This year, the annual Elvis Festival in his birthplace, Tupelo Mississippi, attracted not just his cousin Billy Smith, but also his girlfriend Linda Thompson. She dated The King from July 1972 until Christmas 1976. The former beauty queen remained so close to Lisa Marie that the devastated nine-year-old called her from Graceland when they discovered the star’s body on that fateful night of August 16, 1977. Linda spoke candidly about that terrible moment but also shared happier memories of their time together.
Linda has previously opened up about her fears after they split up that nobody would look after Elvis properly. Her worst nightmare came true months later when she received a sudden call.
Talking this week, she said: “I said, ‘hello’ and she said, ‘Linda.’ I said, ‘hey’, she said, ‘It’s Lisa.’ I said, ‘I know who this is, you little goobernickel.’ It was a pet name Elvis and I had for her.
“She said, ‘My Daddy’s dead, my Daddy’s dead.’”
READ MORE: Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie haunted by Graceland gardens and what is buried there
Linda added: “I can’t even tell you what I felt. I was stunned and paralysed. I said, ‘What? No, he’s not.’
“She said, ‘Yes he is, yes he is. He’s dead.’ The only thing that brought it to reality was when she said, ‘He’s smothered in the carpet.’
“And when she said that, I just threw the phone because I thought, ‘Ok, he’s gone. That’s it. Nobody checked on him.’”
Elvis had died, alone in his bathroom for hours, while his latest girlfriend Ginger slept in the next room and the Memphis Mafia were downstairs.
But Linda also has happier memories of their time together when they visited Tupelo and Elvis showed her the tiny house where he grew up.
She told local news station WCBI: “He talked about Tupelo a lot, he told me about his little, shotgun house, and the church where he went with his family. I’m thrilled to be here, to see the house where he was born.”
Part of Linda’s duties this year were to judge the traditional Elvis Tribute Artist (ETA) competition.
She shared a hilarious memory about when the star started to realise people were imitating him.
While The King was alive he heavily influenced popular culture but Linda says he would be absolutely amazed to see the enduring number of impersonators, or Elvis Tribute Artists (ETAs) who still proliferate to this day
She said: “He would be staggered by how incredibly generous everybody has been to his memory.
“He loved the ETAs even when he was alive. He would see people growing sideburns or dressing like him and he would say, ‘Honey, look at that guy over there, I wonder if he thinks he is me?’”
Linda went on to marry two more famous men. First, Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner, who transitioned to Caitlyn, from 1981 to 1986. Together, they are the parents of reality stars Brody and Brandon Jenner. After that, she was married to songwriter and producer David Foster from 1991 to 2005.
But in the new interview, Linda referred to Elvis as: “the love of my life. I adored him.
“I think first of all he would be proud of me and how I have tried two conduct my life in a way that has always respected him and his memory. That’s first and foremost to me. I’m a fan as much as anybody else is a fan of Elvis Presley.”
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE