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The Agony Of Parting—Elvis Presley

Elvis grinned that night as he entered the little out-of-the-way tavern where Vera Tchechowa waited for him.

“Guess what?” he said, sitting alongside her and taking her hand.

“I know,” the pretty German actress said, pretending to be very serious about this, “you have just been made a major by the United States Army.”

“Nope,” Elvis said.

“Mmmm—your cook sergeant has finally learned how to make the famous hominy grits you are always talking of?”


“I cannot guess,” Vera said, shrugging and smiling now, too. “You tell me. What?”

“I’m going home,” Elvis said. “I’m getting discharged. I should be out by Christmas.”

“Home—and discharged—by Christmas,” Vera said, after him.

“Yep,” said Elvis, “—at least if everything goes okay.” He explained how -his company officer had called him into the office that afternoon and told him there was a good chance of his being let out in December instead of in March. “Some sort of good-conduct dispensation,” he said to Vera now. “Great, isn’t it?”

“Oh yes,” the girl said, softly, “that is very great.”

She forced back the smile which had begun to leave her lips this last moment. And she watched Elvis, intently, as he called over a waiter now and ordered a stein of beer for himself and for her.

“What’re you-all gazin’ at, Ma’am?” Elvis asked as he looked back at Vera, using an exaggerated Southern drawl that had always been a guarantee to set her laughing.

Vera didn’t laugh this time, however.

“I’m gazing at you,” she said, very simply.

“Honored, Ma’am,” Elvis said, bowing his head a little.

Still there was no laughter from Vera.

“And I am thinking,” she said, “how much I will miss you.”

“Huh?” Elvis said.

“Is that too forward for me to say?” Vera asked. And without giving Elvis a chance to answer, she said, blushing a little, “Well, I guess then that I am forward. I have known you for nearly a year now. I have seen you nearly every night of that year and nearly every Saturday and Sunday for the full day. I have had fun. I have grown closer to you than I have ever been to anyone in my whole life. I knew all this time that you would have to go away. In March, I would tell myself, in March he will go away. But somehow the sound of March was distant to me. It seemed somehow as if it would never come . . . And now December—” She sighed. “December is not so far away . . . And you will go . . . And I will miss you.”

What Elvis had in mind . . .

“Honey,” Elvis said when she was through. “Honey Vera,” he said, shaking his head, “did it ever occur to you that no matter when I went away, in March or in December or in October of 1964—if I had to stay in this man’s army that long, that I wouldn’t just leave you like that? That I wouldn’t leave you at all?”

Now it was Vera’s turn to shake her head. “I do not understand you, Elvis,” she said.

“Look,” he said, “when I go back to the States, I want you to come with me . . . I’ve always had that in my mind, that you would.”

“But how?” Vera asked. “How can I come?”

“You’re an actress, aren’t you?” Elvis asked back. “A good one and a beautiful one. There’s no reason why you couldn’t work in the States instead of here. There’s no reason why you couldn’t come to Hollywood and be there the same time I’ll be there.”

Vera said nothing.

“I tell you,” Elvis went on. “It won’t be hard. Sure there’s lots of competition. But you can beat most of it, hands down. I know that, Vera . . . How about it? How does it sound?”

Still, she said nothing.

“We’ll be together that way, without any Decembers or Marches or Octobers splitting us up,” Elvis said. He pressed her hand in his. “I don’t want to go back without you, Vera. I don’t want to let you out of my sight, ever.

“So how about it?” he asked again.

And this time Vera spoke.

“I will come,” she said.

“Good,” Elvis said, relieved, “good, Vera.”

Vera smiled.

“And you know what is the first thing I will do,” she asked suddenly, “when I am in the United States?”

“What’s that?” Elvis said.

“I will go straight to the South of your country,” Vera said, “and I will find a kind woman there and I will say to her, ‘Please, Madame, would you teach me exactly how to make the famous hominy grits? The exact way?’ . . . And then, Elvis, on Christmas Day, for dinner, I will make that for you and for your father and for no matter how many relatives you will be gathered with. Hm?”

Elvis laughed.

“Sure,” he said, “nothing like grits with your turkey, I always say.”

“You mean that?” Vera asked.

“Just like having an old-fashioned banana split with these,” Elvis said, pointing to the two beers the waiter had just brought to their table.

He laughed again.

And this time Vera laughed with him.

“Oh, it will be fun,” she said, “the most wonderful thing that could ever happen to me.”

Elvis stood up.

“Let’s dance, Vera, to celebrate,” he said. “But there is no music,” Vera said.

“Let’s dance anyway,” Elvis said.

Vera got up now, too, and fell into his arms.

” They began swirling around the floor of the little tavern.

After a moment, Elvis began to sing.

And a moment after that the waiter came rushing over to them.

“Tanzen verboten, Herr Corporal,” he said. “No dance here. Is forbidden. Verboten.”

“But you don’t understand, Herrober,” Elvis said. “We two are celebrating. We’re going home.”

“To America,” Vera said, nodding and clinging to Elvis. “To America!”

Vera was surprised the way her best friend, Hedwig B—, received the news that next day.

“Well,” Hedwig said bluntly, “it’s your funeral—both your funerals.”

“Why do you say that?” Vera asked.

“First of all,” her friend said, “unless two people are both in love, really in love, there’s no sense in keeping up a relationship once it runs its natural course. Now is there?”

“But we are in love, Elvis and I,” Vera said. “We are.”

“You’re sure of that?” her friend asked.

“Yes,” Vera said, “more sure than I have ever been of anything.”

