March 19, 2021 will be the 64th anniversary of the day Elvis Presley bought the Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. Over the years Presley welcomed many people into his homes, but in Pat Napier’s case, it was the house Presley owned before Graceland.
“I was a friend, not a fan,” Napier was gracious enough to tell me about her “most private story” about Presley on this anniversary date. “There is a difference. I was always welcomed at Graceland. I reminded him of the ‘good old days’”
The good old days for Presley and Napier were 1955 and 56 and situated in the South. Napier deemed herself “a military brat.” Her father, a sergeant in the Air Force, was transferred to Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi, Mississippi in 1953. Through the years Napier “lived everywhere” and to this day “I never know what to say when someone ask where I’m from.”
Seventeen-year-old Napier was in high school when she met June Juanico, also 17, in 1955.
“She was beautiful and funny and I had an instant crush (although I didn’t recognize, as such, it at the time),” Napier recalled. “I became her comedic sidekick, someone she trusted. Also I usually had my dad’s car for us to run around in.”
Sergeant Napier became concerned about the mileage his daughter was racking up and started checking the gas gauge. Napier and Juanico, who enjoyed driving to the local teen hangouts, began tapering down on the distances of their outings. Always the comedian, Napier would have them laughing to the point of hysterics by putting the car in reverse, looking out the back windshield, and driving it backwards down the streets of Biloxi.
It was about this time that a 20-year-old up and coming singer from Memphis began appearing in Biloxi.
On June 26, 1955 Elvis appeared at the Slavonian Lodge. The screaming and commotion from the girls on the dance floor caused the news of this “cool hillbilly cat” to spread like wildfire in the area.
Presley stayed in the area two more nights while Scotty Moore on guitar and Bill Black on bass, played with him at the Airman’s Club at Keesler Air Force Base.
They returned to play again on November 6 at the Biloxi Community House for matinee and evening shows. Presley enjoyed the area and was happy they played the next two nights, again at the Keesler Airman’s Club.
Later, Juanico had heard from others about Presley’s performances:
“You need to see him, they said. And I went on this one night. I thought he was the most gorgeous thing: big, dreamy eyes. Girls were screaming over him, and I’m just not that kind. I was passing by him, not even looking at him, and he reached through the crowd and grabbed my arm. He said, ‘Where are you going?’”
According to Juanico’s accounts, the night turned into magic and she remembers “sitting in his car outside my house, just talking, while my mother kept an eye out to see what I was doing.”
Never having heard of the name Elvis, she asked him what his real name was.
“What do you mean my real name? My name is Elvis Aaron Presley.”
The attraction between the two was strong. Juanico said the kissing “was just marvelous, a little pecking here and there. He was a magnificent kisser. He asked me who taught me to kiss. I told him I was just about to ask him the same thing.”
“I had never heard of Elvis,” Napier said one Sunday a few years ago from her home in Biloxi where she is enjoying “retirement to the Mississippi Gulf Coast after a 50 year absence.”
“Then in 1956 I was included in trip to Memphis with June and another girl that had also had a date with him in 1955 when he played in Biloxi,” Napier continued. “I had heard one song of his. We got his address and went to the house on Audubon drive. And he was there.”
The Presleys were building a swimming pool in the back yard and the girls wanted to see if it was in the shape of a guitar or something. Presley saw them and came out to talk. He made sure to get Juanico aside.
“He spent the rest of our days there hanging out with us–mostly June,” Napier said. “They even flew to Dallas to pick up his new Cadillac before we drove back to Biloxi. This was in June. He came down a few days later. That’s when I took the photos of him and June. We hit it off right away. That’s when he sort of took me under his wing. Well, long story short, we spent June through October in his entourage–on tour, on vacation, and as a guest in his home. He always invited me along.”
“Well this is the most private story that I recall,” Napier continued. “When he flew me and June up to Memphis (my first flight) to be his house guest at the home on Audubon drive, Gladys and Vernon picked us up at the airport in the pink Cadillac.”
“When we arrived Elvis ask how I liked the flight and I commented ‘I want to be a stewardess,’” she said. “Anyway, we stayed in Elvis’s bedroom with a private bath and he moved to the guest room. He felt that it gave his parents more privacy, not sharing a bathroom. We had been there several days when Elvis ask me to come into the bedroom with him.”
“Earlier on I had been smoking in the bedroom, the cigarette rolled out of the ashtray and burned a spot on the dresser. I covered it up with the ashtray. Well, Elvis sat me down on the bed, stood in front of the dresser pointing to the burn spot.”
“Alberta (the maid) told Mama about this and Mama doesn’t want you to smoke in the bedroom,” Presley looked her straight in the eyes.
“Well, of course I was devastated,” Napier remembered. “I apologized and was to the point of tears.”
“It’s not about the dresser,” Presley responded. “Mama’s afraid of starting a fire, so it’s ok.”
“When he realized how upset I was, he picked up his guitar, sat on the bed beside me and sang ‘Old Shep’ to me,” she smiled. “When he finished he laughed and ruffled my hair and said ‘It’s ok, Baby’ and walked out of the room. I think he and his mother got a chuckle out of his big brother reprimand. He always made me feel special.”
Not many people can say their very time in an airplane was to go be a guest at Elvis Presley house. But when she told Presley she enjoyed the flight and thought she wanted to be a stewardess, she wasn’t insincere.
Pat Napier became an attendant and “flew for Eastern airlines for 32 years and then with five different worldwide charters.” She has lived in Sicily, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Thailand “as well as most every major city in the states, coast to coast, north to south. All in all she was an attendant for 45 years.
“I sometimes think back of what might have been with June and Elvis,” Napier said. “He called her in November after our visit in October. I don’t know what he said, but it shattered her–something about Nick Adams telling him that he could do better than her. Nick wanted him to be a member of the James Dean gang.”
“I pleaded with her not to rush into the marriage,” she said. “I knew Elvis would be back. She once told me that she was determined to break his heart before he broke hers–and she did.”
“When she married in June on 1957 at age 19, needless to say, I was not invited to the wedding,” Napier laughed. “In my heart of hearts, I can say that June was the one for him and he knew it. She had every quality that he needed. Gladys knew it as well.”