Ginger Alden Interview: Elvis Presley’s Fiancee and Last Love Details Final Months of His Life in Memoir, "Elvis & Ginger"
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Actress and model Ginger Alden is known for her role on the daytime drama Capitol. She was also featured in a number of television shows including Hollywood Beat and Life Goes On. A spokeswoman for the Claridge Hotel and Casino, Alden also starred in more than a hundred television commercials and had a successful modeling career for such products like Clairol, Vidal Sassoon, Maybelline, Aziza, Avon and Virginia Slims.
Alden was the fiancée of rock and roll legend Elvis Presley at the time of his death on August 16, 1977. Her memoir entitled Elvis & Ginger: Elvis Presley’s Fiancee and Last Love Finally Tells Her Story, detailing their life together, was published September 2, 2014.
"When he first walked in the room the very first night we met, he walked into his daughter Lisa’s room, and I just thought he was gorgeous. I was extremely shy, and I blurted out, 'Hi Elvis!' like I’d known him for years. We connected; we shared spiritual interests and musical interests. I didn’t even think of the age difference. The only time I thought Elvis seemed a little older was when he was teaching. He loved to teach. He was in a very mellow phase in his life and really searching, on a spiritual quest, on a very serious spiritual quest. We read many nights together."
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Ginger, what have you been doing for the last thirty-seven years?
Ginger Alden: (laughs) Well, I moved up to New York in 1980 and began working. I worked for many years, met my husband and had my son who just turned twenty last year. When he went off to college, I finally had time to sit down and put my memoirs together. I didn’t want to lose time with my son. I went to all his baseball and soccer games, and then I finally was able to sit down and put my memories down when he went to college.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You waited until your son was older to finish the book?
Ginger Alden: Oh yeah. I mean, I went forward. I worked. I had my son. I didn’t have any interest in doing a book, but with so much hearsay, fabrications and untruths swirling around out there, it was difficult, but like I said, I waited, and I raised my son.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are some of the untruths you address in the book?
Ginger Alden: There are exaggerations like Elvis wasn’t happy his last year, was depressed, sitting up there eating fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches (which I never once saw him eat one of those the nine months I was with him), that we argued all the time and that I hated touring. There are multiple swirling untruths, and I think people will see a difference when they read the book.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It’s pretty widely known that Elvis shot out a few television screens in his time, so what do you write about that people would be surprised to know?
Ginger Alden: I think that’s an example of an exaggeration. Did Elvis do this? Yes. But when I was with him, I wrote about certain events that happened due to his dependency on sleep medications, but those events were few and far between. This wasn’t someone who sat every day shooting TVs. I wanted his fans to see that side of him because there’s an unfair portrayal of him out there.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you believe the majority of his bad moods were the result of the drugs he was taking?
Ginger Alden: Absolutely. That’s what I witnessed. That wasn’t the real Elvis. Ninety-eight percent of the time, Elvis was in great spirits and was a wonderful person, but there was that two percent that came into play when certain events happened which I wrote about. People can read about my journey with Elvis and what I experienced.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Let’s talk about the beginning. You met Elvis through your sister?
Ginger Alden: We didn’t know him. Even earlier my father had been down at the Kennedy Veteran’s hospital when Elvis was inducted into the Army, so I actually met Elvis when I was five years old. My father was involved with recruiting and public relations for the Army, and he’d gone down to Graceland a couple of times to try to talk Elvis into joining the Army, but by that time, I believe Elvis had gotten the notice that he was going straight into the Army.
My father, for public relations purposes, was picking up little tidbits from Army newsletters and stopped by the gates of Graceland one time when Elvis returned from the Army in 1950. My father and another gentleman who worked for a local newspaper became friendly with Elvis’ uncle Travis. Travis would invite various people to movies when Elvis would rent out the whole movie theater. My parents actually got to go one night back in 1950.
On another evening, Elvis opened the fairgrounds which is something he did frequently for many people. He invited a lot of guests, and they could bring children, so my parents brought my siblings and myself. I met him for the very first time that night when he patted me and my sister Terry on the head. I was about five.
Jump to 1976, and my sister was Miss Tennessee at the time. This was November of ’76, and a phone call came in to our home one evening from George Klein, a local disc jockey friend of Elvis, calling on behalf of Elvis. He said that Elvis was dating around and would like to meet Miss Tennessee. We were just flabbergasted. We were like, “Wow!”
