Elvis, Rex Mansfield and Elisabeth Stefaniak (And Priscilla too!)


By: Michael Lollar
Source: Memphis Commercial Appeal
January 8, 2009

Elvis Presley had come to study Marlon Brando's acting style in the 1958 war movie 'The Young Lions', but he left with a girlfriend who would become his secretary during his stint in the Army.

Elvis and his Army buddies had gone almost every night to a theater near their German Army base. One night, German-American teenager Elisabeth Stefaniak was standing in the wings.

'I knew the manager of the theater, and he told me if I wanted to meet Elvis I should stand in the lobby and wait for him to come in', says Elisabeth, who was 19 at the time.

She lingered in the theater lobby after failing to spot Elvis on his way into the theater. When one soldier returned to the lobby to buy popcorn, she asked if he was sitting close enough to Elvis to get an autograph for her. The soldier, Rex Mansfield, told her he would try.

Mansfield then returned to the lobby. 'He said Elvis said to come in and sit with them. I was so nervous I didn't know what to do', says Elisabeth. Rex Mansfield escorted Elisabeth down the aisle to meet Elvis.

Elvis Presley and his secretary, Elisabeth (Stefaniak) Mansfield, playing the piano in Elvis' off base Army house in 1959.

Above, Elvis Presley and his secretary, Elisabeth (Stefaniak) Mansfield at Elvis' off base Army house in 1959.

'Less than two years later, I would bring her down another aisle', he says. But, before that, Elisabeth would have a brief fling with Elvis leading to her role as a go-between for him and his German fans.

'We dated for about three weeks. It was the most exciting time in my life. You had to sneak around all the time. You could never just go out in public', she says.

Elisabeth was born in Germany, but had moved to the United States when her mother married an American soldier -- Elisabeth's stepfather. When her stepfather was reassigned to Germany, Elisabeth was unable to find a job because she was then an American citizen.

Elvis solved that problem, offering her a job when he completed combat training and moved to another base.

Elvis Presley (left), being discharged from the Army with Rex Mansfield (foreground, right), in 1960.

Above, Elvis Presley (left), being discharged from the Army with Rex Mansfield (foreground, right), in 1960.

'The night before he was to leave', she said, 'he asked, 'Would you like to go back with me? I need someone who speaks German to go through the fan mail?'

Elisabeth worked primarily with Elvis' father, Vernon Presley, and soon learned she was one of several Elvis girlfriends. 'I kind of knew this was not the average person', she said. 'I knew this was the way it is. I just sort of accepted it. Millions of girls all over the world would have loved to have my job'.

She lived in the off-base house occupied by Elvis' family and Memphis Mafia members Red West and Lamar Fike. Elisabeth says each learned to copy Elvis' signature in order to sign what fans thought was Elvis' autograph. Soon, she says, Elvis met Priscilla Beaulieu, the 14-year-old daughter of an Air Force officer.

'I could tell. Everybody could tell. I think he just flipped right there', Elisabeth said.

Rex says Elvis was 'google-eyed over Priscilla', and, 'He'd say, 'I can raise her up the way I want to'. '

Elvis' grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley, had grown close to Elisabeth and realized she could be hurt by Elvis' infatuation with Priscilla. Rex says the grandmother began to tell Elisabeth that he 'would make some girl a good husband' and to tell him that 'Elisabeth would make somebody a good wife'.

They began to date, secretly. Elvis was 'possessive, like a king with his subjects', says Rex, who didn't want to offend him. 'He never really knew we were dating until we left Germany', says Elisabeth.

For Rex, who became a heavy-equipment sales executive, dating a former Elvis girlfriend bothered him at first. 'Of course, it did', he said. 'That was a big thing to overcome. She was in love with Elvis. There was a big struggle there, the struggle of my life'.

In the end, he says he held the promise of being a 'solid husband, at home, not having all the women in the world running after him'. He had been from Dresden, Tenn., but would retire with Elisabeth near Knoxville.

Neither he nor Elisabeth got to know Priscilla Presley during their stay in Germany. Elisabeth says she simply saw her across the room during visits to the home: 'I never had a personal conversation with her, but she was beautiful like a little China doll'. Rex says he thought of Priscilla 'like a Barbie doll. She was beautiful, but once she came on the scene my eyes and heart were really on Elisabeth'.

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