June Juanico Remembers Elvis Presley : Interview with June Juanico
Source: Elvis Australia
August 22, 2015 - 3:29:07 PM
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June Juanico had met Elvis for the first time after one of his early concerts in Biloxi in 1955, when he was on the verge of the superstardom. She is said to have been the only girl Elvis' mother ever approved of. However, Elvis didn't let this romance get too intimate. In a 1997 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, June said she 'blames his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, for encouraging Presley to go out with beautiful women for the publicity'. According to Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick, Juanico didn't doubt that Elvis loved her.
Video: June Juanico Remembers Elvis Presley
Interview with June Juanico
I thought he was the most gorgeous thing: big, dreamy eyes.
Girls were screaming over him, and I'm just not that kind. I was passing by him, not even looking at him, and he reached through the crowd and grabbed my arm. He said, 'Where are you going?'
June Juanico and Elvis Presley Sun N Surf Motel 1956.
What I remember most about that night was sitting in his car outside my house, just talking, while my mother kept an eye out to see what I was doing. The first thing I said was, 'What is your real name?' I had never heard of a name like Elvis. And he said, 'What do you mean my real name? My name is Elvis Aaron Presley'. We sat there until the sun came up at 6 a.m. He was shocked because my parents were divorced. He thought marriage was a lifelong thing, and when he got married, it was going to be forever. And he told me all about his twin who was dead at birth. I'd never met anybody quite like him.
Elvis Presley and June Juanico Gulf Hills Dude Ranch 1956.
We got so wrapped up in kissing on our very first date -- nothing too sloppy, it was just marvelous -- a little pecking here and there, a nibble here and there, then a serious bite. 'He was a magnificent kisser'. 'He said, 'Who taught you how to kiss?' And I said, 'You know, I was just getting ready to ask you the same thing'.
But I didn't hear from him for a while after that. It turned out he was calling and my older brother wasn't bothering to tell me. Finally, he said, 'Some guy with a hillbilly accent called'. For the one and a half years I dated him, our relationship remained chaste. He was just very tender and considerate. We spent so much time together, and we started talking about marriage. Mrs. Presley liked me. She saw me as domestic and wise for my young years. She was always telling me that Elvis needed someone to take care of him.
But Elvis was becoming more famous, and [manager] Colonel Tom Parker wanted him linked with actresses and Vegas showgirls. Of course, Elvis liked legs that went on for days, and he brought one of those showgirls home for Christmas in '56. That did it for me. I decided to marry someone else. And Elvis said the Colonel said we couldn't get married, that he wouldn't dare do that to the Colonel.
The next time I saw him was in a movie theater in Memphis in the early '60s. I went down the row behind him and tapped him on the back, and he turned around and our eyes just locked. He got up and put me in a death grip. One of his guys ran over because he thought someone was abusing Elvis. But Elvis was holding on to me. Priscilla was sitting next to him, and she was very gracious. She kept her eyes glued to the screen.
In August 1977, my mother was at my house. I had laid down for a nap, and when I came out of my bedroom my mother was looking at me really strange. Finally, she said, 'June!' She had tears in her eyes. She said, 'I just heard on the television that Elvis Presley has died'. I looked at her and said, 'That can't be! That can't be!' I went over to the television and fell to my knees in front of it. I couldn't breathe. I honestly think if my mother had not been with me, I might have died. In my heart, I always thought Elvis and I would be together somewhere down the road. I was married for 36 years, and I've got two beautiful children and beautiful grandchildren. I've been blessed in many ways. But I have just never been able to stop loving Elvis.
June wrote a book on Presley titled, Elvis in the Twilight of Memory (1997)
Following is the book introduction by Peter Guralnick.
There have been lots of books written about Elvis Presley, of course, with probably as many personal memoirs among them as have attached to any other cultural figure or entertainer in history. Some have been spurious, a number seem to have been written out of little more than personal rancor, motivation has ranged from love to money to self-adumbration (never has one man had so many chief advisers).
Virtually none have actually been put together by their narrators. That is one of the things that makes June ]uanico's book different. It is not simply that she has written a book that is filled with feeling and insight, that conveys an experience with truth and without rancor, about a real, not-mythic Elvis Presley. She has also written (and re-written) every word herself and in the process produced an account that is as touching in its unadorned honesty as it is refreshing in its feisty and unself-censored voice.
I should have known that June was a writer when we first met. It wasn't the fact that she had saved up her experience over the years, avoiding interviews for the most part and keeping her memories to herself. Nor was it the confidence with which she told her story. Lots of people can recite anecdotes with assurance and humor. No, it was the extent to which she had reflected upon her experience, fleshed out her story with three-dimensional portraits, created a narrative persona removed from the nineteen-year-old girl at its centep provided a structure which, far from distorting the experience, defined it. When she produced the manuscript that she had been working on, I really should not have been surprised.
