Award-winning author and journalist Alanna Nash had already written extensive, acclaimed books about Elvis Presley prior to beginning her latest look into a different aspect of his life.
Yet Nash, who'll be reading from and signing copies of her exhaustive new book Baby, Let's Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him (Harper Collins/IT) Wednesday night at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, discovered during her research that there were still untold parts of the Presley legend.
"It became almost a whole new story by the time I finished," Nash said. "So many of the other books were done from a male perspective, and doing it from the women's viewpoint really is the flip side of the coin. It was very eye-opening in a lot of ways."
Nash examines the many women in Presley's life, and shows through both intimate interviews and meticulous research their impact on everything from the way Presley moved on stage to his emotions and attitude behind the scenes. In fact, Nash maintains that in many ways Presley showed sides of himself to women that he never revealed to even his closest male friends.
"He brought a passion to his dealings with women that was really present otherwise only when he was on stage," Nash continued. "He spoke from the heart and felt he could really express what was in his heart. He also had a very deep respect and reverence for women throughout much of his life, until near the end when drugs were influencing his behavior, something that greatly affected one of his strongest relationships with Linda Thompson."
While offering details, memories and information about Presley's interactions and friendships with both famous (Ann-Margaret, Cybill Shepherd, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Wanda Jackson, Barbara Eden, Yvonne Craig, Raquel Welch) and lesser known but equally pivotal figures in his life (Sheila Ryan Caan, June Juanico, Joyce Bova, Thompson), Nash stays away from lurid accounts, speculative analysis and innuendo-laden dialog. She landed interviews with many of the principals, and divides the book between anecodotal and analytical material.
Despite his deep appreciation for and love of women, Nash acknowledges that Elvis Presley never found the dream relationship he sought his entire life and career.
"For one thing, though he was a phenomenal performer, emotionally Elvis really never matured beyond the level of a 17-18 year old," Nash added. "The two things that really affected him were the death of his twin brother when he was a child and his bond with his mother. He tended to almost divide his relationships with women into those who sort of reminded him of his brother and others who invoked the same closeness as he had with his mother.
"But it was impossible for him to find someone who could be both those things and also handle all the other things constantly going on in his life."
Nash cites Ann-Margaret and Thompson as the two women that came the closest to providing that ideal long-term partner for Elvis.
"Ann-Margaret shared that same love and passion for performing and they were truly very close," Nash recalled. "They maintained that bond even after they both were married. Thompson was willing to put up with all the other women that would come around and many other things as well. But the drugs kind of played a role in that situation."
Nash's book also refutes a longtime myth about Presley's female choices.
"A lot of other books claim that he would never get involved with a woman who already had a child, and he would frequently tell women that he wasn't interested in having a child with them," Nash said. "But there were at least three women that I discovered who had children and in every case Elvis was quite fond of them and treated them very well."
"Ultimately Elvis always needed and wanted female companionship, and it wasn't always about sex," Nash concluded. "We'll never know for instance what might have happened if he had gotten married to Ann-Margaret. I think that's one that might have lasted long term. But I do know that he was very respectful for almost his entire life to women of all ages, was quite concerned about helping young girls get into show business and never had the slightest notion about taking advantage of them in any sexual manner.
"Yes, he did have a lot of relationships and often felt a sense of privilege to be involved with multiple women, yet in his own way he also had very strong sense of dignity and respect for women."
What: Award-winning author Alanna Nash reads from and signs copies of her new book, Baby, Let's Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Davis-Kidd Booksellers, 2121 Green Hills Village Drive
Cost: Free and open to the public