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OUR FIRST CONVERSATION, "YOU, TOO?" - PART 2

Up the two or three steps to the doors of the suite's entrance he elatedly pulled me. He took a left turn just beside the double front doors of the suite -- the doors I hoped we were headed out of -- into a short hallway to the left, leading to his private suite and living quarters. I found myself now in a living room with a small blue velvet sofa, dark wood scuplting its back and arms, facing a highly polished mahogany coffee table, where he said, "Let's sit right here for a minute before you go. I want to know all about you."

"Well, THAT would take longer than just a minute, and it's getting late, so..." I was now becoming a bit edgy, not really afraid of him, but feeling a bit anxious. "I really need to go."

He half-laughed, shaking his head, "Just... just for a minute?" I sat at the forward edge of the sofa. You know... the way a person sits when just about to leave. I recall this clearly because the edge of that small sofa was very uncomfortable, and the wood framing the arm didn't allow me to lean near it either... it was just uncomfortably small, and not the type of sofa one could settle into.

He noticed that my eyes were not continuing to look at his but for short glances, and they were surveying the open area to my left, his bed... up on a pedestal, fit for royalty with a canopy and drapes in vivid, lush,blues and greens,held back and in place with braided material finished in tassels.

"Uh! Please,... uh... please don't worry, Kathy," he quietly attempted to assure me, to calm me down, "I... uh... this is the only private area I have to talk to you alone. The doors are open down the hall and I would never, never want to do anything to harm you... I just want to get to know you. I just want to talk to you.Talk to you... alone... without any disturbances. Isn't that okay?"

Now!... I was concerned, but... I had spent years of my life traveling as either just one woman with a group of men, or one of few women with a group of men,so was no stranger to the situation where the only place anyone could find on the road to visit was in one's hotel room. However, I was very disturbed about the confusion, the mix-up or miscommunication over what any of this evening meant and was actually nervous, to say the least.

"Will you just sit here and talk to me for just a FEW MINUTES? I know you need to go, and... but I just..."

I decided to take care of what I was upset about quickly, but as politely as I could. Once I began expressing my mind, the words just came out almost too quickly and I didn't stop to breathe.

"I need to leave.And... Look, Elvis!...
I had No idea that this invitation had anything to do with being your date!... that the entire group wasn't going to be here to socialize... and you talked to John? You asked his permission? No one told me! No one asked me  anything! Why didn't you ask me?!! I was invited to a get-together! I don't know what made you think that I was a date!? Oh,.. And you are obviously dating even though you're married?" I jumbled quickly.

(
This "getting-to-know you-as a-friend" business ... uh... was not off to a good start. Looking back now, it was like jumping 100 ft. off the edge of those famous cliffs in Acapulco, without knowing how to swim, if... if... you made it past the protruding rocks, and then didn't disentigrate when you hit the waves below. This was NOT going well... at all!
)

"Look! I just thought... I had NO IDEA that this was..."

He then interrupted me with slowly repeating the words, " I just ... want... to get to know you ... as a friend! Please just sit here for a few minutes and talk to me? I'm sorry, Kathy. Sorry for the confusion. I knew that you and John were together a lot, and I wanted to find out how serious your relationship was. I... I... I'm... not really good at this kind of thing. You know... I'm actually kind of... well... I'm a little afraid of you. I didn't know how to approach you. You have this... this... invisible wall or aura around you... this... "Hands off, don't touch"air about you!", he was facing me with both hands moving back and forth in the air, with a timid smile, a less-than-confident look on his face. His eyes seemed to beg for an answer, but... silence here from me on that one as I puzzled over what he'd just said, not even beginning to understand him.

"What?" I was stunned and even more confused. "Do you mean I'm not friendly? Was I rude to you at some point? I... I've always been considered a people person, I've never been told I wasn't friendly before. "He had succeeded in disarming me here, and I wondered what on earth would make him be at all timid!


"NO,No, no! Kathy!... No!
You Are friendly. That's not what I meant. I just know you are different from the girls we see around here most of the time, you know? I know! I could tell... you're a girl that... that... can't be messed with. Most of the time the women we see are throwing themselves at me, and... oh, dammit, don't you see? I didn't know exactly how to get to know you, how to ask you? I guess when I walked in the doors tonight, I just got a little carried away, thinking that maybe if I hinted to you that I liked you... maybe... maybe you liked me, too."

I hesitated a bit, but remember clearly the look in his eyes, and his seemingly honest efforts to assure me that he only had pure intentions, and I began to believe him. I also began to see that he wasn't as sure of himself as I would have imagined. He wasn't really insecure, but he did question himself enough to wonder if a person he liked might like him too. This I believe was a healthy quality, along with just being honest about how he might have assumed a bit too much. This had been difficult for him to say.

"Well,... Okay", I reluctantly agreed, but quickly inserted as politely as I could, "but just for a few minutes".

I could tell then I was in no danger of being in serious trouble here, and had made it clear I was not comfortable with this night's events.

Our first conversation is quite clear to me because this had definitely been a night of "firsts",several emotions and shocking moments, so it is... and will be... forever indelibly etched in memory as the beginning of a very new 'turn and twist' in my life.


