News Item: MEMPHIS -- Dr. George Nichopoulos prescribed more than 19,000 uppers, downers and painkillers for Elvis Presley during the final two years and seven months of the rock 'n' roll king's life, a jury was told . . .

This trial, and the book "Elvis" by Albert Goldman, have not been kind to Presley's memory. The loose talk about Elvis' obsessive sexual, drug and eating habits -- to say nothing of the violence, the voyeurism, the young girls, the white lingerie, the video tapes, the two-way mirrors, or the monkey -- has coughed up an open season on The King. Much as the slimy sensationalism disgusts, a reporter must be ready and willing to listen. It's a lousy job. But somebody has to do it.

"The night we met I knew I needed him so, and if I had the chance I'd never let him go," said Mary-Alice (Chickie) Dunne, now a 39-year old barmaid and mechanic at Steak 'N Brake, a combination restaurant-garage in Reno. "I went to one of his concerts and I got backstage. I was just 14, and Elvis, he sees me and he invites me to go to a party, and we hit it off just terrific. I mean we had so much in common. We both liked fast cars. We both loved our mothers. We both spoke English. Things like that.

"I hadn't been with him more than 20 minutes before he asked me to be his baby. Now with some guys I would have thought that was just a line, ya know? But with Elvis, well, I just knew Elvis was sincere. So first he adopted me, then later that night we went and got married. But Elvis asked me to keep it a secret because being married might not be good for his image. The first few hours were terrific. I don't know what happened, maybe it was something I said, but then Elvis got mean. First he shot the TV. Then he took a chain saw to the kitchen furniture. Then he tied me up and put me in the meat freezer.

"I must have been in there for about a week until one of Elvis' bodyguards found me. Funny thing is, he didn't seem surprised to see me there. Told me he once found one of Elvis' girls tied up in the wine cellar, and another one tied up in the sauna. I told him -- 'They were his girls, but I'm his wife.' He said -- 'That's what they all say.'

"Anyway, I don't blame Elvis. I know he didn't mean it," she said, lowering her voice and shaking her head gently. "It was the drugs, made him do it."

"He was about my best friend in the world. We were closer than squirrel fungus on an oak tree. But I'll be danged if by the end Elvis wasn't fuzzier than a pregnant peach," said Billy-Joe Bob Glomb, now a 44-year-old grain elevator operator near Tulsa. "Elvis always said I was in charge of 'obtaining exotic entertainment' for him. When we were on the road I made sure that he had enough of what he needed, like the whole tomatoes and the hollowed-out watermelons; I made sure the mud was always waiting at the hotels for us; I made sure Elvis always had enough rubber cement. And I was in charge of the animals. Everywhere we went I'd buy the big snake and the mice.

"I guess by now everybody knows there weren't nothing Elvis loved more than watching big snakes eat mice. He'd get a bunch of us in there to watch with him, and we'd all bet on how long it'd take for the big snake to eat all the mice. Never took more than 25 minutes if we put 'em all in a cage. But sometimes Elvis liked to give the mice a chance, so he let 'em all loose in the hotel room.

"I think what queered it between me and Elvis was the time I couldn't catch the cobra. Danged cobra was as slippery as a greased pig and faster than hot gumbo going through a Yankee's innards. By the time I got it that sucker had wrapped itself around the nanny goat Elvis used to bring on the road and plum bit the life out of her. Well, Elvis went crazy. First he shot the TV. Then he shot the cobra. I high-tailed it because I thought he was gonna shoot me. So Elvis gets into his Caddy and chases me down the block. I was running, and Elvis was driving, so I didn't have a chance. Ran me down. Yep, just ran that Caddy over me. Left me with a broken back, a ruptured spleen and about 23 broken ribs.

"Anyway, I don't blame Elvis. I know he didn't mean it," he said, lowering his voice and shaking his head gently. "It was the drugs, made him do it."

