As The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley reigned over the American music scene of the 1950s and 60s with his gyrating hips and smooth voice. But although his legendary music made jaws drop—no one realized that his handsome face hid a twisted mind. Sadly, even though Elvis was a roaring talent, he also harbored some monstrous secrets.
Buckle up: Your favorite crooner might not be the person you thought he was.
From his very first breath, Elvis carried a tragedy in his heart. Born January 8, 1935, The King of Rock and Roll was actually a twin, but his older, identical brother Jesse was stillborn just 35 minutes before Elvis came into the world. Elvis's long-lost sibling haunted the singer for the rest of his life, and even Presley’s mother used to say he had the energy of two people.
But as heartbreaking as his beginnings were, his life's rollercoaster was anything but easy.
Although he'd one day become music royalty, little Elvis grew up absolutely dirt poor. His father, Vernon, was not the ambitious sort, and could barely hold down a job. Elvis and his mother Gladys paid the price for Vernon's pitiful breadwinning attempts, often relying on the neighbors or the government for food and support. But that wasn't the saddest part.
In 1938, Elvis’s father was charged with altering his landlord’s check and sentenced to eight months in prison—but this stint had even more devastating consequences. It forced Elvis and his mother to give up their home. Although they found refuge with some relatives, poverty plagued Elvis throughout his childhood. Still, his struggles didn't end there.
At school, Elvis was exceedingly average. He was painfully shy and none of his accomplishments made him a standout student. He hadn't yet discovered an affinity for music. However, that was about to change. As a first-grader, he impressed his teacher with a rendition of “Old Shep” during morning prayers—so much so that she pushed him to enter a singing contest at a local fair.
Stepping out of his comfort zone, Elvis took his first step toward the place where he belonged—the stage.
Although he only placed fifth in the singing contest, the experience ignited a creative spark. For his next birthday, Elvis desperately hoped for a bicycle, but instead, he received a life-changing gift—a guitar. At first, Elvis was quite reserved with his music, refusing to play in front of everyone. However, by the time he was in middle school, he grew tired of keeping his mouth shut and threw caution to the wind.
Elvis started hauling his guitar to school every day, belting out his favorite country hillbilly songs during lunch hour. Perhaps even more impressive? He sang his heart out despite the heckling and the relentless subjugation from his classmates. They considered him "trashy" and a mama's boy. Still, as much as these brutal taunts stung, it never discouraged Elvis from standing out from the crowd.
High school was a turning point for Elvis. For one, his appearance took on a radical change as he, slowly but surely, found his signature look: Bold sideburns and a slicked back coif secured with vaseline and rose oil. But that wasn't all. By the time his senior year rolled around, his dream wardrobe came together. For years, he'd stared through Beale Street shop windows, breathlessly admiring the flashy outfits, and finally, he adopted this outlandish style as his own.
As Elvis's confidence slowly grew, he started to break out of his shell and take risks. And on one memorable occasion, it definitely paid off.
In April 1953, Elvis entered another singing competition and stunned his peers with his burgeoning talent. Although he had played music in his younger years, none of his high school classmates knew him as a singer or musician. In fact, music was the only class he'd ever failed. When Elvis took to the stage and sang "'Til I Waltz With You Again" and nailed the performance, he won his very first taste of popularity: "It was amazing how popular I became in school after that."
Of course, when it came to admiration and clout, this was only the tip of the iceberg.
Although Elvis had an undeniable passion for music, he couldn't actually read music. Instead he played by ear and learned as much as he could from the music he loved. His inspiration came from a multitude of places. He adored country artists like Hank Snow, and frequently visited record shops, swaying to the melodies that poured from the jukeboxes.
But although country music was close to his heart, his other influences revealed the prejudiced realities of the times.
History’s most fascinating stories and darkest secrets, delivered to your inbox daily. Making distraction rewarding since 2017.
