book reviews

Repost: Linda Thompson dishes on loving Elvis Presley, being Bruce Jenner’s wife, and being David Foster’s wife…

Elvis Presley, the so-called “King of Rock and Roll”, died when I was five years old and living in England.  I grew up knowing who he was, hearing his songs, watching movies about him, and not really having an appreciation for why he was considered so great.

Bruce Jenner, now out as a transgender and living his life as Caitlyn, won the gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon in 1976.  I was four years old and living in England, so I didn’t see his big win.  I did hear about it, though, and I remember watching him act on shows like CHiPs.  I also remember seeing him on a Wheaties box or two.

David Foster is famous for writing intricate melodies and dazzling orchestral arrangements.  I remember hearing his work on Earth, Wind, & Fire’s beautiful ballad, “After the Love is Gone” and Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”, as well as on countless other projects.

These three people all have the distinction of dating and/or marrying Memphis raised Linda Thompson, a former beauty queen, actress, and lyricist, and the mother of Bruce Jenner’s two sons, Brandon and Brody.  Last year, Thompson published a book about her experiences called A Little Thing Called Life: On Loving Elvis Presley, Bruce Jenner, and Songs in Between.  I think I downloaded the book some time ago, but I only just got around to finishing it.  It was a surprisingly interesting read.

Although I had heard of Linda Thompson before I bought her book, I think I was mostly familiar with her because I knew some of the songs for which she’d written lyrics.  Thompson explains that she’s always enjoyed writing poetry and, while she was dating Elvis Presley, a fellow musician noticed how well the words flowed.  He set her words to music and sang for her, and that was when she realized she was a songwriter.  But before that happened, she was a beauty queen, whose brother worked as one of Elvis’s bodyguards.  

Elvis Presley was apparently quite taken with Linda, and she became his live in girlfriend and caretaker for almost five years.  She was in her 20s, and he was in his 40s.  He used a lot of drugs, and wasn’t entirely faithful.  She lost her virginity to him, and several years of her youth taking care of him after he took too many sleeping pills.  She learned how to make his famous peanut butter and banana sandwiches and shares the recipe in her book.  She also took care of Elvis’s daughter with Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie.

Elvis and Linda broke up less than a year before he died.  He’d already found another caretaker, though, a woman named Ginger, who also has a book.

I was probably more interested in reading about Linda Thompson’s relationship with Bruce Jenner.  When they met, he was still married to his first wife, Chrystie, and had a son and a daughter from that marriage.  In the wake of his divorce, Bruce and Linda started dating and married.  She bore him two sons and he secretly borrowed her favorite silk blouse, which he smeared with makeup and stretched out.  One time, Linda was cleaning up around their house and she found an unlabeled video tape.  Thinking it was a film of her sons, she put it in the VCR to watch and was stunned to see Bruce parading around in women’s clothing and looking very much like a woman.

To her credit, Thompson did see a therapist about the situation with Bruce.  The therapist wisely told her that Bruce is transgendered and thinks he’s a woman.  It was a condition that would not change.  Feeling uncomfortable with the prospect of being married to a woman, Linda decided that she and Bruce should divorce.  She did not ask for child support or alimony… and sadly, Bruce Jenner was evidently an “absentee father”.  Thompson repeatedly writes that she did encourage a relationship between her sons and their dad.  She also writes that she feels there is “no excuse” for a parent missing their child’s upbringing.  Frankly, I agree.  However, there are plenty of parents out there who don’t want the other parent involved and do their best to break that bond.  I’m glad to read that Thompson didn’t do that.  Or, at least that’s what she claims.

My husband’s mother was married to a transgendered female for a couple of years.  He was a good looking man, very artistic, and had a son from a prior relationship.  Pretty soon, it became clear that he hoped my mother-in-law would teach him “how to be a woman”.  Naturally, the relationship failed within four years.  While I have a lot of empathy for transgendered people, I also have empathy for people who end up in relationships with them not knowing that they are transgendered.  I also have empathy for Bill, who was abused by his ex stepfather.

After she divorced Jenner, who went on to marry Kris Kardashian and have two daughters with her, Linda Thompson met David Foster.  He was married at the time they met and had children from prior relationships.  He divorced, and he and Thompson started dating.  Thompson writes that Foster is incredibly talented to the point of being a genius.  However, he’s also very tyrannical about some things and seems quite narcissistic.  Their marriage lasted nineteen years.  It ended after Thompson forgave Foster for having an affair and then caught him in another lie.  The shitty part of it was that she caught him due to a friend’s lack of discretion and it happened to be their wedding anniversary.

I have always admired David Foster as a musician, but as I read about Thompson getting involved with yet another self-absorbed overachiever, I started wondering what it was that attracted her to these types of people.  If you think about it, Thompson’s major relationships have involved people who are bonafide superstars in their fields.  According to Thompson, they each repeatedly treated her with disrespect.  She has reaped some benefits from her relationships with these guys.  Thompson is famous in her own right, knows a lot of elite people, and lives very comfortably.  But she has not been lucky in love.

I suppose the main thing I got from her book is that you should be careful what you wish for when you look for a mate.  Would it be exciting to be in a relationship with a famous person?  Maybe.  There’s a lot that famous people can offer that ordinary people can’t.  For instance, Elvis Presley gifted Linda with a house and took her on trips in his private airplane.  

But there is a price to pay for the trappings of that kind of success.  I think to be a really famous superstar, one has to be somewhat narcissistic.  I don’t think every superstar is a narcissist, but I do think a whole lot of them are.  And most narcissists are assholes.

Is it better to live in the lap of luxury yet constantly be disrespected by your mate?  Or is it better to have less material wealth but a mate who loves, respects, and encourages you to live your best life together?  I think all three of Linda’s loves did encourage her to some extent– they weren’t total assholes by her account.  There were good times and she has been able to be friendly with them in the wake of their failed relationships.  But she had to go through a lot of pain to get to that point.

Once again, I look at my Bill and thank God I found a guy who’s just plain good.  No, he’s not rich, famous, or possessing of an extremely rare talent (unless you count profound empathy and kindness), but he always treats me with love and respect.  I love being with him.  I know where he is at night and who he wants to be with.  And that’s worth more to me than a mansion.

Anyway, I found Linda Thompson’s love life interesting.  There are a lot of tidbits in there for those who like to read about celebrities, too.  She even includes some anecdotes about Kenny Rogers and Michael Jackson.  It’s well worth the read if you have the inclination to pick it up.

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