoil on his sexuality, Bruce lived up to the title of the World’s Greatest Athlete and that “he was pretty much the perfect specimen”.

On her second marriage to legendary music producer and musician, David Foster, the relationship was tumultuous and testing, but a collaboratively impressive one. While their relationship lasted nineteen years, sadly the love they had for each other in the early years faded and was replaced with a passion of a different kind (and sometimes just as tumultuous as their personal relationship) - a musical partnership that reached stunning heights and success.

Linda with her children Brody and Brandon, plus second husband David Foster


In comparing David and Elvis, Linda observes:

While Elvis and David both had fiery tempers, here was a big distinction between them. Elvis was always profusely apologetic and reconciliatory when he allowed his anger to get the best of him. David would get angry, disappear, unaccounted for, then come back acting like nothing had happened and expecting me to go along with him. Elvis was difficult, but never this difficult.

Foster comes across as a musical genius whose personal flaws were destructive. Intense, jealous (as was Elvis) and controlling, his attitude to Elvis was not a positive one. A decade after Elvis’ death, Linda, with David, ran into Lisa Marie at a U2 concert. Linda describes that while David was gracious to Lisa Marie at that encounter, a few months later when Linda was watching a 10th anniversary special commemorating Elvis, David turned off the TV.

Linda recounts:

“What are you doing?” I asked. “I was watching that”.

“I don’t want you watching a show about your ex-boyfriend”

“Oh, my God, he’s been dead ten years,” I said. “He’s not coming back to claim me. This was a part of my life, a part of my history, and it’s a part of history, period. You’re in the music industry. You don’t want to watch this?”

“Hell no, and I don’t want you watching it, either.”

.....David was clearly threatened by Elvis’ ghost and never wanted me to mention him.

(Reviewers note: David and Bruce also did not get along)

Linda has shared friendships with many well known celebrities. One of closest friends is Barbra Streisand. The photo section of A Little Thing Called Life includes several photos of them together and of Linda with another iconic singer, Celine Dion, who was discovered by Linda and then husband, David Foster. There is also an uplifting story about (TV's Six Million Dollar Man) Lee Majors' generosity to Linda and Bruce.

As an author Linda Thompson has a wonderfully free flowing, articulate and engaging writing style. She is also adept at elucidating emotion and candour throughout her well-modulated prose.

A Little Thing Called Life includes a full color photo section with many great images (including nearly twenty that are Elvis related). Each chapter in the book is preceded by the lyrics to one of Linda’s many songs. There are also a four page Acknowledgments section and several pages of Song Credits. There is no Index.

Verdict: A Little Thing Called Life is among the best memoirs with a strong Elvis theme ever released. It is also one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. Alternating between the light, dark and shades of life in between, it is an honest and intimate account of the incredible life of an amazing woman from the three men who shared her life and her family to the highly successful and varied career that she continues to enjoy.

In ending my review the final words should go to Linda:

...the more we endeavour to understand and empathise with another human being’s life, the more we unravel the mystery of our own, this extraordinary gift we’ve been given, A LITTLE THING CALLED LIFE.

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Linda and Sam Thompson in Australia: EIN Vice-President Sanja Meegin shared some cocktails and quality time with Linda Thompson and her brother Sam Thompson at the 'Elvis Leaves His Mark: Now and Then' tour with Mark Andrew.
One of the most exciting experiences for any Elvis fan, is meeting someone from his inner circle – someone who was there right by his side for the highs and lows and the joys and pain that was part of Elvis’ incredible life.

Go here as Sanja Meegin tells all about what Linda and Sam Thompson had to say to her alone - as well as to the concert audience.

(Spotlight, Source;SanjaMeegin/ElvisInfoNet)


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