Elvis's Prom Date Remembers a Shy Guy in Blue Suede Shoes
07/17/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT
Millions of recent high school graduates mistily remember their senior prom as though it were yesterday because, for them, it practically was yesterday. Regis Wilson Vaughn, a 50-year-old Fort Lauderdale housewife, can remember almost everything about her most special prom even though it took place 36 years ago. She remembers—and still owns—her strapless pink taffeta dress. She remembers her pink carnation and getting her hair done for free by a beauty-school student. Most of all she remembers being picked by a young man who, along with all the other titles he earned during his lifetime, must go down in history as the Prom Date of the Century: Elvis Presley. Then an 18-year-old senior at Memphis's L.C. Humes High School, Elvis wore a dark suit and, his date swears, blue suede shoes. She never got the chance to step on them because Elvis, at that point, didn't dance. "When we entered the Peabody Hotel through a gigantic heart-shaped door and the band was playing, I expected we'd join the other couples dancing," says Vaughn, who by that time had been seeing the incipient hunka hunka burning love for four months. "But Elvis told me he didn't know how to dance. So we sat and talked and drank Cokes all night."
Afterward the boy who would be King took Regis to a local drive-in for burgers, then back to her place. "I kissed Elvis every night from the second date on," says Vaughn. "He was a good kisser. But the nuns at my school told us we shouldn't allow boys to kiss us with their mouths open. So I'll just say Elvis gave me long kisses prom night. You could say we made out. But he never tried to go farther. He wasn't like that." He didn't even come close to suggesting a prom-night visit to the nearest Heartbreak Hotel. "Elvis was the only child of two strict parents," Vaughn says. "Things like that just didn't happen in those days."
Elvis was playing football when he first caught little Regis's eye at the low-income Lauderdale Courts housing project, where both lived. "I thought he was cute," says Vaughn, who was then 14. "I met him later at a birthday party. Elvis asked to take me home. I had never dated then, but I agreed to the ride home in his family car, a 1942 gray Lincoln. He said he wanted to see me again, and I knew I wanted to see him."
Throughout the spring of 1953, the couple dated, going out for malteds and Cokes, attending all-night gospel shows or just spooning on her porch swing. Elvis did sing to her, and it was always the same sad, sweet song—"My Happiness." Later that year Elvis sang it again when he made his first recording, a $4 do-it-yourself acetate that he gave to his mother, Gladys.
"He was so modest," says Vaughn. "He won a variety-show contest at his school, and he didn't even tell me about it. I never thought he would become a singer. He talked about finding a job so that he could afford to buy a house for his mama."
One of six children raised by a twice-divorced single mother, Vaughn stopped seeing Elvis a few weeks after the prom, when financial problems forced her family to move from the area. "I didn't want Elvis to know how poor we were," says Vaughn, who didn't even tell him she was leaving. "We moved so many times, I was embarrassed. I didn't tell Elvis because you just didn't call boys in those days. I figured he'd find out I had left by driving by the house and seeing I was gone."
Her family resettled in Fort Lauderdale, and Regis never met Elvis again. In 1956, at 17, she married Herb Vaughn, now 54 and a furniture sales representative. In 1958 they tried to visit Presley, by then a national phenom, after a Miami performance, but security guards kept them out. "I was disappointed," Regis says. "I wanted to say hello and goodbye."
Now a mother of three grown daughters, Vaughn is in school again, studying to be a paralegal at a local community college. She seldom talks about her King-and-I romance. "Who would believe me?" she says. Nonetheless, Herb still gets a little jealous during prime prom season. Why? Because, Regis says with a wink, "He's not as sexy as Elvis."
—Steve Dougherty, Linda Marx in Fort Lauderdale