When was the first time you met Elvis? Sheila Ryan: The first time I met Elvis I was in Las Vegas. Joe Esposito brought me backstage after the second show.
Elvis came out of the dressing room he had this towel wrapped around his neck and there were thirty people in the room. He walks out and the first thing that he does, it was just but that once in a lifetime magical thing.
He just walks out of the room and boom, it was magic. And I knew right at that moment, I think most women have that feeling... I knew that I was gonna spend a lot of time with him. So you clicked instantly? Sheila Ryan: Instantly. I did, doesn't happen any more instant than that happened. It was fate.
Did Elvis throw a grape at you? Sheila Ryan: Yeah, He did throw a grape at me. I'm still not sure actually why he threw that grape. Joe Esposito has said that he threw it at me on purpose so that he could have a reason to come over and talk with me. I thought that he threw it at Joe for bringing an attractive woman and it was a jealousy kind of a thing.
What were Elvis's first words to you? Sheila Ryan: Elvis's first words to me were, "I'm sorry." I mean, it was an amazing shot, actually. He was probably fifteen feet away and I was playing cool because, after that first look, I didn't really need to know anything else that night. His girlfriend was there. I wasn't gonna make a scene, but how he flung that grape and hit me right between the eyes, it is amazing to me. I didn't get to talk with Elvis that night. Other than when he came over and he kneeled down and apologized. I was feeling uncomfortable because I knew that his girlfriend was watching and there was no mistake in what was going on between us. It was, one of those things. So he then got up and had to leave to be with the rest of the people in the room, I took my cue and left. Asked Joe Esposito to walk me out.
Elvis' Christmas gift to Sheila Ryan
When was the next time that you saw Elvis? Sheila Ryan: I was changing apartments and, as I said before, at that time in my life, I just had a knowing. My phone was disconnected for two days because I was transferring from one apartment to another and I knew that Joe was desperately trying to reach me. I just knew it and as soon as the phone was connected, and the phone rang and it was Joe. I just said, "Hi, Joe." And he said, "God how did you know it was me? Where in the heck have you been? The boss is frustrated that he hadn't been able to reach you for two days." I just laughed. And Joe said, "My boss likes you and he wants to see you."
Did you go on a big date with Elvis? Sheila Ryan: Yes, I went on a big date with Elvis. It lasted about two years. That's a big date.
What were the type of things that you would do? Sheila Ryan: Elvis and I used to hide. We would sneak out in the middle of the night and go get ice cream and it was like helicopters and the armed guard would come out and seek us out and hold us at gunpoint and take us back to the hotel. Of course, I'm exaggerating, but, yeah, we did. We just tried to be little kids, bad little kids. And he entertained me. The second night that I was there, he took me out on the balcony of the International Suite, that suite in Vegas was sort of his home. And he sang to me. And he would sing a lot and we would read and have fun. We did have fun.
Was there a special song? Sheila Ryan: Yes, there was a song that I loved and it wasn't a song that he sang. The song that he sang to me the first night, oddly enough, was a single that I bought when I was maybe thirteen and I bought it and I was so proud of it. It was all the money I had, ninety-nine cents. And I put it up on the counter and I was just looking at it and the name of it, oh, don't you just hate that. Anyway, it slipped behind the counter and I was devastated.
What were the qualities you saw in Elvis that touched you? Sheila Ryan: Elvis had qualities that no other human being had. Some of them are so hard to describe because the charisma, the qualities that he had were almost not of this world. There were, a lot of times, angelic. He knew things before I knew things. He knew things that I was feeling before I was feeling them. He was very much a little boy. He had that little boy quality. I've often said, before I met him, he had that smile and everyone interpreted that smile to be his sexy look. And it wasn't that at all. It wasn't a sexy look. It was his innocence, his vulnerability. It wasn't at all something that he turned on and off. It was just, you know, just vulnerable.
Elvis had a tender heart? Sheila Ryan: I don't think that there's another person, although, again, I mean, you know, let's face it. The man was just not normal. The biggest joy that he had was in giving and I didn't really understand it that much at the time. But it was what brought most joy to him was to give.
What meant most to you in your relationship with Elvis? Sheila Ryan: The thing that meant the most to me in my relationship with Elvis was that it was different than relationships that he had had with other women in that I wasn't the nagging, jealous. And I'm not saying that all the women that he was with were nagging and jealous but I didn't try to change him. I mean, I didn't expect him to be monogamous. When he would go away, I knew that he was gonna be with another woman and when he would come back he would tell me about what happened. And we would laugh because, I was secure. I'm still not a jealous person. So what was most different about my relationship with him is that he didn't have to explain. He didn't have to be afraid. He didn't have to hide, although he did hide some things. I mean, it wasn't completely an open book.
