Interview with Sheila Ryan
Source: Elvis Australia
June 7, 2020
Q : When was the first time you met Elvis?
A : The first time I met Elvis I was in Las Vegas and Joe Esposito brought me backstage he came out of the dressing room and there was a waiting room outside of the dressing room. And he came out and he had this towel wrapped around his neck and there were, I don't know, maybe thirty people in the room and he walks out and the first thing that he does, I mean, the first thing that happens is our eyes meet, you know. And everyone noticed that, particularly the girl that he was seeing at the time. I mean, it was just sort of but that once in a lifetime magical thing, you know. He just walks out of the room and boom, you know what it's like. A magic. And I knew right at that moment, you know, just like this - knowing that I think most women have, but I certainly did have at that time in my life and I knew that I was gonna spend a lot of time with him.
Q : So you clicked instantly?
A : Instantly. I did, doesn't happen any more instant than that happened. It was fate.
Q : Did Elvis throw a grape at you?
A : Oh, yeah, He did throw a grape at me, yes, and I'm still not sure actually why he threw that grape at me. Joe Esposito has said that he threw it at me on purpose so that he could have a reason to come over and talk with me. I thought that he threw it at Joe for bringing, you know, an attractive woman and it was a jealousy kind of a thing. I thought, but I'm still not sure to this day and I don't know that I ever will be, really.
Q : What were Elvis' first words to you?
A : Elvis' first words to me were, 'I'm sorry'. I mean, really, it was an amazing shot, actually, you know. He's probably fifteen feet away and I was playing cool because, after that first look, you know, I didn't really need to know anything else that night. His girlfriend was there. I wasn't gonna make a scene, you know, but how he flung that grape and hit me right between the eyes, in the forehead, it is amazing to me.
Q : You're probably the only woman in the world who's been in that situation.
A : It hit by a grape, yes.
Q : Did you start talking that night?
A : No, I didn't get to talk with Elvis that night.
Other than when he came over and he kneeled down and was apologizing and apologizing and apologizing and I was feeling uncomfortable because I knew that his girlfriend was watching and there was no mistake in what was going on between the two of us. It was, you know, one of those things. So he then got up and had to leave and, you know, be with the rest of the people in the room and so I took my cue and left. You know, almost immediately. Asked Joe Esposito to walk me out and so I didn't get to talk to him that night.
Q : When was the next time that you saw Elvis?
A : I had been in an apartment and I was changing apartments and, as I said before, at that time in my life, I just had a knowing, I knew things. You know, so my phone was disconnected for two days because I was transferring from one apartment to another and I knew that Joe was desperately trying to reach me. I just knew it and as soon as the phone was connected, I mean, the phone man was there and he put the thing in the thing and the phone rang and it was Joe. And, you know, I just said, 'Hi, Joe'. And he said, 'God how did you know it was me? Where in the heck have you been and boss is just like', you know, he was just like not angry but frustrated that he hadn't been able to reach me for two days and I just kinda laughed.
And he said, 'My boss likes you and he wants to see you'.
Q : Did you go on a big date with Elvis?
A : Yes, I went on a big date with Elvis. Big, big date. It lasted about two years. That's a big date.
Q : What were the type of things that you would do?
A : We would sneak out in the middle of the night and go get ice cream and it was like helicopters and the armed guard would come out and, you know, seek us out and hold us at gunpoint and be like, get back to the hotel. Of course, I'm exaggerating, but, yeah, we did, you know, just tried to be little kids, bad little kids. And he entertained me. The second night that I was there, our second evening together, he took me out on the balcony of the International Suite, you know, the big suite in Las Vegas that was sort of his home when he was in Las Vegas. And he sang to me. And he would sing a lot and we would read and have fun. We did have fun.
Q : What were the qualities you saw in Elvis that touched you?
A : Elvis had qualities that no other human being has, had, will have. Some of them are so hard to describe because the charisma, the qualities that he had were almost not of this world, you know. They were, a lot of times, angelic. He knew things before I knew things. He knew things that I was feeling before I was feeling them. He was very much a little boy, had that little boy quality and I've often said, you know, before I met him, he had that smile and everyone interpreted that smile to be his sexy look. And it wasn't that at all. It wasn't a sexy look. It was his innocence, his vulnerability. It wasn't at all something that he turned on and off.
Q : Elvis had a tender heart?