Everyone has his or her own way of telling a story, and most of us, when recounting our own experience, paint a 'truthful' picture. It is not necessarily a complex one, though. For reasons of convenience most of our stories boil down to anecdotes, in which our own roles may be enhanced, the punch - line delivered more crisply, the world more a 'like' world (a world in which these things could have happened, these verbal ripostes could have been made) than the real one, in which motivation is often confused, people are necessarily a combination of contradictory elements, the picture is not postcard - perfect.
lt's hard to scrutinize these accounts realistically - particularly if one is a participant in the story. It can be painful to look too closely at one's own past. But that is what June has done. Without for a moment sacrificing the immediacy of what can only be called a 'love story', the narrator has told a tale filled with autumnal regret, a bitter-sweet account filled with vivid detail that portrays a particular time and place (Biloxi, Mississippi, the summer of 1956) and carries with it its own charm and its own truth. It also captures a 21-year-old Elvis Presley with 'Hound Dog' just about to start climbing the charts, on the brink of movie stardom (he receives his copy of a script titled The Reno Brothers, soon to become Love Me Tender, while he and June are in Miami), enjoying a brief moment out of the spotlight just before the curtain of privacy is forever lifted. June juanico's book carries conviction in its very simplicity - but don't be misled by that simplicity. 'There's a writer there, too. And we are getting the benefit not just of her experiences but of her insights as well.
June Juanico: The Day Elvis' Girlfriend Talked Too Much
Who do we count as Elvis' 'girlfriends'? These were the ones he dated over an extended period of time and with whom he often appeared in public. These women qualified as his 'girlfriends'. Most Elvis fans are familiar with their names. There was Dixie Locke during his high school days, June Juanico in 1956, and Anita Wood in 1957. During his army hitch, there was Elisabeth Stefaniak and, of course, Priscilla. In the 1970s, Elvis' two most prominent girlfriends were Linda Thompson and Ginger Alden.
Reporter trapped June in a Miami arena tunnel
A particularly interesting article about one of Elvis' girlfriends appeared in the Miami Daily News on August 4, 1956. The headline read, 'Hey, Gals! Elvis Has 2 Steadies.' It seems Elvis had invited then girlfriend, 18-year-old June Juanico, to accompany him on his tour of seven Florida cities. A Daily News reporter had noticed a 'shapely brunette' being passed through police lines into Presley's Olympia arena dressing room, where she reportedly 'stroked his brow between stage shows'. Smelling a story, the reporter, Damon Runyon, Jr., waylaid Miss Juanico in a tunnel beneath the Olympia stage on her way to watch Elvis' second show.
With no member of Elvis' entourage around to coach her responses, June gave a revealing interview that much have made Elvis cringe when he read it in the paper the next day. It started with the innocent basics. She had met Elvis in her hometown of Biloxi about a year before. 'I went backstage to see him and saw a big crowd', she explained, 'so I went to the ladies room. When I came out-there he was. Within five minutes he asked me to show him the town. I accepted, naturally. We went to see two or three floor shows in night clubs. I knew then that this was the real thing. Well, you know how love is. Eight months went by and I never heard from him. No letters or anything. Then I went to Memphis and it started all over-again'.
Like the Mississippi-lots of curves
Runyon could understand why Elvis picked June Juanico out of the hordes of girls who hounded him. The reporter described her as a 'blue-eyed girl built on the order of the Mississippi River-long and with lots of curves.' She certainly had nice things to say about Elvis. 'He's a wonderful guy when you know him. I mean if really know him, real deep down under. He's a warm individual and treats everyone so nice'.
Sounds like a special relationship, thought Runyon, but before he could draw a controversial comment from her, June sportingly provided it herself. She explained that Elvis had another 'steady', a 19-year-old Memphis gal. Runyon had his peg-'Elvis is as unsteady in love as he is on stage'. He probed and June kept talking. 'It's hard to tell whether I'm No. 1 or No. 2 in his life-but I'm happy being one or the other', she said and kept rambling. 'It would be nice if Elvis loved me as much as I love him, but right now he's married to his career and he isn't thinking of marriage. If Elvis doesn't marry it'd be a sin to let something like that go to waste.' With Elvis planning to return to Memphis after the tour, June admitted, 'I don't know just what I'll do'.
Of course, Runyon knew that after his story appeared in the Daily News, Elvis and Colonel Parker would have some explaining to do. After all, rock stars of all eras can't afford to have their female fans thinking they're attached. (When the Beatles first hit it big, John Lennon downplayed the fact that he was married, and Davy Jones of the Monkees kept his marriage a secret.) It's basic teenage girl psychology. You have to keep alive each girl's fantasy that she could actually be the star's girlfriend. Can't do that if you've already got a girlfriend.
You can have one; you just can't admit it.
Elvis claimed to have two dozen steadies
Denying that June Juanico was his 'steady' is exactly what Elvis did the next day.
'Now, this is the way it is', Elvis announced, 'I got about 25 girls I date regular. She's just one of the girls'. Colonel Parker explained that June's belief she was Elvis' 'steady' existed only in her own mind. 'They show up-sometimes eight at a time-in the hotel or theater lobby, all claiming they're his ‘steadies', ' he said. 'One girl even claimed she was my daughter and I don't have a daughter'.
The Daily News had a good thing going, and they weren't about to let it go at that. A reporter rang up June's mother, Mrs. Mae Juanico, at her Biloxi home and asked about her daughter's relationship with Elvis. 'When he's in Biloxi, he doesn't go out with any other girl but her', she declared. 'He said he can't get married for at least three years and he asked her to wait for him.' Whoa!-that almost sounds like a proposal.
Of course, no young woman who looks like June Juanico could be expected to wait around for three years for any man, not even Elvis Presley. Seven months later, after finishing work on his second movie, Loving You, Elvis wired June in Biloxi, asking her to meet him in New Orleans during his train's brief layover.
There, in Elvis' private train car, she told him she was engaged to someone else. When the train pulled out, June wasn't on it. She never saw Elvis again.
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