The Women Who Loved Elvis All Their Lives
|Written by: Fleda Brown|
She reads, of course, what he's doing, shaking Nixon's hand, dating this starlet or that, while he is faithful to her like a stone in her belly, like the actual love child, its bills and diapers. Once he had kissed her and time had stood still, at least some point seems to remain back there as a place to return to, to wait for. What is she waiting for? He will not marry her, nor will he stop very often. Desireé will grow up to say her father is dead. Desireé will imagine him standing on a timeless street, hungry for his child. She will wait for him, not in the original, but in a gesture copied to whatever lover she takes. He will fracture and change to landscape, to the Pope, maybe, or President Kennedy, or to a pain that darkens her eyes. "Once," she will say, as if she remembers, and the memory will stick like a fishbone. She knows how easily she will comply when a man puts his hand on the back of her neck and gently steers her. She knows how long she will wait for rescue, how the world will go on expanding outside. She will see her mother's photo of Elvis shaking hands with Nixon, the terrifying conjunction. A whole war with Asia will begin slowly, in her lifetime, out of such irreconcilable urges. The Pill will become available to the general public, starting up a new waiting in that other depth. The egg will have to keep believing in its timeless moment of completion without any proof except in the longing of its own body. Maris will break Babe Ruth's record while Orbison will have his first major hit with "Only the Lonely," trying his best to sound like Elvis. © 1999, Fleda Brown (first published in The Iowa Review, 29 )
I have always maintained "aliens" with incredible talents and charisma exist largely unbeknownst to humans. These other worldly individuals grace us with their presence for a time, die to leave the bounds of their earthly tethers and then move on to other planes of existence. I offer Jimi Hendrix, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and, of course, Elvis Presley as examples of those just too extrinsic to call human beings.
I mean, look at this photo. This is no human. Isn't it evident that some extraterrestrial business is afoot? Now, I don't claim to "like" guys in any sexual sense, but I must admit The King was drop dead gorgeous. His looks along with his sensual voice, natural musical talent, and humble, homespun personality not only spawned a never-ending love for rock and roll music but also captured the hearts and souls of millions of females who became gaga over E. Presley had more sensual musical mojo than the Beatles, Madonna, Jim Morrison, Beyonce, and Michael Jackson combined.
"Captured" is not a strong enough verb. Enraptured is a much better word. The love affair between American women and Elvis transcended idolatry. It became a hormone-charged national religion of fantastic proportions. Women of all ages, types, creeds, and expectations loved and worshiped Elvis, and still love and worship his memory and remnants of all things Elvis-related. You might say these females are insatiable.
Consider the duty of every true Elvis Presley fan to make the pilgrimage to Graceland and to buy souvenirs to commemorate their "touch" of the hem of the garment of their dead King. Americans, in general, continue their long admiration of Elvis and his music. Fanatic female fans believe the trip to Memphis brings them one step closer to being soul mates with the King.
Fleda Brown relates this Elvis lust as emblematic of an entire nation in "The Women Who Loved Elvis All Their Lives." In the poem, she weaves together women's desire for Elvis with historical events of decades past. Brown links the tragedy of the death of Elvis with these stark realities that occurred naturally in the march of time? All of this is now a part of American history, yet, somehow, Elvis remains a vital entity in a modern world. People, women especially, still wish to embrace this alien rock god. What female admirer has not fantasized having his "love child"?
Consider Lucy de Barbin, a lady who wrote her fantastic story in the book Are You Lonesome Tonight. She claims to have had a sporadic 24-year secret romance as the King's "one true love," that produced a "child he never knew." De Barbin wrote this sentimental, convoluted book with the help of co-author Dary Matera, a former reporter for the Miami News and the sensationalistic National Enquirer.
The facts are widely disputed. Presley's friends, family and fans are unanimous in their denouncement of de Barbin's claim. David Beckwith, with the Los Angeles-based public relations firm representing Graceland and the Presley estate, said in a telephone interview: ''The estate of Elvis Presley maintains the belief that this book is ridiculous and incredible and will not dignify the matter by responding with further comments.''
But, here is a summary of Lucy de Barbin's romance with Elvis...
