Elvis & Mary Jenkins: The Real Help

Ah, it feels like I’ll never finish The Warmth of Other Suns. I usually finish books within a matter of days, but this one is really testing my skills. I finally made it to the 1970s, which marks the end of the great migration, but I still have 150 pages to go! Ugh. I know if I put the book down that I might not return to it, so all other books are on hold.

In the meantime, I had the opportunity to watch a few documentaries on Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. (Yes, I have a secret fascination with the two and plan to eventually read their biographies…eventually.) One thing that I tend to wonder about is what types of relationships these individuals had with African Americans, especially during times of racial tension and battles for civil rights.

One of my older co-workers recently mentioned that Elvis Presley had a black maid who they begged to dish the dirt and write a tell-all.  She noted that the maid wouldn’t accept any amount of money to do it and constantly refused. Well, my co-worker was wrong about one detail. In 1984, Mary Jenkins, Elvis’ maid, did write a book.  But my co-worker is right, Jenkins didn’t reveal any juicy gossip—which some had a major issue with (and it probably hurt sales). Then in 1997, she wrote another book–or she re-released the original book with a new title and cover art. I can’t tell which.

Jenkins book seems a challenge to find—both versions. If you feel like dropping some extra change, go for it. But I bet you can find it at the library. Let the opening paragraph be your motivation (you should note that she summarizes her own life in 2-3 pages in order to keep the focus on her homeboy Elvis):

January 8, 1963, was Elvis’ twenty-eighth birthday. It was also the first day of my employment at his beautiful Memphis home, Graceland. It is now almost twenty-six years later, and I am still employed there. My employment since that cold, wintry day has brought me untold joy. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone I know. I feel that God ahs a plan for my life, just as He has for every person born, and I am so thankful that part of his plan for me was to become a part of Elvis’ life, his home, and his family.

And if you want more, here’s an excerpt from an interesting interview (you gotta check the link and read the whole thing, for real!):

In later years, Elvis’ appetite called for lots of very rich foods. Dr Nick (Elvis’ pill-spewing personal physician -ed.) had him on a diet almost constantly then. [But] Elvis would call me in the kitchen. ‘Mary, fix me some sausage and biscuits the way I like them.’ The way he liked them was to melt two sticks of butter in a skillet, take about six or seven homemade biscuits, cut them in half, dip the halves in melted butter, put sausage in the middle and put the halves back together. . . . Elvis’ colon got to bothering him real bad, so Dr Nick put him in the hospital. He had been up there several days when, one afternoon, I got a call from him. “Mary,” he said, “I want you to fix me some kraut and wiener sandwiches. . . .'” (Read more . . .)

Still want more? An October 20, 1986 issue of Jet magazine offers just that.

On to Marilyn. I recently watched a documentary on the star that featured rare photos and video footage. Since I didn’t see a single black face during that hour-plus time, I decided to look up some photographs of my own:


Happy reading, y’all!

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3 thoughts on “Elvis & Mary Jenkins: The Real Help

  1. I have an Elvis story. I was married to a black women back in the 1980’s. Her best friend was a woman from Memphis. My wife and I divorced, then she died. I went to her funeral and her friend invited me to come by for a visit. So I did and then started going over to her house once a week or so.
    One day Elvis’ name came up and she said “Oh, I met Elvis 5 or 6 times when I lived in Memphis”.
    I was surprised and asked her how that was so. She said: “Well, I would be riding around on the black side of town and see a big Cadillac double parked in the street in front of a soul food place, or a rib joint, and there would be a big crowd around a white man and that would be Elvis. He would drive to these places and order $500 worth of food for everybody at Graceland and it would take an hour to cook it all and he would spend the time talking to everyone, and posing for pictures, signing autographs, kissing the girls…”. So of course I said “So you kissed Elvis?”
    “Sure did! A couple a times!” was the reply. Then she got a far off look in her eyes and added “This one time someone asked Elvis if he knew this old Negro spiritual and he started singing it and everyone got real quiet until the chorus came and we all sang it, then Elvis would sing the stanza, and so on until the end, and when it ended everyone was crying it was so beautiful to listen to that man sing with us. Elvis was crying too. It was the most beautiful moment of my life”. Then she paused and said “I loved Elvis. Everybody in Memphis loved Elvis”.


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