Cover of Elvis in the Twilight of Memory
I seemed to speed read right through Elvis-in the twilight of memory by teenage girlfriend June Juanico. I wholeheartedly agree with Publishers Weekly’s assertion that
“(A)fter sordid memoirs almost too numerous to count, comes this refreshingly sweet story of a young, innocent, talented, and devastatingly handsome Elvis and his first girlfriend, Juanico.”
No amount of wishing and hoping on the part of Elvis fans can turn back the hand of time, but it was nice to saunter down memory lane with someone who knew the young Elvis. Through June Juanico’s eyes I caught a glimpse of a normal teenage boy, and all that he had in common with others his age. His natural talent for singing made him special, but otherwise he could pass for one of the guys, albeit a hunk of a specimen. His southern manners made him immensely likeable to young and old, rich and poor, parents and their daughters. But like boys his age, Elvis had a healthy appetite for pretty, young girls, June being one of them.
A full summer of dating, between singing gigs which had him touring the south quite a bit, Elvis and June behaved like any other star-crossed lovers.
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During the summer of 1957, like millions of other girls, June Juanico of Biloxi, Mississippi, fell in love with Elvis Presley. The difference was that Elvis Presley also fell in love with her. Now, forty years after her romance with Elvis, June–once called the “luckiest girl in the world”–takes us back to that magical summer, a last oasis of innocence and fun for the man who would become an American icon. Elvis and June spent the summer fishing, skinny-dipping, going to amusement parks, horseback riding, waterskiing, riding motorcycles–in short, being young and in love. Things got serious enough that Elvis proposed marriage. June accepted, though she knew that his life was moving beyond anyone’s control and that where he was going, no one could follow. In the end, June let Elvis go and went home to Biloxi.
Clear-eyed, courageous, intimate, wise, and most of all loving, June Juanico’s memoir is a treasure not just for fans of Elvis Presley but for anyone who remembers first love, and first heartbreak.
First love and first heartbreak, something with which all of us can identify. And I think it’s true what they say about first love…you never forget it. That relationship, whether realized or not, is stored in our memories seemingly devoid of faults. First love is the one by which all others are measured. As the years pass, we are wont to remember only the good times. The pain and the ache fade into the background, as we wonder “what if?”
Juanico, though obviously still very much in love with the Elvis she had once known, never expressed her disappointment in marrying someone else. She speaks well of her husband, a handsome, steady man, and lovingly of her children. The product of a broken home, June grew into a self-confident, independent-thinking, respectful young woman, wise beyond her years. With Elvis she spoke her mind, never clung to him, understood the demands of his blossoming career, did not allow jealousy to rule her heart, traded witticisms with Elvis without hesitation. June Juanico was Elvis Presley’s match in every way.
Image by mharrsch via Flickr
Singing our songs, we were like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in the Wild West. I was on top of the world when Elvis told me he didn’t have to leave again for two whole weeks.
“I reckon you’ll be putting up with me for the next few weeks, Dale. We gotta lotta hard work ahead, gettin’ these here cattle to market and fightin’ off them there cattle rustlers,” Elvis said, sounding more like Gabby than Roy.
“Don’t fret none, Roy. Me and Trigger’ll be right here by your side ever’ step of the way,” I said, sounding absolutely nothing like Dale Evans.
Singing and walking through the woods, we stretched the forty-five-minute ride to ninety minutes. Thinking we were lost, one of the guides came to look for us… “That’s enough action for today, gang. Let’s go home and relax,” Elvis said, thanking the horse with a pat on the neck. When he had time to call his own, Elvis was content to sit around and do nothing for days at a stretch.
In the beginning he had been excited about his upcoming Florida tour. …”I’m gonna miss you, baby. I hate to think about being away from you for so long,” he said, holding me close. …His tour of Florida was due to last ten days, and after that he had to report to Hollywood to begin work on his first movie. Florida didn’t seem all that far, but California was on the other side of the world as far as I was concerned.
“I’ll miss you too, Elvis. I don’t know what I’ll do without you.” I was close to tears.”
“If I could only figure out a way to hide you from Colonel Parker, you could go with me. Let me see what I can work out. Do you think your mother would let you go?” he asked, apparently thinking out loud.
“Me? Go to Florida with you? I’d love to, but I doubt if my mother would let me.”
“I’m not worried about your mother, baby. I’m sure I could convince her. It’s the Colonel–he’s already told me about seeing too much of you. He’ll shit a brick if he sees you in Florida. I’ll think of something. I’ll figure out a way,” he said, assuring me with a kiss.
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Fortunately, or unfortunately, Colonel Tom Parker and Hollywood came calling….and Elvis’s fame skyrocketed him from the back woods of Memphis, like a reluctant bat out of h–l. It seems he left the real person behind, becoming a shadow of his former self. But did he really have a choice?
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Sometimes turning the page in one’s life story means you can never go back…to the way things were. It seems June Juanico understood that…and accepted elvis presley’s new life…as fact. But it didn’t stop her from hanging onto her memories. And perhaps Elvis continued to hang onto his. A relative, Junior Smith, said of June ” ‘she was the kind that wouldn’t take no shit! He’s still looking for another one like her, but it ain’t gonna happen.’ “ And best girlfriend Pat, who’d known Elvis well because she’d been a part of his courtship escapades with June, tried to convince her to go to Memphis to help Elvis. ” ‘I know he’s surrounded by people, June, but do they understand Elvis the way you do? Do they really care enough? You know how Elvis can be when someone tells him something he doesn’t want to hear. But he’ll listen to you, June. He always did.’ “
“If in the twilight of memory
we should meet once more,
we shall speak again together
and you shall sing to me a deeper song.”
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…a book given to elvis by june…which he called his “unwinder”…never traveling without it…calling it his favorite read…hugmamma.