Linda Thompson is a 69-year-old songwriter/lyricist, former actress and beauty pageant winner. You might recognize her as a cast member of ‘Hee Haw’ as one of the “Hee Haw Honeys.” But she was famous for other reasons, one being the fact that she was a longtime girlfriend of the late great Elvis Presley. That is before she married Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner, and then the legendary music producer David Foster.
Thompson once said: “I’m the kind of person who lives under the radar.” It sure sounds modest, right? But how do you live under the radar when you were the other half to the King of Rock’ n’ Roll? Thompson was no stranger to walking the red carpets, but her glamorous partners were only part of the story. After writing a tell-all book about her life, some new, rather revealing, information surfaced that was only considered to be rumors before.
Linda Thompson’s story reads something like a Cinderella story…at least at first.
The Girl From Memphis
Born on May 23rd, 1950, Linda Diane Thompson grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. She comes from a low-income family, but they kept their Southern Baptist faith. As she was growing up, people around her noticed her beauty, and it didn’t take long for high-profile celebrities to notice her, too. She might have led a simple life at first…
But she would always get comments about her looks and how stunning she was. In high school, she won the title of Homecoming Queen, but that was just the beginning of all the crowns she would wear in her life. Thompson’s looks got her some pretty special opportunities. She won Miss Liberty Bowl, Miss Tennessee, Miss Shelby County, to name a few.
Her Looks (Literally) Paid Off
Luckily for Linda, her looks paid off – quite literally. Her pageants were able to help pay for her schooling. And after joining one beauty pageant, all the rest just fell into place, and doors were suddenly opening for the young, bright, and beautiful girl. Thompson would later attend Memphis State University, where she double-majored in English and Drama.
Having grown up in a very modest and grounded family, Thompson kept her faith and traditional values in front of her decision-making. But being that way didn’t stop her from shining bright. Linda also had an older brother named Sam. And as it turns out, Sam had his own door into the world of show business. He was one of Elvis Presley’s bodyguards.
Well Hello, Elvis
1972 wasn’t just the year that Linda Thompson won a few beauty pageants; it was also the year she met her first love. Due to living a strict and faith-oriented life early on, Thompson didn’t even think about nor have the time to fall in love in high school or in college. But when she did fall in love, she fell hard. And for someone quite special.
That’s right: her first lover was none other than Elvis Presley himself. How many can say that their boyfriend was a rock god? I mean, who can say that their boyfriend was the king of anything, really? Well, Elvis met Linda, who was 15 years younger than him, at a private movie screening in 1972. But Elvis was fresh out of a relationship…
But Before Thompson Was…
Soon, the two would embark on what would become a four-year relationship. But when Presley met Thompson, he still had deep feelings for someone else. While Thompson’s first love was Elvis, the singer couldn’t say the same about Thompson. Elvis had loved someone else before she ever came along. Elvis met Priscilla when he was 24, and she was just 14.
Let that sit for a moment. The girl was 14. So yeah, we can say that their relationship was, umm, unique. The two were practically in love from the moment they laid eyes on each other. And one year after they met for the first time, Priscilla moved to Graceland. They had a baby girl named Lisa Marie, and everything seemed great. “Seemed”…
Priscilla Knew Something Linda Didn’t…
It didn’t take long for the young Priscilla to learn of the dark side of fame as she was living with her ultra-famous husband. The musician was always exhausted because his career was his life. And thus, his relationship with Priscilla suffered big time. His busy schedule and lack of sleep led him down a dark path of substance abuse.
And that was not something Priscilla signed up for. Elvis’ way of living grew into something Priscilla simply couldn’t and didn’t want to handle. So she filed for a divorce. And it was after a bitter break-up that Elvis then landed in the arms of Linda Thompson – another younger woman who would soon learn what Priscilla knew before her. But first, she had to do the necessary act of falling in love with him.
