When you hear the name Elvis, you can already picture him. Slicked back hair, all black outfit, shaking his hips left to right and back again. But who was the man when the spotlight turned off and he went back to his real life? Well, the King’s former bodyguard claims to have revealed another facet of the rocker’s personality. And it’s a side of the larger-than-life star that few people got to see.
Elvis Presley was a star unlike anyone the music industry had ever seen. For one thing, his mere presence elicited reactions from the crowd that even beloved crooners like Frank Sinatra had never seen. While Ol’ Blue Eyes’ fans would respectfully cheer and clap, Elvis had his fans screaming at the top of their lungs when they saw him!
There was just something about Elvis that made his fans go crazy – even they couldn’t explain it. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette shared quotes from fans who had attended his 1956 show at Robinson Auditorium. Edie Garland Barentine admitted, “I honestly did not know why people were so excited, but I knew I’d better act like I was too, so I studied the girls around me and did my best to imitate the screams with hands to my heart and hair and arms waving the air.”
Perhaps the truth was that, to many female fans, Elvis was a sex symbol – a titled which continued throughout the duration of his career. And he did little to dissuade the public from thinking of him as a lothario, either. The King married once, but he had plenty of alleged girlfriends, flings and affairs that kept the world talking.
And, while that image has come to define Elvis, it’s important to remember that fans only knew his most public side. The people closest to him knew the truth about who he was. Elvis apparently showed it to them. And that’s precisely what happened with his trusted bodyguard, who has claimed that he knows exactly what happened behind closed doors with the King and all of the women in his life.
Sam Thompson probably wouldn’t have met Elvis Presley if it hadn’t been for his sister: Linda. She won the Miss Tennessee Universe pageant in 1972 – the same year she started dating the King himself. And that November Linda introduced Sam to her famous boyfriend at Graceland – his estate in Memphis.
Sam spoke to Elvis Australia – a fan club for the singer – in April 2020. And the former painted a picture of the night they met, saying he waited downstairs in the mansion – chatting with his sister until her beau came in. Apparently, it was about 11:00 p.m. when he finally made his entrance. And it was one that made an impression, for sure!
Sam claimed that Elvis walked in wearing “a full karate gi and sunglasses.” Sure, some might judge the rocker for wearing his shades in the middle of the night. But Linda’s brother had no qualms with the fashion choice – in fact, he liked it! Sam said, “As ridiculous as that sounds, when he walked into that room, I thought, ‘That is so cool.’”
As it turned out, Sam and Elvis had more in common than just their connection through Linda. Both men were versed in the Protestant faith, too. And Sam worked as a police officer, which is a profession the star had a deep admiration for. In fact, some reports suggest that Elvis long dreamed of becoming a cop himself – that is, until he realized he could sing.
And that’s how Sam says that he came to be employed by Elvis – the King hired him as part of his security detail. The latter apparently arranged it with the Memphis sheriff, who told Sam, “Elvis wants you to go on tour. So I’m going to put you on leave for two weeks.” This happened monthly – Sam would hang up his uniform to work with Elvis’ security team.
Elvis did have a few notes for his new hiree, though. Sam claimed that the King found his look to be less than intimidating – a cop’s clean-cut hairdo wouldn’t serve him on the singer’s security detail. The singer told him, “Man, I got a baby-faced bodyguard. You gotta grow a beard.” So, he did “scruff up,” as Elvis called it.
But Elvis and Sam had a closer bond than just a boss-and-bodyguard relationship. The King apparently enjoyed spending free time with his then-girlfriend’s brother. Specifically, Sam claimed that he liked to ride motorcycles with him – even purchasing the cop a bike of his own so that they could cruise together. This was great… until Elvis would allegedly call and ask Sam to ride with him in the middle of the night!
Sam said that he told his boss, “Elvis, I gotta be at work at 4 o’clock in the morning. I can’t.” The King accepted his answer, but he came up with a plan so that he and his new friend could ride motorcycles together at a moment’s notice. Elvis then picked up his bodyguard and his wife – Louise – to show them what he had been up to.
At first, Elvis pretended that he wanted Louise and Sam’s opinion on some real estate in which he wanted to invest, the latter claimed. He drove them to a home right next to Graceland and asked them for their thoughts. Louise apparently said, “It’s really nice, Elvis.” And that’s when he allegedly reached into his pocket, pulled out a set of keys and handed them to her!
Elvis apparently told Louise he was glad she liked the house – because it was hers. When she tried to tell him he couldn’t purchase such an extravagant gift, the rocker reportedly replied, “I can do anything I want to, honey, I’m rich.” He winked at Sam, and then popped the house’s garage door open to reveal a new Harley-Davidson bike for him inside!
So, Sam claimed that he got to see first-hand how generous – and spontaneous – Elvis could be. The staffer also found out that the King was secretly hilarious. At one of his 1975 shows, the singer’s security detail fielded an assassination warning before he took the stage. So, they gave him the rundown of what would happen if the threat came to fruition.
Sam recalled telling Elvis, “If there’s a problem, we’re gonna kill the lights, and I’m gonna cover you.” The King then turned to his bodyguard and gave him a funny look. Then, he said to his 270-pound protector, “I’d rather be shot at than have you jump on me.” Apparently, that lightened the somber mood quite a bit!
According to Sam, Elvis really trusted him and even shared emotional moments with the staffer. One such conversation apparently took place after he broke up with Linda in 1976. The bodyguard thought he would get fired since Linda had dumped his boss. But Sam claimed that Elvis made clear just how much he trusted him. The former bodyguard told Elvis Australia that the singer said, “I need you to stay. And I want you to stay. But you need to do what you want to do.”
