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When Linda Thompson began a whirlwind romance with Elvis Presley in 1972, he was in the midst of a critically acclaimed comeback.
“For this moment in time, he was perfection” and “the greatest sex symbol in the world,” Thompson recalls of her early days with Presley in her new memoir, A Little Thing Called Life, excerpted exclusively in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.
But in the course of her nearly five-year relationship with Presley, Thompson would see the iconic singer’s health decline as his prescription pill abuse increasingly took hold, and his vanity led him to try extreme diets – including one in which a doctor kept him under near-constant sedation for two weeks so he couldn’t eat.
In her memoir, the actress and lyricist describes the harrowing moment she found Presley facedown in a bowl of chicken noodle soup, seemingly so impaired by drugs that he’d passed out.
“Whatever he took besides the Placidyl for sleeping had hit him hard and fast. I shouted to wake him up, but he was completely passed out,” Thompson recalls. “Terrified, I jumped onto the bed. As I held his head up by his hair, he had chicken soup and noodles all over his face. I started to clean his throat, literally pulling out chunks of food.”
For more of Linda Thompson’s relationships with Elvis Presley and Caitlyn Jenner, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE
Thompson gave Presley a shot of Ritalin to revive him until a doctor could arrive.
“A few hours later, he awoke,” she writes.
“ ’M-M-M-Mommy,’ ” she recalls Presley saying, referring to Thompson by his nickname for her. “ ‘I-I-I-I had a-a-a dream. I dreamed that I was dying.’ ”
In 1976, Thompson finally decided she needed to end their once-glorious romance, and she moved out of Presley’s home. But she was heartbroken when, just eight months later, she received a call from Presley’s then-9-year-old daughter, Lisa Marie, who told her, “My daddy’s dead!”
“That was that,” Thompson writes in her memoir. “Forty-two years old, and gone.”