Elvis absolutely revered Black gospel music, especially the stylings of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. But although he listened to "race records" via the radio—indulging in blues and spiritual numbers—racism ensured that he only attended blues venues with other white people: Mixing was certainly forbidden. From early on, Black artistry helped shape Elvis's musical identity.
It was precisely this influence that helped catapult him to the very top, but unfortunately, there was a menacing side to this success.
In 1953, Elvis strolled into Sun Records bursting with ambition. Unfortunately, his road to stardom got off to a rather rocky start. Nobody seemed to think that Elvis had any singing chops whatsoever. He failed auditions and when he tried to join a band, the leader deeply insulted him, telling him "...you're never gonna make it as a singer." Oh, how wrong they all were.
The young crooner finally got his big break when Sun Records honcho Sam Phillips signed him on specifically because he was looking for a white man to sing African-American tinged music. As Phillips once said, if he could find a white boy to do it, “I could make a billion dollars.” At first, the recording sessions were utterly disappointing, but on one fateful night, Elvis tried something different—and it was absolute gold.
Elvis Presley’s 1953 cover of the song “That’s All Right” has a legendary origin story. The still-green Elvis had been in the recording studio for hours, but his label manager was never happy. They were about to call it a night when Elvis suddenly launched into the song with reckless abandon, turning the slow lament into a rocking hit. But then it got even better.
Three days later, a local DJ played "That's All Right" on his radio show, and it caused a sensation. People flooded the station phone lines, demanding to know the superstar behind the cover. Because of Sam Phillips' desire to capitalize on traditionally Black pop music and Elvis’s soulful singing, many listeners assumed that the crooner was Black.
Of course, with a wildly successful single under his belt, Elvis was well on his way to causing even greater ruckuses—and some of them were downright scandalous.
Even in the early days of his career, Elvis's hips had a mind of their own—and the ladies loved him for it. As soon as the instrumental section kicked in, he'd step back from the microphone, losing himself in the music and shaking his entire body. The crowd went nuts. These dance moves were all-natural, but as soon as he realized that they were a hit, he began to milk it for all its worth.
However, not everyone loved these spicy gyrations.
Though Elvis was a hit with the ladies, young men treated him in an incredibly brutal way. Many teen boys despised him, and would actively try to harm him in his shows, forcing the singer to hire a guard for certain public appearances. As one of his managers said, “It was almost frightening…somebody'd always try to take a crack at him." Still, this was the least of Elvis's worries. He had enemies waiting around every corner.
Presley’s scandalous 1953 show in La Crosse, Wisconsin earned him his most terrifying enemy yet. After his performance, the local Catholic diocese sent an emergency message to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover warning that "Presley is a definite danger to the security of the United States” because he could “arouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth.” Ok but…were they wrong?
Still, as much as ruffled some religious feathers, Elvis's reputation as a scandal-maker had only just begun.
During one of his appearances on The Milton Berle Show, the host convinced Elvis to go onstage without his guitar, saying, “Let ‘em see you, son.” Well, they certainly saw him: His performance caused an enormous scandal. Without his guitar weighing him down, Elvis’s hips went absolutely crazy. The next day, shocked critics scorned his “'grunt and groin' antics” and even compared him to the “blonde bombshells of the burlesque runway.”
Unfortunately, because of his sensuous performances, Elvis earned a nickname that he absolutely despised.
Elvis was no stranger to having harsh criticisms thrown his way, but one, in particular, slipped through the cracks and really got under his skin. They called him "Elvis the Pelvis" and he was completely incensed by the moniker, calling it "one of the most childish expressions I ever heard, comin' from an adult." Luckily for him, despite the jokes and the scandal, audiences still came out in droves to see him—especially young girls.
With so many ladies vying for his attention, you'd think Elvis entertained a scintillating love life. The truth, however, was far more unusual.
Complete devotion. Utter loyalty. Unconditional love. This is what Elvis had for one woman in his life...his mother. And if you're thinking that this might be a red flag, well, you're 100 percent correct. Elvis was a mama's boy, but he was also too much of a mama's boy. You see, she got her claws into him at an early age, and after that, she simply did not let go.
