Elvis Presley would sometimes watch his reflection in the mirror on his bedroom wall.
“He would get up on his bed and walk back and forth and look in that mirror … while talking to us,” Jo Smith, the wife of Elvis’ first cousin, Billy Smith, confides. “One night … he stopped and he said, ‘Damn, you’re a good-lookin’ son of a bitch!’”
Who can blame him? For nearly his entire adult life, Elvis was the most famous, desired and watched man on earth. Only at Graceland, the Memphis, Tennessee, home he bought for his parents in 1956, could Elvis truly relax and be himself. “It was a safe place, he knew the staff, and he had everything he needed there,” says a family insider. “If he wanted to see someone, they would come to him.”
Ginger Alden, his last girlfriend, visited often. She insists that Elvis was largely happy at Graceland, despite his growing issues with prescription medicine. “He had mood swings, but he laughed a lot. He was enjoying life,” she exclusively tells Closer Weekly, on newsstands now. “He was like a big kid and could make anybody laugh.”
His daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, also says that her father loved to make jokes and kid around. “He was astoundingly funny and mischievous,” she confides, recalling their late-night rides around the property in the golf cart he gifted her. “There is not one bad memory. There was always a lot of energy and life in the house.”
Being home always buoyed Elvis’ spirits. “Graceland held all of the memories he cherished most of his ex-wife, Priscilla, his daughter and his mother,” a friend explains. “He’d walk around the grounds, and he loved watching television in his beloved Jungle Room.”
Ginger recalled Elvis’ habit of talking back to the TV. “If a gentleman on the TV got turned down by a lady, he’d shout, ‘Burned!’ He was really funny to watch television with,” she says.
Elvis also entertained himself and his friends by performing music — often the traditional gospel hymns of his youth. “He was the happiest just singing. He had this great jeweled robe he would wear while playing the organ in his office,” Ginger says. “There was this soft pink, indirect lighting that was left on. It was magical.”
The upstairs rooms could be accessed by Elvis’ personal invitation only. Linda Thompson, another ex, lived with Elvis from 1972 to 1976 and remembers that his bedroom was “black, red and gold. … And no — the windows were ever opened,” she shares. His entourage used to joke that Elvis kept it cold enough to hang meat! Lisa Marie’s bedroom was right next door.
“He and I spent a lot of time together upstairs. That part of Graceland is basically his room and my room,” Lisa Marie recalls. “He’d set up a little chair in my room, and [we’d watch] TV.”
Visitors to Graceland have been able to tour the downstairs rooms and grounds of the estate since 1982, but upstairs remains private. Lisa Marie has kept everything exactly as it was on the tragic morning in 1977 when her father died. Even the last record he ever placed on his turntable, a recording by J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, remains ready to play. “The books, the videos, everything is there still. The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Pink Panther, Bruce Lee — all of his videos,” says Lisa Marie. “It’s a beautiful sadness. [But] it’s very comforting to me.”
— Reporting by Rick Egusquiza
For more on this story, pick up the latest issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now.