lunes, 7 de enero de 2013



  • By Michael Lollar
  • Memphis Commercial Appeal
  • Posted January 4, 2013 at 5:40 p.m., updated January 4, 2013 at 6:01 p.m.
With her blonde hair and big smile, Anita Wood reminded some in Elvis Presley's inner circle of Marilyn Monroe. They thought she was destined to be Mrs. Elvis Presley.
Wood, who dated Elvis from 1957 to 1962, knew he dated other women. He told her that his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, just didn't want his fans to associate him with only one woman.
"You're my No. 1 girl," he assured her. In a letter from Germany during his Army tour, he told her, "Remember there is a lonely little boy 5,000 miles away that is counting the hours till he returns to your arms." He signed the letter, "Yours alone darling, Elvis Presley," then added a postscript: "No one reads this OK!"
Wood slowly realized she was one of many love stories in Elvis' life. Now 74, she will tell her story Sunday at a 6-9 p.m. Elvis Insiders Reception and Graceland Tour, an event scheduled for Elvis Birthday Week. Wood will be joined by another former Elvis girlfriend, Elisabeth Stefaniak, who worked as a secretary answering German fan mail for Elvis during his Army tour. She was among the women Elvis dated in Germany while assuring Wood of his undying long-distance love.
Stefaniak, a Graceland guest in the past, said she learned during her three-week affair with Elvis that she was one of several girlfriends and "just sort of accepted it." It was when Elvis met Priscilla Beaulieu, the 14-year-old daughter of an Air Force officer, that Stefaniak gave up on him. "I think he just flipped (for Priscilla) right there," she said.
Stefaniak began dating one of Elvis' Army buddies, Rex Mansfield, whom she eventually married. Mansfield said Elvis was "google-eyed over Priscilla. He'd say, 'I can raise her up the way I want to.'"
Wood had her suspicions about the philandering Elvis, but, "He was really good at making you believe you were the only one."
She and Elvis – who was born Jan. 8, 1935, and died in 1977 – met just as Elvis' rock-and-roll career turned him into a superstar. Wood, a singer who won the 1954 Youth Talent Contest at the Mid-South Fair, was first runner-up in the Miss Tennessee pageant in 1956 and won the swimsuit competition. She became a disc jockey in Jackson, Tenn., then co-host with Wink Martindale of television's "Top 10 Dance Party." It was there Elvis saw her and had one of his Memphis Mafia members call to ask for a date.
Wood said she already had a date that night and declined. She was surprised when he called the next week and asked her out again. Elvis and several Memphis Mafia members arrived in a black Cadillac limousine. After a stop at Krystal, where they bought dozens of burgers, they drove around town before heading for Graceland, where she met Elvis' parents. But the memorable part of the night was Elvis: "He was the best looking man I have ever seen before or after. He was a perfect specimen. Then his personality was down to Earth. We hit it right off. We had a lot in common. He sang me some songs."
Memphis Mafia member and actor Red West, who had seen dozens of girlfriends come and go, said Elvis and his entourage all were looking "for that certain one" during that time. "I thought she (Wood) would eventually become Mrs. Elvis Presley, but Germany changed all of that." Even when Elvis married Priscilla, he said, "I knew it wouldn't last forever. There was just too much being apart and too much going on and too much of everything."
Jerry Schilling, another in Elvis' entourage, said he thought Wood looked like Marilyn Monroe, but he did not get to know her very well because, "I was always afraid to talk to Elvis' girlfriends."
Wood said that was because Elvis "had a temper and was very jealous." When actor Nick Adams visited Elvis in Memphis, Wood said Elvis got mad at her and Adams when she talked to his guest. Wood, who eventually spent most of her time at Graceland, said she slept with Elvis in the same bed, but did not have sex with him. "He wanted to save that for marriage, and I did, too."
In his home in California, she once found a personal letter to Elvis from Priscilla and realized Priscilla was more than a fan. She had heard of Priscilla through newspapers and magazines that speculated on the relationship. When Elvis learned she had read the letter, she said, "Boy, did he get mad. He threw me up against the closet door. He said, 'Why did you read that letter? She is just a 14-year-old girl.'"
Finally, Wood said she came down the back stairs at Graceland one night and overheard Elvis and his father, Vernon, talking about her and Priscilla. "Elvis said, 'I'm having a terrible time making up my mind between the two of them.' I came on down the stairs and said, 'I'm going to make that easy for you. I'm leaving.'"
Later, as she learned more about Elvis' dalliances, she thought, "Well, he was just a jerk." With time she softened her attitude. In 1964, she married NFL player Johnny Brewer, who played for the Cleveland Browns and the New Orleans Saints before dying of Lou Gehrig's disease two years ago. They had been married for 47 years and had three children. "Now I think of Elvis as my first love. Johnny was my true love, but Elvis was my first love."

Elvis Presley: Fall from Graceland

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