Elvis had no shame when it came to the weird closeness he shared with his mother, and some of their antics were downright cringe-worthy: They had pet names for one another, spoke to one another using "baby talk," and even shared a bed well into his teen years. In fact, Gladys grew so attached to her son that she didn't want to share him with anybody else, least of all a woman.
This became a problem once Elvis's career took off. With a jam-packed schedule, would he even have time for mommy?
The answer is: No. Elvis's fame ripped him from the arms of his mother, and while he thrived on his own, Gladys just couldn't cope with the separation. His absence drove her into a deep depression that she never recovered from. As a result, she turned to excessive drink, effectively destroying her liver, and hastening her health's rapid decline.
By 1958, Elvis's mother was in the hospital while he was busy with his army obligations. Luckily, he was granted emergency leave to go and visit her. Sadly, only two days after his arrival, Gladys passed, leaving Elvis, not only heartbroken but completely inconsolable: "She was all we lived for. It broke my heart. She was always my best girl."
And so, with her passing, Elvis and his mother's interesting relationship came to a tragic close. But it's safe to say, that Gladys never truly left him. In fact, with all of his romantic endeavors, his mama's boy personality always reared its head, and sometimes, it even sabotaged his fumbling attempts at intimacy. Every single relationship bowed to Gladys's ever-present ghost—right to Elvis's bitter end.
It's important to note, however, that Gladys approved of one girl, and one girl only.
Elvis's early forays into romance were an embarrassing disaster. As a teenager, he met with rejection time and time again. Finally, right before his career took off, Elvis met a blue-eyed beauty at one of his concerts. It was 1955 and her name was June Juanico. But if you think this was some passionate romance—think again.
Apparently, their intimacy never really evolved past an innocent kiss here and there—hardly a steamy affair to write home about. Furthermore, she became increasingly aware that Elvis's heart was a hot commodity. She watched from afar as he stepped out with other beautiful women, her jealousy ferociously mounting. She constantly worried about his infidelity and, unfortunately, her fears were valid.
June always felt like she had to fight for Elvis's attention, even among his friends. Elvis's best friend Nick Adams consistently gushed over the gorgeous actress Natalie Wood, highlighting her most beguiling features and lustily propping up her assets. June feared that the temptations of Hollywood would soon consume the love of her life. After all, he could have any woman he wanted...
To June's dismay, her paranoia wasn't unfounded. In fact, Elvis eventually took up with none other than 18-year-old Natalie Wood. Natalie, completely besotted with Elvis's looks and famous reputation, asked her co-star Dennis Hopper to make an introduction. Elvis had always admired Natalie from afar, and when he got the opportunity to date her—he jumped at the chance.
Once he and Natalie started seeing each other, Elvis made sure to go all out, even renting out entire theaters to take her to the movies. Completely charmed by these romantic gestures, she agreed to fly to Memphis with him to meet his family. Elvis was more than eager to show off his celebrity girlfriend to his parents. However, nothing went as planned, and the visit quickly turned into an utter disaster.
Unsurprisingly, Elvis's mother met them with her jealousy at the ready. She did not approve of Natalie at all and was absolutely scandalized to see her son's girlfriend flouncing around the house in a suggestive nightdress. But the vitriol went both ways. Elvis's stunted relationship with his mother made Natalie terribly uncomfortable, and on one occasion, she witnessed something so creepy—she knew she had to get the heck out of there.
Elvis's unorthodox bond with his mother completely freaked Natalie Wood out. At one point Gladys asked Elvis to "come and sit on mama's lap." Their gratuitous show of affection rubbed Natalie the wrong way and she noped right out of there. She immediately called her mother to spin some excuse for her to come home, dropping Elvis like a hot potato.
Natalie never forgot the nightmare experience, and later, her remarks about their underwhelming fling were absolutely scathing.