Was it a really passionate relationship? Sheila Ryan: Our relationship was passionate and I'm surprised to hear that women that I know, because at the time there were basically two. There was myself and Linda Thompson and we were sort of running the race. At first, he was seeing her and then I came along. It was sort of like a horserace. We were neck and neck and then I fell behind. But I'd heard that he didn't have a lot of intimacy with women. That mostly he did, a lot of talking and staying up and reading. But we did have a very active passionate romantic life. Sometimes more than I was ready for, prepared for. Sometimes I was tired and it was no, no, no. So, you know, I'm really surprised to hear that other women had, a problem with the lack of intimacy and sex.
And then sometimes you kept him up by reading to him? Sheila Ryan: Yeah, he would have me read to him until he would fall asleep. I would slowly close the book and lean over and put it on the bedside table and then I was so excited because then I got to go to sleep. Just as I put my head on the pillow, Elvis would wake up and say..."Keep reading"
Talk about Elvis's playfulness. Sheila Ryan: Yeah, he had this laugh. He and Joe Esposito would sometimes get together before all the people came over. They'd be in the den and Elvis would start telling jokes. Then Joe would start telling jokes. It was interesting because they would finish each others sentences. Joe would tell a joke and then Elvis would finish the joke. Then they would start laughing. Elvis would get carried away and he'd start hitting me on the leg like how someone will hit themselves on the leg when they're hysterical laughing. My leg would welting up a little bit. And then he used to have a good time with Ricky, his stepbrother. Elvis had this sword thing that he would do with Ricky. I don't know if you've heard about that.... Okay, there was a trick. I don't even, you know, he could do things that were really not normal. I mean, you could always feel safe no matter what Elvis was doing. You would always feel like there were angels around or something. But he had these two, kind of knives or samurai knives. And Elvis would say, "Ricky, go get me my knives." Well, Ricky would just break into a sweat and he'd turn red, "No, please, not the knives! I'll do anything. Please don't make me do that." So Elvis took these two knives and he'd go into his kind of karate mode, and do the ninja sounds up and down Ricky's body, missing him by just a little but never touched him. Of course, Elvis thought it was funny but Ricky didn't like it at all.
He was probably sweating. Sheila Ryan: Yeah. That was funny. There was this one thing. He had that all the guys had all these jokes between them and every one of them meant something. And I probably shouldn't say what it meant. But it was funny... It would mean "fuck you." ...... The whole group, Elvis and Joe and Jerry and Ricky and just whoever was around, it was just always laughter. Just did it all the time and there were jokes. I remember one time we were going to the Memphian theatre. We were going there and on the way, you know, they would say, so we're going to the Memphian, no, the Memphuan, no the Memphieuian, the Memphalpheu. It would spin off into something ridiculous. And then I would always need to wear somebody's coat because I forgot to pack mine. Jerry Schilling always ended up having to give up his coat. So, it was like, "Damn, Elvis, why can't you just buy your girl a coat," And just lighthearted stuff. It's hard to think of some of the things.
Would Elvis run several pictures a night? Sheila Ryan: When we would go to the Memphian, it would the Memphalpheu. We wouldn't go until late. I think his personal best was eight movies. One time, I sat through three but that was the most that I ever had to endure. It was Bruce Lee's "Kung Fu Fighting" or "Enter the Dragon" or one of those.
What other type of movies did Elvis like? Sheila Ryan: Dr. Strangelove. Elvis really loved Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films.
Did you ever just go out the two of you? Sheila Ryan: One time we were gonna go for a ride in the yellow Pantera and I was petrified. I was worried because he didn't drive that often. We were always in a limousine. It was late and dark and we were on the Mississippi interstate. Elvis was driving. It's just the two of us. And he was like lit up, like a Christmas tree. And we were going seventy-five and I'm thinking, okay, I can deal with seventy-five. And then eighty-five and ninety-five and a hundred and thirty. We were going a hundred and thirty. Then Elvis says, "Here, you take the wheel." And takes his hands off and I was like, "Please, that's not funny. Please." And I was like begging him. I was really scared. It was a side of him that I didn't see often. Carefree. He wasn't on the job. He wasn't working. He wasn't in Vegas. He wasn't doing shows. He was just having a good time. When I saw those gates with the musical notes on them, I was really happy to be back.