Priscilla Presley

Last updated

Priscilla Presley
Priscilla presley and jerry schilling (cropped).jpg
Presley in 2019
Born
Priscilla Ann Wagner

(1945-05-24) May 24, 1945 (age 78)
Other namesPriscilla Wagner
Priscilla Beaulieu
Occupation
  • Actress
Years active1973–present
Spouse
(m. 1967;div. 1973)
PartnerMarco Garibaldi (1984–2006)
Children
Relatives Riley Keough (granddaughter)

Priscilla Ann Presley (née Wagner, formerly Beaulieu; born May 24, 1945) is an American businesswoman and actress. She is the ex-wife of the late American singer Elvis Presley, as well as the cofounder and former chairperson of Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE), the company that turned Graceland into one of the top tourist attractions in the United States. In her acting career, Presley costarred with Leslie Nielsen in the Naked Gun film trilogy and played Jenna Wade on the long-running television series Dallas .

Contents

Early life

Priscilla Ann Wagner was born at Brooklyn Naval Hospital in Brooklyn, New York on May 24, 1945. [1] [2] Her maternal grandfather, Albert Henry Iversen (1899–1971), was born in Egersund, Norway. [3] He migrated to the United States, where he married Lorraine Davis (1903–1984), who was of Scots-Irish and English descent. Their only daughter was Anna Lillian Iversen (1926–2021), whose name was later shortened to Ann. [4] Presley's biological father was US Navy pilot James Frederick Wagner (1921–1945), son of Kathryn (1901–1995) and Harold Wagner (1897–1958) of Cherrytree Township, Pennsylvania. [5] He married Presley's mother Ann on August 10, 1944, after dating for more than three years. Wagner died in a plane crash on November 3, 1945. [6]

In 1948, Ann married United States Air Force officer Paul Beaulieu (1925–2018), from Québec, Canada. The couple raised Priscilla, along with half-siblings Donald (b. 1949), Michelle (b. 1954), Jeffrey (b. 1959) and twins Thomas (1962–2013) [7] and Timothy Beaulieu (b. 1962). Priscilla's surname was legally changed from Wagner to Beaulieu on April 17, 1950. [8] Over the next few years, the growing family repeatedly relocated as her stepfather's Air Force career moved them from Connecticut to New Mexico to Maine. Priscilla describes herself during this period as "a shy, pretty, little girl, unhappily accustomed to moving from base to base every two or three years". [9] Presley would later recall how uneasy she felt about having to move so often, never knowing if she could ever make friends for life or if she would fit in with the people she would meet at the next place. [9]

In 1956, the family settled in Del Valle, Texas, but soon Beaulieu was transferred to Wiesbaden, West Germany. [10] Priscilla was "crushed" upon learning this news, as it occurred just after her junior high school years, and was upset about leaving her friends and connections behind. [10]

Life in West Germany

When the Beaulieus arrived in West Germany, they stayed at the Helene Hotel, but living at the hotel soon became too large a financial burden to sustain. After three months living at the hotel, the Beaulieus sought another home to rent. [11] The family settled into a large apartment in a "vintage building constructed long before World War I." Soon after moving in, the Beaulieus realized the building operated as a brothel, but given the scarcity of housing, they had little choice but to remain. [11]

Life with Elvis

Germany

On September 13, 1959, 14 year old Priscilla Beaulieu met 24 year old Elvis Presley at a party at his home in Bad Nauheim, Germany, which he had rented during his military service. [12] Her presence is said to have made Elvis seem "awkward" and "embarrassed"; however, he composed himself by the end of the evening. [13] Priscilla's late return home on the night of that first meeting upset her parents, who insisted that she never see Elvis again. However, his eagerness for another rendezvous and his promise to never bring her home late again [14] led Priscilla's parents to relent. Thereafter, Priscilla and Elvis were frequently together until his departure from West Germany in March 1960. After Elvis left, Priscilla was inundated with requests for interviews from media outlets around the world. Priscilla received fan mail from Elvis fans, some positive and some negative, as well as mail from "lonesome G.I.s.". With gossip-magazine rumors swirling about Presley's relationship with Nancy Sinatra, Priscilla became convinced that her romance with Elvis was over, and she was concerned she would never see him again. [15]