Because of their romance-gone-wrong, both Elvis and Natalie had some fighting words for each other. Elvis referred to her as "Mad Nat" because of her temper, and Natalie unabashedly dissed him: "God, it was awful. He can sing but he can't do much else." Throughout his life, Elvis disappointed a whole range of ladies—and it often came down to one peculiar reason.
Author Albert Goldman suspected that Elvis wasn't really interested in sleeping with women at all and that instead, he harbored a keen love of voyeurism. He hypothesized that the crooner's fear of intimacy may have stemmed from his time in the army—the discovery of prostitutes and the resulting paranoia of getting an STD.
There were many rumors that King of Rock wasn't interested in intercourse at all—and some of his girlfriends came out of the woodwork to confirm this.
Although Elvis dated some high-profile ladies, many of them admitted that Elvis wasn't down for a romp beneath the sheets. Peggy Lipton claimed that he was "virtually impotent." Cassandra Peterson spent one night with him—but instead of fooling around—they ended up chatting the night away. Additionally, Rita Moreno referred to her brief stint with Elvis as "amateur hour."
These ladies pulled some punches, but the real question remained: Why was Elvis so averse to taking women to bed?
One of Elvis's bodyguards, Alan Fortas, provided some insight into his client's interesting preferences: "Elvis needed someone to baby more than he needed a sex partner. He craved the attention of someone who adored him without the threat of sexual pressure, much as a mother would." Ah yes, mommy issues strike again. But even though he came up short behind closed doors, Elvis certainly delivered on stage.
Elvis's concerts were nothing short of a riot. Women fell apart in the audiences, overcome with an unrivaled fanaticism for this dreamy rock 'n' roll star. In fact, his music marked a definite shift, ushering the controversial rock melodies and performances into mainstream culture. Historians often compared Elvis's influential work, and the "pop craze" he sparked, to the careers of Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra.
But it's safe to say, that Ol' Blue Eyes didn't appreciate this comparison.
Okay, so when I say Frank Sinatra despised Elvis, I mean he absolutely loathed everything about him, pretty much squashing the rock star beneath the heel of his shiny, patent shoes. In his opinion, he thought rock 'n' roll was "brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious...It smells phoney and false. It is sung, played and written, for the most part, by cretinous goons...This rancid-smelling aphrodisiac I deplore."
Sinatra's opinions were...deliciously brutal, to say the least. But what was Elvis's reaction to this blatant callout?
Elvis took the gentlemanly route and pretty much slathered Sinatra in compliments and kindness, while expertly inserting his differing opinion: "I admire the man. He has a right to say what he wants to say. He is a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn't have said it...This is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago."
It's safe to say that with his growing success, Elvis had every reason to shun the haters and take the high road...and sometimes he did this quite literally.
During his stint in the army, Elvis started to delve deeper into the world of drugs. He joined up in 1958, hoping to be treated like any other soldier. While stationed in Friedberg, a sergeant offered him some amphetamines...and they totally blew his mind. He was besotted with their effects—"practically evangelical about their benefits." But that wasn't all.
The drugs seemed to be the perfect medicine. They helped with stamina and weight loss, and because most of his friends were partaking, Elvis didn't think twice about indulging. This, however, was an incredibly slippery slope, and as we'll see later, he raced toward it like a kid running full-throttle toward a muddy slip-n-slide. The consequences? Absolutely tragic.
But besides drugs, Elvis discovered something else in Friedberg. He also found the love of a lifetime—Priscilla Beaulieu. Granted, their meet-cute wasn't so much romantic as it was creepy. After all, Elvis was 24 and Priscilla was only 14. Yikes. It all began one fateful November evening in 1959. A service member invited Priscilla to meet the singer, and when she arrived on his doorstep wearing a prim, little sailor dress, Elvis couldn't look away...
Although Priscilla told Elvis that she was only in the ninth grade, this information didn't phase him in the slightest. In fact, it may have attracted him even more. As the night wore on, he made it his mission to impress her, serenading her with songs like "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and batting his big blue eyes at her. Naïvely, Priscilla thought this was going to be a one-time thing. She was terribly mistaken.