A Sweet Southern Girl
It’s no secret that Elvis was a lady’s man. And it looks like he had a thing for younger women, too. Elvis had a reputation that any faith-driven girl would have no business getting involved with – at least romantically. But fame and talent can really make one change their ways. And since Elvis was such a superstar, can anyone really blame Linda for not saying no?
The whole situation was exciting for Thompson, and she quickly became smitten with the black-haired blue-eyed singer. After all, this is the King of Rock and Roll we’re talking about. People would have called her crazy if she didn’t go out with the man. Once Elvis laid his eyes on her, it was only a matter of time until he made his move.
She Gets an Invite
Thompson was only 22 years old when she met the 37-year-old Elvis. He had rented out a movie theater for some of his friends to enjoy. When word went around that Miss Tennessee was in town, Elvis quickly sent her an invite to his movie screening. And with his track record, he knew the blonde beauty wouldn’t say no to his invitation.
The two ended up sitting next to each other, and while Elvis was fresh out of a divorce, he knew that he would have another shot at love. Would their romance last long? At that moment, I don’t think that either of them was thinking of where their roads would lead to. At that moment, all they cared about was how the other one kissed.
Movie Making Out
For anyone who’s been on a hot first date at a movie theater, watching the actual movie and paying attention to what’s happening on screen is the last thing on your mind. For Linda and Elvis, their experience was no different. These two were definitely not paying attention to the movie screen.
Thompson and Elvis hardly knew each other, but the chemistry was surely there. And apparently, Elvis kept it classy when he made his moves on women. Thompson revealed later in an interview that Elvis pulled the good ol’ “yawn and stretch” before putting his arm around her. In no time, the two were locking lips for nearly the entire double-feature. Shocked, Linda couldn’t believe what was happening. It felt unreal to her.
He Should Have Married a Southern Girl
I could only imagine that she must have felt like she was herself in a movie. I don’t think anyone could be prepared for smooching for a long time with Elvis. Obviously, having heard of Elvis, who he is, and who he was with, Linda just assumed that he was still committed to Priscilla. He surely still had feelings for the woman who left him.
But at one point, he told Linda, “You know I’m not married anymore.” Thompson was caught off guard and responded with, “I didn’t know that, and I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but you should have married a southern girl.” After the make-out/movie, Linda gave Elvis her number. Like many girls would think, Linda, didn’t expect the star to ever give her a call.
Honey, Elvis is Calling
Not long after she got home from the movie and the best night of her life, Linda received a phone call. Her aunt answered the phone, and Linda could hear Elvis speaking on the other end, asking to talk to her. He told her aunt that it was an urgent call. I can only imagine that exchange. It probably went something like: “Honey, Elvis is on the phone!”
Elvis then told Linda: “I just want you to know how happy I am that I met you. Can you come over tomorrow to Graceland and meet my father?” Can you imagine? Of course, Linda didn’t hesitate to accept his invitation to head over to Graceland. Once she got there, she met a few other people as well. The pageant girl later described that day as a dream. No kidding.
A Special Day in Graceland
After that special day in Graceland, Thompson heads out to Alabama for a personal vacation. But the thing is that she never left a contact number for Elvis in case he wanted to call her. Oh, the good old days of life before cell phones. Everything had to be so calculated and planned! Anyways, back to the story.
Linda had only told him that she would be back soon and hoped to see him again. And guess what – once she got to Alabama, she got a call from the one and only. He had a request. “You don’t just disappear from my life, who do you think I am? I’m going to Vegas tonight, and I want you to come with me,” he told her. All she needed was a toothbrush.
Showing Her Off
It came to a point when these two became an item. And it was when Elvis started taking priority in Linda’s life. She stopped everything to be with her new beautiful beau. She had plans of her own, like modeling in New York, but her career goals weren’t on her mind with Elvis in the picture. And I gotta say, I don’t blame her.
Elvis was smitten by her just as much as she was with him. He was infatuated with her and enjoyed showing her off to the people in his life and to the media. Elvis didn’t take any time making their relationship public. She followed him around everywhere, and the two were head over heels in love.
