UNDATED (USA TODAY) -- Like many young men, Elvis Presley longed to surround himself with gorgeous, glamorous women who adored him. Unlike most, he had the opportunity to do exactly that. The singer was linked to a number of high-profile beauties during his short life, and those who have remembered him publicly have generally done so with affection. USA TODAY recalls some of his more notable flames.
Elvis married just once, to a young woman he had courted for nearly eight years. As is well known, he met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu during his stint in the Army, while serving in Germany. Instantly smitten, he began dating the stunning teen; the couple kept in touch after he returned home, with Beaulieu occasionally visiting her beau in the USA. In 1963, she moved there for good - under strict conditions put forward by her parents, who expected that Elvis would ultimately marry her.
After sowing a few remaining wild oats - see the entry on Ann-Margret - Elvis did tie the knot with Priscilla, in 1967. They welcomed their only child, Lisa Marie, the following year. But the union soon faltered. In her 1985 memoir, Elvis and Me, Priscilla suggested that her husband's sexual interest in her waned once she became a mother, and confessed that she eventually sought consolation in an affair with a karate instructor, Mike Stone.
The fairy tale ended in 1972, when the Presleys separated; their divorce was final a year later, and the two shared custody of Lisa Marie. Priscilla made the decision to open Graceland to tourists in 1982, and remained in the public eye, launching careers as an actress and a businesswoman. Having never remarried, Presley, 68, keeps her ex-husband's name, and oversees his legacy, with discernible pride.
It's no secret that the chemistry between Elvis and his leading lady in 1964's Viva Las Vegas didn't dissolve when the cameras stopped rolling. In Elvis and Me, Priscilla Presley describes Ann-Margret as the woman she feared most in the period leading up to her marriage. Elvis had assured her that there was nothing inappropriate going on; when Priscilla found out otherwise, she "picked up a flower vase and threw it across the room."
Though he chose Priscilla in the end, Elvis' sexy Swedish co-star, now 72, clearly made an enduring impression, and vice versa. In her autobiography, Ann-Margret: My Story (1994), the screen siren recalled how Presley sent her guitar-shaped floral arrangements each time she played in Las Vegas, even after she got married - a week to the day after Elvis wed Priscilla. And when Presley died, Ann-Margret traveled to Memphis, with her husband, to be at his funeral.
It has been speculated that Elvis' early, brief relationship with Natalie Wood, one of several young starlets he was linked to in the mid-'50s, was a publicity stunt. But in her book Natalie: A Memoir By Her Sister, published in 1984 - three years after the actress died unexpectedly in her early 40s, just as Elvis had - Lana Wood suggested that there was genuine interest, at least on Elvis' part.
The younger Wood described "Natalie's abortive romance" with Presley as having been doomed from the time he flew her to Memphis to meet his family. Natalie called her two days into the trip, Lana wrote, describing Gladys Presley, Elvis' mother, as jealous and domineering. Upon returning, Natalie told her sister, "He can sing, but he can't do much else." Clearly, the Hollywood princess and the Southern boy were not meant to be.
Not a great deal is known about the pretty blonde who was - with the possible exception of teen beauty queen June Juanico, whom Elvis dated in the mid-'50s - his first serious girlfriend in the public eye. He met Anita Wood, a fledgling performer herself, in 1957, and remained her beau for several years. In an interview with the fan site Elvis Australia last year, Wood, now in her mid-70s, confirmed that she gave up a contract with Paramount Pictures because Presley had asked her to come back to Memphis. She grew close to his family, particularly his mother.
Elvis wrote to Wood frequently while in Germany, by her account, and called, asking her to wait for him. After he returned, though, she overheard Presley telling his father that he was torn between her and Priscilla, and decided to end their relationship. Years later, Wood recalls, after they had both gotten married - Wood to NFL player Johnny Brewer - Elvis asked to meet with her in Las Vegas after a show and "told me how much he had missed me."
Another beautiful woman, another book detailing her romance with the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Actually, Cybill Shepherd's may take the prize for the most colorful recollections. In her 2000 memoir Cybill Disobedience, the former Miss Teenage Memphis, model and actress revealed that she introduced Elvis to certain, um, sexual techniques when they dated in the early '70s.
Shepherd, now 63, ultimately decided that she couldn't handle his drug use. Still, while plugging Disobedience on Larry King Live, she remembered Elvis as "funny," "kind-hearted" and "brilliant," adding that she visited Graceland years after his death, and "found out that he was a very spiritual man in ways I couldn't appreciate 25 years before."
Born and bred in Memphis, where she won or placed highly in a series of beauty pageants in the early 1970s, Linda Thompson was Elvis' first notable relationship after his separation from Priscilla. Tall, blond and curvaceous, Thompson was 22 and - she told Larry King in a 2002 interview - still a virgin when she met Presley, with whom she lived for four years before amicably taking her leave in 1976. Recalling the King to King, Thompson stressed his faith and generosity: "In some ways, it was like living with a saint and being with Prince Charming and Santa Claus every day."
A hard act to follow, it would seem, but Thompson, 63, did, marrying and divorcing Bruce Jenner and songwriter/producer-to-the-stars David Foster. With Foster, the sometime actress forged a career as lyricist, co-writing tunes for latter-day hitmakers such as Whitney Houston (I Have Nothing), Celine Dion and Josh Groban.
The last woman linked romantically with Elvis - and the last to see him alive - was another Memphis girl, who bore a striking resemblance to Priscilla Presley. In a 2002 interview with the British magazine Essential Elvis, Ginger Alden, now 56, claimed to have first met Elvis as a 5-year-old, when her dad - a military man, like the ex-Mrs. Presley's father had been - worked as an Army public relations officer.
Their next meeting took place in 1976, when one of Alden's sisters, then Miss Tennessee, was invited to meet Presley. This time, the beauty queen's kid sibling got his attention and the following January, he proposed to Alden at Graceland. Elvis' 20-year-old fiancée was with him when he died in the wee hours of Aug. 16, 1977. She has since found work as an actress and model, but her most famous role will always be that of the young woman who discovered the lifeless body of rock's first superstar.
If Barbara Gray's name doesn't ring a bell, it's because it remained a mystery for more than 50 years, until 2011, when Gray revealed that she was the blond bombshell in a June 1956 photo widely known as "The Kiss." In the famed black-and-white shot, snapped by photojournalist Alfred Wertheimer, Elvis and his date for the day - then a "sometime dancer, a shoe-store clerk and an unabashed party girl," according to the Vanity Fair article in which she outed herself - stand facing each other, his arms around her waist, touching noses and tickling the tips of each other's tongues.
Gray finally came forward after spotting a blown-up version of "The Kiss" in USA TODAY, accompanying a story about an exhibition of Wertheimer's Presley pictures. As she told Vanity Fair, she was simply tired of being "the unknown woman in the wings."