This week, on January 8, 2023, marks the 88th anniversary of Elvis Presley‘s birth. He left a mark on countless lives over the years, but few experienced the King of Rock and Roll as viscerally as Ann-Margret. The Swedish-American actress spent just over a year in an intimate relationship with the star behind closed doors in 1964 on the set of their movie Viva Las Vegas before splitting up. But it wasn’t until after he died that she learned of his true feelings for her.
Elvis died on August 16, 1977, after suffering a cardiac arrest in his home, Graceland. He was found in the bathroom by his fiancée at the time, Ginger Alden.
At the time, Ann-Margret was living in Las Vegas while she performed nightly at a residency slot. And, although she had not seen Elvis for almost 15 years, the connection between them was still palpable. This was made obvious by a touching gift she received each night. Every day, before her performances, Ann-Margret was sent a bouquet of flowers in the shape of a guitar from Elvis as a sign of good luck.
But on August 16, 1977, she didn’t receive anything. Instantly, she knew something was wrong. Ann-Margret then received a phone call from Elvis’ friend and road manager, Joe Esposito. He broke the awful news that Elvis had died. She responded with two simple words: “We’re coming.”
Elvis’ funeral was held two days later, on August 18, 1977. Thousands of people attended the emotional event, including many people from the star’s life throughout the years.
When Ann-Margret arrived at Graceland, she went straight to Elvis’ father and “hugged him tight”.
The King’s father, Vernon Presley, later recalled: “Because I was dazed with shock and misery, I didn’t see or recognise some of the people at the funeral. Ann-Margret and I hugged each other and cried together, but I didn’t even see her husband, Roger Smith, who was close by.”
Ann-Margret remembered the same event in her memoir – My Story. “There was so much to say,” she wrote. “To recount. But instead, we cried.”
Then Vernon revealed to Ann-Margret what Elvis never had time to tell her.
Ann-Margret wrote: “Vernon said softly: ‘He was so proud of you.'”
The funeral that followed was an emotional experience for everyone involved. Tens of thousands of fans lined the streets outside Graceland and attended the King’s casket to pay their respects. His ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, comforted those who know the King well, as well as their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.
Since the funeral, Ann-Margret has not spoken out about Elvis much. She revealed: “We were together for one year and he trusted me. And I would not want to betray his trust in death.”
Ann-Margret went on to add: “There’s been so much written that has been negative about him that I want to celebrate his life [and] the man that I knew.”
Ann-Margret’s dedication to Elvis is not surprising, considering how powerful their love affair was in 1964. She once described him as her “soul mate”.
The star added: “We both felt a current, an electricity that went straight through us … It would become a force we couldn’t control.”