Like Living With Santa Clause
Elvis was a generous man, especially with the people he loved most. Linda Thompson told Larry King in an interview that “Living with Elvis was like living with Santa Clause.” And that’s because he would buy her gifts all the time. Hey, he certainly had the money for it. But his generosity went beyond just material things.
He didn’t just spend his money – he spent his time, too. He enjoyed being with his friends and loved ones. Elvis adored Linda and helped her in many ways. The two were inseparable. Whether it was karate practice, touring, or rehearsals, Linda was right by his side. They were together for four years, but for some reason, they never got married.
Rumors Were Swirling
Thompson said their first year together was a “loyal one.” Sadly, rumors started to spread, saying that Elvis wasn’t so faithful to Thompson. She was in love with the man, so she tried to turn a deaf ear to all the negative comments she was hearing. She even forgave him after her own suspicions arose. But it was a matter of time until the pressure got between them.
In the beginning, Thompson really felt like she wanted to marry the man. And don’t forget, she was in her early 20s. But Elvis wasn’t. He was in his late 30s, already a father, and after a divorce. Basically, he wasn’t on the same page as her at all.
She Was No Fool
Linda was no fool – she read the room, so to speak, and understood the situation. As the years went by, her desire to tie the knot with Mr. Presley faded away. As time went on, the rock star lifestyle was also getting to her. Starting her day at 9:00 p.m. and ending it around 2:00 p.m. the next afternoon was not the kind of life she envisioned for herself.
She longed for a regular life – something she was more used to. The harsh reality started to set in, and Linda began to notice what Priscilla personally experienced. And it wasn’t pretty. And by the time Elvis finally came around to even considering marriage, he had missed the boat. Linda’s dreams of marriage have already left the station.
Calling it Quits
The time came for the couple of four years to call it quits. They both felt as though the love was fading for a while, but neither of them wanted to do anything about it. Breaking up is hard to do, right folks? And breaking up with Elvis Presley must be a whole lot worse. But Linda got the big red flag when Elvis did the unthinkable.
He flew in a different girl and asked Linda if she wanted to go home for a while. Yeah, that’s a pretty big sign if you ask me. Oh, she went home, alright. She left his home along with a letter explaining why she had to end it with him. She loved him, but she knew where their relationship was heading. And she wanted out.
It Was Intense
Linda and Elvis actually remained friends after the break-up, up until his death about a year later in 1977. In a recently unearthed interview, the former beauty queen and actress shared a pretty sad insight into her famous ex’s private thoughts, including something tragic he once told her. Linda opened up about their romance on The Dean Z Show.
She told the host: “The year we shared sort of equates to 10 or 12 years in normal life. In a normal relationship, you go to work, you come back, you meet for a few hours, you have dinner, and you go to sleep. The next day you’re both off doing your thing,” she explained. “With Elvis, it was so intense. It was so 24/7.”
A Little Bit Self-Destructive
Thompson explained how in their relationship, there was such “togetherness” that it felt like a lot more than just four years. One day, she and Elvis had a really deep conversation. “I asked him one time, when we were sitting and having a philosophical talk, ‘What do you think is your worst flaw?'” She then described his response.
He waited for a minute, finally saying to her: “Well, I’m probably only gonna say this once, but I think I’m a little bit self-destructive.” Linda admitted that this “confession” stuck with her. And during his later years, he even recognized his self-destruction, but he had already started the downward spiral, and she didn’t think that he knew how to stop it.
Like a Newborn Baby
Once Linda realized that Elvis took sleeping medication (and other pills), it felt like “having a newborn baby. I wouldn’t sleep. I wanted to know he was okay. I would sit and watch him until he fell asleep, and then I would get up all through the night,” Linda remembered. She would check on his breathing to make sure he was okay.
This was simply exhausting. “I was a young girl, but it was still exhausting… and also just emotionally exhausting because this is a person that I loved more than my own life, and watching him slowly self-destruct and not being able to do anything about it.” Linda also revealed how one morning, Elvis wasn’t breathing properly and told her to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital.