A : I don't think that there's another person, although, again, I mean, you know, let's face it. The man was just not normal, you know. The biggest joy that he had was in giving and I didn't really understand it that much at the time. But it was what brought most joy to him was to give.
Q : What meant most to you in your relationship with Elvis?
A : The thing that meant the most to me in my relationship with Elvis was that it was different than relationships that he had had with other women in that I wasn't the nagging, jealous. And I'm not saying that all the women that he was with were nagging and jealous but I didn't try to change him. I mean, I didn't expect him to be monogamous. When he would go away, I knew that he was gonna be with another woman and when he would come back he would tell me about what happened. And we would laugh because, you know, I was secure in knowing that, I mean, I wasn't a jealous. I'm still not a jealous person. And so what was most different about my relationship with him is that he didn't have to explain. He didn't have to be afraid. He didn't have to hide, although he did hide some things. I mean, it wasn't completely an open book but.
Q : Was it a really passionate relationship?
A : Our relationship was passionate and I'm surprised to hear that women that I know, because at the time there were basically two. And then, you know, there was myself and then Linda Thompson and we were sort of you know, running the race and we were, at first, you know, he was seeing her and then I came along and then it was sort of like a horserace, you know. We were neck and neck and then I fell behind and then she, you know. But I'd heard that he didn't have a lot of intimacy with women. That mostly he did, you know, a lot of talking and staying up and reading and we had a very active passionate romantic life.
Q : Forgive me if this isn't you.
A : Oh, I know what's coming.
Q : Elvis wanted everybody to get their hair dyed in the middle of the night?
A : In the middle of the night, Elvis wanted his hair dyed. And so he wanted me to do it. He didn't want Charlie Hodge to do it. And I don't think Charlie's really ever lived that down.
Q : Talk about Elvis' playfulness.
A : Yeah, he had this laugh. He and Joe Esposito would sometimes get together before all the people came over. And they'd be in the den and I'd be there and Elvis would start telling jokes. And then Joe would start telling jokes and sometimes it was interesting because they would finish each others sentences and so Joe would tell a joke and then Elvis would finish the joke and then they would start laughing. And he would get carried away and he'd start hitting me on the leg cause you know how someone will hit themselves on the leg when they're hysterical laughing. And, you know, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, like that. And he was like. He would, my leg is like, you know, just kind of welting up a little bit. And then he used to have a good time with Ricky, his stepbrother. And he had this sword thing that he would do with Ricky. I don't know if you've heard about that.
Q : Tell us about that.
A : Okay, he could do things that were really not normal, that were not, I mean, you could always feel safe no matter what he was doing. You would always feel like there were angels around or something. But he had these two, I don't know what kind of knives or samurai or huge, huge like each knife was about that long. And he'd take the two of 'em and he'd say, 'Ricky, go get me my knives'. Well, Ricky would just break into a sweat and he'd turn all red, 'No, please, not the-- I'll do anything. Please don't make me do that. Don't make me do that'. So he'd take these two knives and he'd go into his kind of karate mode, you know, and he would go [NINJA SOUNDS]. Up and down his body, missing him by, you know, just little and never touched him but and, you know, of course, that we all thought that was funny but Ricky didn't think it was funny.
Q : Did you ever just go out the two of you?
A : One time we were gonna go for a ride in the yellow Pantera and I was petrified because, you know, he just didn't go slow, you know. I was worried because he didn't drive that often cause we were always in a limousine and it was late and it was dark and we were on the Mississippi interstate. It was what and he's in this car and I'm there and it's just the two of us and I'm like, okay, I don't know how to be just the two of us, you know. And he was like lit up, you know, like a Christmas tree. His eyes were like they could be, you know. And we were going seventy-five and I'm thinking, okay, you know, I can deal with seventy-five. And then eighty-five and ninety-five and a hundred and thirty. We were going a hundred and thirty and I'm thinking and then he goes, 'Here, you take the wheel'. And takes his hands off and I was like, 'Please, that's not funny. Please'. And I was like begging him and I was really scared. I was really scared and but yet I was just a side of him that I didn't see often. Carefree, you know, he wasn't on the job, he wasn't working. He wasn't at Las Vegas and he wasn't doing shows. So he was just having a good time and when we saw those gates with the musical notes on them, I was like, huh and I was really happy to be back.
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Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.
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Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.