Welcome to Vintage Paparazzi.

Elvis Presley’s Marriage Dilemma

If there is one thing that Corporal Elvis Presley learned while sweating it out with the Army of the United States in Germany it was, to risk an irreverent paraphrasing of the Bible, that man cannot live by Cadillac alone.

It was not his hard-won two stripes, but the cherished accolade of regular guy—more stintingly bestowed, especially to celebrities, than even the Legion of Merit—that was the measure of his achievement in uniform.

The probability is that the recognition that he was regular—in other words, only human—also was the measure of the loneliness he may have managed to conceal from fellow GI’s behind a smokescreen of fluttering frauleins, but which he could not conceal from himself when he crawled into his bed at night.

His buddies, of course, thought Elvis had it made. They envied—even if they learned not to begrudge—Elvis the fleet of Cadillacs, the life of a movie star, the eager women, all the glittering trappings of fame that awaited him stateside.

Elvis did not even try to explain, nor perhaps would they have understood if he had, how deeply he in turn envied them. He envied their anonymity—the license of the obscure to live their lives and enjoy their leaves without attracting attention and inviting judgment. But more than anything else, he envied the one thing so many of them had which he did not. Someone to come home to!

For some it was a wife, for others a sweetheart, for still others a mother. But somewhere a woman to come home to, a woman who was dear to them—a woman to cry at the fresh sight of them, to feel a gush of happiness at their well-being, a woman who made a private heroism of being away because she felt it as much on one side of the ocean as her man, or her son, felt it on the other side.

Once Elvis would have been spared that void. Once there was a loving face that never failed to show up when he came home, just as it never failed to moisten with tears when he went away—as it did the day he traded his sideburns and civilian clothes for the uniform of an enlisted man.

But that was when Elvis Presley’s adored mother was alive.

So when Elvis Presley draws his mustering out pay and returns to the ranks of working millionaires, he will be searching—whether he acknowledges it or not—for a girl to make his wife. He has arrived at a stage of manhood where me cannot much longer put off fulfilment, when fly-by-night romances will fool him no more. They will merely light up the fearful emptiness.

He will be like any other man who was sustained by such love as his mother gave him. He will be like any other man who has had his surfeit of an endless variety of all too-willing girls. He will be the servant of his need. And that need is not surging crowds to cheer the returned warrior, but simply someone to come home to.

All Prince Charming had to do was find the girl whose foot would nestle into the glass slipper. Compared with Elvis’s marriage dilemma, the prince’s quest was a breeze. He is faced with the task of fitting a girl—perhaps a girl he has not yet met—to a human personality that will be forever enshrined in his heart.

No, it will not be easy for Elvis Presley to find a wife—and it will not be easy to be his wife.

If Elvis seems to display no uncommon haste for marriage upon his return, it will not necessarily prove that he still has too many wild oats to sow. Nor will the fact that he followed George Washington’s doctrine and managed to avoid entangling international alliances necessarily establish a deep-seated aversion to marriage. It is just as possible that these are pieces of evidence supporting his determination to settle nor no less than his dad did. A perhaps corny, but nevertheless compelling, emotional pull.

No one could be certain that Elvis is destined to marry an butright mother image. But it would be nonsense to pretend hat the image of his mother won’t in some significant degree influence his choice, and help determine even to a greater degree his chances for lasting happiness with the girl he finally marries.

For many men caught up in unabating feminine adulation as Presley is, the selection of a bride might be almost impossible. But for Elvis the ultimate decision may not be as difficult as the search itself. That is because he came by his standards long before the magic wand of chance transformed him from a guitar plunking $35 a week truck driver into a noisily acclaimed national idol.

Long before Elvis was touched by fame, and long after became its jaunty captive, his mother was the quiet, arthy embodiment of his ideals of womanhood. She was the personification of all that was good in woman. The tears with which the grieving Elvis moistened his mother’s early brave were but a slight measure of the engulfing affection in which he held her, and of the profound influence she had on is thinking. His own anguished cries when he knelt at his mother’s deathbed warned of his imperishable ties to her.

“Oh God!” he sobbed. “Everything I have is gone. I lived my life for you. I loved you so much.”

Then, as friends helped him away from her grave, he turned back with one last, aching glance to weep:

“Good-bye, darling, good-bye.”

In that 21-word salute, all that Elvis Presley felt for his mother gushed out. The great, pure, abiding figure of mother love had gone. To Elvis, she had been all that was fine and warm and caring, all that was real and meaningful. All his life this plain, wise, plump woman had been his fortress. When others criticized, she understood. When others doubted, she believed. When he trespassed, she forgave. She loved him unstintingly, and he loved her back the same way—a song whose greatest satisfactions came from repaying her sacrifices with comforts she had never known and with filial devotion that never wavered.

“Mom,” he had tearfully promised her as a boy when his dad was a Mississippi sharecropper and they lived from hand to mouth, “someday I’m gonna get us out of all this. I promise you, Ma. I promise.”

“I know you will, Son,” his mother would kiss him. “I just know you will.”

“You wait and see,” he would say, “some day I’ll make you proud.”

