Linda Thompson has had some great loves.
In her new memoir, A Little Thing Called Life: From Elvis’ Graceland to Bruce Jenner’s Caitlyn & Songs in Between, the award-winning lyricist looks back on her nearly five-year romance with Elvis Presley and her five-year marriage to Caitlyn Jenner, who was still known as Bruce at the time. The 66-year-old mom of Brandon and Brody Jenner held nothing back while discussing losing her virginity, saving the King of Rock ’n’ Roll’s life, discovering she married a transgender woman, seeing her husband in a dress for the first time and more. (Throwback alert! In the video above from 1981, watch a just-married Thompson discuss her ex, Presley, while standing next to new husband Jenner!)
Here, Us Weekly rounds up 10 revelations from the powerful book, out now.
1. She Began Writing More Than a Decade Ago, But Waited Until Caitlyn Was Ready to Finish the Book
Thompson reveals she was first approached to write her story nearly 40 years ago when her ex Elvis Presley died. Refusing to exploit their relationship, she decided to hold off until the time was right to discuss their whirlwind affair.
But, in the end, it was her ex Caitlyn who held her back from telling all sooner. When the pair split in 1985, Thompson knew about her gender dysphoria, but, at the time, the world had no idea. And she knew it wasn’t her place to share. “I would not have been able to write an honest portrayal of my marriage to Bruce Jenner and the real reason we divorced, until now,” she writes. “I would have never been the one to ‘out Bruce.’”
2. She Lost Her Virginity to Elvis
From the moment they met in in Memphis on July 6, 1972, they were nearly inseparable.
Elvis respected her virginity — and wouldn’t touch her until she was ready. He said, “‘I want to preserve for you as long as you need,’” she writes. “He actually used the word ‘preserve.’”
It happened in early September, after they had been living together in Las Vegas. “We were in our king-sized bed on a pedestal, with a mirrored ceiling above us, reflecting Elvis and me tangled in a loving entrainment of arms, legs, kissed and deeply felt intimacy,” reveals Thompson. “Let’s just say if you’re not ready then, you’re never going to be ready in your whole entire lifetime. … I knew I was ready to make love with this man I absolutely adored with all of my heart and soul.”
3. The King’s High Collars Hid His Biggest Insecurity, But He Was Still Self-Conscious
Before the trend became his trademark, Elvis wore the style to cover his “skinny little chicken neck,” writes Thompson.
He was also one to crash diet. Before his 1973 Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite special, he allowed himself only 500 calories a day for two weeks, according to Thompson. Years later, once again to drop weight, he was put under near-constant sedation for two weeks. He slept “except for free brief periods each day when he woke up long enough to go to the bathroom and eat a small portion of food,” she adds. “Then he was sedated again and went back to sleep.”
When he hit 40, he had a minor midlife crisis and got a facelift. “There has been speculation through the years that Elvis has his eyes done or some other mystery procedure, but that mini facelift was the extent of his plastic surgery,” reveals Thompson.
4. She Witnessed His Drug Abuse Firsthand
From the start, Thompson knew Elvis took sleeping pills and then another pill to wake up. At night, she would lay awake, monitoring his breathing.
“He was taking Placidyl, which was a powerful sleeping pill and tranquilizer,” she writes in the book. “I was gone just long enough to hurry through my bedtime routine, but by the time I came back into the bedroom, he was facedown in his big bowl of chicken noodle soup.”
To save him, she picked his head up by his hair and started to clean his throat, “literally pulling out chunks of food,” she reveals. “One of the doctors had left a shot of Ritalin by the bed, in case he ever had too much of one of the sedatives … I picked up the Ritalin and administered it to him.”
5. Caitlyn Wanted to Re-Enter Their Kids’ Lives As a Female Relative
“Bruce told me he was considering traveling out of the country, possibly to Denmark, to try to have the gender reassignment surgery anonymously and then come back to the United States as a female,” Thompson writes. “He thought maybe he could re-enter [our kids’] lives as a female relative.”
Caitlyn was also committed to Thompson. “After he transitioned,” she continues, “his wish was to stay married to me and continue living together as a family.” But, she admits, she didn’t want to be married to a woman.
6. The Olympian Videotaped Herself As Caitlyn Before Her Transition
After Caitlyn moved out of their house after their 1985 split — and into a Malibu home where he could transition privately — Thompson found a mysterious VHS tape.
“He’d filmed himself having a fashion show for the camera. I guess he must have had his own wardrobe hidden somewhere in the house,” she writes. “As I watched, I felt such sadness for him. And then I got angry that he’d left such concrete evidence of his secret around the house, where the boys might have found it and required an explanation. But, mostly, I was just stunned. … He was 35 at the time, and he actually pulled off cross-dressing convincingly and looked quite pretty.”
7. Brody and Brandon Saw Signs Of Caitlyn’s Transition
They just didn’t know it. Caitlyn began injecting female hormones and removing her hair through electrolysis following their divorce. And after a visit with their dad, the boys told their mom, “‘Daddy has boobs,’” she writes.
Still, she kept them in the dark about their dad’s secret until Brandon was 31 and Brody was 29, in 2013.
8. Lionel Richie Knew About Caitlyn for Nearly Three Decades
Besides their therapist, only Lionel Richie and his wife, Brenda, knew the real reason behind Caitlyn and Thompson’s divorce. (They told other people travel and distance caused the split.) “Bruce had actually confided in Lionel himself,” says Thompson. “The Richies were great friends and I knew they were trustworthy.”
9. Caitlyn Gave Up on Parenting
Though she was never the most active dad, Caitlyn began to withdraw even more when she started dating Kris Kardashian in 1990, according to Thompson. The distance only grew after the two married.
In fact, several years went by without Caitlyn contacting their sons. “No birthday cards, or phone calls, no ‘Merry Christmas,’ no ‘Everything OK?’” Thompson writes. “The disappointment in their sweet little faces when he let them down, broke my heart even more than our divorce had.”
10. She Partied at the Playboy Mansion — With Brody and Spencer Pratt!
Coolest mom ever? Brody and his BFF Spencer Pratt “took me to the Spider room, above the Avalon bar. Paris Hilton was there, and we stood on a booth together, dancing,” she writes. “Brody came by and looked up at us, giving me an encouraging grin. ‘Mom, go dance with Spencer and break out some of those ’80s moves,’ he said. ‘OK, I’m in the wrong place here,’ I thought with a laugh.”
The party continued in the fall of 2005 when Brody invited her to a Halloween party at the Playboy Mansion.
Dressed as an old-school Bunny, she asked her son if it was too much. His response, she writes: “‘You’re going to the Playboy Mansion. Those girls will be naked. You’re like Mother Teresa dressed like that.’”
Pick up a copy of Thompson’s new book, A Little Thing Called Life: From Elvis’ Graceland to Bruce Jenner’s Caitlyn & Songs in Between, on shelves now.
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