Linda Thompson was a 22-year-old virgin when she fell in love with Elvis Presley

By Lindsay Kimble Elizabeth Leonard
October 04, 2016 03:40 PM

At only 22 years old, Linda Thompson fell in love with the King of Rock and Roll. In the 44 years that followed, Thompson would meet, marry and divorce Caitlyn Jenner, launch a television career and become an award-winning lyricist.

For the first time, Thompson, now 66 and single, is sharing intimate stories and life lessons from her romances in a stunning new memoir, A Little Thing Called Life, excerpted exclusively in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

A Southern belle, Thompson was newly crowned Miss Tennessee Universe when she was invited to a Memphis movie screening hosted by Elvis Presley. Sparks immediately flew and Thompson, who was a virgin when they met in 1972, found herself in a captivating romance with Presley.

Linda Thompson for PEOPLE magazine
Jana Cruder

“From our first moments together, our relationship was all-encompassing,” she writes in her memoir, adding, “The first year of the four and half we would share, we were together 24 hours a day.”

Still, Thompson says, Presley was “needy.” She writes, “Gosh, to be the greatest sex symbol in the world, and yet he’s so insecure he can’t stand to hear about anybody I ever dated.”

Their love ultimately fell victim to Presley’s well-documented struggles with prescription pill abuse, coupled with his multiple affairs.

For more of Linda Thompson’s relationships with Elvis Presley and Caitlyn Jenner, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE

JonBenét Ramsey on the cover of PEOPLE

In 1976, and as Presley’s drug dependence intensified and he grew increasingly unfaithful, Thompson knew she had to move out.

It was in her heartbreak from Presley’s death just eight months later, that Thompson met Olympic champion Jenner (known at the time as Bruce). Thompson, then a new addition to TV’s Hee Haw, fell fast for the “masculine, virile” Jenner. They married in 1981, and went on to have two sons, Brandon and Brody.

Two years after Brody’s birth in 1983, Jenner stunned Thompson and told her she was “a woman trapped in a man’s body,” Thompson explains in the book.

Despite trying to work through Jenner’s transition plans with therapy, Thompson says she couldn’t sustain the new situation. She ended the marriage, but the star, ever protective of Jenner, always kept her ex’s secret.

Linda Thompson's book A Little Thing Called Life

She writes, “I felt such an obligation to keep Bruce’s gender dysphoria his secret that I did not even tell my sons until they were 31 and 29 years old, respectively.”

Thompson has publicly supported Jenner before and does so again in her book.

With her stories – which also cover her marriage to composer and producer David Foster – Thompson says, “I want people to know we are all in this together and we are all fallible. We’re all do diverse and so complex, but most of all, we’re all human.”

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