Supposedly de Barbin, who was born in Louisiana to a family of French ancestry, was all but sold as a child bride at age 11 to a 45-year-old husband W.D. Ware, whom she describes as violent and abusive. She had three daughters by him before she was 19.
Ware's business trips often took him away from their Monroe, Louisiana home. In his absence Lucy worked as a teenage dancer on local TV. During a lavish party hosted by the station owner in 1953, she says she met an 18-year-old singer/guitar player, then regarded as hardly more than a striving hillbilly.
As luck would have it, by de Barbin's account, she got an assignment as a photographer's model shortly afterward in Memphis, where one of her sisters had a home near Presley's. Lucy says she and the aspiring rock 'n' roller began to meet. Out of fear of losing him, de Barbin says, she could not bring herself to tell Presley that she was already married and a mother.
Lucy tells how they pledged undying devotion to each other and consummated their vows with passion on a grassy hilltop. As Presley's career began its spectacular ascent, Lucy says, their affair continued to thrive. Then came Elvis' well-publicized entry into the Army in March 1958 and his eventual posting to West Germany.
Unbeknownst to Presley or to her husband (whom Lucy had fled by then and would ultimately divorce), de Barbin quietly gave birth to her fourth daughter in Alexandria, Louisiana., on August 24, 1958. The birth certificate listed the child's name as Desirée Romaine Presley. (Desirée was Elvis' pet name for Lucy, she explains, derived from a movie they saw together.) Nearly everything else—the father was listed as Randolph Presley, civil engineer—was falsified.
Circumstances changed when Elvis found Priscilla Beaulieu in Germany. "At that time I was so anguished and hurt," de Barbin says, "I decided, 'All right, so he'll never know about his daughter.' " In 1960 de Barbin married her second husband, Alexandria businessman Jack Greer.
De Barbin claims their actual meetings, over the course of 24 years, were few and far between -- mostly quick visits in hotel rooms. De Barbin says, however, that Presley often telephoned her and sent her flowers during those intervals. She also claimed he signaled her during performances, using prearranged hand and arm gestures. ''Elvis was noted for clinging to people in his past,'' Matera said.
According to de Barbin, Presley's wish was that they would be together someday and his ''official'' women were merely substitutes -- some practically lookalikes -- for her. She had planned to tell Presley about their daughter, but then, in August 1977, he died.
De Barbin says she kept the baby's existence from Elvis because she did not want to disrupt either of their lives. De Barbin waited to tell Desiree about her father until 1982 -- although her daughter, who had heard stories from one of her mother's friends, already suspected.
Lucy and Desiree
I hope you understand my levity with the "alien" Elvis. I know Presley was an incredibly handsome, talented musician. I am a devout Elvis fan, but not a fanatic. And, yes, I subscribe to the belief that he was the true "King of Rock and Roll," the anointed boy from Tupelo who launched something very special in Memphis at Sam Phillips' Sun Studio.
That being said, "The Women Who Loved Elvis All Their Lives" speaks to the alliance of myth and fact recreating the story of a poor, humble kid propelled to the role of a musical King of godly proportions.
What is truth and what is fiction? What "hold" or influence did Elvis have during his lifetime and forever in history? I don't know. But, I do know I can't hear an Elvis Presley recording without envisioning his unique charisma and style. I understand the unparalleled control and masterful "magic" E maintained. Hell, maybe he was an alien. Maybe my theory is correct, after all.
Women, young and old, loved Elvis in every conceivable way and still do. They love him all their lives. I can't imagine the numbers he loved during his life. It's good to be the King. And, as a mythic figure, he still loves and lives in a place in Tennessee. Have you taken this American rock and roll pilgrimage? Well, brothers and sisters, there's still "good rockin' tonight." And you. like millions of others, will be graciously received.
"I'm going to Graceland
I'm going to Graceland...
"In Graceland, in Graceland
I'm going to Graceland
For reasons I cannot explain
There's some part of me wants to see
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love, every ending
Or maybe there's no obligations now
Maybe I've a reason to believe
We all will be received"
--"Graceland" by Paul Simon