Davada 'Dee' Stanley Presley : The Wicked Stepmother

By: Emily Retter
Source: The Daily Mirror (November 7, 2013)
November 7, 2013 - 3:37:24 PM
Elvis Articles, Elvis Biography


The King never liked or trusted his father's second wife & he proved to be a good judge of character.

By Emily Retter (The Daily Mirror November 7, 2013)

If Elvis was alive today, he may have been singing a new tune: 'Ding Dong The Witch is Dead'. Because the woman branded his wicked stepmother has died aged 88 at her home in Nashville, Tennessee.

Davada 'Dee' Stanley Presley was the second wife of Elvis' dad Vernon - and for the King her biggest crime was taking the place of his much-missed mother.

But his other suspicions about Dee's true character were proved correct after Elvis died aged only 42 in August 1977. She wrote two muck-raking books claiming to reveal shocking secrets about her stepson.

Alongside claims that he had a gay affair, was forced to marry Priscilla, and committed suicide because he had bone-marrow cancer, the biggest bombshell of all was her allegation that he'd been in an incestuous relationship with his mother Gladys, who had died two years before Dee married Vernon.

The sick story - which Dee claims she had on good authority from the family's long-serving maid and Vernon's mother Minnie - prompted a furious outcry.

Davada 'Dee' Stanley Presley.
Davada 'Dee' Stanley Presley.

And many thought Dee's true motivation was revealed in an interview when she hinted she wanted 'posthumous revenge' on her superstar stepson. She blamed Elvis for wrecking her 17-year marriage to his father, which ended in November 1977, only 18 months before Vernon died.

She said: 'Vernon was more married to Elvis than to me. He is ultimately what caused the deterioration of my marriage. He was incredibly selfish... like a black hole that totally sucks in everything around it'.

With her blonde curls and baby-blue eyes Dee Stanley was the total opposite of the dark-haired, dark-eyed mother Elvis idolised, the woman all his girlfriends had to measure up to.

And according to his own wife Priscilla 'he couldn't stand her'.

The In-Laws, with Nancy Sinatra.
The In-Laws, [with Nancy Sinatra.]

Dee, who died on September 28, 2013 : first clapped eyes on Elvis when he played a show in Newport News, Virginia, in 1955, the year before classic hits like Heartbreak Hotel, Blue Suede Shoes and Hound Dog caused a worldwide sensation. They finally met four years later in Friedberg, Germany, where both Elvis and Dee's first husband, Sgt William Stanley, were serving with the US army.

After Gladys died, aged just 46, of a heart attack brought on by hepatitis, Vernon joined his son there too. They were staying at the Gruenwald Hotel when Dee phoned. 'When I heard his mother had died I wanted to call and express my sympathy', she said. 'It must have been fate... my call was put through, and the next day I was invited to have coffee with them'. Some say a dinner date with the star was arranged then Elvis decided to send Vernon in his place. And most agree she had set her sights on the son in the first place. However the young singer wasn't interested in a woman who at 29 was four years his senior. So romance blossomed with Vernon, and in April 1960 Dee told her husband she wanted a divorce to marry the widower. When Elvis heard, he flew into a rage that his dad could think of marrying again so soon and he didn't go to the wedding.

Gladys had always been the most important woman in Elvis' life and their graves are side by side in the grounds of his former home. Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, is a place of pilgrimage to millions and alongside the graves is a plaque for Jesse Garon Presley, Elvis' stillborn twin brother.

As her surviving twin grew up in the town of Tupelo, Mississippi, Gladys doted on him, telling the little boy he had 'taken the strength of the both of them'.

And when his singing career took off at 19 and he became the family breadwinner he called Gladys and Vernon his 'babies'. She in turn called him 'Satnin' because his skin was satin-smooth.

With his first big royalty cheque, Elvis bought Gladys a pink Cadillac.

When Elvis was away on tour he would call Graceland every night to soothe her anxieties with endless 'baby talk'. But things got worse in 1957 when he was drafted into the Army and sent to Germany. He had refused the 'soft' Special Services option offered to entertainers. Just six months later Gladys was dead. When Elvis got home he rushed to the hospital and witnesses recall him closing the door where her body lay and wailing wildly. His aunt Lilian recalled how he sobbed: 'She's all we lived for, she was always my best girl'.

Gladys, Elvis, Vernon Presley : Vernon, Gladys, Elvis Aaron Presley.
Gladys, Elvis, Vernon Presley : Vernon, Gladys, Elvis Aaron Presley.

And as his mother lay in an open coffin, he rearranged her clothing and brushed her hair. Lilian says: 'He couldn't stop touching her, kissing her, and whispering to her... 'Just look at Mama, look at those hands of God, those hands toiled to raise me'. He carried around her nightgown, clutching it tightly even when he slept'.

At Gladys's funeral he threw himself over her body in the coffin, and cried for her to come back to him. Family members said after her death 'He never seemed like Elvis again'.

In the circumstances it's little surprise he didn't welcome Dee Stanley into his life.

But he did invite her three sons, Billy, seven, David, four, and Rick, six, to live with him. They were eventually to join the gang known as the Memphis Mafia, the entourage who by never saying no to the King shared some of the blame for his drug-fuelled death. Some even say it's because of Dee that Elvis needed his hangers-on. Determined to keep away from her, he withdrew behind this small group of trusted allies.

As his three stepbrothers grew up, instead of going to college and forging their own careers, they toured with Elvis as bodyguards, aides and 'TCBs': the initials of Elvis' motto 'Taking Care of Business'.

Dee resented her family's total immersion in Elvis' life and she said of the 1981 book, 'Elvis: We Love You Tender', which is credited to Dee and her sons: 'It's the story of a wife and mother, her sons and how it felt to have the major portion of our lives consumed by Elvis' own life. We want the world to see the human suffering beneath the glittery veneer'. In an interview she went further. 'Elvis was a drug addict and none of us could admit it until after he was gone', she said. 'There wasn't a person in the world that would say no to him. If there was a woman or man strong enough, Elvis would be alive today'.

She blamed him for leading her sons into drug abuse too. 'His stepbrothers worshipped him and anything Elvis did, they did', she said. She even insists Elvis felt guilty about it, weeping and asking: 'What have I done?' and asking her for forgiveness. She was accused of exploiting the star's name after his tragic death for her own personal gain. She answered: 'How could I exploit it any more than it has already been exploited? And besides, we all gave our lives to Elvis. Now maybe we're just trying to take a little something back'.


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