"He walked up to me and he asked me if I wanted to dance," said Mary-Beth (Cookie) Mitchell, a 28-year-old topless bank teller in Las Vegas. "Elvis didn't really dance; he told one of his bodyguards to do the actual dancing, and he just watched. But after a couple of tunes Elvis called me over and asked me to marry him. I didn't have any plans for the evening so I said, 'Sure.'

"So we got married and then I took Elvis home to meet my mom and dad. Things were going pretty well until my dad said he thought maybe Elvis and I rushed into marriage, on account of I was just 15. Elvis positively freaked. First he shot the TV. Then he started screaming at my mom and dad. Before I knew it four of Elvis' bodyguards were in the house and they were undressing my parents, and tying them up with the scarves that Elvis always tossed to his fans. As Elvis was singing 'In the Ghetto' the bodyguards took my parents outside and tossed them into our swimming pool. Luckily for my parents, the pool had been drained the day before. So instead of drowning, they just cracked their heads on the bottom.

"Anyway, I don't blame Elvis. I know he didn't mean it," she said, lowering her voice and shaking her head gently. "It was the drugs, made him do it."

"I'll never understand why Elvis wanted me to be his dietician in the first place," said Poona, a 58-year-old trucker who teaches a course called Inner Peace for Protestants at Buddha-Land, a religious theme park near Little Rock. "Even way back then, before I came to be Poona, when I was still called by my secular name -- Sherm (The Germ) Vandersop -- I found Elvis' eating habits repulsive. He was obsessed with sweet things. His favorite food was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, covered with hot fudge sauce and marshmallow cream. He'd eat 15 Fudgesicles a day, and 10 Nutty-Buddies too. Forget fresh fruits and vegetables. He wouldn't touch them. And after the time we found him face down in a bowl, chicken soup was absolutely out of the question. The only meat he ate was possum. You'd cook it to his taste -- charred beyond recognition -- and then he'd pour maple syrup all over it.

"I used to try and sneak real food into his diet. I had him convinced that raw brown rice was a new kind of butterscotch sprinkle for his ice cream. But my luck ran out when I told him that zucchini was Italian chocolate. He took one bite and spit it out all over my face. I knew he was mad. First he shot the TV. I ran out the back door just as Elvis was aiming the bazooka at me. He got into his Go Kart and chased me out to my organic garden. He took two pitchforks and pinned me to the barn. He made me sing him a medley of Pat Boone songs, and then he beat me senseless with cabbage leaves. To this day I can't even look at cole slaw.

"Anyway, I don't blame Elvis. I know he didn't mean it," he said, lowering his voice and shaking his head gently. "It was the drugs, made him do it."

"My story is probably different than the others," said Mary-Clare (Sister Spike) Turalura, now a 36-year-old prison guard in North Dakota. "Oh sure, I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still. Sure, he knew what he was doing when he caught my eye. Sure, I married him that night, and I agreed not to tell anyone. But I wasn't one of those dainty girls that Elvis usually went for. First of all, I was older -- I was almost 17. And second of all, I was tough. I was in a gang -- The Stompettes; our colors were black and blue. So that first night with Elvis, I wasn't gonna be pushed around.

"I knocked him down. I stepped on his face. I slandered his name all over the place. I did anything that I wanted to do. But he said, 'Uh-uh, honey' when I stepped on his blue suede shoes.

"Of all the guys I'd ever met, none got as mad as quick as Elvis. The first thing he did was shoot the TV. We were in the honeymoon suite, so there were all these bottles of champagne and baskets of fruit laying around. Well, Elvis started throwing champagne around. Then he started throwing fruit around. Then he started throwing the baskets around. And when he ran out of that stuff, he started throwing me around. Love me tender, my eye. Finally, after trying to drown me in the bathtub, he wraps me in the sheets from our marriage bed and hangs me out the window, upside down, 50 floors over Memphis. I figured it was just a joke, because while I was hanging there Elvis had his camera out, and he was takin' pictures of me. But after he ran out of film he split. That was the last time I ever saw him. The cops had to rescue me in a helicopter.

"Anyway, I don't blame Elvis. I know he didn't mean it," she said, lowering her voice and shaking her head gently. "It was the drugs, made him do it."