The Final Straw
There were several times like that which really scared Linda, and she finally just thought, “I can’t spend my life trying to keep him alive.” In Linda Thompson’s 2016 memoir, she spoke out about why she ended her relationship with Elvis, which happened just a year before his death. She said that she’d love him until the day she dies.
But she wanted more for her life. She wanted to be a mother. On August 16th, 1977, Elvis passed away. He was 42 years old. His daughter, Lisa Marie, was just nine-years-old. And the first person, the young girl, called was Linda. She needed to break the devastating news of her father’s death, as well as seek comfort.
But before Elvis’ death, he unknowingly shared his thoughts on Linda’s future husband…
He Had No Idea
Before the end of their relationship, Linda and Elvis would enjoy going to watch the Olympics together. And one time, they got to see Olympic runner Bruce Jenner cross the finish line and win the gold medal in the decathlon. Neither of them knew how much of a critical moment that would end up being (let alone the fact that the athlete would end up becoming a woman one day).
In Thompson’s memoir, she wrote how Elvis himself said about Jenner: “Damn if that guy is not handsome! I’m not gay, but $&*#, he’s good-looking!” Soon after splitting up with The King, the still young and beautiful Linda Thompson would go out and meet that particular athlete.
Which brings us to part two of her story…
Bruce, the Classic Jock
When Linda described what it was like to meet Bruce Jenner, she said, “He was the classic jock.” Jenner would always wear his typical athletic clothes and flip-flops. And since many athletes do this, he was just doing what the others did. Linda admitted that she easily became attracted to the athlete, thinking he was very masculine.
Of course, at the time, Linda didn’t know that underneath his tough exterior was a very real interior struggle with gender dysphoria. No one knew back then. They just saw a strong, male athlete. And Linda liked what she saw. Things quickly became interesting, as Linda found herself in yet another high profile whirlwind romance. But this time, it was with an athlete and not a rock star.
Another Whirlwind Romance
Similar to how it started with Elvis, Thompson and Jenner hit it off rather fast. The two met in 1979 at a celebrity tennis tournament that was being held at the Playboy Mansion. Jenner had been living there for a while after splitting up with his first wife, Chrystie. Linda got an invite to the awards ceremony where she was to hand out trophies.
And sure enough, Bruce ended up winning the tournament, and Linda gave him his trophy. It didn’t take long for her to fall for him. After the tournament, they spent the whole evening talking. Jenner didn’t want to leave her and even stayed in his tennis clothes to make sure that she wouldn’t leave his sight.
Their First Date
After Bruce told her that he didn’t want other guys to have a chance with her, he asked Linda out to dinner, and I think it’s obvious that she agreed. It turned out to be an exciting, new phase for Thompson having to basically babysit Elvis for all those years. While she didn’t have to be maternal with Bruce, she did find herself in some familiar territory.
Once again, Linda found herself on red carpets, and this time locking arms with Jenner. It was as though the limelight just didn’t want to let Thompson go. In no time, Bruce proposed, and the two decided to make it official. Their relationship read like a typical story of the jock marrying the homecoming queen.
Tying the Knot
Their wedding took place in Hawaii on January 5th, 1981. Hawaii was a place where Thompson always imagined her wedding would be. So she was happy as can be. As Linda walked down the aisle, she chose to have an Elvis song play in the background. Jenner said he didn’t mind as it was her favorite song.
He understood that her deceased ex-boyfriend was not a threat to their marriage. The couple then started a family of their own. They had two sons, Brandon and Sam Brody (but he’s known as just Brody). Finally, Thompson felt a real sense of fulfillment. Today, she says those early days in their marriage were “too good to be true.” But in hindsight, her instincts were right…
Learning the Truth
Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. And Linda would end up looking back on her marriage to Bruce with a lot more insight than she had back then. She had no way of seeing how things would eventually play out with all the twists and turns that would occur in Bruce’s (and her) life. It took some time, but Bruce did eventually spill the beans.