Sticking by Elvis’ side through the ups and downs of his personal life was a big responsibility for anyone in the singer’s inner circle. It’s no secret that he had plenty of relationships – and affairs – throughout his time in the spotlight. Take his former girlfriend Anita Wood as an example.
Anita reportedly started dating Elvis in 1957, and their partnership lasted for five years. It was so serious that she ditched a film contract with Paramount Pictures in order to move back to Memphis with him. But she’d never become Mrs. Presley – while still with Wood, Elvis fell in love with his future wife Priscilla.
Yet the marriage to Priscilla did very little to stop Elvis’ wandering eye. Two years after she moved into Graceland – and three years before their wedding – he allegedly had an affair with his Viva Las Vegas co-star Ann-Margret. And in her 1994 memoir Ann-Margret: My Story she claimed that the spark between them had been something that neither of them could ignore.
Ann-Margret wrote, “It was a very strong relationship, very intense. We both felt a current, an electricity that went straight through us. It would become a force we couldn’t control.” Regardless, they both apparently decided to call time on their affair in 1964. Both would get married to other partners three years later – although on Elvis’s end, the vow didn’t last forever.
In 1971 Elvis reportedly dated Twin Peaks actress Peggy Lipton for a short while. She wasn’t too impressed with her brief boyfriend, though. In Breathing Out – the memoir she published in 2005 – she wrote, “He kissed like a god, but that was about it. He didn’t feel like a man next to me – more like a boy who’d never matured.”
Not all of Elvis’ girlfriends felt that way about him, though – Linda Thompson included. After she and the legendary singer reportedly broke up in 1976, she went on to marry Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner, with whom she shares sons Brandon and Brody. But she never forgot her time with the King.
Linda reflected on her relationship with Elvis to Closer. She admitted, “He was my first love, the one who altered my life the most. He was the first, and that’s always very special. Time and circumstances will express themselves no matter what you do.”
The women in Elvis’ life seemingly had no trouble opening up about their feelings. But for the singer, he remained tight-lipped about his own emotions – at least, in the public eye. Though someone in his inner circle did claim to have seen the rocker’s softer side, and he shared his experience in a 2019 interview with Spa Guy.
That person was, of course, Sam Thompson – Linda’s brother and Elvis’ long-time bodyguard and friend. It all started with an anecdote that showed off the King’s sentimental side. Apparently, Elvis had brought Sam with him to Tupelo, Mississippi, to show him the home where he grew up.
The quiet moment was shared by Elvis and Sam alone, the latter said. The bodyguard recalled in the interview that it was “just me and him in the car and nobody even noticed us.” This memory gave him pause – it was quite rare for Elvis to be able to do anything unnoticed, after all.
Sam reflected that the visit to Tupelo was one of those “little moments… where you forget this man can stand in front of 20,000 people and mesmerize them.” It reminded the bodyguard that, at the end of the day, his boss “was a human being, a person.” And when Elvis allegedly opened up about his relationships, that added yet another layer to what the one-time Memphis cop could see.
In fact, Sam made a point to bring up these memories whenever people inquired about his famous boss. He said, “I always like to get something in about Elvis’ humanity because people know who he was iconically.” The interview with Spa Guy was no exception, either – this time, he’d talk about a supposed new facet of the King’s private life.
Sam said, “I remember one night when we were talking, and he was kind of blue about his relationships.” That piece of information is hard to believe, isn’t it? After all, we just need to consider how many partners Elvis had in his life – and the countless people who fawned over him when he performed on stage.
At that point, Sam claimed that Elvis said, “Nobody really knows who I am.” The bodyguard was incredulous in the moment – he had certainly seen the singer’s throngs of fans first-hand. So, he retorted, “Elvis, people love you man! They love you. They know you all over the world.”
Elvis then apparently said, “No, no, no. They know that guy on the stage. They don’t know me.” And that was when Sam finally understood – and agreed with what his boss had to say. He told Spa Guy, “It’s really true, you have to become another person when you’re performing like that.”
For his part, Sam claimed that he was glad to have been able to see the real Elvis. The former said, “… He was a different person when you could just sit and talk with him. That’s the guy [who] I miss and those are my most cherished moments.”
Of course, the relationship between Elvis and Sam wasn’t totally perfect. Any fans of the legend will know that he struggled with a drug addiction for many years. And when Sam suggested that he needed help to overcome it, the singer allegedly briefly fired him from his security team.
A few days later, though, Sam’s phone rang – it was one of his former co-workers at Graceland. The man asked the one-time bodyguard where he was because Elvis wanted to ride motorcycles with him. Sam told the staffer that he had been fired, but, apparently, the King chose to ignore his own ruling.
From that, Sam told Elvis Australia, he realized that his boss’ addiction wasn’t up for debate. Instead, he said, “The message was, this was an area we could not have a discussion on.” So, he soldiered on – working at Graceland and protecting the Memphian star and his daughter Lisa Marie until the rocker’s untimely death in 1977.
In fact, Sam had clocked into work – specifically, to pick up Lisa Marie and chaperone her flight to Los Angeles that day – when Elvis’ body was discovered. The then-nine-year-old girl in his charge apparently remembered Sam’s sister’s phone number and called Linda to tell her the shocking news.
Linda, like Sam, was one of the few who knew the real Elvis – not the larger-than-life guy who performed for thousands. She told the little girl that she had to have the wrong information, but when her brother took the phone and started to speak, Linda seemingly knew the truth and started to cry.
Still, though Sam tries to re-paint Elvis’ image as a complex, emotional guy whenever he’s interviewed, he still struggles to encapsulate the man with words. Especially when it comes to the King, Sam said, “You just can’t capture a person’s life and essence and who they are.” But now, at least we know the softer side of him – one that makes him much more human in the eyes of his fans.