Here's where the creepy part kicks in. Elvis's attraction to little Priscilla had a lot to do with the similarities he noticed between her and his mother. (Gladys strikes again) But that wasn't even the worst part. He also told his friend Rex Mansfield that Priscilla's youth was especially desirable—she was "young enough that I can train her any way I want."
And so began one of the most dysfunctional relationships in music history.
After arranging a second meeting with Priscilla, Elvis got down to brass taxes and made his intentions known. He whisked her up to his room for a private interlude where they shared a kiss (but nothing more). After he'd taken her out four more times, Priscilla's parents couldn't deny their reservations about their daughter dating a much older superstar.
It was time to meet the parents, and if he wanted to keep seeing his underage girlfriend—he had to pass the test.
To appease Priscilla's parents, Elvis cranked up the charm and put on his best gentlemanly facade. When her father asked him why he was interested in his daughter, Elvis had the perfect response: "Well, sir, I happen to be very fond of her. She’s a lot more mature than her age and I enjoy her company." But their relationship was far from innocent, and from the very beginning, it grew out of a toxic foundation.
Throughout his time in Germany, Elvis dominated Priscilla's entire existence. He was all she could think about, and soon other aspects of her life began to suffer. Most notably, she fell behind in school because of exhaustion and her preoccupation with her new beau. Elvis, of course, had just the remedy for her and offered some special little pills to help her "stay awake."
Although she refused him initially, her dance with drugs was far from over.
Elvis had to keep his relationship with Priscilla on the down-low because it was literally not permissible for him to be romantically involved with a minor. Even Elvis knew that he was doing something wrong...When Priscilla tried to sleep with him, he told her "You're just too young." By 1960, his time as a soldier had run its course. It was time to return to a life of fame and recognition.
Moving back to L.A. meant leaving his new flame behind. But even as they went their separate ways, the tumultuous tale of Elvis and Priscilla had only just begun.
For the next two years, Priscilla devotedly sent letters to Elvis, slipping her correspondence into pink envelopes so that it wouldn't get lost in the flurry of his fan mail. By 1962, the star set to work, persuading Priscilla's parents to allow her to cross the ocean for him. Once again, his charm paid off, and nearly two years after parting, Elvis and Priscilla reunited in Los Angeles.
When Elvis decided to take her with him to Las Vegas, it seemed like a fairytale—but it was actually a nightmare.
Let the grooming begin. With Priscilla at his beck and call, Elvis now had ample time to start molding her into the perfect woman. First of all, he plied her with sleeping pills and amphetamines to ensure that her schedule matched his. Secondly, he began curating her wardrobe for her, selecting more mature outfits that tickled his fancy. But it didn't end there.
Elvis changed everything about Priscilla, never letting her make her own decisions. He controlled her hair and her makeup, and soon he wanted her with him permanently. Once again, he appealed to her parents, asking them to let Priscilla finish high school in Memphis and implying an overarching plan to marry her one day. As always, his wish was granted.
By 1963, Elvis and Priscilla were comfortably settled at Graceland—an 18-room monstrosity that the star had purchased when he was 22. There was no escape. He provided both pills and constant instruction, and his little Pygmalion project became more and more sinister. Elvis fashioned Priscilla into a mirror image of himself.
He capped her teeth, corrected her posture, dyed her hair black, gave her a dramatic pompadour, and even color-coordinated their clothes. It was terrifying.
Later on, Priscilla referred to herself as "Elvis's living doll, to fashion as he pleased" while outsiders called her a "live-in Lolita." To make matters worse, there were no brakes installed on this messed-up ride. In 1967, Elvis took things to the next level and made Priscilla his bride. The night of their wedding finally broke their string of sexless years, and the two of them slept with one another for the very first time.
But if you think marriage improved their off-kilter dynamic—then buckle up: it's all downhill from here.