Move to Graceland

Graceland Graceland Memphis Tennessee.jpg
Graceland

After Elvis's return to the US, Priscilla managed to stay in touch with him by phone, though they did not see each other again until the summer of 1962, when Priscilla's parents agreed to let her visit for two weeks. [12] [16] They allowed her to go, on the condition Elvis pay for a first-class round trip ticket and arrange for her to be chaperoned at all times. She was also expected to write to her parents every day. [15] Elvis agreed to all these demands, and Priscilla flew to Los Angeles. Elvis told her they were going to Las Vegas, and to confuse her parents, he had Priscilla write a postcard for every day they would be away, with the intent that each would be mailed daily from Los Angeles by a member of his staff. [17]

It was during this visit, while on a trip to Las Vegas, that Priscilla first experimented with amphetamines and sleeping pills to keep up with Elvis's lifestyle. [18] After another visit at Christmas, Priscilla's parents let her move to Memphis for good in mid-March 1963. [12] [17] [19] Part of the agreement was that they would eventually marry. [17] She would finish her senior year at an all-girls Catholic school, the Immaculate Conception High School and live with Elvis's father and stepmother, in a separate house, a few streets away from the Graceland mansion at 3650 Hermitage Drive, [20] [21] [22] until she graduated in May. However, according to her 1985 autobiography, Elvis and Me , she "spent entire nights with Grandma [Elvis's grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley] at Graceland and gradually moved her belongings there." It is believed she had her permanent residence at Graceland as early as May 1963. [23] Her parents eventually agreed to her living there, on the condition that Elvis promise to marry her. [12] Priscilla later said, "The move was natural. ... I was there all the time anyway." [24]

Priscilla was keen to go to Hollywood with Elvis, but he kept telling her he was too busy and had her stay in Memphis. During that period, Priscilla read reports about an affair between Elvis and his Viva Las Vegas co-star Ann-Margret. Priscilla confronted Elvis, who explained the reports as rumors to promote the film, urging her to not trust the press. Over the next few years, Elvis had numerous intimate relationships with his co-stars, but denied each of them to Priscilla. [25] Eventually, she was allowed to visit him in Hollywood, but her visits were kept short. [17]

Marriage and pregnancy

Elvis and Priscilla with newborn Lisa Marie, February 1968 Elvis Presley and Priscilla with Lisa Marie February 1968.jpg
Elvis and Priscilla with newborn Lisa Marie, February 1968

Shortly before Christmas 1966, Elvis proposed to Priscilla, after being reminded of the record contract's RCA "morals clause" by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Priscilla suggested, in a 1973 interview with Ladies' Home Journal, that she and Elvis were quite happy to just live together, but "at that time, it wasn't nice for people to [just] live together". [26] According to his cook, Alberta, and friend, Marty Lackner, Elvis was reluctant to marry and upset about not having a choice. Others, such as Joe Esposito, have asserted that Elvis was excited to marry Priscilla. [27]

In her book, Elvis and Me, Priscilla described Elvis as a very passionate man. According to her account, [28] the singer told her that they had to wait until they were married, before having intercourse. He said, "I'm not saying we can't do other things. It's just the actual encounter. I want to save it." Priscilla said in her autobiography that she was a virgin, when she married, and she and Elvis did not have sex until their wedding night. However, this claim is questioned by biographer Suzanne Finstad. [29]

The couple married on May 1, 1967, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. The wedding, arranged by Parker to maximize publicity, featured very few guests and was over in only eight minutes. [27] It was followed by a quick press conference and a $10,000 breakfast reception, attended by friends, family, and business associates from MGM, RCA, and the William Morris Agency. [27] The wedding caused rifts between Elvis and several of his closest friends, including Red West, who were not invited to the actual wedding ceremony. Although the blame mainly fell on Parker, resentment was held for years to follow. [30]

Following the reception, Priscilla and Elvis boarded a private jet and enjoyed a short honeymoon in Palm Springs. [27] On May 4, they flew back to Memphis and retreated to their private ranch, just over the Mississippi state line, for a three-week break. Many of Elvis's inner circle joined them, although for the most part, the couple were left alone and were able to enjoy each other's company, without the intrusion of the Memphis Mafia. "I loved playing house," she later remarked, adding, "Here was an opportunity to take care of him myself. No maids or housekeepers to pamper us." In an attempt to heal rifts, Elvis and Priscilla held another reception at Graceland on May 29 for the friends and family who were unable to attend the original ceremonies. [30]

Soon after, Priscilla found out that she was pregnant. She was upset at such an early pregnancy, certain that it would destroy the closeness she had finally found with Elvis. [31] She had asked him earlier if she could take birth control pills, but Elvis had insisted they were not perfected yet. She considered an abortion and had even discussed it with Elvis, but both decided they could not live with themselves if they had gone through with it. Their only child, Lisa Marie, was born exactly nine months after their wedding, on February 1, 1968. [31]

