Capitol Hill aide's book details affair with Elvis The King and I

July 11, 1994|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Sun Staff Writer

Elvis was here.

His limo idled outside in the apartment's parking lot, now filled with the bumper-stickered compact cars of techno types ("If this were an F-16, we'd be home by now"; "My other car is a jet"). He walked through the doorway with its teddy bear welcome mat, visited the bathroom with the poodle picture on the wall and seemed to appreciate the utter normalcy of it all.

"You've made a beautiful home here, Joyce," said the man from that monument to Southern Baroque, Graceland.

Joyce Bova still lives here, in an apartment-gone-condo complex in one of those Washington suburbs that is home to so many of the busy worker bees who, mostly anonymously, keep the federal government churning along. She asked that her particular suburb not be named because, well, when you write a book about your love affair with Elvis Presley, you just don't know which nerve you're going to twitch.

The love-crazed and the simply crazed. The true believers and the ironic poseurs. They all possess the true Elvis, and everyone else's Elvis is a false god.

"I have a friend who just loves Elvis, she has Elvis everywhere. She knows I went out with him, but she'll never ask me about him -- she'll tell me about him," Ms. Bova says with bemusement.

So the only solution, of course, was to write a book -- which the Baltimore native and Capitol Hill aide has done with "Don't Ask Forever: My Love Affair With Elvis" (Kensington Publishing Corp., $20). Ms. Bova will autograph copies of the book tomorrow at the Waterfront Hotel, 1710 Thames St. in Fells Point, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The book is a three-year slice of life: Ms. Bova says she met The King in Las Vegas in 1969 -- one of his aides saw her, thought she was his type and brought her backstage -- and shortly thereafter they began a three-year affair. She says they met when they could, either at Graceland, at one of his performance stops or in Washington between his touring and her work as an aide for the House Armed Services Committee. But, as Presley became increasingly reliant on drugs, and got her hooked on sleeping pills as well, the relationship faltered, she says. Ms. Bova became pregnant, had an abortion and eventually left him, she says.

"That was the hardest thing," she says now. "I loved him, I wanted to help him, but I failed."

At 49, Ms. Bova looks at least 10 years younger. Tiny and birdlike -- she's a competitive ballroom dancer with the requisite pared-down, sinewy build -- she looks much as she did during her years with Elvis, judging from the photos in the book. Her eyeliner and jet-black hair are tamer than the days when she was regularly mistaken for beehived and made-up Priscilla Presley -- to whom Elvis was still married at the time of the affair -- but you can imagine why the star would be attracted to this pretty, sweet- natured woman.

Graceland's take on book

And now she is part of the posthumous flood of Elvis tattlers.

"It's hard to weed through what's legitimate and what's not. So many people have written about their real or imagined relationship with Elvis," says Todd Morgan, director of communications at Graceland, Presley's home-turned-shrine outside Memphis.

Mr. Morgan says Graceland's staff tries to keep track of the scores of books written about Presley -- it's part of their mission to keep archives of all Elvisana -- but doesn't put itself in the position of either endorsing or challenging what the authors say.

"We would hope they'd all be honest," Mr. Morgan says. "And in a way it's a good sign that these books get written. It's a constant indicator that the interest in Elvis is real, real strong."

Despite the fact that Presley is no longer around to tell his side of the story -- he died in 1977 -- there's little reason to suspect that Ms. Bova invented their affair. One biographer, who asked that his name not be used, says Mr. Presley's associates did recognize her name when he asked about her, and the book has several pictures of Ms. Bova, her twin sister, Janice, and their mother with Presley and various members of his "Memphis Mafia."

Ms. Bova says she simply wanted to offer an honest account of three years in Presley's life and her own life. She sees her book as filling in some gaps in the thousands of pages already written about the great entertainer.

"It's a beautiful love story. It's a significant part of his life, and my life, too," Ms. Bova says. "It's not a knock-Elvis book. There's nothing sleazy about it."

Nor, however, does the book present a cleaned-up, iconic image of Presley. Ms. Bova shows him increasingly addled by drugs, needing pills or injections to sleep and then to wake up again. He was always surrounded by a sycophantic group of aides and relatives, whom he treated both with affection and petty tyranny -- Ms. Bova relates one particularly pathetic scene in which Mr. Presley clipped his toenails before going to bed and then called for someone to vacuum it up.

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