“I don’t have to wait, Son,” she would smile. “You’ve already made me proud. You’re a good boy, Elvis.”

Even in the first confused flush of acclaim, her love sustained Elvis. When people murmured that Elvis had changed, his mother would snap, “I’d be worried if he hadn’t. Success changes people. Failure changes people. Just growing up changes people. I’d be mighty worried if Elvis hadn’t changed. He’s still changing. I think he’s changing real good. I’m real proud of him.”

Always he could count on his mother to know how he felt. She saw through to things. She had little education, but she was wise beyond diplomas. Now with her gone there is a question Elvis cannot evade. Will he be able to settle for less in the woman he marries? Can he help subconsciously seeking out a mother image any more than a thirsty man turn from drink?

Elvis was nurtured by his mother’s pride, and he lived for her approval. When he met a girl he really liked, invariably he would say, “I want you to come visit us in Memphis, and meet my ma.” Any friend of Elvis’s was a friend of his ma’s. She gave his girl friends warm welcome, and they saw first-hand the strength of the bond with her son.

All his tensions fell away when he was around her. Their affinity was not merely to be sensed. He was unabashedly demonstrative about his affection.

“He was always kissing his mother,” was deeply-impressed Dotty Harmony’s observation to me after spending a fortnight with the Presleys.

Elvis never lacked tenderness and consideration, never made fun of his mother’s anxieties. Whenever he would leave the house she’d admonish him like a lad in knee pants, “Elvis, be real careful now.”

He would kiss her and smile, “Don’t worry, Ma. I will.”

When he’d get home, he’d call out, “Hi, Ma! I’m back. Everything’s all right.” He always let her know where he was going and when he had returned. He never felt too old or too important to extend that courtesy. He grew up, but never away. He never cut her off.

He was notorious for eating poorly on the road, confining himself to wolfed peanut butter and banana sandwiches in hotel rooms. But when he was home, exposed to his mother’s cooking, eating became a pleasure instead of an intrusion. He loved the food his ma set before him. He was wild about her cocoanut cake and corn bread.

His mother loved him without making demands. She wanted Elvis to do what he pleased—whether it was to stretch out in his relaxing chair and watch TV, to play the piano or organ and sing spirituals, to listen to his favorite records, anything the mood suggested. Elvis’s enthusiasms were her enthusiasms, his pleasures, her pleasures.

That joy in finding happiness in his happiness is deeply etched in Elvis’s image of his mother. The test of his capacity for marriage well may be his ability to be happy with a girl who has drives and needs of her own. Not too much time is likely to elapse before it will be clear whether his mother image will complicate or simplify Elvis’s search for a bride.

For whatever reason Elvis ultimately marries, however, it is improbable that he would be long content with a woman substantially less indulgent than his mother. His mother’s unfaltering trust left a lasting mark. He would balk at a wife who picked at him—even for his own good—a wife who tried to improve or change him, who didn’t share his excitement about singing, who might be more concerned about where he was going, what he did and with whom than simply whether he was all right.

Even when his mother was alive, Elvis found himself unwittingly trying to fit girls into her image. His mother was of a fundamentalist background, and her teaching had not been lost on him. Just as his mother did not smoke, drink or gamble, so to this day does Elvis abstain from these distractions.

He makes no overt effort to impose his values on others. Yet he doesn’t disguise them when he dates a girl. He believes implicity in the values handed down from his mother.

“When I first met Elvis,” Dotty Harmony told me, “I would occasionally take a cocktail or a glass of wine. Elvis never preached at me. He just showed me what harm drinking could do by telling me of the many lives he’d seen ruined by drink. Not that I ever drank much. It wasn’t hard to give up, but I haven’t had anything to drink since I met Elvis, and I don’t miss it.”

“I really used to smoke up a storm,” Dotty recalled. “Then when I was visiting with him in Memphis on New Year’s Eve, I took out a cigarette, gave it a farewell look, and said, ‘This is it. This is the last one. I’m making a New Year’s resolution to give up smoking.’ He was very pleased, and said, ‘That’s a good girl.’ ”

Thus it would seem that Elvis’s search has been on for quite some time. The difference is that once out of the Army and with his mother gone the need is likely to become more urgent. Will his quest end with a girl he has not yet met, or will his mate be a girl he already knows? At various times he has been reported altar-bound with Barbara Hearn, Dotty Harmony, Yvonne Lime, Judy Spreckels, Ann Neyland, and most persistently, with Anita Wood. His romances with Dotty, Yvonne and Ann have long since expired. Judy Spreckels some time ago married another man.

Barbara Hearn, whom Elvis has known longer than any of the others, has bobbed in and out of his life. Time and again it has been this understanding pert hometown brunette to whom Elvis has returned after helling around beyond the hinterlands. Barbara and he are products of the same culture. They have no regional differences to bridge. Her wants have been demonstrably modest, and her pleasures just as demonstrably simple. Elvis always could relax and be himself with Barbara. From the beginning, her interest in his career seemed to border on the maternal.

