Elvis Week 2020: Elvis started dating Priscilla when she was only 14 despite calling teenage girls 'jail bait'
Presley was rumored to be rather amorous, particularly in his pursuit of teenage girls, but by their accounts, he was nothing more than a friend
Elvis Week 2020 continues on, with fans of the King of Rock and Roll celebrating his legacy worldwide. The event, which usually includes a panel of speakers and a host of events as part of an annual procession through Presley's Graceland estate and past the singer's grave, is held in the days leading up to the anniversary of his death on August 16. This year, unfortunately, it had to go entirely virtual on account of Covid-19 restrictions, but that does not mean we cannot memorialize Presley in other ways.
As we walk down memory lane and remember everything that made Presley such an icon, it's hard to not dwell on his relationships. After all, he was widely known to be quite the ladies' man, hopping from one steamy romance to the next. In reality, though, he was actually just a boy trying to recreate his relationship with his beloved mother Gladys. Most of his romances were thus filled with deep, late-night talks and serenades, or alternatively, spending nights with young teens who always wanted more but had to settle for playtime. As Presley's bodyguard Alan Fortas once stated, "What went on was horseplay, not foreplay." In an age where the conversation around older men grooming girls and boys has been brought out into the open, Presley's attraction towards younger girls is naturally a cause for alarm. But by their own accounts, he never laid a hand on them.
There was, however, one relationship Presley would actually commit to, beyond 'horseplay' needing to fulfill an infantile need. And this was with a young 14-year-old girl by the name of Priscilla Beaulieu. The two initially met at a party in Bad Nauheim, Germany, in 1959 during Presley's time in the army. Priscilla was allegedly so charming that Presley, who was over a decade older than her, began fumbling upon meeting her and, according to witness accounts, regressed to acting like an awkward and embarrassed teenaged boy himself. After the singer managed to compose himself again, however, the two would chat away for the remainder of the party. Priscilla's parents, upset at their daughter for staying out so late, forbad her from meeting Presley ever again. Obviously, this didn't stick.
Presley was eager to meet Priscilla again, and she was quite smitten with him as well. After he promised to never bring her home late again, Priscilla's parents relented, and the two began to see more of each other until he left Germany in 1960. While the two were apart, Priscilla, still a teen, began receiving mail from Elvis fans in addition to "lonesome G.I.s" on top of being hounded for interview requests from the media. Eventually, Priscilla's still reluctant parents gave her permission to visit Presley in Graceland in 1962 on the condition that Presley paid for a first-class round-trip, ensured she was chaperoned at all times and wrote home every single day. Presley agreed, and once Priscilla was by his side, he had her write postcards in advance to be mailed out daily by his staff and the two flew off to Las Vegas. While there, Priscilla, still underaged, got hooked on amphetamines and sleeping pills as the only way to keep up with the lifestyle Presley had developed.
By 1963, following a Christmas visit, Presley had convinced Priscilla's parents to let her live with him at Graceland. This time, their conditions included Priscilla attending an all-girls Catholic school and ensuring that their daughter stayed with Presley's parents and not him, at least until she graduated. Additionally, Presley had to promise they would eventually marry. The arrangement didn't last long, and the young would-be bride of Presley moved into Graceland not long after. As Priscilla would later declare, "The move was natural. I was there all the time anyway."
The two were seemingly inseparable, but it wasn't a smooth road to the nuptials. While living together, Presley grew distant. And while he was away filming 'Viva La Vegas', Presley began an affair with his co-star Ann-Margret who would refer to him as her 'soulmate'. Several others, including one of Presley's PR girlfriends, actress Lori Williams, would declare that Ann-Margret was the love of Presley's life. Presley, for his part, claimed their affair was yet another PR relationship when Priscilla confronted him, and despite rumors flying about, he and Ann-Margret would never clarify the status of their initial and alleged romance. The two did, however, remain close friends until his death.
