Tiger Woods’ “Transgressions”
Similar to Elvis’s 40 Years Ago

Tiger Woods recently apologized on his Facebook page for “transgressions” he had committed. “Transgressions,” of course, is a euphemism for being “unfaithful” to one’s spouse. Tiger’s early morning traffic accident of November 27, 2009, resulted in a string of women revealing alleged affairs with him. In less than two weeks, the “mistress list” has reached 11 members. For Elvis Presley fans, Tiger Wood’s current problems are reminiscent of their idol’s “transgressions” during his marriage four decades ago.

Similarities in the lives of the two men figured in their “transgressions.” Both were among the most prominent figures of their times—Tiger, the world’s greatest athlete, and Elvis, the world’s greatest entertainer. For men open to cheating on their wives, such fame is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes hooking up with willing women incredibly easy. Neither Tiger nor Elvis had to go looking for them. Beautiful, young women, willing and able, flocked to them wherever they went. On the other hand, celebrity also attracts press hounds, anxiously awaiting missteps that can be revealed worldwide.

There were also major differences in the personal lives of Tiger and Elvis. Tiger’s lapses came in a high-tech age, which makes it almost impossible for indiscretions to go undetected for long. Cell phone recordings confirmed Tiger’s shame, and the internet quickly spread his embarrassment around the world. Elvis operated in a comparatively low-tech environment, and so he was able to carry on his romantic dalliances with less fear of exposure.

Elvis Presley and Joyce Bova

• Elvis was clever in concealing his “transgressions”

Elvis also may have been the more cunning of the two men in concealing his extra-marital activities. He had one of his mistresses, Joyce Bova, install in her home a second phone to which only he knew the number. He surrounded himself with a coterie of guys who shielded him from the outside world. He demanded and got their complete loyalty when it came to the flow of women through his and their lives. “Never, ever admit it,” Elvis told the guys, according to Joe Esposito. “The girl can be there, right in front of her eyes, but never admit it.”

Unlike Tiger Woods, Elvis never had to deal with public revelations of his affairs during his lifetime. He died just as the tell-all book by his three fired bodyguards hit the bookstores. His passing released his inner circle from their pledge of loyalty, and so we know now from multiple sources of his unfaithfulness to his wife Priscilla.

Before going on, I want to make it clear that I’m only concerned with Elvis’s sexual escapades while he was married, specifically between his wedding in May 1967 and his separation from Priscilla after Christmas in 1971. Elvis could have bedded a new girl every night when he was single, and I would considered that his business and no one else’s. However, Elvis’s blatant and repeated disregard for his marital vows reveals a flaw in his character that I find hard to ignore, although many other Elvis fans discount it.

Affair with Joyce Bova was a sad episode in Elvis’s life

I remember being particularly disappointed when I first read the story of the aforementioned Joyce Bova. She was Elvis’s main lady-on-the-side from 1969 through 1971. She first went public with her relationship with Elvis in a 1994 article in Ladies’ Home Journal and revealed more details in Peter Guralnick’s Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley in 1999.

“I cast aside caution and responsibility,” Bova explained, “to lead a very secret personal life … for three heart-pounding years.” It started in August 1969, when a hotel greeter in Las Vegas asked Bova if she’d like to meet Elvis before his show at the International Hotel. Elvis began cultivating her immediately. “You know, Joyce Bova, you’re a beautiful girl,” she recalls him saying when they first met. Later that night, he invited her up to his suite for dinner. She demurred at first, pointing out that he was married.

“What does ‘married’ have to do with this?” he indignantly asked. “I just want to be with someone I can talk to, y’know? Besides, I know what kind of girl you are, even if you don’t think I do. You should realize that with you I would have to be a perfect gentleman. And that’s a promise.” And so Bova began her affair with Elvis, even though she considered him a “happily married man.”

The following year, when they spent the night together in a Washington D.C. hotel room, Elvis first introduced her to the powerful prescription sleep inducer Placidyl. For another year Elvis and Bova continued their affair with rendezvouses in Las Vegas and Memphis. They even slept together in Elvis and Priscilla’s bed at Graceland while Priscilla was with Lisa Marie at the Presley home in California. The sad consequence of the affair occurred when Bova went to Las Vegas to confront Elvis in August 1971. The following passage from Guralnick’s book explains what happened.

She had become pregnant from their last time together, and she arrived in Las Vegas on August 16 with every intention of telling Elvis. A practicing Catholic, she had been genuinely troubled about the affair from the start and did not see abortion as an option … When he got rid of everyone else in the room, she thought she would tell him tonight for sure, but then she asked about his daughter, and with that strange sixth sense of his, almost as if he had an inkling of where she was about to go, he began talking about the sacredness of motherhood, how it was “God’s way of telling [a] woman she’s not a little girl anymore,” that with motherhood it was time to be “respected [but] I don’t think a mother should be trying to be sexy and attracting men.” When Joyce protested that sexuality was part of human life, that “not every woman would lose her appeal just because she had a baby,” he waved her objections aside. “Trust me on this, Joyce, I know I’m right.” She left Las Vegas without ever telling him and had the abortion three weeks later alone.

Elvis reality check was discouraging moment

I’ll never forget when I first read that passage 10 years ago. To be honest, at that moment, I didn’t like Elvis Presley very much. It’s not that I felt sorry for Joyce Bova. She was a big girl, old enough to bear the consequences of her actions. But with Elvis, I felt deceived. For 15 years, from 1962-1977, I not only was a loyal fan of his music but also had bought into the perpetuated public image of Elvis as a courteous and compassionate man in his private life. Realizing that he was not perfect, that he had human failings like everyone else, was disheartening for awhile.

Now, to be sure, the private Elvis had some admirable qualities. He was generous to charities, his friends, and even strangers. Through his work, he brought much joy to millions of people all over the world. Those entries deserve to be listed on the positive side of his life’s ledger. There are still today, however, many thousands of Elvis fans who cling to the illusion that the negative side of the ledger is bare. They still see Jesus and Elvis as the only two perfect beings who ever walked the earth. The reality is that Elvis Presley’s human failings add context and depth to his fabulous life story.

As for me, I have been able to keep Elvis’s personal and professional lives separate. I am still just as big a fan as ever of Elvis, the entertainer. I listen to his music daily, watch his movies, and marvel at his talent on the concert stage. I suspect most of Tiger Woods’ fans will react in the same manner. When his current troubles pass, he will still be admired and honored for his skill on the golf course. Like Elvis before him, though, that sense of godliness that surrounded him will be tempered by a degree of ordinary humanness. It will be a sad development to many of his fans, but in the end, as with Elvis, it will be for the best. The truth usually is. — Alan Hanson (December 2009)

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