Separation and divorce

Priscilla wrote, in Elvis and Me, that she began taking private dance lessons around the time her husband was filming Live a Little, Love a Little (1968). She found herself deeply attracted to the instructor, known simply as Mark in the book, where she confesses to having a short affair. She implies regret, however, stating, "I came out of it realizing I needed much more out of my relationship with Elvis". [32]

Despite Priscilla's affair and Elvis's on-and-off affairs with his co-stars, the first few years they were married seemed a happy time for the couple. However, when Elvis's career took off again following his 1968 television special, he was constantly touring and playing in Las Vegas and having affairs, while Priscilla stayed at home to care for their daughter. [33]

The Presleys in October 1973 after their divorce was finalized Elvis and Priscilla Presley after divorce hearing.jpg
The Presleys in October 1973 after their divorce was finalized

Priscilla took up karate after Elvis, a keen karate student, convinced her to do so. Priscilla, eager to share her husband's interests, thought it was a good idea to pass the time she spent alone. [34] Following disruptions from Elvis, Priscilla began taking lessons from Mike Stone, a karate instructor she met in 1972 at one of Elvis's concerts backstage. [35] She soon began an affair with him, stating that, "I still loved Elvis, greatly, but over the next few months, I knew I would have to make a crucial decision regarding my destiny". [36] She later states, "Elvis must have perceived my new restlessness." [37] A couple of months later, she said that Elvis had requested to see her in his hotel suite. It was there, according to her autobiography, that Elvis "forcefully made love to me...[as he said] 'This is how a real man makes love to his woman'". [37]

In a later interview, Priscilla said that she regretted her choice of words in describing his actions, and she said it had been an overstatement. [38] She went on to say, following the incident, "what really hurt was that he was not sensitive to me, as a woman, and his attempt at reconciliation had come too late," suggesting that his actions were a deliberate attempt at reconciliation or compensation for his lack of sexual interest in Priscilla, which had been a source of hurt and discontent for her for years. Priscilla stated in her book, "He had mentioned to me, before we were married, that he had never been able to make love to a woman who had a child," [39] and she later expressed the personal repercussions of their sexual dysfunction, saying, "I am beginning to doubt my own sexuality, as a woman. My physical and emotional needs were unfulfilled." After this incident, Priscilla summarized, "this was not the gentle, understanding man I grew to love". [40]

Priscilla and Elvis separated on February 24, 1972, and the two filed for legal separation on July 26. [41] To avoid Priscilla having to make her home address available on public records, risking the security of her and Lisa Marie, [42] Elvis filed for divorce on his 38th birthday, January 8, 1973. [26] Later that month, Elvis reportedly became paranoid about Mike Stone and said, "There's too much pain in me... Stone [must] die." His intense outbursts continued, unable to be calmed by a physician and large doses of medication. He did not accept offers by his bodyguard to arrange a contract killing. [43] The divorce was finalized on October 9, 1973. [44]

The couple agreed to share custody of their daughter, and Priscilla was awarded an outright cash payment of US$725,000, as well as spousal support, child support, 5% of Elvis's new publishing companies, and half the proceeds from the sale of their Beverly Hills home. [44] Originally, the couple had agreed upon a much smaller settlement: a $100,000 lump payment, $1,000 a month in spousal support, and $500 a month in child support. [45] Priscilla was keen to make it on her own and prove that her marriage to Elvis was not about money. After consulting her new lawyers, her demands increased, pointing out that a star of Elvis's stature could easily afford more for his former wife and child. [46] Priscilla and Elvis remained close, leaving the courthouse hand-in-hand on the day their divorce was finalized. [46]

Personal life post-1973

Though she has never remarried, she has had romantic relationships since her divorce from Elvis. Immediately afterwards, she lived with karate instructor Mike Stone, but the relationship dissolved by 1975. [47]

Beginning in 1978, Presley had a six-year intermittent live-in relationship with model Michael Edwards, until he began developing feelings for the teenage Lisa Marie. [48]

Presley's longest relationship has been with Brazilian screenwriter-turned-computer-programmer Marco Antonio Garcia (a.k.a. Marco Garibaldi), with whom she lived for 22 years. The two were introduced by a mutual friend in 1984 after he wrote a script that she read, hoping to produce. Their son, Navarone Garibaldi, was born on March 1, 1987. [49] (Presley was starring in the primetime soap opera Dallas at the time and her pregnancy was written into the storyline.) In 2006, they ended their relationship. [17] At the beginning of their romance, Presley ensured Garibaldi sign a promissory agreement that if they should break up, he would not write a book about her. [50]

