She was the envy of every young woman who saw her on the back of the Harley-Davidson that day, zooming down Los Angeles' Mulholland Drive with the most sought-after man in America.
But Cricket Coulter could think of only one thing as she wrapped her arms tightly around Elvis Presley: "Am I going to make it home alive?"
"Elvis was going over 80 miles an hour," she recalls, smiling at the memory. "It was my first time on a motorcycle, and I haven't been on one since."
Cricket was 23 years old then and president of "Elvis — He Touched Me," a fan club she'd started at age 10. Wherever Elvis was, so was Cricket. She had an apartment near his home in California, along with a place across the street from his Graceland mansion in Memphis.
"I followed him for years," she says, "and that was OK with Elvis. I was more than just a fan. We became friends."
On the 25th anniversary of "The King's" death next week, Cricket, now 54 and living in Orem, will be where she is every Aug. 16: Standing outside the gates of Graceland, remembering the days when she was allowed inside, to share an occasional peanut butter and banana sandwich with Elvis and get extra autographs to pass along to members of her club.
This year, Cricket, who is still president of that fan club, plans to present a slide show of personal photos and sell a new book about her memories, "Elvis' Real Gold: The Spirit of his Fans."
"There are people who will say I made it up," she says, "but I don't care. I know the truth, Elvis knows the truth and God knows the truth. That's all that counts."
Hoping to share a few stories about the happiest years of her life, Cricket joined me for a Free Lunch of steak and mashed potatoes at Huckleberry's restaurant in Lehi.
After ordering her steak well-done, "the way Elvis always had them," she pulled out several framed photos that usually sit on top of her television at home. In one, Elvis is hugging a giddy teenager with strawberry blond hair and cat-eye glasses.
"I was 16 here," says Cricket. "I'll never forget the first time I met him. Elvis was just so good-looking, he took your breath away."
Never one to scream or be pushy, Cricket politely handed Elvis copies of her newsletter whenever he came down to the gates of Graceland to greet fans. Before long, she says, he invited her to join his entourage on outings to the local amusement park he rented after hours.
"I never put him on a pedestal — I treated him like anybody else," says Cricket, who now takes special joy in wearing a "TCB" (Takin' Care of Business in a Flash) lightning bolt necklace that she says Elvis gave her.
In return, after Cricket joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1976, she gave Elvis her Book of Mormon when he commented that she "suddenly seemed at peace with her life."
That book — complete with notes in the margins believed to be written by Elvis — is now in the LDS Church's historical archives. Cricket claims that Elvis was planning to be baptized into the faith in September of 1977.
"When he died on Aug. 16, I stood outside the gates at Graceland for three days," she says. "None of us could believe it."
Cricket is somber for a moment, then suddenly brightens as a new song comes on in the background. "It's Elvis," she says, upon hearing the first three notes. " 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.' Doesn't it just cut straight to your heart?"
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