I had passed Graceland numerous times. It was like being invited to the White House. My sister, Rosemary, suggested that she and I accompany Terry because Terry was nervous about it. The three of us decided that night that we were finally going to get a peek inside Graceland and get to shake Elvis’ hand and come home. Things changed (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were you an Elvis fan from a young age?
Ginger Alden: Oh yeah. My mother was very musical, and her love of music rubbed off on Terry and me. I tried to play guitar a little bit, and I can play piano by ear, but my mother played mandolin and guitar, and she played a lot of gospel hymns. Her father had been a preacher in a little church in Arkansas when she was younger, so a lot of that rubbed off on her. She played gospel and a lot of Elvis songs actually. Terry was a classical pianist, so many times I stood behind her and sang some of Elvis’ old gospel songs.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were you nervous when you first met Elvis that night in 1976?
Ginger Alden: When he first walked in the room the very first night we met, he walked into his daughter Lisa’s room, and I just thought he was gorgeous. I was extremely shy, and I blurted out, “Hi Elvis!” like I’d known him for years. We connected; we shared spiritual interests and musical interests. I didn’t even think of the age difference. The only time I thought Elvis seemed a little older was when he was teaching. He loved to teach. He was in a very mellow phase in his life and really searching, on a spiritual quest, on a very serious spiritual quest. We read many nights together.
I wasn’t expecting him the first night I was alone with him to read to me. He had this large book with a symbol and said, “This is an illustration of God.” It was a man with a long flowing beard with symbols of fire, ice and wind to the sides. Elvis started reading it to me, and then he handed me the book and wanted me to read to him. This was the very first night. I was like, “This is a rock and roll icon reading to me.” It was amazing.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There have been numerous things written about Elvis’ sex life, and some girlfriends have said that he didn’t like sex. What say you?
Ginger Alden: Well, I’ve been a pretty private person for a long time, but no, we had a very good relationship in that respect, but I’m keeping some things to myself. He was an exciting, wonderful man.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There have been speculations for years that Elvis was suffering from several medical issues at least the last year or two of his life, and some have even said cancer. Was this true?
Ginger Alden: That was so frustrating for me all this time. No one ever intimated that to me, and he certainly didn’t act sick. No one ever came to me and said, “This man is very sick.” He had quite a few doctors around. When we were in Hawaii, he played football, so I have a problem with that and wanted to clear it up. Elvis was never sitting around saying, “Gee, I don’t feel good. I’m sick.” No one certainly ever approached me and told me that.
The myth about the cancer … I’ve heard some stories were being leaked from Graceland, that Elvis thought Vernon purposely put that out there to see if it would spread. I don’t believe it was true and have never heard a physician say that. If someone had cancer, they’d be in serious pain all the time you would think.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you two talk about having a wedding and set a date?
Ginger Alden: Yes we did. Elvis had complained that he thought a tooth had broken off, so we went to the dentist the evening of August 15th, and when we returned, we went up to Lisa’s room. At one point, we were watching television, and Elvis turned it off. He said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about getting married lately.”
He went into all kinds of details about our wedding. He wanted a limousine in a certain color so many inches longer than the normal ones and so many policemen there. He didn’t want it to be a three-ring circus. Elvis was always very protective of our relationship, but we did set the date for Christmas Day. He asked, “My birthday, your birthday or Christmas?” I said that Christmas would be nice because that would be our gift to us.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I imagine seeing Elvis’ lifeless body in the bathroom is a scene that will be burned into your memory forever.
Ginger Alden: It’s still hard. It’s still hard to believe it all happened. But it did. But, yes, it was something so completely unexpected and devastating. It was a devastating time for all of us.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Take me through the last day of his life.
Ginger Alden: After we had set a wedding date, Elvis talked a little business with some of the guys, and he wanted to play racquetball. He was in good spirits. We went down to the racquetball court, and he showed me around. I loved art, and he was mentioning about building an art studio for me. His cousin Billy was with us. Elvis hit the ball a little bit. We didn’t play long. We left and came back upstairs.
We read a little bit, looked through a few books. I wrote about how I noticed him having a problem sleeping more before a tour. He’d get anxious which I understood. Elvis had a tour coming up in just a couple of days, and he was having problems sleeping. He stood up and went to the bathroom. That’s the last time that I saw him.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What kind of relationship did you have with the “Memphis Mafia,” the people Elvis had around him at all times?
Ginger Alden: I never knew Red. Red and Sonny West were long gone. I didn’t even know who they were. Elvis mentioned the names once to me, but I didn’t know until late summer that they had written a book. He mentioned it one time to me, but he seemed to come to a place where he had accepted it. I had no idea what was in the book, but Elvis never sat around and talked about it. He was never depressed about it. I can look back now and say, “Surely it must’ve been bothering him,” but I never sensed it when I was with him.
As for the rest of the Memphis Mafia, Elvis would keep me close to his side. He had asked me to move in at Graceland, but it wasn’t my way at the time, and he said he respected me for it. I was there pretty much every single day, but I wasn’t really hanging out with them. Elvis wanted to keep me close to his side, so I stayed with him. We had many fun times. Elvis loved a good comedy. We stayed upstairs a lot, but that was like his sanctuary. He was happy there; I think he was at his most relaxed. He had his daughter’s room, he had a refrigerator, had an organ in his office. We just had many good times.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was your relationship like with Elvis’ father Vernon?
Ginger Alden: I was intimidated by Mr. Presley. He wasn’t coming around that much in the beginning, and then later he started coming around. I remember one evening when Vernon left the room, and Elvis said, “It’s almost like daddy has to leave when we’re together.” It’s funny.
I wrote about never getting a chance to sit and have long conversations with any of his people to get to know them or let them get to know me. I wish there had been more time, but when Elvis passed away, I was stunned. All of a sudden, all of those people started turning on each other. That really shocked me.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I guess they depended on Elvis for their livelihoods, so when the money train ended, they were probably quite upset.
Ginger Alden: Well, yeah. There were many exaggerations, too, like I said. People didn’t have a clue what was going on behind closed doors with Elvis and me. I wrote about certain events and things that I had questioned or that others had questioned, and later when Elvis passed away, they speculated about many things. They didn’t know me well, and that’s a lot of what I hope to clear up in the book.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Has Priscilla or Lisa contacted you since the book has been published?
Ginger Alden: No. I haven’t heard from anyone.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Lisa’s daughter is engaged to be married.
Ginger Alden: Oh she is? I hope she’s happy. I haven’t seen Lisa in a long time. I wish there had been more time to get to know her, too. She was a sweet girl. Elvis’ face lit up whenever they were together. He was a great dad. She seemed happy. I’ve always wished the best for her.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did Elvis ever tell you that he wanted more children?
Ginger Alden: Oh yes. We talked about it. He wanted a son. We talked about having more kids, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are some of your most cherished possessions you have kept from that time you spent with Elvis?
Ginger Alden: I have my engagement ring, my TLC necklace that stood for “tender loving care.” He gave these necklaces out to people if he wanted to include them into that tighter group of his. I have many beautiful rings, watches, writings that he wrote to me, books.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): If Elvis had lived, and you two had gotten married, do you think you would’ve still been married to this day?
Ginger Alden: No one can predict the future, but I was looking forward to being his wife and traveling with him. My biggest regret is that none of us got to see him do new films, which he wanted to do and hear more music from him, and I didn’t get to go there with him. I wish things had been quite different.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’ve seen some positive book reviews and comments about how happy Elvis fans were that you were trying to correct the untruths and exaggerations.
Ginger Alden: It would mean a great deal if a person could walk away after reading and say, “Wow! Elvis was human.” We all are. He had good days and bad days, but above it all, he was looking forward to many things. I tried to write about his generosity and how he cared so deeply for so many people.
If he could put a smile on someone’s face, that made him the happiest. He loved giving gifts to other people and surprising them with gifts. He would get really hurt if you didn’t accept a gift. Maids, housekeepers, nurses … I don’t know how many people have brand new homes and cars. He was so generous to so many. A lot of that came from the fact that he didn’t have a great deal when he was younger, and he thought that would just brighten their lives being able to do that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What is your life like today, Ginger?
Ginger Alden: I married in ’91 to a very special man. My husband is very understanding. He’s not a singer I will say though (laughs).
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