Elvis Presley: Linda Thompson recalls in 2019 calling Graceland
At 4pm on August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley’s father stood on the steps of Graceland and announced to the world that his son had died.
Two days later, The King’s funeral service was held at his Memphis mansion for 200 invited friends and family.
Many of them had been personally invited by the star’s father Vernon, who oversaw the arrangements.
He, of course, invited Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla, the mother of their daughter Lisa Marie, as well as his son’s fiancée Ginger Alden.
But there were three more women there who had shared the icon’s life.
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Kathy Westmoreland was Elvis’ long-term backing singer of the final seven years, who had become an increasingly close companion during the constant touring of his final years.
Their relationship had been more one of comfort and conversation, and she sang My Heavenly Father Watches Over Me at the funeral.
Ann Margret had starred with Elvis in Viva Las Vegas, kick-starting an almost two-year affair, and she had remained close to him and his father.
She brought her husband Roger Smith to the service. Grief-stricken, she had to be “pulled away” from Elvis’ coffin.
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The fifth woman was Linda Thompson, who was with Elvis for almost five years until the end of 1976. She was immensely popular with Vernon and the whole of the star’s inner circle, the Memphis Mafia.
As Lisa Marie’s daughter Riley Keough took control of Graceland this summer, for the first time ever, Linda was officially invited to participate this year in the annual Elvis Week, which commemorates his life and passing.
In her account of her life with Elvis, Linda also described how Priscilla blocked Vernon’s plans to have her fly “home” from Los Angeles for the funeral on board the star’s private plane. The Lisa Marie.
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In her 2016 memoir, A Little Thing Called Life, Linda recalled that Vernon called her and said he had a place for her on the private jet: “Have your things ready to come back home.”
She wrote: “I really did appreciate the fact that Mr. Presley had thought of me when he was trying to orchestrate the logistics of getting loved ones back to Memphis. He was so shaken by Elvis’s death, and yet he’d had to plan and organize the unthinkable task of burying his only child.”
Priscilla was also flying back and was not happy with this plan.
Linda recalled how “hurt” she was by Priscilla telling her: “I don’t think you and I should arrive together. I think I should be the only one like that on the plane.”
Despite the fact that Linda, who had been with Elvis for the better part of that decade, was herself grieving the man she had only just split from, Priscilla said: “I don’t want to land in Memphis and get off the plane to a three-ring circus of the press saying ‘Linda and Priscilla flew together on the Lisa Marie.'”
Linda, who had frequently flown with Elvis and her daughter on that plane, decided to spare Vernon any extra burden and made her own arrangements, while Priscilla, who had never been on the Lisa Marie before, made her arrival alone before the world’s press, cementing her place in perpetuity as the main woman in The King’s life.
Linda said that Priscilla late came to explain that it was “just a crazy time,” and Linda magnanimously said, “I understood – it was a devastating time for all of us.”
It would be Priscilla who would start to shape the succeeding narrative over the following decades, also, impressively, turning a bankrupt Graceland into a hugely profitable business and worthy legacy for Elvis’ life.
Linda would quietly and respectfully carry on with her own life as a successful songwriter, with marriages to Bruce (later Caitlyn) Jenner and then David Foster.
In recent decades he has started to participate in Elvis fan events and share more of her memories of life with the icon.
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