The Sad Story of Elvis Presley's Senior Prom
In 1953, Elvis Aaron Presley was an 18-year-old senior at Humes High School in Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis's date for the senior prom was the girl he was courting, a 14-year-old named Regis Wilson—a pretty, petite blonde with a big smile.
Wilson had a crush on Elvis, whom she considered "a gentle soul, but all boy—he kind of had this swagger to him." Elvis dressed differently than his classmates, often donning extremely colorful, loud pants and shirts, not at all the fashion for the typical male in the conservative 1950s. "He would show up in outfits that were so flashy I would open the door and blink my eyes," Wilson recalled in a book by Alanna Nash about the women in Elvis's life.
His hair was already unorthodox—heavily greased and slicked back into a ducktail, including sideburns running almost down to his chin. Still bearing the last vestiges of teenage acne on his face, though, Elvis was so shy he would sometimes stutter when faced with certain social situations. But if Elvis felt like an alien among other teenagers most of the time, he was never so out of place than on the night of his senior prom at the swanky (and segregated) Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis.
"It was the most exciting thing I had ever done," Wilson recalled. "I felt like Cinderella getting ready to go to the Royal Ball." The excited 14-year-old had picked out a pink taffeta dress for $14.98 and accessorized it with pink shoes. Strapped for money, she had her hair done for free at the beauty college across the street from the Peabody. As she sat in the beauty chair, she excitedly looked at the Peabody Hotel across the street and said to herself, "Just think, in a few hours from now I'll be back here all dressed up."
Although most of the other boys wore white tuxedos, Elvis chose a relatively conservative dark blue suit. And he did have on a pair of blue suede shoes (no kidding!). He showed up at Wilson's door in a shiny rented Chevy, also dark blue, paid for with the money he had saved by ushering at the local movie theater. Shyly, as Wilson blushed, Elvis pinned a pink carnation corsage on her dress.
As the couple entered the Continental Ballroom at the Peabody, the band was playing, and couples were already out on the dance floor. But Elvis steered Regis to a seat and offered her a Coke.
"I can't dance," Elvis apologized shyly. (Wilson remembers him perspiring under his jacket.) Wilson took it that he didn't dance because he was so religious and sweetly replied, "That's all right." And so they sat out the entire night, talking and sipping on soda pop while watching the other couples.
Finally, they lined up with all the other couples for the grand march, stepping through a mammoth heart as their names were called and their picture was taken. In the photo, Wilson managed a half-smile, but Elvis looks as stiff as a soldier, peering solemnly into the camera.
Elvis apparently made no attempts to socialize. But Elvis promised Wilson they'd have more fun afterward at Leonard's Barbeque, where they'd meet some of his pals and go on to a party. They drove out and waited, but nobody ever showed. Wilson could tell it bothered him, and finally, chagrined, Elvis took her home.
A few weeks after the prom, Elvis dropped by Wilson's house to see her and found that she and her family had simply vanished.
Wilson's mother, financially strapped, had decided to move the family to Florida to live with her relatives. Wilson said she was "embarrassed" to tell Elvis she was moving. She couldn't bring herself to tell him how bad their financial situation was. Besides, she recalled, "Girls didn't call boys in those days," so she never said goodbye.
In the family's move to Florida, Wilson lost her photo from their prom date. But Elvis always kept his, and a few years later his mother gave a copy to a fan magazine. By then, Elvis Presley was a teen heartthrob and a national sensation, with very specific dance moves all his own.
Eddie Deezen has appeared in over 30 motion pictures, including Grease, WarGames, 1941, and The Polar Express. He's also been featured in several TV shows, including Magnum PI, The Facts of Life, and The Gong Show. And he's done thousands of voice-overs for radio and cartoons, such as Dexter's Laboratory and Family Guy.