Her pride in his accomplishments was deep and genuine. Elvis enjoyed listening to recordings which she compiled as her selections of his best efforts. She was equally happy riding on the back of his motorcycle, munching hamburgers with him, sipping Cokes or curling up in front of the record player at his house. Yet Barbara never has been in awe of him. Like his mother, she was under no illusions that he could do no wrong. She was more anxious that no wrong should come to him, and she had the spunk to speak up in that partisan cause. In many compelling respects, Barbara Hearn would seem cast in the image of Elvis’s mother.

If not Barbara Hearn, however, what about Anita Wood? Anita seemed closer to his mother than any other girl he knew. His mom was as fond of Anita as if she had been her own daughter—or was likely to be her daughter-in-law. Anita was home folks.

Anita’s chances are by no means conclusive. Yet there are factors that weigh to her advantage. Anita hails from Jackson, Tenn. She, too, is a hometown girl. She and Elvis’s mother share a common southern background. She talks the same language, the same dialect, likes the same food. She and his mom liked the same things about Elvis. Neither seemed to resent sharing him with the other.

.Perhaps more to the point, Elvis gave signs of feeling much the same way toward Anita as he did toward his mom. Nothing pleased him more than to lavish largesse on his mother. He got the same charge out of overwhelming Anita with his impulsive generosity. The Christmas before he submitted his famous mane to an Army barber he gave Anita a pearl encrusted wrist watch in unique green and white Yuletide wrapping paper—a $100 bill. Another time, when Anita mentioned that her vintage car was in for repairs again, he took her by the hand and said, “Come on. It’s about time you had a good car.” So he bought her a brand new Ford.

Yet the question of Elvis’s marriage will not be resolved entirely by how he feels. The girl’s feelings are somewhat maine, too. No matter what he did, mother never doubted that he was a good boy. What she might not understand, he had no difficulty forgiving. Would be too much to expect of a young life—a girl subject to pardonable pangs jealousy? His mother, for example, couldn’t see anything wrong in Elvis’s endship with pretty singer Kitty Dolen the same time Anita was carrying the each for him. She would have been able laugh off as harmless—in fact, healthy boyishness Elvis’s announcement that as major military objective if he ever got Paris would be the then still single Brigitte Bardot. It did not distress his mother that in his work Elvis was called to pass out kisses like other stars we autographs. His wife could not ignore way women go for Elvis. She would have to believe that his widely publicized were harmless—that only with her could he really assuage his hunger affection. Otherwise, the burden could be unbearable.

The probability is that the girl who lets Elvis—even if she is in show business—basically will be someone capable the same affection and understanding got from his mother. She would have hold very loose reins. The girl who vied to possess him fully might hold him east. It would be perilous suddenly to withdraw the enormous latitude to which Elvis has been accustomed. Yet the woman he marries also will have to have spirit, not supinely countenance everything he does. It adds up to a rather large order indeed.

Moreover, Anita Wood has ambitions if her own. She wants to act and sing. His mother’s only ambition was to work for Elvis’s happiness, to make him comfortable, to let him be, to bask in his rejected glory.

Perhaps soon all will come out in the wash—the wash of a mother’s tears and wash of a sweetheart’s tears, all somehow blended with the tears of a grieving son. When Pvt. Presley left for Ft. Hood, Texas, with no premonition of his mother’s death, the scene was sanctified in years. His mother wept as mothers have since time immemorial. At his mother’s side, a younger face also was awash with years—the face of blonde Anita Wood.

Soon afterward, Anita’s tears—tears that only so recently had fused with his mother’s—were fused with Elvis’s as she stood by his side while they buried his mother. Then Pvt. Presley was shipped to Germany. For the first time in his life, his mother was not there to shed tears at his going. But he was not without a woman to cry for him. Anita Wood was there—and she was unable to hold back her tears. No more—the thought may have struck Elvis—than his mother would have been able to.

Despite the undeniable obstacles, Elvis’s outlook for marriage is not as discouraging as it may seem. He needs—and obviously asks—a lot of any girl he may marry. But there is a saving balance. Out of his mother’s image there is the comforting reminder that although Elvis always received generously of his mother, he always gave just as generously of himself. There was nothing one-sided about their relationship. He was not a spoiled, vain, ungrateful son who returned kindness with callous indifference. He himself emerged as a warm, giving and caring person. His wife would soon discover that he has as much need to bestow affection as to receive it. A wife who loved him unquestioningly might be sorely tried, but there seems little chance that she would be short-changed.

Once, not long before her sudden death, Elvis defended his attachment to his mother by declaring, “She can’t be replaced.” There is no reason to suppose that he is not now wise and mature enough to realize that there is a place in his heart for a wife, and that by taking that place his wife would not be replacing his mother.

As Elvis once saw so clearly, that would be impossible. Fortunately, his mother taught him tolerance as well as love. She taught him to respect people’s differences and to cherish their individuality. In the end, there is cause to believe Elvis will be able to value his wife for her own sake—not for how closely she may approximate his mother. His behavior—as a man and as a soldier—has encouraged the hope that if he settles for a girl who is different from his mother, he will not be necessarily settling for less. He is apt to be comforted in that decision, as in others, by the recollection of what his mother said whenever he did anything sensible and mature:

“I’m real proud of you, son.”