Seven months after the birth of their second son, he told Linda that he had something to share. Worried that he would follow in Elvis’ footsteps, Linda initially thought that he was going to tell her that he was having an affair. But then Bruce said, “Its time you know the truth about me.”
Living as Man Was Making Him Miserable
That’s when her husband revealed to her that he actually identified as a woman, and living as a man was making him miserable. Not everyone gets news like this from their spouse. It was the last thing she ever expected to come out of his mouth. Linda said that after a few moments of him telling her this, and her moment of shock wore down a bit, her heart ached for him.
Her beloved husband was in pain, and she wanted to help him. So together, they went to a gender dysphoria specialist. It’s there that they realized that Jenner’s internal struggles would never go away. It was who he was. Thompson had to make a very difficult and real decision. Would she able to stay with a man who didn’t want to remain a man?
He Kept It a Secret
Even though it was as shocking as it comes, Thompson was actually glad that her husband never told her until after having their sons. Thompson gets asked a lot if she wishes she knew about it before getting married and building a family. And Thompson’s answer is one that many may not understand. Thompson said she’s thankful that she was unaware for so long.
She also says that she would have remained friends with him, but wouldn’t have married him because she wanted to marry a man. And if Jenner would’ve told her earlier on, they would never have had kids. Linda wanted to be a mother so badly, and she has no regrets. But their marriage was over…
No Warning Signs
In an interview with Fox News in 2017, Linda described how she saw no warning signs of her husband’s desire to identify with being a woman. According to Linda, there was absolutely nothing about Bruce – the “athlete, Malibu dude, the jock of all time” — to indicate that there was a feminine aspect to his nature.
It took Bruce six years to tell Linda when Brody was one and a half, and Brandon was three and a half. “Now, this was around 31 years ago, so what did that mean? We had no idea really what “transgender” meant. And it’s still confusing to some today. Some people still struggle to understand how and why this happens to someone. Back then, I had no clue,” Linda explained.
Seeing Caitlyn for the First Time
After the two split up (but before their divorce), there was one evening when Jenner called up Thompson and said, “It’s time you come to see your husband.” Linda’s thoughts raced as she flew to New York to see him. But when she arrived at his door, it wasn’t Bruce who answered the door; it was Caitlyn. He had since become a she.
Linda said she saw “this feminine, fully dressed woman with a wig, makeup. It was devastating. I wasn’t prepared to see that. That was my selfish feeling, but I was confused.” Thompson said that she literally fell to the floor due to shock. It was that moment that helped Thompson move on from the situation and give her some closure.
Watching Him on the Kardashians
By 1986, Bruce and Linda were divorced. And Jenner thought it was time to begin his gender transformation process. He started by doing hormone therapy and having plastic surgery. So what about their sons? Well, Thompson decided it a secret – at least for the time being. They were still young at the time.
She wanted to wait until the process became more evident. But then things didn’t go as planned. Jenner decided to put the whole thing on pause. He told her that he wanted to give being a man one last shot after he met Kris Kardashian. Jenner had fallen in love with her and must have figured that his desire to be a woman might fade. The two got married in 1991 and had daughters Kendall and Kylie Jenner.
Thompson herself struggled to watch the show ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ in the coming years, but she was able to move on…
On To David Foster
Not long after ending her marriage with Jenner, Thompson met Canadian music producer, David Foster. The two bonded over music and spent time in the studio together. Let’s not forget that Linda Thompson was a songwriter. She began her career as a lyricist when she wrote the recently deceased Kenny Rogers single “Our Perfect Song.”
But Thompson also collaborated with David Foster on several songs, including “No Explanation” for the film Pretty Woman (in 1990), and “I Have Nothing” for the film The Bodyguard (in 1992). Those two songs earned both Thompson and Foster the Academy Award for Best Song in 1993 and the Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television in 1994.
