NEW YORK (AP) — Linda Thompson, who lived with Elvis Presley and was married to Bruce Jenner, has kept the details of her high-profile relationships private over the years.
But Thompson has learned that if you’re in the public eye and you keep quiet, others will write their version of what happened. Case in point: the now fabled story about Elvis shooting his television.
Thompson says she has heard others say “I was there when he shot the TV set out and Robert Goulet was singing,” but she was alone with Presley in his bedroom when it happened.
She writes about Elvis, Jenner and her ex-husband, music producer David Foster, in her new book, “A Little Thing Called Life: On Loving Elvis Presley, Bruce Jenner, and Songs in Between” (Dey Street Books).
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“For so long I just let people surmise what they would about my life and my choices and other people have written books and told tales,” she says.
Thompson says Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner, told her he wanted to transition to a woman.
“It was nice to exhale after harboring certainly Caitlyn’s secret and so many wonderful stories about Elvis, but also so many painful truths about him as well,” she says.
Thompson talked about her personal relationships, the notion of celebrity and her sons, Brandon and Brody Jenner, in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Associated Press: Was it difficult to revisit your past relationships when writing this book?
Thompson: You know, I call myself out on my mistakes, but in telling the truth, sometimes it stings a little and I wanted to palliate that with kindness. I had an admonition to myself, ‘Is it true? Is it necessary? And is it kind?’ So I let that be my dictate in writing the book. Sometimes the truth is not always kind but you can soften it.
AP: Elvis Presley is still so iconic. If you hear one of his songs or see one of his films on TV, are you able to separate your past with him and see him as the celebrity he still is?
Thompson: There’s still a spot in my heart that’s raw … and still stings from that loss. When I was with Elvis I used to remind myself there’s Elvis on the marquee and then there’s the living, breathing Elvis. There’s a great lesson in that as well in the way we celebrate people and we put them on a pedestal. It’s an impossible way to sustain your life. I think we do people a great disservice by putting them on a pedestal and not allowing them to be human.
AP: When the world was speculating about Jenner’s transition from Bruce to Caitlyn, you knew the truth. What was that like?
Thompson: Strangers would sometimes come up to me on the street and say, ‘What’s going on with Bruce?’ People took a lot of liberty in asking questions. It was difficult.
AP: So what did you think when he told you that he identified as a woman?
Thompson: As much as it disrupted my whole life, I had to feel a great deal of empathy for her. That was an internal battle he had fought for his whole life. I say in the book and I tease Caitlyn sometimes, ‘You kicked manhood’s butt. You did that man thing really well.’
AP: How are your sons since this revelation?
Thompson: Brandon and Brody have displayed such remarkable integrity. I’m astounded at what good human beings they are. Bruce was not around a lot when they were growing up and they have been able to look back, understand now the inner turmoil he was experiencing and forgive him, and to embrace Caitlyn as kind of their new parent.