Monday 21 May 2018

Godzilla, girls and a bizarre paradigm

Only certain Elvis obsessives are likely to be left all shook up by this portrayal of the king of rock, writes Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson

Baby, Let's Play House (The Life of Elvis Presley Through The Women Who Loved Him)

Alanna Nash

Aurum Press, €30.85

'God, he was so gorgeous I'd almost dig him up and shag his corpse!" This plaintive cry from a friend of mine, one night 10 years ago after she'd seen Elvis's 1968 TV special, probably says it all in relation to the man's patently potent sex appeal. And no, this woman isn't into necrophilia.

Nor, I imagine, are those American women who recently named Elvis the "Dead Male Celebrity" they'd most like to have made love with. And if you are thus inclined, Baby, Let's Play House may be the bedtime book you need.

That is unless, like me, you are a lifelong Elvis fan who has already read most of the books and articles its author, Alanna Nash, credits in her nearly 40-page long end notes. Even I am quoted, from a 1997 article I wrote about Elvis's manager Colonel Tom Parker. But that's the problem with this book -- there is nothing here that is either startlingly revealing, or new.

Not only that. Nash draws heavily on psychologist Peter O Whitmer's truly insightful book, The Inner Elvis, but too often reduces psychological probing to intellectually insulting pap. Such as claiming that Elvis at 19, terrified he might father a child, "was more interested in titillation than penetration". And preferred to ejaculate into a woman's hair, which "made sense (because) her head was the farthest point from potential pregnancy"!

This definitely gives us new definitions of concepts such as "giving head" and "safe sex", right? But it's as facile as Nash asserting that "in truth", Elvis Presley "liked everything that led up to intercourse better than the act itself". And, by the way, the closest she ever got to the guy was viewing his corpse.

However, if you are one of those women who'd love to have been titillated, penetrated or made pregnant by what one fan described as that "great, big, beautiful hunk of forbidden fruit" called Elvis circa 1955, let's look more closely at what you might have had on your hands.

Sadly -- at least for those females whose minds are so small they think size is all that matters -- Elvis apparently wasn't that well endowed, "a little above average", says one lover. But after losing his virginity to a groupie at 20, the king of rock certainly seems to have rolled his way through hundreds of women who wanted to get closer to what even he called "Little Elvis".

Sometimes, however, he "came on like Godzilla". As in the case of Kay Wheeler, teenage president of the first Elvis Fan Club, who he threw against a wall, kissed so hard she thought she'd suffocate and started "grinding his pelvis" against her so hard it scared the girl, and she fled from his room.

He also tended to categorise women into his own peculiar madonna-whore paradigm, keeping "good girls" at home in Memphis who he might one day marry and expected to remain virgins, and having sex with "bad girls" while touring, who he, privately, probably never would have considered marrying.

And yet, despite these Godzilla-like regressions, the young Elvis, as with his older self, was an irredeemable romantic, seemingly content to just sit by a lake with a girl he'd just met and talk with her until dawn. Elvis not only listened to what women had to say, he also empathised with their feelings and, as part of this, during lovemaking was wise enough to know a woman's sexual pleasure was just as important, if not more important, than his own.

Then again, during his Hollywood years, 1956-1969, when Elvis slept with "all but one" of his leading ladies -- including some of the world's most desirable women, such as Juliet Prowse and Ann-Margret -- it can't have been that arduous a task to try and give pleasure to such beautiful creatures.

Not that Priscilla, Presley's teenage lover/later wife during the Sixties, would have agreed -- particularly given that he refused to have penetrative sex with her after she became a mother nine months into the marriage. Why? His mother may have sexually abused him as a boy, though this subject is one Nash doesn't mention, but I once did, in an article for this newspaper.

The irony is that, in the end, making love to Elvis probably was like making love to a corpse. Largely because drug abuse often left him impotent, a fact Presley would hide from lovers by claiming that he had to "conserve his body juices" for another kind of performance, namely on stage. Where, in effect, he would make love to an audience of fans that, certainly during his final tour in early 1977, were satisfied just to see him turn up for a show.

But it was a long way down, in every sense, from Elvis's days as a sexual Godzilla and this book charts that tragic journey from his first kiss to his final collapse.

Sunday Independent

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