Stay Away, Joe: Elvis Presley stars in trailer for 1968 film
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When Elvis Presley began shooting his 15th feature film, Viva Las Vegas, in 1963, everything changed for him. He had enjoyed flings with the Hollywood actresses he worked with in the past, but when he met Ann-Margret, he fell head-over-heels in love with her. She was often described as “the female Elvis” on account of her talents, charm, and powerful good looks. But the lovers had to break up after news of their affair got out to Elvis’ girlfriend, Priscilla Presley (Beaulieu, at the time). That didn’t bring their connection to an end, though.
Elvis kept tabs on Ann-Margret throughout the following decade. He watched her career blossom, and he was always just a stone’s throw away.
The star’s closest friends recalled the love Elvis had for Ann-Margret long after they had split in the Alanna Nash book “Elvis and the Memphis Mafia”. Lamar Fike said the King of Rock and Roll used to visit Ann-Margret’s Las Vegas shows “all the time” in the 1970s.
“He’d send her flowers on opening night,” Lamar remembered. “Always red roses in the shape of a guitar. And then he’d go to see her backstage.”
And Ann-Margret’s love for Elvis didn’t change either. She even got a custom-built gift made for him to show her affection.
Billy Smith, another member of the Memphis Mafia, said Ann-Margret “still cared about Elvis” long after they broke up.
“She had a slot machine made for him,” he revealed. “Instead of cherries or jokers, it had three guitars that lined up for the jackpot.”
This was no doubt a heartfelt gift for Elvis, as slot machines are synonymous with gambling and Las Vegas, and considering the star first met Ann-Margret on the set of Viva Las Vegas, this custom-built machine was the perfect way of manifesting their connection.
Billy added that Elvis’ family put the slot machine “in the basement at Graceland”. However, it is not known whether this custom-made game is still at the enormous 14-acre property in Memphis, Tennessee.
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Unfortunately for Elvis, his romantic connection with Ann-Margret was at an undoubted and definitive end.
After Priscilla found out about his affair, he was forced to break things off with the Swedish-American star. Shortly thereafter, he proposed to Priscilla, and they were married on May 1, 1967. Meanwhile, Ann-Margret found her own relationship in the form of Roger Smith, a Hollywood executive. And one week later, on May 8, 1967, Ann-Margret married Roger. They remained married until 2017 when he died, aged 84.
When Elvis visited Ann-Margret backstage at her Las Vegas shows, Roger was always present – in one way or another.
Lamar recalled Ann-Margret was always wearing “that big diamond Roger gave her”. “And Roger would be right there,” he went on.
Despite Roger’s presence, Elvis made sure to visit Ann-Margret every time he could.
Lamar said: “He went, when he could, and always went backstage. In February of 73, she opened at the Hilton, and he went twice in three days. He still cared.”
Their connection remained strong even after Elvis died on August 16, 1977. Ann-Margret attended the funeral at Graceland, and embraced the star’s father, Vernon Presley, when she arrived. Ann-Margret was the only person from Elvis’ days in Hollywood to attend his funeral.
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