World's At Standstill For Elvis' Fiancee

By: Lawrence Buser, August 19, 1977
July 20, 2000

Ginger Alden, the dark-haired beauty who in five months was to become the next Mrs. Elvis Presley, was still wearing her 11 1/2-carat diamond engagement ring as she recalled the final hours of the singer's life.

'I said, 'Elvis', and he didn't answer, so I opened his bathroom door and that's when I saw him in there', she said in a soft but steady voice Thursday night at her home. 'I slapped him a few times and it was like he breathed once when I turned his head. I raised one of his eyes and it was just blood red but I couldn't move him'. Miss Alden, wearing the black dress she wore only hours earlier to the funeral, said she wanted to convince herself Presley was not dead. She failed. 'I thought at first he might have hit his head because he had fallen out of his black lounging chair and his face was buried in the carpet', said Miss Alden.

'He said, 'I'm going into the bathroom to read,' (Tuesday morning) and that's the last thing he said to me. I didn't want to think he was dead. God wouldn't want to take him so soon'. The moments of uncertainty began about 2:20 p.m. and passed like hours, Miss Alden said. She quickly summoned road manager Joe Esposito and Al Strada, a bodyguard, and Presley's personal physician, Dr. Nichopoulos.

Earlier reports had been that Esposito was the first to find the singer's body. 'When Joe turned his (Presley's) head over I think he knew he was dead because he didn't want me to see him and sent me into the other room', said Miss Alden. 'It seemed like hours while we waited' (after the ambulance left).

Jo Smith (wife of Presley's cousin Billy Smith said, 'Everywhere you look at Graceland it's him'. And that's the way I'm finding it at home. 'It's like the whole world's at a standstill'.

She said the ambulance, which rushed Presley to Baptist Hospital, returned with Nichopoulos some time later. 'He walked up to Mr. (Vernon) Presley and shook his head. He just said he was sorry'.

And so ended the waiting.

Miss Alden and Presley had visited dentist Dr. Lester Hoffman Monday night and later had spent the evening at Graceland making plans for their marriage, which she said was to have been announced at Elvis' Aug. 27 concert in Memphis. They played racketball on the grounds at Graceland with the Smiths until about 6 a.m.

'Then we went back inside and I was ready to fall asleep', Miss Alden said. 'I told him he needed to get some sleep too, but he said he couldn't sleep and went into the bathroom to read. It was a book on religion or psychology'. Hours later she found the man she remembered as 'a part of me' who proposed to her less than two months after they met in November, 1976. The proposal was an unusual one. It was in the lounge area of the bathroom. 'It was like old-fashioned times...he was on his knees', Miss Alden said. 'He asked me to marry him and I said 'Yes', so he pulled out a green velvet box with the ring in it'.

She said she would remember Elvis as a generous person who was easy to please.

'I remember the deep love he had for everybody and his generosity in giving gifts," said Miss Alden, who first saw Presley when he patted her on the head at the Mid-South Fair in 1961. She was 5. Elvis was 26. "When he saw a lot of happiness on someone's face that was enough for him'.

Miss Alden said friends of Presley's had noted a change in him after they had met.

'They always would come up to me and say, You're what he's searched for a long time', she recalled. 'It gave me a wonderful feeling. I wanted to make him happy and I think I did'.

The night after Presley and Miss Alden met, the singer took her to se one of his planes at Memphis Aero. After a short look inside, Presley suggested they go for a ride. She thought the ride was to Nashville but several hours later she called her mother from Las Vegas. 'It was such a thrill for me because I had never been West before', she said. 'Then later he would sometimes introduce me as his girlfriend at concerts'. He'd say, 'Stand up...sit down' quickly because he'd say, 'You're hogging the spotlight'.

Elvis often took Miss Alden's family and sisters on tour with him and in March took Ginger and her sisters, Miss Rosemary Alden and Miss Terry Jean Alden, to Hawaii for 10 days. 'That was like heaven', she said, as Rosemary, who also was in the room Thursday night, nodded in agreement. 'He played football and Ping Pong and later took us to see some native dances at a Hawaiian culture center'.

It was at the Alden residence that Elvis did his last singing on Saturday night, Aug. 6. The singing was mostly religious hymns, such as 'How Great Thou Art'.

Mrs. Jo Alden, Ginger's mother, recalled the evening. 'He was in such a wonderful mood', she said. 'He has these hand expressions, sort of like karate type movements'. Mrs. Alden, who said she never worried when her daughter was with Presley, also dreamed of what never was to be.

'He said he was going to introduce her onstage next Saturday night at his concert in Memphis', she said. 'He told her to look real special. It's so sad he didn't get time to announce it, instead of having us announce it'.

Ginger said she is not sure about her future but has no immediate plans for a book.

'I don't think I could write anything now', she said.

'Later, I don't know. If I did it would be only about the things that were good'.

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