The Presley Women
Lisa Marie: We'd already worked together for a year and we were on the road together so we already knew very well what we were getting into. By perfect, I don't mean literally. I just mean for me. Like the soul mate thing, the best friends, the whole—we do everything together and, no, I'm not wearing a ring.
Oprah: Are you done with marriage?
Lisa Marie: I would never say I'm done with it. I think I would get married if I want to have more children.
Priscilla Beaulieu was just 14 when she met 25-year-old Army private Elvis Presley in Germany in 1959. Despite their age difference, the two had an instant connection. After completing his tour of duty, Elvis returned to America. Two years later, he asked Priscilla's father if she could move to Graceland. It nearly tore the family apart, but in the end her father agreed and Priscilla attended her senior year of high school in Memphis. It was a life unlike any other American teenager—by day, she was a high school student; at night, she was Elvis's girlfriend. In 1967, Elvis and Priscilla were married in Las Vegas.
Since her days with Elvis, Priscilla went on to become her own woman, of course. She's an actress, an author, a producer and mother to Lisa Marie and a son, Navarone, who's 18.
"I met a very vulnerable Elvis," she says of her first meeting with "the King." "I didn't really see him as a movie star. I got to see a side of Elvis that very few people got to see. He had just lost his mother a year before that and he was in the Army in Germany, a very foreign place to him. And he was just like a little boy, really...So I was someone that he really confided in and talked to at the time."
Priscilla says their world was like a bubble. "We had our own friends. We traveled with them constantly. We ate with them. We worked with them. We [took] trips and bus trips and planes and vacations, and it wasn't a real life. It was really our own world entirely with the same people. Elvis very rarely associated with anyone in Hollywood, believe it or not. He was a Memphis, Tennessee, boy and he would go back to Graceland and that was his refuge. That was where he, you know, thrived."
"He gave her a fur coat—a mink coat," Priscilla recalls. "I think he gave it to her for her birthday and I said, 'You're not wearing this. This is not for you. You're 5 years old. You're not wearing a mink coat. I'm sorry. Excuse me.' So I called him up and I said, 'What are you doing?' So it was just too much."
Priscilla says Elvis, who grew up very poor, just wanted to give his daughter things he didn't have.
"And even though a child doesn't put a lot on it, others put a lot on it," Priscilla says. "The comments from other people...that really bothered me because I didn't want her to grow up as we know many privileged children are. Excess is really horrible. If you're not ready for it, it really does disturb your judgment."
There was even a time in which Priscilla tried to instill some sophistication in Lisa Marie. "I wanted you to go to school in Europe," Priscilla says. "Study French. Be a model for the French, you know."
How did Lisa Marie like her introduction to continental culture? "She sent me to Europe," she says. "Oh God, what a nightmare."
However, the Presleys initially resisted opening Graceland to the public. "It took a long time to decide after he passed away," Priscilla says. "But there weren't really enough finances there to keep it going. We had a staff that was with us for years and years and years, and we had to let everyone go. It was a shock. We had estate taxes coming in, we had government taxes. ... Again, it wasn't an overnight decision."
However, rumors have spread recently that the Presley family sold Graceland. Priscilla dismissed them simply, saying, "No, it is not sold."
The confusion, she says, stems from a recent licensing deal. "We were looking for years for a strategic partner to help us grow," Priscilla explains. "We've been open for 25 years now. We're a private company, and we thought, 'Gosh, we'd like to be able to reach those people who can't afford to come to Graceland. We have fans all over the world.' So we found this particular partner who was on the same page as we were and basically took the licensing, and that is really what was taken."
"See, they're two different things," Lisa Marie explains. "There's the Elvis Presley Estate, which [are] the things in the house and all of his stuff, which will never be touched. [We sold] 85 percent of the licensing and marketing—we still own 15 percent. But everything [in Graceland] is still ours. It will never be touched. A lot of that money went back into the forming of a bigger company, which is going to expand it and make it even bigger and make it go places it hasn't been able to go."
Lisa Marie: I think it was just—we're so the opposite of each other, if you haven't noticed already. My demeanor immediately went into [that of] a 15 year old when she walked out here! I think it was just that she's got a china shop and I'm the bull that comes in. I mean, I'm more abrasive. She's very poised, which is great. And I'm the way I am. And I think that that just couldn't find a way to blend.
Oprah: How do you explain it, Priscilla?
Priscilla: I've probably been the force in her life that put discipline on her, which she needs, excuse me. And I think that's a good thing. I hope that it's a good thing! You know, I'm honest with her. In this business you find very few people who are honest; who will tell you the truth. And I think I'm that sounding board for her even though she does her own thing and always has done her own thing. So I'm the one person that has really been the one with the discipline and she probably [resented that.]
Finishing the story, Lisa Marie explains how she told Priscilla. "You called me and said, 'Oh God, there's helicopters above the house,'" Lisa Marie says. "'They're saying you married Michael Jackson.' And then I was silent."
Priscilla holds out hope to this day that Michael Jackson actually loved Lisa Marie, and that their marriage involved legitimate reasoning on his part. "I want to believe he [loved her]," she says. "I would hate to believe that it was only for one thing, whether it be to maintain his popularity or to be associated somehow to her and her father. I really don't want to go there with that. It's just hard for me to believe that people do that. I mean, and she's really lovable."
And what would Elvis think about Lisa Marie's new career? "I think he'd be so proud," Priscilla says. "I think he'd probably be giving her all kinds of advice. I think he'd also be there, trying to tell her what songs to sing and what not to sing and how to sing it. He had to have his hand in a lot of areas like that, of course. ... I think he'd be really pleased."
In the notes for her CD, Now What, Lisa Marie wrote a special message to her parents, thanking them and calling the three of them an "eternal unit, never broken."
Lisa Marie performs "Dirty Laundry" from her CD, Now What.