Eventually, Priscilla grew tired and weary. Accounts suggest she threatened to go public with her story unless Presley proposed to her. Her father, seeing the potential for Presley to not come through with his promises, threatened to have the singer charged under the Mann Act for "taking a minor across state lines for sexual purposes." Presley was, as per accounts of people like his cook Alberta, distraught at being forced into a marriage. But whether he did or did not intend to tie the knot with the young girl he met at that party, in 1966, Presley proposed to Priscilla and the two wed in 1967, Presley then 32 years old, and Priscilla 21.
The press naturally went wild with the story. The most iconic performers of the time and the most desirable bachelor was hitched. And to a woman much younger than him, no less. Speculations ran wild about the couple, including just how far into the relationship the two remained platonic. Despite what the press may have declared, however, Priscilla insisted the two did not have sex until their wedding night with her falling pregnant soon after. This account was not too out of the ordinary. After all, while the public may have been convinced Presley was a man who "loved sex," his own partners often stated they never slept with him. Several biographers noted that Presley enjoyed the company of teenage girls, but he never engaged in sexual acts with them: they allegedly just talked. But some accounts indicated that the singer liked having the girls dress up in nighties he bought them, and if things were to get physical, it would only get as far as pillow fights.
Author Reuben Fine noted in his book 'Love and Work: The Value System of Psychoanalysis', "In [Presley's] love life...[he] quickly became attached to teenage girls, and he loved to have them wearing white panties in bed with him. For a long time, he would not have sex with them, whom he described as 'jail bait'." Brent D Taylor's observations were similar, with the author noting in 'The Creative Edge: 17 Biographies of Cultural Icons', "Elvis's closest female relationships were usually with young girls of around 13 or 14, ending as they reached late teens. He didn't have sex with these young girls, but had pajama parties, pillow fights, and indulged in 'girl talk', just as he did with Gladys."
His relationship with Priscilla seemingly went the same way: despite their apparently romantic courtship and determination to be together, Presley and Priscilla waited until after their wedding to consummate their relationship. The couple's wedding itself was a media frenzy, but, just like with everything else in Presley's life, it was specifically orchestrated to be as such by his managed Colonel Parker. To that end, many of the couple's own family and friends were not allowed to attend, despite having been previously invited, and this put a rift in many of Presley's friendships. Priscilla would later hold a separate ceremony at their Graceland estate to help mend broken relationships, and soon after, she busied herself with her new-found role as a housewife. But before she could truly enjoy it, her unexpected pregnancy put a wrench in her plans. After all, by her own account, the couple had only just gotten together after spending years mostly apart, and she wanted more time with Presley before their family grew. Nonetheless, they welcomed daughter Lisa Marie nine months later.
Their marriage, though initially happy, would soon run into trouble after Presley's addiction to prescription drugs and fascination with the occult would take him from boyish and playful to highly introverted. In the meantime, Priscilla began an affair with karate instructor, Mike Stone, after Presley had persuaded her to take up the martial art. They separated in 1972, filing for divorce on August 11. Priscilla would later claim Presley became a different person following their separation, indicating he may have forced himself on her at some point after, though she would later say she regretted her choice of words, clarifying that he was attempting to reconcile with her but it had come a little too late. Amid their separation, speculations ran wild around Presley's disinterest in having sex with women who have had children, something both Priscilla and one of Presley's other lovers, actress Barbara Leigh (who had a child before the two got together) denied. Priscilla did, however, confirm that Presley was rarely overtly sexual towards her, and following the birth of their daughter, he grew distant enough that she began to question her own sexuality as a woman.
A whirlwind 'romance' between a music icon and a teenage girl would finally come to an end a decade and a half after they first met. And while their split may have been rocky, Priscilla and Presley remained on good terms, walking out of the courthouse following their divorce hand-in-hand. And just like with many of Presley's other romances, the former couple remained good friends till his untimely death in 1977.