Book review of “Elvis & Ginger”

elvis-gingerGinger Alden
“Elvis & Ginger”
Berkley Books
(Hardcover, 400 pages)

Ginger Alden’s memoir is clearly meant to be a tribute to Elvis, whom she says she cared for deeply. But it ends up being a highly disturbing portrait of a man who comes across like a spoiled child, having to dominate every situation and throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.

Alden met Presley when she was a child. She was reintroduced to him in late 1976 after his friend, George Klein, invited Alden’s sister Terry (then Miss Tennessee), over to Graceland to meet Presley, and Alden brought her two sisters along. It was Ginger that Elvis tapped to be his girlfriend, and she remained with him until his August 1977 death.

Presley’s cloistered life is apparent from the beginning. After spending early “dates” in his bedroom, talking about subjects like numerology, he offers to fly Alden to Las Vegas — where they stay in the bedroom of his suite, talking, until flying home the next day, never going out to see the sights.

Presley’s penchant for control also surfaces immediately. Alden’s told she can’t eat breakfast before Presley, even if she wakes up before him; she needs to wait and eat with him. When she tries to go out with her sister, she’s waylaid by a Presley aide who insists on taking her shopping instead. And Presley thinks nothing of dropping in on the Aldens at any hour and expecting them to cater to his needs.

But that pales in comparison to Presley’s violence. When Alden declines to break up with a boyfriend over the phone, wanting to do it in person, Presley heaves a bottle of Gatorade against the wall. When she tells him he’s drinking too much juice while they’re on vacation in Hawaii, Presley denounces her in front of his friends (“We’re leaving Hawaii because of you”), then hits her when she leaves the room (“No one ever walks out me when I’m talking!”). Even more frighteningly, when she tells him he shouldn’t eat any more yogurt one night, he responds by waiting until she gets back in bed, then firing a gun in the headboard above her.

“Appalling” is the only appropriate way to describe such behavior. It’s sad that those around Presley let him get away with such antics for so long he probably felt he was acting normally.

Alden chose to forgive Presley time and again. But this isn’t a portrait of the kind of person you’d want to spend much time with.

— Gillian G. Gaar

Read a Goldmine interview with Ginger Alden

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