TO MUCH of the world Priscilla Beaulieu was the one true love of Elvis Presley’s life. In reality, however, that marriage held together for just short of five years, and several other significant girlfriends moved through the superstar’s orbit, most notably Ginger Alden, Presley’s fiancée of seven months at the time of his death.
Alden was only 19 and living with her family in Memphis when she first accompanied her older sisters to Graceland. Far from being overshadowed by the two grown women, Alden sparkled, catching their 42-year-old host’s attention.
Almost immediately Alden was whisked from her middle-class suburban upbringing into a tornado-like whirl of concerts, penthouses, private planes and hired help.
Within weeks of their initial meeting Presley presented Alden with a diamond engagement ring; the couple began finalising plans for a Christmas Day wedding less than 24 hours before he died in August of the following year.
Alden was not one of the many relatives, employees and former ‘friends’ who profited by selling sensational reminiscences after he was found dead in the bathroom of the suite they shared; rather, she kept her memories private, choosing to open up to the world only now that her son is a young adult.
In her own words, almost 40 years later Alden recounts Presley’s thoughtful, tender actions (underlining passages in her parents’ Bible, playing practical jokes on her siblings, singing at her grandfather’s funeral) and incredible generosity (epitomised by lavish gifts of cars, jewellery, fur coats and personal keepsakes). She describes in detail Presley’s fascination with philosophy, numerology and religion and recalls the hours the couple spent reading quietly together.
There are terrifying recollections, too, of rages involving guns, thrown food and, on one occasion, domestic violence.
Alden’s portrait, spanning the final nine months of Presley’s life, shows him as an imperfect but invariably optimistic and deeply spiritual human being.