Elvis started dating Anita in 1957, when she was a rising Hollywood starlet. A year later, things were going strong and she wanted to go with him or at least visit when he started his two-year military service in Germany. The singer’s Machiavellian manager Colonel Parker blocked her attempts, believing it was better to leave his heartthrob client appearing more available and free to his adoring fans. The irony is, of course, that Elvis met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu in Germany just weeks before he was due to return to the US in 1960.
Wood soon became aware of the rumours surrounding Elvis’ relationship with the teenager. Press and fan groups had already started to refer to Priscilla as Elvis’ ‘sweetheart’.
When he came home, she found a letter from Priscilla begging Elvis to convince her father to let her visit. Wood confronted her boyfriend, but he said it was just a friendship and implored her not to say anything which could potentially ruin his career and reputation.
This went on for two years, with Priscilla sending Elvis letters in bright pink envelopes, but it wasn’t until 1962 that Wood realised Elvis had actually seen her rival. He had flown Priscilla to America, promising her parents he would not take her out of Memphis, but instead whirling them away on a secret romantic trip to Las Vegas.
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One evening at home, Wood overheard a conversation between the star and his father, Joe.
Wood recalled: “When I was coming down the back stairs into the kitchen, I heard Elvis say’, I’m having the hardest time making up my mind between the two.'”
Devastated, she marched into the room and forced Elvis to admit what was going on.
“Elvis took me into the dining room and his dad was sitting at the table. And we sat down at the table and I said’, I’m gonna make that decision for you, I heard what you said and I’m leaving’.
“And I remember that I started crying, it was a very difficult decision to make. I must say that was probably the most difficult decision that I’ve ever made in my life.”
Wood described the emotional scene: “When I left, I knew there would be no going back. I would never have come back, never.
“So anyway, I said, ‘I’m leaving’, and I called Andy, my brother, to come pick me up and we sat there and talked a little bit longer. Nobody could eat, there was food, but nobody could eat.”
Anita had become very close to Elvis’ family over the years, often staying at Graceland while Elvis was away and even his father hoped this wasn’t the end.
Wood added: “I remember Mr. Presley said’, Well if you must leave Anita, ya’ know, maybe you’ll meet again. There are people that sometimes separate and they get back together, and you’ll get back together again’.”
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Wood, however, knew she woudln’t be back: “I said, ‘I don’t know, I’m not planning on it’. And I was crying and Elvis was crying.
“And he just said, ‘I pray to God that I’m doing the right thing by letting you go’. And I said, ‘You can’t keep me from going, I’m going’.
“I mean I was really upset, I was mad, I was hurt and he wasn’t going to have to make that decision.
“So my brother came and we got some things that I had there and we left, and I never went back again as his girlfriend.”