Priscilla Presley and Robert Kardashian: An All-American Sliding Doors
Is everyone familiar with the concept of sliding doors? That is, the film Sliding Doors? Gwyneth Paltrow—young, British, named Helen—has a bad boyfriend, but she doesn’t know it. One day, Helen is rushing home after getting fired from her job in public relations. She drops an earring in the elevator, and her timeline splits. In one timeline, another person in the elevator picks the earring, and the minuscule amount of time it takes for Helen to retrieve it results in a missed train. In the other, she makes her train and arrives back home in time to catch the boyfriend in flagrante delicto with a brunette. In the first timeline, she stays in the bad relationship with the lousy boyfriend, has mousy brown hair, and strings together multiple jobs to make ends meet. In the latter, she opens her own successful public relations firm and has kicky blond hair. A lot of other stuff happens, but you get the point. We’re doing alternate timelines.
Which naturally brings us to Robert Kardashian, father of the sisters Kardashian, ex-husband of Kris Jenner; and Priscilla Presley, ex-wife of Elvis and absolutely no one else. After Presley explained this week why she never remarried after Elvis, author Jerry Oppenheimer took to Page Six to recount the tale of Presley and Kardashian, who were once a very serious couple. A friend of the Kardashians, Joni Migdal, told Oppenheimer for his book The Kardashians: An American Drama that “Priscilla made Robert very happy. He wanted to marry her and have children with her. That was definitely his hope, his plan.”
There was apparently one thing standing in the way: The King. Elvis would call Priscilla, who “would put the bedside receiver on the pillow between her and Robert and allow him to listen in on the King’s intimate conversations with his ex-wife,” according to another friend.
Besides being an opportunity to contemplate this life as one roll of the die after another, their romance also demonstrates how Los Angeles in the ’70s was a teeny-tiny, provincial town. At the time, Elvis was seeing Linda Thompson, who would eventually marry Caitlyn Jenner, who, after divorcing Thompson, married Kris after she and Robert Kardashian divorced. This is the smallest world.
It’s also a nice moment to reflect on how, like dice, a story always has multiple sides. Migdal told Oppenheimer for his book that Kardashian wanted something of a housewife, but didn’t like Priscilla’s cooking, which infuriated her, and that was apparently why she really didn’t want to marry him.
“Priscilla once tried to make dinner for Robert because he kept asking her, so Priscilla said that one night she cooked asparagus, and she made this and she made that, and she went out of her way to make it perfect, and he HATED it. She said that after that meal, he never suggested that she make dinner for him again.”
Marriage, according to Migdal, was officially off the table, and Presley told Kardashian: “Look, I’m not going to marry anyone until Elvis dies.” (Vanity Fair has reached out to Presley for comment.)
The fact that Presley and Kardashian dated for a time, but split up because of Elvis, isn’t breaking news. Oppenheimer’s book is from 2017, and Riley Keough, Presley’s granddaughter, mentioned their relationship just this past August, during her press tour for Daisy Jones & the Six and the post-Elvis mayhem, in the pages of this magazine. “‘My grandma dated their [i.e. the Kardashian’s] dad, I think?’ Keough said. ‘Fact-check that.’”
Listen, with either timeline—the one where Kardashian and Presley marry and procreate, and the one we have, in which Kardashian and Jenner married and procreated—we likely would have had an American royal family from Calabasas. This timeline has given us hours and hours of television to watch, and plenty to contemplate.
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