Third Time Wasn’t the Charm
David and Linda fell in love and ended up getting married in 1991. There was a lot less drama in their relationship, and Thompson felt that this time things would be better. In 2005, Linda starred in the short-lived reality TV show, ‘Princes of Malibu,’ about her and David Foster’s efforts to improve her two sons and herself.
But while she felt that her second marriage (third relationship) would be the charm, she was wrong. The two ended up having very different views on marriage. Foster worked long hours, which he framed as his way to provide for them. And Thompson herself wanted to work and do things that she was talented in as well. Thompson decided to end the marriage in 2005.
What is Linda Up to Today?
Linda Thompson is now single at the age of 69. She may be twice divorced, but she is still beautiful, smart, and looking for the right mate. After all of her marriage experience, she learned a few things. She expressed her hopes of finding someone low-key and definitely not in the entertainment industry. She has been single since her divorce in 2005.
It gave her the time she needed to write her tell-all book, “Little Thing Called Life: From Elvis’s Graceland to Bruce Jenner’s Caitlyn & Songs in Between.” But aside from all the interviews and press that she’s doing about her book, she still keeps busy. Thompson plays tennis, goes to the beach, loves hiking, and, most importantly, spends time with her blended family.
A Blended Family
Before her marriage to Jenner, he already had two kids, Burt and Casey. And along with their own two sons, the big family was and still is, able to get along well. Thompson says she loves Jenner’s other kids as her own and still stays close with them today. And speaking of the boys, Jenner and Thompson’s sons grew up to be handsome men.
These days, Brody spends his time in Hollywood, and Brandon makes music. You might have caught sight of Brody on the reality TV show, ‘Laguna Beach’ and ‘The Hills.’ Both sons inherited their parents’ good looks and interesting personalities, which is definitely a blessing.
It’s been a long time, but Thompson is still revealing stuff about her first love…
A Rare Photo of Elvis on Her Instagram
In 2018, more than 40 years after they parted ways, Linda Thompson paid tribute to her former boyfriend and first love, Elvis Presley, on Instagram. Her post on “Fabulous Flashback Friday” showed the young couple boarding one of Elvis’s private planes, which he called the Lisa Marie. The Convair 880 he owned had a conference room, master bedroom, and gold-plated bathroom fixtures.
The jet was named after his only daughter, but it also went by the name “Flying Graceland,” according to Rolling Stone. It remains on display at the Graceland in Memphis, along with his other private airplane, the Hound Dog II. Thompson also captioned the photo “Stairway to Heaven,” which is a pretty fitting description of the photo, if you ask me.
More Instagram Posts
In 2019, Caitlyn Jenner joined Linda Thompson and their sons, Brody and Brandon, to celebrate the release of Brandon’s new song and video clip called “Death of Me.” The whole family took a photo with Brandon’s ex-wife, Leah Felder, who he’s been co-parenting with since their divorce. But in Thompson’s Instagram post dedicated to her sons, she cropped out Felder and Caitlyn.
“Being your mother is the greatest honor and accomplishment of my life,” she wrote in her post. “My prayer is that all the people of the world could share the expansive heart & unconditional love of good mothers everywhere to make our planet a kinder, more nurturing place for everyone to live.”
Brandon shared that same cropped image on his own Instagram, calling Thompson and Felder as one of the “two most incredible mothers I know.”
Dodging the Headlines
Linda Thompson wants only the best for her ex-husband David Foster. She spoke to Us Weekly in 2018 about the music producer’s then-engagement to Katharine McPhee. He married McPhee the following year. “I wish them well,” Thompson said but added that she “can’t dodge” the headline-making news about the 68-year-old married a 34-year-old Mcphee.
“I think the only thing that’s a real deterrent, I think, is the age difference,” Linda said. “But I think life doesn’t have any guarantees anyway. If you find someone you love, go for it, you know? McPhee is a lovely person. She’s beautiful, and she’s talented, and they have that musicality in common, so that goes a long way.”