Suzanne Simonot | October 10th, 2013
ELVIS'S ex-girlfriend, American actress, lyricist and former beauty queen Linda Thompson, is proof truth can be stranger than fiction.
One of only two women to have lived with Presley -- the other was his ex-wife, Priscilla -- Thompson, 63, is accustomed to being defined by her relationships.
After living at Graceland as Presley's partner from 1972-1976, Thompson was married to Bruce Jenner, father of her two sons, from 1981 to 1984 before her second marriage to musician/composer David Foster, from 1991 to 2007.
Ironically, Thompson and then-boyfriend Presley were watching the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games on TV while Presley was in hospital when they saw Bruce Jenner cross the finish line to take gold in the decathlon.
"I said to Elvis, 'I'd like to marry that guy'," Thompson says.
"And Elvis said: 'Over my dead body'."
Thompson is in Australia this week for a series of shows with Elvis impersonator Mark Anthony, including one at Southport Sharks tomorrow, where she will greet fans and answers questions.
"For many years, I didn't do anything. I was sensitive not to exploit our relationship or capitalise in any way," she says.
"I was offered a lot of money to write a book right away, immediately after he passed away, which I found very unsavoury. I never took a penny."
"It was 33 years after he passed away before my brother (Presley's former bodyguard, Sam Thompson) talked me into going on a cruise a couple of years ago to meet and greet fans and answer questions."
"It was so amazing to me after so many years -- 35 -- that people were still so interested. Now, I almost feel an obligation to keep his good memory alive and meet the people who have been so loyal and faithful. No one can say I have exploited the relationship. Honestly, it meant more to me when he passed away knowing I was there for the right reasons."
"Elvis would have been very hurt by the way some people capitalised on him after his death. Everyone and his uncle has written a book about him but there were only two women who lived with him and that was Priscilla and me. You don't know someone until you live with them."
Thompson was 22 and the reigning Miss Tennessee Universe when she met Presley, then 35, in 1972, six months after he had separated from wife Priscilla.
Despite their age difference, she says they had much in common.
"We both grew up in Memphis, we had the same religious beliefs and family was very important to us," she says.
"I had to develop a sense of humour about life and dark occurrences and it was one of the things Elvis and I had in common. He grew up in abject poverty too. His family was poor and mine was really poor and we shared that respect and appreciation that we'd had to work to earn what we had gotten in life."
"He had a very wicked sense of humour but he also had a great deal of insecurity. I'd say 'you're a good man; you're Elvis Presley -- women love you and you're talented and rich' ... but he was always unsure of himself."
"I developed a resilience to criticism growing up, not that I'm impervious to it. I wanted to answer back but I think it's better things are left alone. I guess I did develop that as a child growing up and having to fend for myself and care for my parents growing up in less than stellar conditions."
Thompson says most fans want to know "was he a good guy".
"The final analysis is was he a good soul? Yes, he was a good one but he was also a flawed individual and a little self-destructive."
"He had a very kind heart and he loved people and animals."
Thompson and Jenner married in 1981, four years after Presley's death.
"We have two sons, Brody, 30, and Brandon, 32 -- or as I tell people, I have one son my age and one two years older," Thompson says, laughing.
Jenner, of course, is now one of the stars of reality TV series Keeping Up with the Kardashians after marrying family matriarch Kris.
"Bruce? I just saw him today," Thompson says.
"He dropped by the house. He and my older son went to race a car in Virginia last weekend.
While she won't be drawn on commenting directly on the Kardashians, Thompson says Elvis managed to avoid the style of media circus stars are often embroiled in today.
"Elvis was very reclusive. He loved his privacy and did very little press". It's a two-edged sword -- people seem to be more hungry now to be famous than ever before."
Like Kim and Kanye?
Thompson's last trip to Australia was with then-husband Jenner to promote his role in the Village People feature film You Can't Stop the Music back in 1980.
"Australians are the nicest, most down-to-earth people," she says.
A bit like The King himself.