BABY, LET'S PLAY HOUSE: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him, by Alanna Nash. It Books, 684 pp., $27.99.
Elvis Presley is as sexy as ever. Even though he would have been 75 this week. Even though he's dead.
That's what fans will take away from Alanna Nash's new book, "Baby, Let's Play House," which aims to be the most comprehensive work ever on how the women in Presley's life (read: sex) influenced him and his music.
In one of the more, um, memorable moments in the 684-page book, she reports that Presley got so excited filming the 1968 "Comeback Special" that he climaxed in his iconic black leather suit.
Music became a sexual thing for Presley at a young age. At 4 or 5, a relative tells Nash, he got aroused watching his aunts dance wildly on a trunk. As an adult, he learned some signature stage moves from showgirls and burlesque dancers.
Nash won critical acclaim for 2004's well-researched "The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley." For this book, she's quoted everyone from high school girlfriends to movie co-stars to obsessed groupies to get the up-close-and-sometimes-way-too-personal story.
Nash makes much of Presley being a twinless twin; she says he was obsessed with the idea that he had smothered his brother to death in the womb. In trying to become whole, Nash quotes one expert, he sought out women who looked like himself. (If they didn't quite look like him, he helped them along by pressuring them to dye their hair black and dress flamboyantly.) He also liked small, big-boned women who reminded him of his adored mother, Gladys, when she was young.
When Gladys died in 1958, "so, too, did Elvis' ability to bond with a woman," psychologist and biographer Peter O. Whitmer tells Nash. After that, he really "let loose sexually," according to Lamar Fike, a member of Presley's inner circle, the Memphis Mafia.
Many tales involve Presley as pedophile, although Nash never uses that word. Throughout his life, he sought out adolescent girls; some, including wife-to-be Priscilla, he tried to mold into the women he thought he wanted to be with. Nash argues that Presley was a puer aeternus - Latin for "eternal boy." In psychology, she writes, "the puer is defined as an older man whose emotional life remains arrested at the level of adolescence, and who is almost always enmeshed in too great a dependence on his mother."
Does any of this matter now that Presley is as cold in the coffin as when Nash, a music journalist, viewed him in 1977? For the Presley academics referenced extensively in the book, yes. For the rest of us, not so much, unless we want to get a little skeeved listening to that unplugged "Comeback" version of "One Night."
ROYAL TREATMENTS OF THE KING
Books every Elvis fan should read:
LAST TRAIN TO MEMPHIS and CARELESS LOVE (Back Bay, $17.99)
Music journalist Peter Guralnick's two-volume biography of Presley is considered the best out there.
ELVIS AND ME (Berkley, $7.99)
Presley's only wife, Priscilla, reveals what it was really like to be with the King.
THE ELVIS ENCYCLOPEDIA (Overlook, $65)
Adam Victor's 598-page tome is an A-to-Z look at all that is Presley, in life and death.
ARE YOU HUNGRY TONIGHT?: Elvis' Favorite Recipes (MetroBooks, $7.90)
Learn how to make everything from an "authentic" fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich to the six-tiered cake served at Presley's 1967 wedding.