Priscilla got pregnant almost immediately after marrying Elvis. Unfortunately, the star wasn't exactly stoked to be a father. In fact, he mainly worried about how a baby might affect his career. When Priscilla was only two months away from giving birth, he decided he wanted a trial separation. This fickle-hearted King didn't quite know what he wanted.
By the time Elvis welcomed his baby girl Lisa Marie into the world, he and Priscilla were back together, trying their best to make it work. But Elvis had yet another quirk up his sleeve: He had no desire to sleep with his wife now that she'd given birth. Weirder still, Priscilla wasn't even surprised, later noting, "He had mentioned before we were married that he had never been able to make love to a woman who’d had a child."
Unfortunately, instead of tackling their marital issues, Elvis and Priscilla went rogue.
Elvis had always been an unfaithful lover. So it's no surprise that he dilly-dallied with other women the entire time he was with Priscilla. Even though the couple eventually overcame their dry spell, he never seemed to satisfy her. She wanted something more out of her love life, and so, in an incredible tit-for-tat, Priscilla went behind Elvis's back and conducted an affair of her own.
While Elvis was busy with his own mistresses, Priscilla dipped her toes in the waters of infidelity and had a wee tryst with a dance school owner. Then, despite having renewed her vows in Hawaii, she began a full-blown affair with her karate teacher. She had finally seen the light, and in recognizing that Elvis was an awful husband, there was only one thing left to do.
Priscilla later reminisced on her marriage saying "His life was my life." He consumed her in every way, and it destroyed them. Finally, in 1972, she confronted Elvis and told him that she wanted a divorce. He subsequently found out about her affair, and completely lost it. In the heat of the moment, the drama-king wanted to hire a hitman to take out her lover.
In the end, Elvis and Priscilla's failed marriage had one more tear left to shed.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of all was that, despite their problems, both of them loved each other very much. Unfortunately, because Elvis had kept Priscilla in a strict bubble from a young age, she felt like she needed to escape to better understand the world. To express his anguish, Elvis Presley laid bare his vulnerable side, channeling all of his heartbreak and anguish into song.
Elvis's hit breakup number "Always on My Mind" is his best-known song about Priscilla. However, those who aren't devoted Elvis fans are less aware of his other moving ballad "Separate Ways"—considerably less popular but just as moving. Sadder still? The song details the breakup's effect on his daughter, Lisa Marie. But as heartwrenching as losing Priscilla was, Elvis had another serious problem on his hands.
By the time that Elvis's divorce finally went through in 1973, his health was in serious trouble. Years of excessive drug use had taken its toll, and his body just couldn't take it anymore. That same year, he had two terrifying barbiturate overdoses, the first overdose leaving him comatose for three days. But even as he fell deeper into the spiral of addiction, his comeback demanded his presence at all times—and more often than not—it wasn't a pretty sight.
1973 not only saw Elvis through a worrisome close call, but it also boasted his busiest professional year yet. He performed 168 times, and the following year, he signed up for yet another round of brutal touring. His failing health scared his bandmates. The Elvis they had once known was fading before their very eyes. He was always high, and with his muddled speech and growing girth, his friends wondered whether he'd actually be able to finish the tour.
When Elvis's limousine pulled up to the University of Maryland for a concert, he embarrassingly toppled out of the limousine and onto the ground. But Elvis still had his pride, and when onlookers rushed to his aid, he held up a hand. He didn't want anybody's help, and he certainly didn't want anybody's pity. Unfortunately, he didn't fare any better throughout the performance.
Elvis hung onto his microphone for dear life and fumbled his way through the entire set. There was no denying it. Elvis was a sorry sight to behold. In fact, his ravaged appearance made his guitarist, John Wilkinson, break down in tears. Wilkinson so desperately wanted his boss to take a rest from touring, but Elvis refused to back down, reassuring him with a light pat on the back—"It'll be all right. Don't you worry about it." The King couldn't be more wrong.
