Elvis (Albert Goldman)

Howdy Ma’am. Don’t you just wish ya coulda been a simple, hillbilly Southern boy who ate $100 worth of Popsicles in one night? Or an FBI informant who ended up wearing adult nappies (diapers) because of drug-induced incontinence? Or simply a racist red neck with an IQ of 70 who was ashamed of his penis (“Little Elvis“)? Recommended for anyone who wants to know the precise menu of Elvis’s Last Supper – simple but gut-wrenching. Goldman tap dances all over Elvis’ blue suede shoes. These 598 pages outraged Presley’s faithful fans (their creepy devotion is worthy of a book too) back in 1981. I didn’t want to tackle Goldman’s follow up book: Elvis, The Last 24 Hours in case the content became too lavatorial.

According to the late author of this tome Elvis slept in the same bed with his mother, Gladys, until he was on the threshold of puberty. His most characteristic gesture of affection for his mother was petting her, particularly on the lump of flesh that rose at the base of her neck atop the spine. Goldman paints a picture of Gladys pampering and coddling the soon-to-be King of Rock’n’roll. His nickname for his mother was sug. (Snigger if ye may) Elvis became a classic mama’s boy who, later on, hated to spend more than a week or two with his own wife. Though the Presleys were desperately poor when he was a child, money was found to buy him expensive gifts such as a bicycle or a guitar. Elvis was stuffed with scarce food and even provided with silver table utensils, like a little prince. But he was a lonely little prince.

One of the most important features of his upbringing was the fact that he was kept apart from his relatives, from the local children and from the world in general. In effect, he was reared to be a recluse. Goldman claims that Gladys was Elvis’ world. Unluckily for him, she died when he was 23. It plunged him into chronic paranoia that he never recovered from. Retreating with his flunkies into Graceland he could indulge in a depraved, psychotic prolonged adolescence far from his adoring public. Underage girls and drugs, drugs and more drugs. The Pelvis and his Memphis Mafia lived a monotonous, depressing existence that could be summed up as comic-book macho. Goldman claims there was no core to his personality.

As for the racist angle: he had black servants, was from Memphis and borrowed the negro style to make it big. If he really did say “all a nigger can do is shine my shoes and buy my records” then it fit the bigger picture. A black hole for a soul? Maybe the author is diagnosing himself too. We all like to be amateur psychologists. One amusing segment in the book reveals the time Priscilla announced that she was pregnant. Elvis immediately stops having sexual relations with her. After the baby was born and Priscilla was looking as lovely as ever, Elvis gave no sign of resuming sexual relations with her – ever. This was not so surprising, in view of the fact that Elvis had always been averse to sex with married women and abhorred the thought of having intercourse with a mother. Another one of his hang ups.

It also indicates that she did not want to go on living indefinitely without romance, passion, affection, masculine strength, and authority – all the fundamentals a hubby should bring to the party, but had been denied her during her ongoing pajama party with Mr Presley. For those eager to see the King in utterly pathetic “boy-man” undressed mode this is a guaranteed turn-on: “Had Elvis Presley been made of better stuff than comic-book fantasy . . . the disaster of his divorce might have straightened him out instead of reducing him to a helpless infant.” Don’t, therefore, look to Goldman for tears and violins as Elvis crumbles to a sordid demise on the porcelain throne. What the author urges the reader to believe is that E.P was just another American pop fantasy who didn’t belong in the real world. By the time I got to the end I didn’t know what to believe. Maybe Albert Goldman was just telling porkies.

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