Through her daughter, Lisa Marie, Presley has four grandchildren including actress Riley Keough. Presley became a great-grandmother through Riley Keough in 2022. [51] Her daughter, Lisa Marie, died after suffering cardiac arrest and complications of bariatric surgery January 12, 2023, at age 54. [52]

Business

Designation of Graceland mansion as a National Historic Landmark in 2006, l-r Jack Soden, Priscilla Presley and United States Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton Designation of Graceland Mansion as a National Historic Landmark 2006.jpg
Designation of Graceland mansion as a National Historic Landmark in 2006, l-r Jack Soden, Priscilla Presley and United States Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton

In 1973, following her separation from her husband, Presley set up a clothing boutique in Los Angeles called Bis & Beau with her friend and stylist Olivia Bis. [26] In a 1973 interview to promote the opening of the store, Priscilla said, "After the separation, I had to make up my mind about what I wanted to do, and since I had worked with Olivia for such a long time on my own clothes, I decided to try it professionally. We both do the designing for the shop, and have people who sew for us." [26] Elvis, supportive of Priscilla's business, contacted several friends in public relations to help promote the launch. [53] The shop was a successful business venture, with celebrity clients including Diana Ross, Carol Burnett, Jill Ireland, Mary Tyler Moore, Victoria Principal, Michelle Phillips, Dyan Cannon, Julie Christie, Suzanne Pleshette, Cher, Liza Minnelli, Lana Turner, Barbra Streisand, and Natalie Wood shopping there regularly. [54] The shop closed in 1976. [55]

After Elvis's death in 1977, his father Vernon was one of the executors of his estate, which was held in trust for his daughter Lisa Marie. Vernon named Priscilla to be his successor upon his death. She assumed the role following Vernon's 1979 death. [56] Graceland itself cost $500,000 a year in upkeep, and expenses had dwindled Lisa Marie's inheritance to only $1 million. Taxes due on the property and other expenses due came to over $500,000. [57] Faced with having to sell Graceland, Presley examined other public homes and museums. She hired a CEO, Jack Soden, to turn Graceland into a tourist attraction. Graceland was opened to the public on June 7, 1982. Only four weeks after opening Graceland's doors, the estate made back all the money it had invested. Priscilla became the chairperson and president of Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE), stating that she would remain in the position until Lisa Marie reached 21 years of age. Under Priscilla Presley's guidance, the enterprise's fortunes soared and eventually the trust grew to be worth over $100 million.

In 1988, Presley launched her own fragrance, Moments, and followed this up with a range of best-selling perfumes in the 1990s – Experiences in 1993, Indian Summer in 1996, and Roses and More in 1998. [17] She has also successfully sold her line of products live on the Home Shopping Network and was coached by veteran HSN host Bob Circosta.

In 2006, Presley flew to Sydney, Australia for the debut of her worldwide line of bed linens called the Priscilla Presley Collection. She partnered with Australian designer Bruno Schiavi for the line. [58]

She has helped to produce feature films including Breakfast with Einstein and Finding Graceland . [17] In September 2000, Presley was elected to the board of directors at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. [59] In 2015 Presley became the executive producer of a 14-track album titled If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra . She said, "If Elvis were here, he would be evolving and taking risks, seemingly like everybody else today". [60] Also in that year the U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan and Priscilla Presley dedicated an Elvis "forever" stamp, which featured a 1955 black-and-white image shot by photographer William Speer. It was Priscilla's second dedication of a USPS stamp honoring her ex-husband. The first Elvis stamp, issued in 1993, [61] were the most popular stamps sold in the Postal Service's history. This second contribution also made Elvis Presley the first musical artist to be featured in two different issues of its commemorative stamps collections. [62]

On August 16, 2019, it was announced that Presley, in conjunction with John Eddie, as well as Sony Pictures, would create and produce Agent Elvis , a Netflix adult animated fictional series about her former husband working as a spy by night while remaining a musician during the day. The series' first teaser was published on the official Elvis Instagram account on June 15, 2022. The image showed an illustrated Elvis donning a black trench coat. Presley was featured as a cast member in the show, voicing her own animation character. [63] [64] [65]

