Elvis’s girlfriends—not a subject that generates a great deal of interest with me. However, it is a subject that appeals to a great many of Elvis’s female fans. (Perhaps they enjoy imaging what it would have been like to be the King’s personal leading lady.) Of course, it is well known that Elvis enjoyed the company of women. Dozens (hundreds?) are known to have had relationships of varying natures with him.
And yet, we also know that while he often dated several women at the same time, Elvis demonstrated a need to have one special woman in his life. These were the ones he dated over an extended period of time and with whom he often appeared in public. These women qualified as his “girlfriends.” Most Elvis fans are familiar with their names. There was Dixie Locke during his high school days, June Juanico in 1956, and Anita Wood in 1957. During his army hitch, there was Elisabeth Stefaniak and, of course, Priscilla. In the 1970s, Elvis’s two most prominent girlfriends were Linda Thompson and Ginger Alden.
• Reporter trapped June in a Miami arena tunnel
A particularly interesting article about one of Elvis’s girlfriends appeared in the Miami Daily News on August 4, 1956. The headline read, “Hey, Gals! Elvis Has 2 Steadies.” It seems Elvis had invited then girlfriend, 18-year-old June Juanico, to accompany him on his tour of seven Florida cities. A Daily News reporter had noticed a “shapely brunette” being passed through police lines into Presley’s Olympia arena dressing room, where she reportedly “stroked his brow between stage shows.” Smelling a story, the reporter, Damon Runyon, Jr., waylaid Miss Juanico in a tunnel beneath the Olympia stage on her way to watch Elvis’s second show.
With no member of Elvis’s entourage around to coach her responses, June gave a revealing interview that much have made Elvis cringe when he read it in the paper the next day. It started with the innocent basics. She had met Elvis in her hometown of Biloxi about a year before. “I went backstage to see him and saw a big crowd,” she explained, “so I went to the ladies room. When I came out—there he was. Within five minutes he asked me to show him the town. I accepted, naturally. We went to see two or three floor shows in night clubs. I knew then that this was the real thing. Well, you know how love is. Eight months went by and I never heard from him. No letters or anything. Then I went to Memphis and it started all over—again.”
• Like the Mississippi—lots of curves
Runyon could understand why Elvis picked June Juanico out of the hordes of girls who hounded him. The reporter described her as a “blue-eyed girl built on the order of the Mississippi River—long and with lots of curves.” She certainly had nice things to say about Elvis. “He’s a wonderful guy when you know him. I mean if really know him, real deep down under. He’s a warm individual and treats everyone so nice.”
Sounds like a special relationship, thought Runyon, but before he could draw a controversial comment from her, June sportingly provided it herself. She explained that Elvis had another “steady,” a 19-year-old Memphis gal. Runyon had his peg—“Elvis is as unsteady in love as he is on stage.” He probed and June kept talking. “It’s hard to tell whether I’m No. 1 or No. 2 in his life—but I’m happy being one or the other,” she said and kept rambling. “It would be nice if Elvis loved me as much as I love him, but right now he’s married to his career and he isn’t thinking of marriage. If Elvis doesn’t marry it’d be a sin to let something like that go to waste.” With Elvis planning to return to Memphis after the tour, June admitted, “I don’t know just what I’ll do.”
Of course, Runyon knew that after his story appeared in the Daily News, Elvis and Colonel Parker would have some explaining to do. After all, rock stars of all eras can’t afford to have their female fans thinking they’re attached. (When the Beatles first hit it big, John Lennon downplayed the fact that he was married, and Davy Jones of the Monkees kept his marriage a secret.) It’s basic teenage girl psychology. You have to keep alive each girl’s fantasy that she could actually be the star’s girlfriend. Can’t do that if you’ve already got a girlfriend. You can have one; you just can’t admit it.
• Elvis claimed to have two dozen steadies
Denying that June Juanico was his “steady” is exactly what Elvis did the next day. “Now, this is the way it is,” Elvis announced, “I got about 25 girls I date regular. She’s just one of the girls.” Colonel Parker explained that June’s belief she was Elvis’s “steady” existed only in her own mind. “They show up—sometimes eight at a time—in the hotel or theater lobby, all claiming they’re his ‘steadies,’” he said. “One girl even claimed she was my daughter and I don’t have a daughter.”
The Daily News had a good thing going, and they weren’t about to let it go at that. A reporter rang up June’s mother, Mrs. Mae Juanico, at her Biloxi home and asked about her daughter’s relationship with Elvis. “When he’s in Biloxi, he doesn’t go out with any other girl but her,” she declared. “He said he can’t get married for at least three years and he asked her to wait for him.” Whoa!—that almost sounds like a proposal.
Of course, no young woman who looks like June Juanico could be expected to wait around for three years for any man, not even Elvis Presley. Seven months later, after finishing work on his second movie, Loving You, Elvis wired June in Biloxi, asking her to meet him in New Orleans during his train’s brief layover. There, in Elvis’s private train car, she told him she was engaged to someone else. When the train pulled out, June wasn’t on it. She never saw Elvis again.
You can read June Juanico’s complete story about her relationship with Elvis in her book, Elvis in the Twilight of Memory, published by Arcade Publishing in 1997. — Alan Hanson (January 2009)
“Now, this is the way it is,” Elvis announced, “I got about 25 girls I date regular. She’s just one of the girls.”