On top of all the drugs, Elvis Presley had another disturbing habit. He loved to gorge himself on food, and the dishes he gravitated toward were heart-stoppingly rich. His chef at Graceland, Mary Jenkins Langston, catered to the King's interesting requests. He often enjoyed peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwiches prepared in a pan filled with sizzling butter.
But for the King, that was probably just an appetizer.
Coming from nothing, Elvis never took a hearty meal for granted. Famously, he loved a sandwich dubbed "Fool's Gold." My heart hurts just thinking about this recipe: A hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with a jar of peanut bar, a jar of jelly, and one whole pound of bacon. This doozy of a sammy rounds out to about 8,000 calories.
With a diet perfectly tailored to destroy a human body, Elvis's lethal combo of addiction and binge-eating was a disaster waiting to happen.
After his chapter with Priscilla came to a close, Elvis dove straight into another serious relationship—one that lasted four years. Her name was Linda Thompson—a lyricist and actress that went on to marry other notable stars like Caitlin Jenner and David Foster. However, as much as Elvis hit it off with Linda, the memory of Priscilla still haunted him.
In her memoir, Linda Thompson paints a picture of Elvis still reeling from his failed marriage. He required constant reassurance and had a childish, "needy" disposition. Because Linda knew all the ins and outs of Elvis's past relationships and affairs, she, too, wanted to share her romantic history. However, talking to Elvis about other men? Big mistake.
Jealousy was one of the major reasons Elvis's marriage imploded and knowing himself, he had no plans to change that anytime soon. As soon as Linda started to tell him about other men, he stopped her in her tracks and responded with utter vehemence: “I don’t want to know anything about it. I’m a really jealous motherf*cker...I want to know you're mine and all mine.” Not cool Elvis. Not cool.
Elvis was toxic and possessive. But even more? He had a history of physical aggression.
According to singer Buzz Cason, Elvis's temper flared intensely while spending some time with Christina Crawford, Joan Crawford's adopted daughter. They were curled up on the couch together watching TV and Christina kept trying to get his attention by tickling him. But the teasing turned sour the second she threw her cocktail in Elvis's face...
Elvis was livid. Drenched in her cocktail, he sprang from his seat, grabbed Christina by the hair, and proceeded to drag her toward the front door, screaming,"Get this b*tch out of here!" But this wasn't an isolated incident. In her memoir, Priscilla Presley related something equally as horrifying. After she told Elvis about her affair, his response was disturbing—it's unforgettable.
When Elvis found out about Priscilla's infidelity, he lunged at her and forced her into submission. She remembers him saying, "This is how a real man makes love to his woman." Later, she changed her story, saying that she'd exaggerated the details, but the damage was already done. Nearing the end of his life, Elvis had one last partner—Ginger Alden—and not even she could escape Elvis's wrath.
As Elvis's addictions spiraled out of control, his behavior became increasingly unruly. Ginger remembers a few startling occasions where Elvis went too far. One day, she refused to get him more yogurt in an effort to curb his binge-eating. That same night, after they went to bed, Ginger awoke to the sound of an ear-splitting shot ringing through the air.
Elvis had whipped out a 57 magnum pistol and fired it, the bullet lodging itself just north of their headboard. He called this "an attention getter." But that wasn't all. Ginger also remembers him shooting one of their televisions, as well as the time he ran outside waving an automatic firearm around because he'd seen a boy chasing little Lisa Marie.
As despicable as his behavior was, Elvis kept a pistol on him for one terrifying reason.
Though he sometimes didn’t know it, Presley’s life was often in grave danger, and people constantly threatened him while he was on stage. During one performance, attackers even claimed they would murder him unless he paid them $50,000. The next time Presley performed, he had a Derringer in his right boot and a hidden pistol at his waist.
Elvis didn't want anybody to get famous for taking out the King.
By the time 1977 rolled around, Elvis had officially gone off the rails. Journalist Tony Scherman didn't hold back when critiquing the ailing star: "Presley had become a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self." He was so ill and inebriated that his concerts became painful to watch: The songs were unintelligible because of his garbled singing.
