"Tears of a Shadow":

fascinating memoir of an amazing life

(Nigel Patterson, 2003)

Tears of a Shadow, Stella Patchouli, Stella Patchouli Productions, 2002, ISBN: 0972266011 (Hardcover)

Tears of a Shadow is one of the latest memoirs from someone who knew Elvis.

It is an absorbing rollercoaster ride that differentiates itself from similar memoirs in that the author does not claim to have had a physical relationship (although she openly admits her desire to do so) with The King.

Read EIN's interview with Stella Patchouli

And surprisingly, most of the sensational parts of the book do not involve Elvis, but relate to the author's numerous relationships with other celebrities.

To say Stella Patchouli has had a remarkable life is an understatement. An aristocrat's daughter who spends her childhood in Switzerland, at age 13, she runs away on a midnight train to Munich. Clutched in her hands is her good luck charm, an Elvis Presley record. Stella survives her teenage years as a dancer and as a celebrated star in France, is courted by world famous celebrities.

In 1975 she meets her idol and witnesses the last months of his life and tragic end. The author writes with a sometimes awkward broken English style (English is not her first language). Despite this, her autobiography is a fascinating read filled with incredible encounters and emotional sorrow.

In many respects, Ms. Patchouli's chapters about Elvis are the most prosaic part of her life's tale. Simply, the only dirt she dishes out relates to her interesting take on members of the Memphis Mafia and her friend, Linda Thompson. Ms. Patchouli's views will challenge many fans perceptions of Linda! With liberal doses of whiskey, 'A' class restaurants, an Interpol chase, humor and vivid descriptions of how her lovers (all named) measured up (literally), Tears of a Shadow is perfectly made for a film adaptation.

How many other many non-famous people (although Ms Patchouli was a star in France) can count as their friends and/or lovers people such as Elvis Presley, Aristotle Onassis, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, David Bowie, Ann-Margret and Omar Shariff (to name only a few)?

Recounting her lovemaking with one major star, Stella Patchouli muses: "Although I'd never checked out a horse in detail, I couldn't help thinking he was built like one." Apart from this encounter, on reading Tears of a Shadow you discover things such as which international film star couldn't get it up, and the "relative measure" of several of her famous lovers!

The author's life experiences are at times dizzying and take in such glamorous locations as Rome, Monte Carlo, Cannes and Paris. By comparison, Memphis seems very ordinary, although her friendship with Elvis is a seminal encounter for Stella.

Apart from the author's take on Linda Thompson and Elvis, the most interesting Elvis related account in Tears of a Shadow is the author's vivid description of the kinky sex enjoyed by Elvis and Ann-Margret. Now just where is my protein shake? Tears of a Shadow has its own poignancy.

Throughout the narrative the reader is confronted with a strong underlying theme which reflects the courage of an attractive but insecure person living and struggling with life in the fast lane, an inner torment never far away from the glitz of fame and fortune. For most readers the attraction will be enjoying reading about Stella Patchouli's amazing experiences, experiences that remain unattainable for most of us except through Tears of a Shadow or the pages of a Jackie Collins novel or TV show like Dynasty.

As much as I enjoyed Tears of a Shadow, I read it with a degree of skepticism. Was Stella Patchouli on the level? How credible was her amazing life story? I certainly had never encountered her name before in any Elvis publication.

Establishing Stella's credibility proved to be difficult. A search of the Internet drew a blank (surprising I thought if indeed she had been a star in France). After Bill Burk told me he had never heard of Ms. Patchouli I then contacted Elvis' youngest step-brother, David Stanley. David also did not recall Stella Patchouli, but did confirm that her husband (the result of a brief, alcohol induced union), David Leech, worked for Elvis for about a year.

In the end I have taken Stella Patchouli's memoir at face value.

Verdict: Despite the Elvis sections being quite bland, Tears of a Shadow is a fast paced, exciting read, full of non-committal sex, drugs and revealing celebrity encounters.

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