Saturday, December 18, 2010

Interview with a Woman Who Kissed Elvis

Sometime earlier this fall I was having lunch with the late Jack Tylia, a Duluth author of countless books on fishing and former journalist for the Tribune, when a woman at the next table interrupted us. "I couldn't help but hear you were writers. All my life people have told me my story should be turned into a book." This wasn't the first person to tell me this, and the last one had a story that I transformed into a Hollywood screenplay. It was a remarkable story by someone who lived through a horrific period of history in Estonia during World War II, Ralph Kand. Someday I will see if I can finish the book that was commenced as a follow up.

The woman gave us her phone number and this past month I decided to give her a call. Her name was Gloria. We went to lunch at the Androy Hotel in Superior, and for what it's worth, I enjoyed hearing her stories. In her youth she had evidently been attractive enough to catch the eye of some rather interesting men, including Clint Eastwood whom she purportedly dated and Elvis Presley. Here is the beginning portion of our conversation at the Androy.

Ennyman: You were at the Beverly Willshire.

Gloria: Yeah, at Beverly Hills, that's where we met, that's where I met Elvis. I was an elevator operator and we'd kiss between floors. He invited me to his room because I had a 22 waist, 110 pounds. At that time I looked like Liz Taylor, people say. My hair was past my waist. He used to come in with all his Memphis Mafia, and one time Charlie Hodge, he grabbed my hand, this is some time into it, he grabbed my hand and he's holding my hand looking at me. Elvis had these long cigars and he blew the smoke right straight through between us to break it up. And Charlie looked back and dropped my hand like that. So he asked me to his room, and I said, "I can't come 'cause I'm employed. You know if I go to your room I might get fired, and its not worth it." So anyway, he moved out and then the fun started.

One night I had my hair in curlers, and I got a telephone call from Joe Esposito. In fact, recently Joe Esposito called me from Vegas. Steve Wynn asked him to work for him at the Wynn Hotel and Casinos. And he's part of the Memphis Mafia. He did a lot of work for Elvis.

Enny: Esposito is part of the Memphis Mafia?

Gloria: They call those guys the Memphis Mafia. They were like Elvis' body guards and business people. So he called me up and he goes, “Can you be ready in a while?” and I said, “Where are you calling from?” And he said, “I'm calling from a limousine downstairs. Elvis wants to know now if you can come over.” But he hesitated. He said now can you come to his home and he hesitated and I said, “Yeah, sure.” So my parents ran to the window and looked out and looked down and said, “Oh, my, gosh.” You know how a limousine looks.

So anyhow, he said, “How soon can you be ready?” and I said pretty soon. I set my hair down, took my curlers off, fixed my hair and I'm like, “How did you know I was home? My address and phone number, that’s not hard to get. You can get it from my boss, but how did you know I was home?” So anyhow I went to Elvis' house, and all the fun started from that point on. You know, I believe to this very day that he was my soul mate. I had no doubt about it. I got to know the dad really well. I invited my brother a few times.

Enny: Roughly when was this?

Gloria: It was, I was 23 years old, so 1962, around that. And so then finally I brought my brother there, and he said to me he was jealous. And I said, "There's no reason to be jealous. He hasn't officially dated me."

Well, I was very shy back then because in the 50's and 60's you didn't do anything wrong. People were very uptight. Even on the Lucille Ball Show they had to have separate beds. They couldn't have man and wife in the same bed. That's how they were, so you're uptight. Actually I froze up around him. Not saying he was intimidating but I froze. Otherwise if I had to go out after him, when he proposed to me I would have been in Memphis. I wouldn't be here sitting with you. So long story short –

Enny: He proposed to you?

Gloria: Yeah, this is some time into it. We'll get to that. Anyway, we'll bypass everything else because it’s too long. He's interested, showing interest in me and I'm like, not showing anything. I'm like independent, you know. I'm not deliberately doing that, but I'm just acting like he's just another guy. I think he kind of liked that in a way. So anyway this was, I believe, in Bel Air, and I'm sitting in a convertible that my friend took me up there in.

Enny: Your friend was?

Gloria: I had a friend who drove me up there.

Ed: He or she?

Gloria: It was a he. And so finally he's in the house and then Elvis comes out and he's getting into his motor coach, one of those ones they drive and he pointed over at me and said, “I want to get married.” And I'm looking around, and he says, “I want to get married and I want to have a boy and I want to have a girl.” And then I looked around and he says, “I'm talking to you.” And I froze. I didn't know what to say. Finally, he repeated that two times and he said, “Oh, girls,” and I said what the heck just happened? Why didn't you answer him? Why didn't you say something? Even to this very day I'm like, “Why didn't you say something to that man?" You know? But that is considered a proposal when he pointed at me and said I want to get married and have a boy and a girl. Later on in the books in Barnes and Noble, it said that he wanted a boy and a girl, a boy first and a girl second. And there's so many coincidences that are happening still to this very day that are unexplainable.

There's plenty more to this story. If you know someone who wants to to go further with it, I can put you in touch. History is made by real people.

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