Elvis Wanted to Rub His Relationships With Other Women in Linda Thompson’s Face

Not long after his separation from Priscilla Presley, Elvis Presley met Linda Thompson. Within moments of meeting her, Elvis made his interest clear, even calling her in the early hours of the morning following their first date. Thompson liked Elvis but was surprised when he sounded noticeably drunk on the phone with her. His speech would sound like this in future conversations.

Linda Thompson assumed Elvis had been drinking on the night they met

Thompson first met Elvis at the Memphian Theater in 1972. Bill Browder, a record promoter, believed the two would get along and invited Thompson to meet the singer. He was right. Elvis and Thompson spent hours talking and she didn’t leave the theater until four in the morning. When she got home, Elvis even called her.

“He said, ‘Can I speak to Linda?’ And [my aunt] said, ‘Certainly, just one moment, please,’ then screams, ‘Oh my God,’ and hands over the phone,” Thompson recalled in the book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick. “So I go to the phone, and his speech was a little slurred, and I thought, ‘Gee, he wasn’t drinking when I saw him at the movie theater. I wonder if he went home and had a drink or something.’”

Linda Thompson smiles against a pink background. She wears a heart shaped necklace.
Linda Thompson | Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Thompson explained that at this time, she was completely “ignorant” of Elvis’ drug use. He had taken a sleeping pill and was slurring his speech as a result. Elvis spent the phone call complimenting Thompson, but she walked away surprised by the apparent sounds of alcohol in his voice.

“He was saying things like, ‘I’m so happy that I met you tonight. Where have you been all my life? I need to be with you. I can’t believe I haven’t met you before now,’” she recalled. “Pretty strong stuff to say to someone you just met a few hours before. I’m going, ‘Gee…’ I remarked to my Aunt Betty, ‘I think he might have been drinking!’”

Linda Thompson later realized Elvis had taken sleeping pills

Several weeks later, Thompson and Elvis flew to Vegas, where he was rehearsing for a show. On their first night there, she noticed he was slurring his speech again.

“He was so loving and affectionate, [but afterward] we were standing outside talking, and he seemed to stagger a little and to have slurred speech,” she recalled. “I said, ‘Are you okay?’ And he said, ‘Awww, I’m okay, honey, I just had a little sleeping pill.’”

This surprised her, but it took a few more weeks before she realized how frequently he took the pills.

“I wish I had been more worldly, more knowledgeable,” she said. “But I just accepted it and didn’t realize the magnitude [of the problem] until a few weeks into the relationship.”

She grew increasingly concerned about his wellbeing 

By the mid-1970s, Thompson felt constantly alarmed by Elvis’ drug use. He didn’t seem to view it as a problem, though.

“In the months following the Aloha from Hawaii special, it wasn’t just his more voracious eating habits and slight weight gain that became noticeable and increasingly troubling,” Thompson wrote in her book A Little Thing Called Life. “He was visibly impaired more frequently, it seemed to me, both when he was attempting to sleep, and during our waking hours. And yet he didn’t seem to notice any difference in his own behavior or acumen.”

Elvis sits next to Linda Thompson. He wears sunglasses and she wears a blue necklace and blue ribbon in her hair.
Elvis and Linda Thompson | Tom Wargacki/WireImage

Eventually, this led to the end of their relationship. 

“He was going to go ahead and slowly kill himself, no matter what I did,” she said. “I couldn’t make him happy, and I knew he wasn’t going to change. So I left.”

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

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