“Then how about marriage?” Hedwig asked. “I know you very well, Vera Tchechowa. I know you to be an extremely honorable girl. Yet not once in all your talk this past year, this afternoon, have I heard you mention the word marriage . . . And do you think it honorable for a young man and a young woman to discuss going away together without any discussion of marriage?”

“It’s not going away, like that,” Vera said. “He is going home. And I am going to work close to his home, so that I can be near him.”

Her friend shrugged.

“And as for marriage,” Vera went on, “no—we have never discussed it. But that is because we realize that we are still too young to talk about a step like this. We have thought about it, separately, to ourselves. I know that. I know that . . . But the time has not yet come for us to bring it up in words.”

How it really sounded . . .

Her friend was silent for a moment.

“All right,” she said, “I believe you, Vera, because I know that you are good. And if you are good, the man you love must be good, too. So don’t be angry with what I have said. Because I believe you.

“But,” she added, “there are other problems to be faced.”

“Such as?” Vera asked.

“Such as things for you not being the same in the United States as they have been here in Germany,” Hedwig said. “Think of it, Vera, of how the lovely little world you two have inhabited, alone, this past year, will be gone . . . Yes, if he were just an ordinary American boy you could still have your world as it was, with some changes, but pretty much the same. He is not an ordinary American boy, however, is he? And his life when he returns to his country—the mobs of people that will surround him everywhere, for most of every day, every day—that will be extraordinary, won’t it? . . . And where, Vera, where will you fit into this picture? Do you think you will get to see him much anymore, to be with him much? Do you think there will be Saturdays at the lake still, and Sundays driving through the countryside still, and evenings in little places where he will not be recognized and where you two will be left alone? Do you think this, Vera?”

“I think you exaggerate.” Vera said.

“Well,” her friend said, “as long as I exaggerate, I won’t—”

She stopped.

The bitter truth

“Vera,” she said then, urgently, “don’t you know that you will be hurting him, too?”

“What do you mean by that?” Vera asked.

“You are German,” Hedwig said. “He is a popular American idol, an American hero. There are many people in his country who would not look so kindly on him, who would criticize him, if he appeared to be too serious about a German girl.”

Vera took a deep breath. “You talk,” she said, “as if our countries were still at war. The war has been over for many years now, Hedwig. Thousands of our girls have married American soldiers and live happily in the United States now . . . You know that.”

“Yes,” her friend said, “but their men’s careers were not dependent on the romantic notions of others. And when there was any criticism leveled against these marriages—and there was, Vera, there was—it was not too difficult for the American boy involved to tell his critics to please mind their own businesses.

“With your man, however, it would be difficult. He is an idol. He cannot tell people off. If he but tried—it might mean that he would be finished, washed up, just like that.”

She placed her hand on Vera’s shoulder.

“I tell you this because you’re my friend,” she started to say again. “Because—”

Vera moved away from her.

“I appreciate your interest,” she said, but I don’t want to hear any more right now.”

“Have you understood at all,” Hedwig asked, “what I’ve been trying to say to you?”

“No,” Vera said.

She began to cry, suddenly, and she brought her hands up hard against her face.

“No,” she sobbed, “No . . . No . . . No . . . No!”

The face of reality

There was a party that night at the home of some friends.

Elvis, held up at the post on some special duty, arrived late and walked straight over to where Vera was sitting.

For a few minutes, he told her about his day—that it had been a tough one and that he was pooped, that the only thing that had made it bearable was knowing that night would come, eventually, and that he would see her, Vera.

Then he put his arm around Vera’s waist and he leaned over to kiss her on the cheek and he asked, “Excited?”

Vera forced a quizzical smile.

“About what, Elvis?” she asked.

“Your trip,” he said.

“Ah,” Vera said, “my trip to America?”

“Yeah,” Elvis said, “and the big search you’re going to make for that grits recipe, among other things.”

“My trip to America,” Vera said again.

She shook her head and forced a laugh this time.

“I knew it was all too good to be true,” she said, “—to think that I would really be able to come.”

Elvis stared at her.

“What happened?” he asked.

“Do you remember,” Vera asked, looking away from him, “do you remember, Elvis, that role I told you that I was up for, in the picture about Berlin, the crisis and the underground and the girl who gets involved in the underground?”

“No,” Elvis said, “I don’t remember.”

“Well,” Vera said, “I got the part. Just today, this afternoon at four o’clock. I was at home and the phone rang and it was my agent. He was so out of breath I didn’t know what was happening at first. And then he told me. And I was so—happy.”

“You took the part?” Elvis asked.

“Of course,” Vera said.

She looked back at him now, looking at his face but avoiding his eyes.

“And the trip is off?” Elvis asked.

“But it must be,” Vera said. “The picture starts just about the time you leave Germany, my darling, and it will be in production for at least three months . . . maybe even four.”

“How about then,” Elvis asked, “—you could come over then.”

“Ja,” Vera said, “if the other picture doesn’t come through.”

“What other picture?” Elvis asked.

Vera proceeded here to invent another plot and another part for herself.

“Vera,” Elvis started to say, “I don’t get this. I don’t understand how—”

But she never gave him a chance to finish.

“Look,” she said, pointing to the door of the room and to a man and woman who stood there, “look who has just come in.”

“Who’re they?” Elvis asked.

Vera mumbled some names. “I must go talk to them,” she said, rising. “Excuse me, my darling, but it has been such a long time since I have met with them.”

Elvis watched Vera Tchechowa as she raced across the room.

He had no idea, at that moment, that she was racing out of his life . . . nor why.


Some theaters are re-running Elvis’ KING CREOLE and G. I. BLUES, both Paramount.