View Full Version : Elvis fan club secretary remembers his highs and lows

12-06-2008, 08:21 AM
Jeanne LeMay Dumas has gone to Graceland, again.

She’s there now, along with 50,000 other people. This is Elvis Week. People from all over the world are meeting in Memphis. They’re commemorating Presley’s death 30 years ago.

On Aug. 16, 1977, after 42 years, the flame flickered out of the hunk a hunk of burning love.

Now, fans are flocking to pay tribute. Elvis experts are convening to offer insights. And a 56-year-old Coventry woman who sometimes toured with him, who worked as his secretary for two years and who recently wrote a book, Elvis, Linda and Me, is in Memphis, too, to share her Presley experiences.

“I consider myself probably the luckiest person in the world,” Dumas says. “There are so many people who never had a chance to see a performance or meet him. It was an honor to have known him, even with all the flaws.”

Some of the flaws are doozies. Presley carried a pistol that he occasionally fired in anger – at a bathroom wall, a broken-down car, whatever annoyed him.

“He was really a paradox,” Dumas says. “He was spiritual one minute. He’d read to you from the Bible. And another minute, he’d swear like a bus driver.”

Dumas’ first Elvis encounter occurred in 1972. Dumas, a 1969 graduate of West Warwick High School, was Miss Rhode Island, and competed in the Miss USA pageant in Puerto Rico. There, she shared a hotel room with Miss Tennessee, Linda Thompson, who became her best friend, and the Linda in Elvis, Linda and Me, co-written by Jim Cox and published by Rooftop publishing.

After the pageant, Dumas moved to Memphis and lived with Thompson, and they talked about becoming stewardesses.

“I get nauseous on planes,” Dumas says. “I didn’t know if that was going to work.”

Enter Elvis, or at least a liaison. Dumas and Thompson were having lunch in a Memphis restaurant. Thompson saw a man she knew, who she didn’t know worked for Presley.

The man told Thompson and Dumas that Presley periodically rented the Memphian Theater to watch movies. And when he did, it was this man’s job to invite several beautiful young women to watch with him.

“[Elvis] was the most handsome man I had ever seen in my life,” Dumas writes.

Dumas can’t remember the movie, just that it was a karate film. And during the movie, Presley took a clear liking to Thompson, and sat beside her.

“I sensed a magnetism in the room that had not been there before,” Dumas writes. “It was almost like a god had walked in among us.”

After the movie, Presley invited Thompson and Dumas to Graceland the next night, where he took them on a high-speed, all-terrain golf-cart tour of the grounds. Presley posed for a photo with Thompson, and then with Dumas, who he French kissed just before the picture.

“He did it to shock me,” Dumas says. “He did it so fast and confidently.”

Dumas, who says she was an Elvis fan from the age of 8, was shocked, but pleased.

“He was the best kisser in the world. He has the most sensuous lips I’ve ever seen.”

Thompson soon moved into Graceland, beginning a four-year relationship with Presley. And Dumas became a regular a visitor. When Presley was away, Dumas was an overnight lodger, keeping Thompson company, sleeping in Presley’s bed, wearing his clothes (sweatpants for racquetball) and using his facilities.

“I proceeded to sit down on the toilet when, all of a sudden, the thought struck me, ‘I’m sitting on Elvis Presley’s toilet!’” Dumas writes. “Who in the world would ever believe it?”

Dumas took a picture of this bathroom, where, infamously, The King fell from his throne and never got up again. She took lots of photos of the upstairs, where the visiting public isn’t allowed to go. Dumas’ pictures show a 1970s decor that makes Liberace look tame.

These photos Dumas posted and sold on a Web site in 2002.

“The fans went crazy,” she says. “There was overwhelming response.”

So last fall, Dumas packaged the photos in a self-published book, which this spring was picked up by a traditional publisher.

“It’s mostly done to give the fans the pictures of the infamous, sacred upstairs,” Dumas says.

The collector’s edition of the book features 70 color photographs, and 103 pages of reminiscences by Dumas, who initially worked as a restaurant hostess in Memphis, until Presley offered her a job as a secretary. She responded to Elvis fan mail, which came daily in big bags.

“There were always requests for things like photos and autographs,” Dumas writes. “What I hadn’t expected were the dirty photos, often accompanied by very explicit and sometimes bizarre letters.”

