Legends: Linda; Linda at
the beginning of the 70's and Linda with Elvis (1973).
Andrew Hearn interviewed Linda Thompson for the
magazine Essential Elvis, where this interview was first published.
Linda was Elvis’s girlfriend after his divorce from Priscilla until
eight months before he died.
Can you start by telling me a little about how your
first meeting with Elvis was set up? I believe an RCA guy called
Bill Browder was responsible?
Yes, I knew him as Bill Browder but he later became
TG Shepard who later became a country artist who did a song called
Devil in a Bottle, and he had a lot of success with it. I was Miss
Tennessee at the time and my girlfriend, who was my roommate in the
Miss USA pageant, was a girl named Jeannie LeMay. She was Miss Rhode
Island and had just moved to Memphis. Anyway, we were out walking
one day and she suggested we go into Fridays and have some lunch. So
we walk into Fridays and Bill Browder is there and he asks if we'd
like to join him for lunch. He then asks us if we'd like to meet
Elvis as he was in town. If it had not been for Jeannie I probably
would not have met him because I was very conservative and I was
about to say that we were busy because we were both supposed to
model that night. Jeannie said that we would meet him and that we'd
cancel our plans.
Were you an Elvis fan at this time?
Oh yes, I had been my whole life but I knew that we
had this modelling job to do and I was happy to stick with my
commitment but Jeannie said that if there was an opportunity to meet
Elvis, she was going to take it. So, we cancelled our modelling
engagement and they got replacements for us. We went to the Memphian
Theater at midnight because that's when it closed and Elvis took
over and show movies.
What was he like? What was your first
impression of him?
Well, I was in the lobby talking to some of the guys
and a few of the people who were hanging around there and the door
burst open and there was this vision. It was the middle of July in
Memphis and it was very humid, just sweltering. He had on this black
cape with a high collar and a red satin lining and I said,
"Dressed a little like Dracula, aren't we?" so you see, we both
shared a sense of humour that was very much like the other. We just
hit it off immediately because we grew up in Memphis, we had the
same religious beliefs, the same love for our family, devotion to
mother and father. We had the same sense of loyalty, we enjoyed the
same cuisine because we were both Southerners.
It sounds like it was almost inevitable, Linda?
Oh, it was. We shared a real kinship. I mean, we
became kindred souls. So much so that he said, "Where have you
been?" and I said "Growing up!"
He had just split from Priscilla when you two first
It's funny because when we met at the Memphian
Theatre, he was telling me that he'd just separated. We met on July
6th and he had been separated since the beginning of January.
You obviously met Lisa Marie pretty soon after you
began dating. How quick did she accept you as her father's new
She was a wonderful little girl. She was very
embracing and a little shy but I've always loved children and we got
on really well. The first time I ever saw her was at the Monovale
house and I was out by the pool. She kind of timidly came around and
said hi. We started talking and we became really close. I loved
being with her. You know, Elvis had a real childlike spirit and I
have too. I like to do childlike things and to sometimes get down to
a child's level. She and I became very close.
Are you still close with her now?
Yes, I am.
I believe it was Lisa who told you of Elvis' death?
She called me. She was only 9-years old but she had
the presence of mind to call me and tell me what had happened.
Was it really a shock to you or could you see that it
was going to happen?
You know, even if someone that you know is on a
destructive path, even when they finally pass away, it's always
shocking. Yes, it was a shock.
You saved his life once or twice right?
Yes, a few times.
Did you both ever discuss marriage?
We talked about marriage often. We talked about
having children too. When Elvis was in the hospital a couple of
times with pneumonia and other health problems, I stayed in the
hospital with him for two and a half weeks at a time. I had my own
hospital bed that was pushed up against his. I even ate hospital
food. I was a young, healthy, vibrant girl but I'm in a hospital bed
pressing the buttons to move up and down in tandem with him. The TV
would go off at night, we didn't have all-night cable like we do
now, and we'd turn the monitor to the nursery and pick out the
different babies that we'd like to have (laughs).
So Elvis had CCTV in his room? Was it something he
We had a television in the room that you could switch
over to the nursery. I don't think Elvis requested it but for
privacy, we were put near the floor where the babies were.
What about the guys that were around Elvis? Did you
get along with all of them?
We actually got along very well and I remain friendly
with a number of them now.
Was there anyone in particular that you were able to
share the difficult times with? David Brigg's (Elvis' piano player
at the time) became a close friend, didn't he?
Actually, we shared a romantic relationship for over
two and a half years and we remain friends as well. You see, in all
honesty, there was no way of really meeting anybody. It was Elvis'
world and we lived this kind of reversed life where we were awake
all night and asleep all day. I was around the same people all the
time so it was natural that when I left, a gravitated to someone who
I had been close to and shared things with. We both had a common
love of Elvis too. We both loved him very much and found it sad to
watch him self-destruct.
Were you in contact with Elvis between the time you
left and the time he died?
Well, he died only eight months after I left. We did
speak once or twice because I worried about him and I would call. I
called Graceland a couple of times just to see how he was because I
was worried. I ask Charlie Hodge or Ricky Stanley, or whoever was
attending to him, to please go and check on him. They would insist
that he was fine but I'd ask them to put me on hold, go up and
check, and let me know he's okay. I did that several times without
speaking to him but I did speak to him a couple of times too. We
were very loving with each other and... we loved each other. I know
that Elvis understood my heart and I really loved him dearly.
Legends: Linda with Elvis
I know that's true. I have just one difficult
question. If you were still with him in August 1977, do you think
you would have been there to perhaps save his life?
Well, I know that I've had a past record of having
saved his life several times when certain things happened and you're
right, it's a difficult one because everybody around him, including
his father, had said that if I'd have been with him he would have
still been alive. His father told me that on the night of the
funeral. All of his friends and relatives have said that to me too.
That is something that we will now never know. I could have stayed
there and kept him alive for another ten years or I might have found
him dead the same way that Ginger did. That would have been even
more devastating to me than the fact that I could have been there or
I might have done something. I think God has a way of working things
out. He removed me from the situation because maybe there was
nothing I could've done.
You can't change the course of history, can you?
Can I just check a story with you? It's something
that was supposed to have happened and it's such a great story that
I kind of hope it did. You and Elvis were eating in McDonalds and
someone thought he was an impersonator...
The story is true but the details are a little wrong.
We never ate in McDonalds. We were approaching the Memphian Theater
where I told you that at midnight we went to see movies. We were
walking in and he was slightly ahead of me and someone came up to
him and said, "Oh, my God, look, it's Elvis. You're Elvis, aren't
you?" He said, "Well, yes, I am Elvis" and they went
crazy. They wanted an autograph and a picture. As I walked up I
said, "Charlie, you're not using that Elvis bit again are you?
Come on, you're not telling these people that you're Elvis again,
are you?" I told the fans, "He gets it all the time and he's
always messing with people." The fans said, "We knew you
couldn't really be Elvis" and he replied, "But I am, tell 'em,
honey!" I replied, "Come on, Charlie, we're late."
That sounds like it was fun.
He had such an amazingly wonderful sense of humour
and we shared that. If you can laugh with someone then you can spend
a lot of years with them. You can forgive a lot of things, overlook
a lot of things.
Do you remember Elvis' poem about the robin that he
told at your house on Old Hickory in Memphis in 1974?
Is that out?
It's out on CD and I can send you a copy if you’d
like to hear it again.
Would you? RCA tried to buy that from me and I said
no. It's bootlegged I guess but it's okay. I'd love to hear it. My
children were asking about it just the other day and I was looking
for my tape. I have it on a little cassette tape somewhere. As I
awoke this morning, when all sweet things are born, A robin perched
upon my windowsill to greet the coming morn... that's the poem
That's the one. You can finish it if you like
He sang his song so sweetly, and paused for a
moment's lull. I gently raised the window, and crushing his
'bleeping' skull (laughs).
You know it off by heart but you left out the swear
That was his favourite poem.
Have you ever met anyone with as much charisma as
I don't ever expect to meet anyone again in my life
with that absolute magic. Elvis was one of a kind. He was a
mould-breaker. My grandmother used to say that he broke the mould.
Do you still have your TLC (tender loving care)
Oh, yeah, I still have it and I still wear it
occasionally. Not to take away from anyone else that I've loved in
my life. Everyone has a personal magic. We're all like snowflakes,
unique in our creation. We're so much alike and we're all just
drifting through life but we all have our own character, our own
shape. Elvis was just unique, incredibly sensual and tender. He was
funny and he was good. He was an extreme in every aspect of his
What about the time when he only just missed you with
a bullet in Las Vegas?
He was just like a little child. It's astounding when
you think about the guns that he had because I'm so aware now of gun
control and the danger of handguns. When I look back and think about
when he had guns around that were loaded and a young child around.
You know, we just said to Lisa to never go near the guns and she
didn't. But who knows, if she had been a more disobedient child or a
more curious child, it's astounding. It makes my blood run cold when
I think about the responsibility.
It's a miracle that nobody was killed or injured but
I think the incident with you was the nearest, right?
That's right. I'd just happened to have come out of
the shower at the Las Vegas Hilton, the presidential suite, and he
was lying on the sofa. In those days they had these huge bull's eye
advertisements. Vegas came alive when Elvis was there and they had
these billboards, posters and placards. So he had one of these
enormous bull's eye things in the suite and he decided that he would
just shoot for the target. It was a kind of cardboard cutout of his
name with this bull's eye... like hit the mark, come see Elvis...
whatever. So, Elvis pulled out his gun and shot at the bull's eye
and the bullet went through the wall, which was adjacent to my
bathroom. It went through the wall, then through the toilet paper
holder, which was metal, out through a mirrored door and shattered
it. I was standing at the sink and I heard ting, ting, and the sound
of glass breaking. I felt the air behind my leg. When I looked down
there was a bullet hole in the door behind me. I opened that door
and there was another shattered glass door and a bullet lying there.
I knew exactly what was happening. James Caughley came in and said,
"Linda, are you okay?" and I said, "Yeah, what the hell
was that?” and he said that it was just Elvis having a little
target practice. I threw my robe on, put a towel around my head and
went outside and said, "What do you think you are doing? You
almost shot me!" and he went white. It was as though someone had
told him that the bullet had gone through the wall and that I was
hit. He couldn't even get up because he was so shaken.
Well, that's the child in him that you just
mentioned. He was being scorned.
I know, I was scolding him and he just shrivelled. He
said, "Oh, my God, I didn't know you were in there. I didn't know
it would go through the wall. I thought it would just lodge there."
I said, "You could have killed me!" and he asked if I wanted
to go home. I said, "Well, at least I won't get shot at there!"
He was profusely apologetic but he was really shaken up. He was
That bullet story is in the film Elvis and the
Beauty Queen. What did you think of the movie?
You know, it was a little frustrating because it's
impossible to encapsulate in two hours what happened in a five-year
relationship of the intensity of my relationship with Elvis. It's
difficult to be totally objective about it because it was so close
to everything that happened. I felt that they chose something to
expound upon like the drug usage and such problems more than his
sensitivity, his generosity, his playfulness and his talent. You
know, these are the things that I talked in length about. I spoke
far more in detail about the acts of generosity and his spirituality
and his kindness. Of course there was the drug abuse and the
self-destructiveness, but this is what they expounded upon. I felt
that it was more of a personal slant for the writer but they
couldn't have been nicer and kinder to me and it couldn't have been
any more flattering to me, which I appreciated. I'm sorry that more
of his goodness didn't show in the movie. There was so much. It
should have been a mini-series and people should have come away
thinking “My God, what an incredible human
being he was, floored and troubled yes, but what a phenomenal,
incredible human being.”
How would you like to finish this interview?
I should probably tell you this; the years I was with
Elvis, I'd always been a poet. I was baptized when I was nine years
old at the Baptist Church in Memphis and I've always felt that the
gift that God gave me was to write poetry. So, I started when I was
nine years old and I wrote poetry for my father, my mother and all
my family. That's how I started writing lyrics and when I was with
Elvis I would write love poems. You know, if he ever hurt me I would
write that out and express to him everything through poetry. He
would always say, "Honey, this is beautiful, won't you let me
have someone put this to music and I'll record that because it's so
pretty?" and I would always say no because I felt it was
personal. And now, in my stupidity, I had no idea about royalties
(laughs) but I know that when he died, he knew that I wasn't there
for any other reason, any commercial consideration or anything. I
was there only because I truly loved him.
You can't put a price on your memories or what you
have in your heart.
That's right, but I think that he would get a real
kick out of the fact that I've become a successful song writer and
that I am able to bring all that poetry to song. Having records cut
Absolutely, I was so surprised to learn that you'd
written hits for Whitney Houston and Céline Dion.
David's musicality would have been a big source of
joy for Elvis too. Elvis loved musicians. He loved David Briggs, he
loved his music, so I'm sure he'd really appreciate my husband's
I know that he appreciated you and fans throughout
the world are aware of that.
That's been such a great source of comfort to me, to
feel that love shared throughout the world. All fan magazines and
tabloids have always dealt with me very kindly. I really take more
satisfaction in that than anything. Knowing that people really
understand how much I loved Elvis. The people who love him
appreciate that and they let me know it.
Do you have any unseen photographs of you and Elvis
It's so hard to find any good clear shots.
You know why?
Because we never allowed any photographs to be taken.
I respected that about his privacy and he was very skittish about
people taking photographs, so there aren't all that many of us
I've seen several good photographs of you in the
1970's. You have very long eyelashes Linda.
(Laughs) I do, don't I? My children have those too.
In my family on my mother's side, everybody has long eyelashes.
People used to think that I wore false eyelashes but I never did.
Well, I hope you like the photos we choose to go with
the interview when it's printed.
Oh, I'm sure I will and thank all the fans for
remaining loyal and devoted to Elvis.
I will and I'm sure they'll say the same to you.
Thanks for allowing us the interview.
Keep up the good work and we'll be in touch.
Thanks Linda, give our regards to David and the
I sure will. Bye.