June Juanico’s book Elvis In the Twilight of Memory was the fourth Elvis book I ever read, after Priscilla Presley’s Elvis and Me and Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love. I met June in 2007 during Elvis Week the 30th Anniversary where she signed her book for me. June wrote her book herself, no ghost writer. I just read June’s book again and am still completely and utterly obsessed with it. June’s story with Elvis just affects me SO much and makes me SO sad (I still cry at the end), even more than Priscilla’s story with Elvis. It is fair to say I am obsessed with Elvis In the Twilight of Memory. The title is taken from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, a book June gave to Elvis, which had a copy of until the day he died – it was one of his favorites.
One of the reasons I love June’s book so much is because it shows a 21 year old Elvis on the brink of superstardom – the summer of 1956 during the television appearances and concerts and before (and during) his first movie. Elvis was just so happy and excited about life and completely enjoying his success to its fullest. June’s book shows what Elvis’ life was like living with his parents living on Audubon. I felt I was there with them at the kitchen table and listening to records in the living room. During that time, Elvis just had a few guys with him: Red, Author, Junior and Gene – and they were not with him ALL the time.
Another reason I love June’s book so much is their story was just about their love for each other, very pure with no drama, just love. June met Elvis at one his concerts in Biloxi, MS in 1955. She and Elvis went out after the concert and stayed out all night talking and kissing and falling in love. After missed phone calls and miscommunications, it was several months before June saw Elvis again. She and her friends went to Memphis for a 10 day vacation and went to Elvis’ house on Audubon Drive. June did not even know Elvis lived in Memphis until she got there. June and Elvis spent most of those 10 days together, mostly at his house with his parents. A few months later, Elvis went to Biloxi where he and June spent most of the summer together at Gulf Hills Country Club. Elvis told June he wanted to marry her, but the Colonel said they would have to wait three years until his career was well on the way. After their time in Biloxi, June went with Elvis on his 11 day tour in Florida. Elvis invited June to spend four days with him in Memphis before he had to leave for Hollywood to make Love Me Tender. June refused because she wanted time to herself after being on the road with Elvis for 11 days. (Seriously? I’d be with Elvis wherever and whenever he asked me!) Elvis also invited June to Hollywood with him, but again she declined. After Elvis made Love Me Tender, June visited him in Memphis staying with Elvis and his parents at Audubon Drive for 10 days. And this is where the happiness ended.
During June’s stay in Memphis, she noticed Elvis changing from all the pressures of his fame. He was mobbed when he went out and people heckled him, so Elvis would stay home and then he would get bored, feeling trapped like cabin fever. At the end of her stay in Memphis, Elvis invited June to go with him to New York City for his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, but again June refused because she was too scared to go to New York City and wanted to go home and have some normalcy. (I would have went with Elvis no question!) So Elvis asked her to stay in Memphis with his parents until he returned from New York City and that Natalie Wood was coming to visit and it would be fun for her to meet Natalie. June was upset Natalie Wood was coming to visit Elvis and her pride took over so she went home at the end of her visit. After his visit to New York City, Elvis told June they would have to cool it for a bit because the Colonel found out she had been in Memphis and was angry things were so serious between them. That is when Natalie Wood visited Elvis in Memphis. June didn’t hear from Elvis for three weeks – he did not even call her on her birthday. (Skip the next paragraph if you do not want to know the specifics of how it ended between them.)
June read in the newspaper Elvis had been to Las Vegas and then had a showgirl spend Christmas at his house with his family. Elvis called June briefly the day after Christmas, but did not explain anything and she did not ask him. (I would have asked!) June did not hear from Elvis again until March when she got a telegram asking her to meet him at the train station when he was passing through. In the past few months, June had met and became engaged to another man because she was convinced Elvis would not get the best of her – it was her revenge (but really, didn’t she hurt herself just as much?). When they met at the train station, Elvis asked June to go back to Memphis with him to spend her life with him and to show her what he bought for her (Graceland, but she didn’t know it was Graceland until she read about in the paper the next day). June told Elvis she could not go with him because she was engaged. Elvis was floored – the look on his face as June described it. The train started moving. June told Elvis she would always love him then kissed his forehead – and jumped off the train. Elvis waved, June waved (and I cried).
I believe Elvis and June ended because of June’s pride, although she blamed the Colonel. June wrote she could not handle not being number one, or so she thought, in Elvis’ life. She hated reading stories in the newspaper about other women spending time with Elvis, especially with his family at his house – like the Vegas showgirl and Natalie Wood. June wrote she ended it with Elvis because she believed he could not be faithful and he would have destroyed her. I believe if June had been with Elvis more, (if she had gone to Memphis with him before Hollywood, went to Hollywood with him and went to New York with him) then she and Elvis may have made it. The only reason Elvis cheated was because he needed someone with him constantly, so when June wasn’t with him he found someone else to be.
It was clear what Elvis wanted in a woman – someone exactly like his mother. Elvis wanted a constant companion. Elvis wanted her next to his side, literally, all the time. June wrote Elvis wanted her by his side when he was sleeping and in a crowd and when he was driving. Elvis wanted June to be available when he was and at a moment’s notice. Elvis needed June as an escape from the craziness of touring. After a concert, Elvis needed to unwind so he went to June so she could calm him down by rubbing his back and stroking his hair until he fell asleep. June loved being with Elvis, but like every woman who was to come into Elvis’ life, she tired of his lifestyle. June wanted to be with Elvis, but in a normal life at home raising kids. The superstar lifestyle was fun and exciting for a while, but eventually she wanted to settle down. It’s a shame because she (and all the others) knew this going into their relationship. Elvis did not lead a normal lifestyle, and it wasn’t fair of June (and all the others) to expect him to change. June wrote she saw Elvis as a little boy and wanted to mother him and Elvis craved that kind of motherly attention even when his mother was alive.
June was married in June of 1957, just months after being completely in love with Elvis. I believe she still was in love with Elvis when she married another and got married just to spite Elvis. Even after being married, June still cried at the mention of Elvis’ name or hearing his songs. She wouldn’t allow anyone to talk about Elvis around her. Elvis called three weeks after June was married and asked her mother to have June meet him at the train station again. He hadn’t truly believe she had gotten married. June went on to have two children with her husband. In 1963, June visited Memphis with her bowling team for tournament. She went to Graceland to see Elvis, but he was not there and was told to go to the movie theater to see him. She walked in, and he was sitting with Priscilla. June went up to Elvis and they embraced and talked. Elvis invited her and her friends to Graceland the next night for a party. June spent hours purposely looking good for Elvis, but when she got to Graceland she was told Elvis cancelled the party. In 1969, June and her husband saw Elvis perform in Las Vegas, and she still viewed Elvis as a little boy she wanted to take care of. June’s husband’s brother had been friends with Elvis since 1958 when Elvis first went to Vegas and now worked at the International Hotel where Elvis performed. June talked with Elvis on the phone after the show – and that was the last time.
Another reason I love June’s book so much is because it is a doomed love story, a tragic love story. Much like the movie The Way We Were – two people who love each other so much but just can’t make it work and are still in love with each other years after they are married to others. Maybe I connect with June’s book so much because I too was like June and let pride lead me – getting rid of the love of my life to show I was strong and he wasn’t going to hurt me or control me. I wonder if June ever regretted her decision?