By the end of his concerts, Elvis looked as though he'd run a marathon: Performing was so taxing on his body that he'd leave the stage soaked in sweat.
Right before the end, Elvis faced another heartwrenching blow. He'd fired three bodyguards the previous year, but this eventually came around to haunt him. They conspired to write a tell-all about their former employer, revealing his longtime relationship with drugs. The book was called Elvis: What Happened? and when the star found out about it—he was horrified.
You see, although many might have suspected Elvis's vices, the public never acknowledged his drug use. It was always kept hush-hush. He tried to pay the publisher to cancel the project but to no avail. As such, he began to feel his reputation slipping through his fingers. To make matters worse, by this time, his health was in tatters. He had an enlarged colon, liver damage, glaucoma, and hypertension.
Even so, Elvis never thought the end would come as soon as it did.
On Tuesday, August 16, 1977, Ginger Alden made a devastating discovery: She found Elvis unresponsive on the floor of the bathroom, his pajamas bunched up around his feet. He had fallen off the toilet, still curled into a seated position. It was clear, even then, that he had already passed. All attempts to revive the fallen King failed, and he was pronounced dead at the hospital at 3:30 pm.
Still, after the news broke, the main question on everybody's mind was: How did this happen?
Decades after his demise, we still have no clear idea how Elvis passed. The official cause of his demise was cardiac arrest, but a cocktail of drugs in his system probably didn’t help. However, Presley did also have an enlarged heart, a codeine allergy, and several other known health issues and bad eating habits. As one forensic expert put it, “He was difficult to diagnose; it was a judgment call.”
However, some theories that circle his passing are completely out there.
The mysteries behind Elvis’s end have also led to a conspiracy theory that he faked his own passing so that he could live out the rest of his life in peace. Believers of this theory point to discrepancies in his death certificate as well as to the reports that there was a wax dummy in the coffin during his burial. But Elvis's personal physician had another iffy theory.
Dr. George Nichopolous had a particularly embarrassing theory behind the legend's passing. He pointed to chronic constipation as a possible answer: "...at the autopsy we found stool in his colon which had been there for four or five months because of the poor motility of the bowel.” Where the average colon is four to five feet long, Elvis's was a staggering eight to nine feet. Ouch.
However, despite the sensation and conspiracy surrounding his untimely passing, one sad fact remained...At only 42 years old, an absolute icon had left the building.
In response to this tragedy, President Jimmy Carter released a touching statement regarding Elvis's contributions: he "permanently changed the face of American popular culture." Unfortunately, not everybody had the same amount of respect for the singer, and his passing sparked another string of tragedies. On the day of Elvis's funeral, a group of grieving fans crowded around the gates leading to Graceland.
Out of nowhere, a car hurtled straight through the group, running over and fatally wounding two innocent women. Sadly, this demented driver wasn't the only one to throw punches at the deceased star.
Some of the people closest to Elvis thought they could make a buck off of his passing. His cousin Billy Mann decided to take a covert picture of Elvis in his coffin and then sold it to the National Enquirer for $18,000. Additionally, his girlfriend Ginger Alden tried to sell her story for a whopping $105, 000, eventually settling for less. In the end, Elvis didn't give her a single cent.
But in the midst of all of this money-grabbing, there was one woman who felt the loss of Elvis more deeply than anyone else.
When Priscilla Presley found out about Elvis's passing, it broke her. In her memoir, she remembers locking herself in her room as the waves of hopelessness crashed over her. She wrote, "I wanted to die. Love is very deceiving. Though we were divorced, Elvis was still an essential part of my life. Over the last years, we’d become good friends, admitting the mistakes we’d made in the past and just beginning to laugh at our shortcomings.”
Despite the fact that Elvis and Priscilla's life together was arguably messed up, his only wife continues to speak about him with undying reverence and adoration. Sigh.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your time!
Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at email@example.com. Thanks for your help!
The Factinate team
If you like humaverse you may also consider subscribing to these newsletters: