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Love me tender

HE WAS a mama's boy, an adulterer, a doting daddy. And the world's greatest sex symbol. Elvis's relationships with the women in his life defy categorisation. From the overly close bond with his homely mother, to his supposed fear of sexual penetration, the nature of his female ties gives a fascinating insight into his character. Here, we look at six of the most influential women in his life.

GLADYS PRESLEY

Protective, indulgent, more smother than mother, Gladys Presley was Elvis's first great love. After his twin, Jesse, was delivered stillborn, Gladys made it her life's mission to lavish, as Elvis put it, "enough love for two" on her son. Dressed in cotton housecoat and apron, with a weight problem and a fondness for alcohol, Gladys became the sole object of her young son's affections, feeding him huge meals and chattering to him in their own secret language. When Elvis's father Vernon was sent to prison their bond strengthened further, and it was Gladys who bought Elvis his first guitar. She was torn by his musical success, worrying that he would die in a plane crash and pleading with him not to travel, at one point even trying to persuade him to come home and set up a furniture store.

When she died in 1958 Elvis was inconsolable, throwing himself on her coffin and shouting. "Goodbye, darling, goodbye. I love you so much. You know how much I lived my whole life just for you."

No woman would ever compare.

PRISCILLA PRESLEY

A 14-year-old Air Force brat when she met the dashing GI Elvis in Wiesbaden, Germany, the pert, pretty and virginal Priscilla brought out an obsessiveness in Elvis, who would not rest until she was ensconced in his father's home behind Graceland, slowly ripening into marriageable age.

Priscilla maintains Elvis was never particularly sexual with her, spending hours in her bedroom before their marriage, never making an advance. "I resigned myself to the long wait," she wrote glumly, years later.

They married in May 1967 and Priscilla gave birth to a daughter, Lisa Marie, nine months later, yet their relationship seemed more like that of mother and son than husband and wife. "Elvis brought out this mothering quality," Priscilla wrote. "I cut his meat up for him. I tasted it before he ever had it. I would fix his devilled eggs, cut off the top, put his butter in, prepare all his food, as a mother would for a child."

They separated less than five years later.

LISA MARIE PRESLEY

Elvis was delighted when his only daughter, Lisa Marie, arrived in the world with jet-black hair. Firmly establishing herself as the apple of his eye, "Buttonhead", as he affectionately called her, was allowed to run riot throughout Graceland, drawing on the walls and attempting to fire maids as her indulgent father looked on, leaving the discipline to Priscilla.

Lisa Marie was spoilt rotten by her doting dad. Birthday parties were extravagant affairs, held in balloon-filled rooms in Las Vegas, where gifts included tiny designer fur coats, slot machines and cute puppies. When, aged four, her parents divorced, she began travelling back to Graceland regularly to spend time with her increasingly drug-addled father, who continued to indulge her every whim.

On the day he died she tried, aged just nine, to get into the bathroom to see what was happening, but was locked out. She eventually gave up and went outside, spending hours riding around the grounds alone in a mini golf cart, the last gift from her father.

ANN-MARGRET

The actress nicknamed the "female Elvis" inspired a storm of gossip when she embarked upon an affair with Elvis during the filming of the movie Viva Las Vegas. Despite knowing Priscilla was waiting for him, Elvis was smitten with the curvaceous redhead, lying to Priscilla about the affair and staying in Los Angeles to spend more time with Ann-Margret, whom he nicknamed Thumper.

They were both motorbike fans and would take off into the desert on matching Harley Davidsons. Those who saw them together said they had a strong chemistry and great respect for each other. It took the intervention of Colonel Tom Parker for Elvis to reluctantly end it.

The two remained friends, Elvis sending her a guitar-shaped bouquet of flowers every time she performed. Years after his death, she still referred to him as her soulmate. Of all the women Elvis was said to have had affairs with, she was the only one to attend his funeral.

NANCY SINATRA

"Will Nancy Sinatra steal Elvis from Priscilla?" screamed the headlines when the two started shooting the movie Speedway in 1967. Rumours of a relationship had dogged them for years - Elvis looked up to Nancy's father, Frank, and had known her since she was a teenager.

Smitten as he was with Nancy, the relationship brought out a cruel side in Elvis. He informed the six months' pregnant Priscilla that Nancy - whom she barely knew - would be organising her baby shower. A week later, he asked her for a trial separation. Priscilla was devastated, but she needn't have worried. The relationship soon fizzled out, and soon after Nancy was engaged to singer Tommy Sands.

CYBILL SHEPHERD

Miss Teenage Memphis first met Elvis in 1965, when he demanded to meet her and took her to the cinema with her best friend. Yet it was seven years before they met again and consummated their relationship.

By then Elvis was on a downward spiral, divorced, mired in prescription drugs and other women.

"By that time it was just a shuttle. One came in the door as another was flown back to Vegas," says one former lover. Yet the young actress adored him, and even alleges that she introduced him to oral sex - claims that are viewed with scepticism by his other lovers.

Whatever the truth, Elvis was becoming impossible to be around. Shepherd said recently: "The only way to have stayed with Elvis [would have been] by doing drugs."

 
 
 

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