JoCathy Elkington was working as a hostess during a Memphis Southmen game in the now-defunct World Football League during the summer of 1975 when she was summoned to meet a special guest.
It was The King himself, Elvis Presley, and that encounter led to three of the most memorable months of Elkington's life.
During a Throwback Thursday segment on TODAY in which the anchors remembered their summer jobs, whether it was Savannah Guthrie working at Cookie Incredible or Al Roker toiling at a ShopRite Supermarket, Elkington had them all beat. Her summer job led to a romance with Elvis when she was 26 years old, just two years before he died at 42.
"When I met him, I was absolutely thrilled,'' Elkington told TODAY.com. "The whole night he called me 'JC,' and would say 'JC, get me a piece of pizza, a Big Mac or a Coke,' and he wouldn't ask the other hostess for anything."
One of Elkington's best friends was Barbara Klein, whose husband, George, was a member of Presley's inner circle, dubbed the "Memphis Mafia." The Kleins were with Presley when Elkington worked as a hostess for their suite at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on that fateful night in late July 1975. Elkington, who is now 64, was a junior high physical education teacher when she got the summer job working for the professional team known informally as the Memphis Grizzlies. She had grown up in the Mississippi Delta as a huge Elvis fan, and she got an even bigger surprise when he got up to leave the suite on the night they met.
"He gave me a hug, and when I asked him if the scarf around his neck was a real Elvis scarf like the ones he threw into the crowd at concerts, he put it around my neck, pulled me toward him and kissed me,'' Elkington said. "It was crazy because I was just this normal girl from Memphis."
The following Thursday, she got a phone call around 8 p.m. that began, "JC? It's EP." She went to see his home in Graceland and then he took her to a movie, renting out the entire Crosstown Theatre in Memphis. The two hit it off, which was problematic because Elkington had a serious boyfriend at the time.
"He knew I had always been a huge Elvis fan, so it was surreal,'' she said.
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While the two were in the theater, he asked her what her favorite color was, and she told him red. The next time she visited him at Graceland, she said he brought her outside to show her a new red Pontiac Grand Prix that he bought for her.
Coincidentally, before Elkington met Elvis, she and her mother had booked a trip to Las Vegas to see him perform. Two weeks after she met him, she and her mother entered their hotel room to see it filled with flowers. He then promised to sing her the song "Young and Beautiful" during the concert.
"I loved Elvis,'' she said. "I'm not going to say I was in love with him, but we spent a lot of time alone, mainly upstairs at Graceland. I got to know Elvis the man."
The two would play racquetball together as an overweight Elvis tried to shed some pounds. He loved to go to the movies, usually around midnight, and he also loved for her to read to him. By September, Elkington was back on her school schedule and it was hard to keep up with him, as he would often just be waking up when she came over to Graceland around 4 p.m. and didn't go to sleep until the early hours of the morning.
"I had sense enough not to quit my job, but it was just a grueling schedule,'' Elkington said.
In October 1975, the relationship came to an end when he told her he had other plans for the night and that maybe she should grab some of her clothes at Graceland and come back the next afternoon.
"I was worn out, and it pissed me off, so I just went around that house, getting all my clothes and my makeup, and left,'' she said.
Less than two years later, Elkington had just gotten married when she heard of Presley's death from her younger sister. She couldn't bring herself to attend his funeral.
"I was just totally in shock, and the hardest thing was the whole world was mourning for this man I knew,'' she said. "It was just surreal to watch all that on television, and it was somebody I dated, somebody I knew, somebody I had a close relationship with."
Elkington still lives in Memphis and regularly stops by Graceland, which is now a major tourist attraction. She also was included in the 1999 biography "Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley" by Peter Guralnick. She will be 65 on June 23 and coincidentally is looking for a summer job again, saying she is "between opportunities" after being laid off by the American Cancer Society. She will never forget the ride her summer job took her on in 1975.
"Being with him was a pretty amazing time,'' she said. "You read these tabloid stories or hear people saying, 'I know he's alive in the Bahamas,' or 'I saw him at a K-Mart in Kalamazoo.' I tell people, I wouldn't be in the financial shape that I'm in if Elvis were alive. He'd be helping me out, I tell you that."
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