Sometimes Dumas would go on tour with Presley to keep Thompson company. On his private jet, Presley often wore a karate outfit, as he sometimes did in his hotel suite before or after a show. Once, Presley wore a karate outfit while driving Dumas and Thompson to a Dunkin Donuts.

“It was comfortable,” Dumas says. “And he was proud of his black belt.”

Over time, Presley’s behavior became gradually and increasingly erratic, which Dumas attributes to his addiction to numerous prescription drugs.

“People didn’t realize how severe it was until it was too late,” Dumas says.

On that memorable Dunkin Donuts trip, Presley spilled grape juice on his karate outfit and flew into a rage. On another occasion, “the Presley temper,” as Dumas calls it, came out in a hotel bathroom, which suffered a gun shot wound to its tiled wall.

Once, when Presley’s Italian sports car, a Pantera, wouldn’t start, Presley shot it – in the driver’s door. And, on another occasion, when Presley thought another motorist was following him, he pulled over, drew his gun, but didn’t fire.

To Dumas, these were isolated incidents. She didn’t live with Presley; Thompson did, which Dumas says, “I couldn’t handle.”

Dumas, who is married and works as a company sales representative, remembers Elvis mostly for his kind, gentle and generous nature. He gave her, along with many other people, a car, a Pontiac Ventura with a leopard-print roof. And one week Presley gave 15 women diamond rings. Dumas received one, which has 25 stones and 3.5 carats, which she used to wear all the time.

“People used to say, ‘You might get killed for this ring,’ And I always said, ‘If they say it’s your life or the ring, I’d say, go ahead, shoot.’”

Dumas lives in a raised ranch with four front columns, a house she jokingly calls her “little Graceland.” On the entertainment center in her living room is small Elvis display: a miniature ceramic Graceland, in front of which is a pink Cadillac and three Elvis figurines, one of which sings “All Shook Up.”

But that’s the extent of Dumas’s Elvis decorations. She’s an Elvis fan, not a fanatic.

Dumas quit her job at Graceland in 1975, because, she says, her boss — Elvis Presley’s father, Vernon — was too difficult to work for. The next year, amidst much talk of Elvis Presley’s womanizing, Thompson left Elvis, became an actress and, later, a songwriter, marrying and divorcing decathlete Bruce Jenner, then composer David Foster.

When Elvis died in 1977, Dumas didn’t go to Graceland, because Thompson told her it was “a madhouse.” Not until 2003 did Dumas return. And when she did, it was to meet her book’s co-writer, and to enter Graceland as one of 15 million people to do so since his death.

“I felt as though my heart was going to stop,” Dumas says.

The public is only permitted to pass through the first floor of Graceland. The staircase is roped off.

“You can’t go up there,” Dumas says. “It was so odd because I used to run up and down those stairs like I owned the place.”

The second floor needs “serious renovation,” according to Dumas, who says even if it didn’t, it would be off limits.

“He died up there. It’s considered sacred.”

Right now, Dumas says, Elvis is watching us. He’s in heaven.

“He loved God. He loved Jesus. I know he’s there. But I think he’s with his parents and I think he’s on a cloud. I think he’s just laughing his head off at all the adoration.”

Some people take their Presley appreciation too far, Dumas says. Elvis was a good and generous guy, she says, and it’s nice that people remember him and can still appreciate his recorded talents, in music and movies. But Dumas, who carries several photos of her with Elvis in her purse, in case people don’t believe her, says people need to keep their fondness for Elvis in perspective.

“I think people feel like he was a god,” Dumas says. “And he was worshiped. I feel these people should get a life.”

Dumas has her limits on Elvis appreciation. And she says she may encourage others to follow them while at Graceland this week.

“If I see someone on their knees, I’ll probably get upset and say, ‘Excuse me, you don’t want to do this.’ ”


12-06-2008, 10:29 AM
Thank you for this. She sounds like a very level headed lady. Wouldn't mind reading that book.

12-06-2008, 10:38 AM
Yes she sounds like a pretty decent sort to me too. I would buy her book if I could find it at a reasonable price.


12-06-2008, 10:46 AM
Finally!...Someone who seems quite normal!!....it makes a pleasant change!!:):)

12-06-2008, 11:46 AM
uh-huh ..might as well jump on the bandwagon also:lol:..yeahFinally...Someone who seems quite normal!!....it makes a pleasant change!!(y):lol::newyear:

12-06-2008, 01:39 PM
Yes nice to see someone write good things.