Fate had just stepped in and decided it would take me somewhere "off the trail"... somewhere I never dreamed I'd ever be going, off into a mysterious wilderness, where there was no trail to follow outwardly... one was forced to go within ones-self and know.
 This new life that was completely "out of the Blue", was possibly predestined, and I was about to need armor and a machete to cut my small part of the way ahead for the next seven years, and yes, even on past that... to this very day,obviously, as I write this 43 years later.

First he asked about how I grew up, and I related that to him as follows.


Legend:
Kathy, her brother Brent, her sister Melody,
her mum Connie, her sister Christie Jo and her dad Bresee.

"I'm Greek-English, have two sisters and a brother (Melody, Christie Jo, Brent) I was raised with my Greek grandparents on my mother's side, with her brother Nicki, who was a quadriplegic... cerebral palsy. He couldn't speak or sit up, but his mind was perfect."

Elvis said, "Whoa! What was that like for you?"

"Some of my happiest moments as a child were singing songs in Greek, French, or English to him, reading to him, and deliberately leaving out a paragraph or chorus as my mother did, forcing him to stiffen up and make a sound, then laugh as he knew we were doing this deliberately. It was just a normal situation for us all. He was loved, he loved us too, and I never heard anyone... not anyone in my family ever, ever cry or say anything that would lead me to believe there was something "wrong"with Nicki... not once! Never a complaint about the hardship, or anything, but how much happiness he gave us all! That's weird, huh?"

Elvis laughed then smiled very sweetly, then said,"Not weird, but unusual, and just exactly as it should have been."

I remember stopping there, but he quickly urged me on with, "And?"


Legend: Kathy, aged 16.

"I was born in Texarkana, but moved immediately to and Lived in L.A. until I was seven... My father was a professional singer working at MGM in all the grand musicals, and L.A/San Francisco operas and light opera companies. Daddy was a minister of music in Protestant churches, taught voice and owned 3 record shops where I worked and listened to every genre of music I could find time to sneak into a sound booth with. (I remember noting that he did not ask if I listened to any of his records. This was very much his nature, also, as I would learn later. I really can't think of many entertainers--just a few-- who wouldn't have at least asked, "Did you ever hear my recording of this or that?" Most--not all--but most would have steered the conversation towards themselves.)

I have been a member of many different denominations, but grew up learning to sing in church choirs. I love Sacred Music most of all, especially oratorios, cantatas, and I was obsessed with the human
 voice from before I could remember... studied classical music and voice from an early age.

Elvis excitedly asked, "Your Daddy was in those musicals, those movies?"

"Yes... Student Prince and The Great Caruso films".

He chimed in, "When I was an usher in a movie theater I watched Mario Lanza's films over and over again.  I'd go into the theater even when I wasn't on the clock just to hear him sing and see those films!"

Now, that insight into Elvis surprised me greatly. I had difficulty imagining him as a young teen-aged usher in a movie theater, and was even more surprised that he really studied Mario Lanza's voice and films. "Hmm..." I thought, and found myself asking myself yet once again... "Who is  this man?" I would never have imagined he even was aware of who Lanza was!

He urged me to "Go on... I want to know..."

I decided it was time for him to tell me a bit about himself!

"But, I want to know a whole lot about You too, now. I wouldn't have expected you to have an interest in Mario Lanza!" And then I recalled and told him something that made him smile a smile that lit up the room.

"You know, I did marvel at your recording of "It's Now or Never" and I do remember thinking that there was much more to you than I had thought before.Your voice had matured and you actually sang as if you had begun to study classical vocal technique. That was a powerful recording! Your voice surprised me on that one." His smile made me very aware of... and reminded me that... no matter how big a superstar, how large the image is... he or she is human, and needs to hear what others think of his art, his or her contributions to others. Not just "Oh,you're great!" but one needs to hear from a person in some way that is meaningful.

"Because my image... my commercial image... is different from who I really am," he said with a type of inner acceptance, then urging me to continue. (This is a quality that Elvis had that I would learn over the course of the next seven years was a very beautiful one. He sincerely was interested in every single person, wanted to know all about them,their lives... no matter who they were, no matter where they came from.)

"Go on?" he said.

"More? That's really too much about me. What about You?" I asked. But he wanted more, so I obliged him.

"I studied ballet with my Greek "Mommy", (who was a professional ballerina, tap,and flamenco dancer) from the age of four, went to an all black elementary school (though we lived in a white neighborhood) until Iwas seven... then we moved to Texas. Elvis listened intently. He was interested sincerely in what my background was.

"So your first close friends were black too?" he asked. "I lived in the projects, so had black friends, too. I don't understand racism either, Kathy, though it's better now... it is far from fixed. "(Keep in mind as you read this, that we had just been through the racial wars on the streets of this nation, and had only begun to make any progress at all regarding blacks and whites and integration.)

I continued as he was silently waiting.

"Yes. And not once did any one of them ever mention that I was a different color than they were... Never! Some neighbor said something awful to my Mom when I brought my best friend home to play, and we were each told that we were "different colors", and could only play together at school. When my family moved to Texas where racism was rampant I went into culture shock. Racism in any part of the south is still so much worse than either coast."

"Don't I know it!" he interjected.

"I studied piano, drums, but... that's enough about me! Who else did you listen to?" I was very curious now about this interesting artist, and about his curious personality... the type of person I preferred to converse with actually. 
He was clearly taking form now as a man who was curious and wanted to expand his kno wledge of everything, who asked questions and didn't stop looking for those answers.                                                                                                                                                            

  (To be Continued)

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