It was time for gossip mills to buzz when a U.S. magazine revealed the identity of the mystery woman kissing pop legend Elvis Presley in a backstage theatre stairwell in an iconic 1956 photograph entitled "The Kiss." The identity of the woman in the photograph has been a mystery for over four decades now.
Barbara Gray, now 75, told Vanity Fair magazine that the woman in the photograph locked in a sensuous kiss with "The King'" was her, adding that she did not want to reveal her identity for fame or money at that time, amidst a host of others claiming to be the lady in the picture. Initially when Gray contacted Wertheimer, he didn't believe her, but when Gray's claim found its way to the glossy pages, it authenticated her story.
Gray, a retired real estate manager, said that the photograph was captured from a brief date she had with Presley in June 1956.
The photograph known as "The Kiss" was the most famous of a series by Alfred Wertheimer. It was the star exhibit of an Elvis at 21 show at the Smithsonian last year. Wertheimer took the picture as Presley was preparing to perform at the Mosque Theatre in Richmond, Virginia.
Gray and Wertheimer chatted with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" show on Monday. Wertheimer said that he never wrote down Gray's name as didn't think that the photos would become so famous.
"... Nineteen years went by (between the photos being taken and Elvis' death) where nobody called me for an Elvis Presley photograph. The day he died, Time magazine called me up and said 'Bring your pictures over immediately."
Gray, then Bobbie Owens, had spoken to an emerging singer named Elvis on the phone in 1956 and had arranged to meet him in Richmond, Virginia. When they met in person, they spent the day together, and photographer Alfred Wertheimer captured it all, reports the Daily Mail.
Wertheimer took pictures of them being playful and flirty in the back seat of a taxi. However it was at the end of a dark narrow hallway that he noticed the future legend and his date sharing an intimate moment. He thought about letting them have their private moment but after second thoughts decided to click their picture. Little did he know at the time that it would go on to become the legendary image known as "The Kiss."
Gray said that even though the photo looked very intense she wasn't as attracted to the singer as he was to her and she never saw him again.
"Maybe he had sparks but I didn't even know who he was," she said on NBC's Today program.
"He was a very funny kid, he was very silly and we were running around chasing each other and just being young. He narrowed me down in the hallway to ask me if I wanted to go to the Steve Allen show with him and I said: 'No, I'm on my way to Philadelphia to see my boyfriend.' That's when the challenge started for him."
Presley did manage to persuade Gray to come to his private compartment on a New York bound train.
"He started grabbing me and hugging me, and I finally let him kiss me," Gray told Vanity Fair. "Somehow we ended lying on the bed and he tried to feel me up." However they were interrupted by a knock on the door and someone warned them that the train was leaving and Gray said, "So am I."
Gray said that she never met Presley again.
"I got a Christmas card from him once, but that was it," she said. "Shortly after that, I left the state so I don't know if he tried to reach me or not."
Gray's own photos from the 1950's are mirror images of the young woman in the photo and her recollections of the time and place were accurate. However the main clincher was her height. She is only four feet 11 inches, the same height as the woman in the picture.
Gray will forever be the woman who said 'no' to Elvis.