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Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess
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Elvis Presley was coming to town to do two shows at Olympia Stadium. At twenty-one, I was one of the hormone-raging millions with a crush on Elvis-the young, beautiful, seemingly unspoiled Elvis. He was the bad-boy Adonis of high school, who drove the principal (or in his case, Ed Sullivan) wild with the swivel and grind that made nymphets squeal. And I was not immune. No New York newspaper would hire me fresh from college in 1956-I had applied everywhere and sent countless r?sum?s-so I was languishing at home in Detroit, Michigan, the most junior staffer at United Press International. I wrote a letter to Colonel Parker, asking if I could spend the day with Elvis and write about it for the powerful wire service, UPI. I got back a mimeographed invitation to Presley's official press conference. I was insulted and frustrated but not discouraged.The bureau chief said I could cover Elvis anyway, as long as it was on my day off.
I wore a simple body-skimming black shantung dress (my most slenderizing) with white stitching along the neck and cap sleeves, shiny black patent-leather pumps, and little white kid gloves. I knew Olympia Stadium from childhood, from Barnum & Bailey circus days, from falling in love with hockey and Gordie Howe in my uncle's Red Wing hockey seats, from seeing Sonja Henie-so doll-like-and thinking I could skate, too, if I weren't quite so tall and clumsy, but would anyone ever be able to lift me?
I arrived backstage early to study security and find its most vulnerable link. Lamar was his name. He was in charge of guarding the door and a pair of twenty-four-karat-gold pants with a sequined stripe, which he carried in a padlocked garment bag. Not for nothing had I spent all those double-bill Saturdays in the movies. I had Ida Lupino and Joan Crawford down pat. I could do Bette Davis eyes. I squared my shoulders, channeling Roz Russell in The Front Page, and flirted with the chubby guardian. From his rolling drawl, I figured he must be one of Elvis's Memphis mafia.
"Do you sing, too?" I asked, tickling his tweed elbow. Lamar was examining my ring finger through the white leather and seemed cheered to confirm that I was not married.
At that moment, a slim figure in a red suede cloth jacket was slipped into the room by a phalanx of uniformed security guards. Elvis curled his lip, smiled, and flicked back his shiny black cowlick with a toss of his head, then seated himself on the edge of a table, sizing up the gathering with an "I'm all yours" wink. He was looking right at me. I felt weak, and I blushed all over. The massed journalists-two police reporters, one yawning rewrite man, a drama critic, and a farm-news columnist (few newspapers had pop-music columnists at the time)-struggled to meet the challenge. I was too feverish to speak. I just stood there, pulse pounding, mesmerized, wondering if my heart could survive it. Then, after gamely responding to their lame and predictable queries, too quickly Elvis was gone.
Lamar took my hand. "If you want to stand close by, you can watch the show from the nearest aisle and slip back here before the crush at the end. Then you can go to the hotel with us to hang out and have a Coke between shows," he offered.
I stood on the rise of the aisle, trying for a journalist's cool, part of me observing the hysteria, part of me trembling and aching to jump up and down, too. I watched the fans, mostly teenage girls with bobbing ponytails, leaping out of the seats, reaching out to him, screaming and weeping, tearing at their hair as he curled a lip or a hip, collapsing in petit mal seizures. His handlers had to carry Elvis offstage midway through the last song to get him out alive before the mob realized that it was over and charged after their idol.
Lamar grabbed my hand-still sheathed in its little white glove- and the bag containing the twenty-four-karat-gold pants and tucked me into a limo with an assortment of silent young louts, the full Memphis crew.We pulled out of the underground bay."But where is Elvis?" I cried.
"He's behind us in a taxi," Lamar promised.
At the Book-Cadillac Hotel, there were coagula of fans waiting to catch a glimpse of Elvis.As we piled out of the limo, they surged toward us and then drew back with shrugs of disappointment and rejection. Upstairs in a twenty-fourth-floor suite, the Memphis cronies sipped their cola-in those days, Coke was something that came in a bottle with a waistline.They divvied up the comics from the Sunday papers. Lamar seemed resigned to my indifference, as if maybe he'd been through this drill before. Nobody looked at me. I was too familiar, an offering for the King.
Oh dear heaven. I stopped breathing. Elvis. He stood in the door, smaller than life-small in life, I mean, pompadored hair slick. He sized up the room and astutely realized I was the only female in it. He slunk directly toward me, slender in shiny black faille trousers and a sheer blue short-sleeved eyelet organdy shirt, till one leg was brushing my thigh.
"And who are you?"
I babbled something about press and UPI and Colonel Parker.
He didn't seem to be listening. Silently, he took my hand-yes, still gloved-and led me to a bedroom. I was thinking, Oh my God . . . this is Elvis. . . . I am going to do it with Elvis. I am not going to be coy. I will not make him talk me into it. He didn't ask. I didn't answer. He closed the door, dropped his pants, and lay on the bed-very pale, soft, young-watching me take off my clothes and, yes, at last,my little white gloves. All the way up on the twenty-fourth floor, I could hear the girls chanting on the street below: "We want Elvis.We want Elvis." And look who has him, I was thinking.As . . . it . . . happened. In a feverish heat. Skin on skin. I think it was good. I don't remember the essential details. It was certainly good enough. I know the reality of it was thrilling beyond anything I might have imagined.
"I need to sleep now," he said when it was over.
I grabbed my clothes and fled into the bathroom to dress. As I picked up my purse, wondering if a good-bye kiss would be appropriate, Elvis opened his eyes, blinked, as if he wasn't sure for a moment what I was doing there.
He twitched a shoulder toward the phone. "Would you mind calling room service and ordering me a fried egg sandwich?" The fried egg sandwich-that part I remember. I can't remember how big It was, how long the sex lasted, or even who was on top (probably me). But I have never forgotten the fried egg sandwich.
Yes, the totemic fried egg sandwich. At that moment, it might have been clear I was born to be a restaurant critic. I just didn't know it yet.