There were affairs, of course, before the marriage. A famous Hollywood actress, most notably, but other known and unknown women who caught his fancy on his way to the altar.
After the wedding, there were more dalliances while he was on the road, while those in his inner circles protected him from discovery. Then, the baby came, and the floodgates opened. It was almost as though he were saying, Now that you’re a mother, I just don’t find you sexually attractive anymore. Of course, he continued to work hard to hide the truth from his wife, but his lack of interest at home had to be sending unmistakable signals to her.
Was it the boredom of the road? When he was away from home, he flew them in and out so quickly that even his inner circle found it almost comical — and yet they knew that there would be hell to pay if one found out about the other.
He began getting careless. He was perhaps the most famous public figure on earth, but he had to risk being seen if he was going to have any kind of life away from his appearances. A gossip rag spotted him playing blackjack in a Vegas casino, a hot babe on either arm. He even began bringing them home, when his wife was out of town. His surviving parent knew what was going on, but either looked the other way or enabled him to keep the bimbos coming. There were even rumors of a paternity suit.
Eventually, as it had to, it became public.
And yet, Elvis survived. The public has long ago forgiven him.
What, you thought I was writing about Tiger Woods?
Despite the avalanche of gossip we’ve heard in the last three weeks, we still don’t know anywhere near as much about Tiger Woods’ private life as we now know about Elvis Presley’s. With more-or-less-corroborated books by pals Red West, Lamar Fike, Marty Lacker, Alan Fortas, an autobiography by Priscilla Presley and a definitive biography by Peter Guralnick, there can’t be much more about Elvis’s womanizing and extra-marital affairs that would be worth knowing.
And what we know is this: Elvis needed the constant attention and companionship of women who were not his wife — and the closer to their teenage years, the better. He in fact told Priscilla that he had never been able to make love to any woman he knew to have had a child. Lisa Marie was born Feb. 1 1968. Priscilla began to realize soon afterward that the writing was on the wall — or on a cocktail napkin tucked into one of Elvis’s performing jump suits.
But I do intend to bring this back to Tiger Woods, since no one cares anymore how many waitresses, actresses, models, singers and government employees Elvis slept with. Because I’m doing research on a novel about rock ‘n’ roll, I’ve been reading a lot about Elvis lately, and he immediately came to mind when the scope of Tiger’s transgressions was revealed. I began to think hard about Elvis when Tiger wrote on his web site, in his second carefully-worded expression of contrition, “I have not been true to my values.”
What, exactly, would those be?
As far as I can tell, Tiger Woods’ values are very much the same as Elvis Presley’s were: Get as much trim as you can when the wife is not around. If your values are about honoring your marriage vows, respecting your wife and cherishing the innocence of your children while you act in a manner that would make them proud — in other words, being a role model for your kids — where is the evidence?
The evidence suggests the opposite: That what you value more is sleazy sexual hookups with a string of loose women with low enough self-esteem to sleep with a married man.
Sorry if this sounds all moralistic, but we live in times, I’m afraid, where people like Tiger Woods don’t hear moralizing often enough. They hear, “Yes, Mr. Woods. Sure thing, Tiger. Anything else I can do for you?” Only Elin Woods is in a position to say no, and since that was a word Tiger didn’t want to hear, he led a secret life she only recently came to find out about.
Very much like Elvis, who had a dozen guys with him at all times to keep the broads coming, going, and not running into each other — and to keep Priscilla from finding out about any of it. Elvis would tell the bimbos that he had an “open marriage,” but for the sake of their child he tried to keep his activities private. I have no idea what Tiger told his floozies. I doubt they would have bought the “open marriage” story, which makes them all the floozier, in my estimation, since they had to know they were cheating with a man whose wife thought they were in a closed marriage.
None of this is really any of my business, except for my opinion of Tiger Woods, which was once about as high as it could get for a public figure I don’t know personally, and now is considerably lower. Considerably.
But that’s likely to change over time. Maybe I’m more forgiving of Elvis these days because he’s been dead for more than 30 years. I won’t outlive Tiger by 30 years, but I might be able to raise my opinion of him again if he divorces Elin and quietly goes from one new “girlfriend” to another — like peers Michael Jordan, Fred Couples, John Daly and many other pro athletes for whom wedded domesticity simply didn’t work out. If he attempts to keep his marriage intact — in other words, if he attempts to win back his sponsors by trying to convince the world that his “values” really are all about family — I think his rehabilitation is going to take much longer.
The world is comfortable with who Elvis Presley was — bigger than marriage, with appetites and opportunities he was unwilling and unable to ignore. Those were his values. On that basis, the world will probably, eventually, become comfortable again with who Tiger Woods is, too.