THE PRIVATE LIVES of other human beings rarely interest me. This includes the people I deal with every day along with the people I enjoy as artists, athletes, entertainers, and even politicians. Consequently, I don’t read many biographies and rarely write about people’s lifestyles. 1
When I write biographically about a musician on my Rather Rare Records blog, their sex lives or the drugs they used only interest me to the degree that it affected their music and creativity. I am very interested in the effects that LSD and the deeper “psychedelic experiences” (there are degrees of experience) have on the music of people like Brian Wilson and John Lennon.
Throughout his adult life, Elvis Presley was often perceived as a womanizer but rarely as a hound dog.
In some cases, drugs play a role not only in a discussion of a given artist but of entire eras or genres of music. Discuss hard bop jazz in the ’50s and one ends up discussing heroin use. Discuss rock music in the ’60s and one ends of discussing LSD use. These drugs seriously affected the creativity of many major artists, both positively and negatively.
Exactly how much and how often sex of any kind directly affects an artist’s creativity is difficult to ascertain: a reclusive artist who kept his virginity into his thirties and then found the love-of-his-life might have a burst of creativity based on the love and a burst of sexual activity. 2
There were some artists where sexuality was a part of their work: Picasso, took observable delight in giving free rein to his enjoyment of sex in his art, allowing it to take him places he might not otherwise have ventured. 3
What the hell is Johnny Depp with a sword doing in an article about Elvis Presley’s sex life? Read on, dear reader, read on.
According to some of these women
In the case of Elvis Presley, only two of his paramours hold any interest for me: Ann-Margret Olsson and the former Mrs. Presley, Priscilla Beaulieu. Ann-Margret clearly sparked him into giving an obviously more spirited performance in Viva Las Vegas (1963) than was his norm by then, despite the plot and the music being pretty much the same as the other movies and songs at the time. 4
Given how well Priscilla transitioned from stay-at-home wife and mother to engagingly funny movie star and then how she took over the handling of her late ex-husband’s estate and turned it into the most visited tourist attractions in the United States makes me wonder: What if, following their divorce, Elvis had jettisoned the Colonel and hired Priscilla as his manager? But that’s another story.
Elvis entertained many women: according to some there was no sexual activity, according to some there was activity but no intercourse, and according to some there was intercourse.
Back to the question at hand: Presley entertained many women in his rooms on the road, in Hollywood, in Las Vegas, etc. The exact number of women will never be known, but to say hundreds may be conservative. Many of these women have not been identified, many of those identified have not spoken publicly about their affair with Elvis. Some have given interviews or written memoirs.
According to some of these women, there was no “sexual activity” between them and Elvis.
According to some of these women, there was “sexual activity” but no actual intercourse.
According to some of these women, there was intercourse. 5
Back to the question “Was Elvis a womanizer?” My answer posted on Quora is indented below between the two photos of Elvis and Ann-Margret:
Was Elvis a womanizing cad?
Let’s look at a few definitions: Merriam-Webster defines womanize as “to pursue casual sexual relationships with multiple women.” No moral or ethical judgment is mentioned in this definition.
Such is not the case with the Collins dictionary, which defines womanizer as, “If you describe a man as a womanizer, you disapprove of him because he likes to have many short sexual relationships with women.”
Most formal dictionaries define words, not terms or phrases, so I went to the Google dictionary for casual sex. There it is defined as “sexual activity between people who are not established sexual partners or do not know each other well.”
I also turned to Wikipedia for their take on casual sex: “sexual activity that takes place outside a romantic relationship and implies an absence of commitment, emotional attachment, or familiarity between sexual partners.”
Elvis as womanizer
Given the sheer quantity of women Elvis regularly “entertained” (with and without actual sexual intercourse) privately while away from Graceland, it seems reasonable to assume that Elvis had lots of sexual activity with lots of women who were not established sexual partners or who he did not know well.
It seems reasonable to assume that he had lots of sexual activity with women where commitment, emotional attachment, and familiarity were non-existent.
Supposedly, he pursued some of these partners.
Many people (mostly conservative women?) disapprove of Elvis for his many short sexual relationships with women.
Many people (mostly men?) admire Elvis for his many short sexual relationships with women.
Many people (mostly men) envy Elvis for his many short sexual relationships with women.
So, whether you apply moral or ethical judgment or not, Elvis Presley was a womanizer.Whether you apply moral judgment or not, Elvis Presley was often a womanizer but rarely a cad. Click To Tweet
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo above is a shot of Ann-Margret and Elvis dancing in Viva Las Vegas in 1963. It was the photo I had originally intended to use as the featured image at the top of this page. Then I thought of a favorite movie and how it might apply to this article, so I used a photo of Johnny Depp from the movie Don Juan DeMarco (1994) instead.
Actually, he may be John Arnold DeMarco, who believes he is the legendary Don Juan, the world’s greatest lover. This belief leads him to become a womanizer whose delusions (?) bring magic into the life of each woman he seduces.
Throughout the film, John/Don Juan gives his court-appointed psychiatrist (Marlon Brando) advice on living and love. I thought two of them pertinent to the legend of Elvis the lover:
“There are only four questions of value in life: What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for? And what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: only love.”
“Women react to me the way that they do because they sense that I search out the beauty that dwells within until it overwhelms everything else. And then they cannot avoid their desire, to release that beauty and envelope me in it.”
The second statement sums up Elvis the Sex Symbol, the man he presented to the public and even to his friends. The first statement seems to sum up Elvis the Seeker, the man he was in the presence of only a few people—most of them women he had “picked up” as Elvis the Sex Symbol . . .
1 See “Cybill Shepherd Gives Elvis A Little Heads Up” for an instance where the seeming absurdity of a claim made by one of Presley’s lovers did attract my attention.
2 An artist who had been living as a fairly vanilla sex life who suddenly discovered he liked being dominated might find this affecting his art. A heterosexual artist who discovered he really preferred the company of men to women in his bedroom might also find his views on life and art changed. Other similar instances could lead one’s sex life to affect one’s artistic and public life, which I might find interesting.
3 The September 1969 issue of Avant Garde magazine (“Picasso’s Erotic Gravures“) was devoted entirely to the septuagenarian’s enduring facsination with the sly and playful aspects of human (and not-so-human) sexuality. This extraordinary outburst of creativity was produced by an old man with either an unusually active sex life or an even more active imagination and memory.
4 Had the Ann-Margret and Elvis hooked up and made their relationship formal and public and had they done any music projects together, they could have been the hottest twosome in the entertainment field for several years. Rusty (as she was known to Elvis and his friends) might have dragged Elvis out of the rut he was stuck in making a string of increasingly dumb and numbing movies. Alas, that did not happen.
5 Before a woman who entered his room, did Elvis know beforehand which ones he was going to spend the night talking or making love, because the women certainly didn’t?