Acting career

Presley had shown an interest in dancing and modelling and had modeled for a local store once. Hal B. Wallis, a Hollywood producer who had financed many of Elvis's earlier films, showed interest in signing Priscilla to a contract. However, during her marriage she never pursued these activities as a career, instead calling acting or filmmaking a hobby. Priscilla was sensitive about Elvis's opinion, because he did not want to let Priscilla have her own career, repeating the then-popular saying, "A woman's place is in the home looking after her man". Priscilla neither pursued fashion modelling nor did she sign any exclusive contracts, instead choosing to comply with her husband's wishes. [17]

Presley had originally been offered a role as one of the leads on Charlie's Angels . She turned down the role because she disliked the show. [66] Presley made her television debut as co-host of Those Amazing Animals in 1980. [55] [67] In 1983, she had her first professional acting role on a season 2 episode of The Fall Guy titled "Manhunter". [17] She then went on to play in a television film titled Love is Forever , starring alongside Michael Landon. [68] Although she was treated well by most of the cast and crew, and her acting was praised by several of her co-stars, she found Landon difficult to work with on set. After the television film aired, Presley took on the role of Jenna Wade in the primetime soap opera Dallas . As the third actor to portray Jenna (after Morgan Fairchild and Francine Tacker), she played the role for the longest of the three after the character was expanded and Presley became a series regular. In 1988, after five years, Presley left the show. During her tenure on the series, she was also offered the role of Bond girl Stacey Sutton in A View to a Kill (1985), but she had to decline the role due to scheduling conflicts. [69] The role ultimately went to former Charlie's Angels star Tanya Roberts.

In 1988, Presley starred opposite Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! as Jane Spencer. Critic Roger Ebert praised Presley's performance, saying her "light comic touch" helped balance out the film's more over-the-top humor. [70] She would go on to act in the next two movies in the series: The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994). All three films performed solidly at the box office. In between, she acted in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990) with Andrew Dice Clay. During the mid-to-late-1990s she made guest appearances on the hit television shows Melrose Place , Touched by an Angel , and Spin City .

Presley made her pantomime debut in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the New Wimbledon Theatre, Wimbledon, London, during Christmas of 2012, starring opposite Warwick Davis. [71] She reprised her role of the Wicked Queen at the Manchester Opera House in 2014. [72]

Charity work and activism

Priscilla Presley in 2003 Priscilla Presley (2003).jpg
Priscilla Presley in 2003

Since 2003, Presley has been the Ambassador of the Dream Foundation, a Santa Barbara-based wish-granting organization for terminally ill adults and their families. [73] [74]

Priscilla Presley joined the Church of Scientology along with her daughter after Elvis's death. [75] [76] In 2006, she helped inaugurate Narconon's Stonehawk Rehabilitation Center in Michigan. [77] [78] When Lisa Marie left Scientology by 2016, it was reported that Priscilla had also distanced herself from the church at the same time, [76] however, in October 2017 Priscilla Presley's representative denied that she had left the church. [79]

In 2013, Presley spoke out against the Tennessee Ag-Gag Bill in a letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Presley cited her and Elvis's love of horses and expressed her concern that the bill would hinder animal cruelty investigations and reduce protections for horses and other farm animals. [80]

Honors

Presley was conferred the degree of Doctor of Humanities by Rhodes College in 1998. [81] She was named godmother of the largest river steamboat ever built, American Queen, christened April 27, 2012 at its home port in Memphis. [82] The AutoZone Liberty Bowl chose her as its 2018 Distinguished Citizen Award winner. [83] On July 22, 2022, Theatre Memphis honored her contributions to Memphis art and tourism with a gala, "Honoring Priscilla Presley: The Artist, The Woman", featuring more than a dozen speakers and a live musical tribute. [84] She has a square named after her in Egersund – Priscilla Presleys plass. The area is in the street outside the house where her grandfather was born in 1899, and lived. [85]

Filmography

Priscilla Presley film work
YearTitleRoleNotes
1980–1981 Those Amazing Animals Co-host
1983 Love Is Forever Sandy RedfordTV film
The Fall Guy Sabrina ColdwellEpisode: "Manhunter"
1983–1988 Dallas Jenna Wade Series regular, 143 episodes
Soap Opera Digest Award for New Actress in a Prime Time Soap Opera (1984)
1988 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Jane Spencer
1990 The Adventures of Ford Fairlane Colleen Sutton
1991 The Naked Gun 2+12: The Smell of Fear Jane SpencerNominated for a MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss
1993 Tales from the Crypt GinaEpisode: "Oil's Well That Ends Well"
1994 Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult Jane Spencer Drebin
1996 Melrose Place Nurse BensonEpisodes: "Peter's Excellent Adventure" "Full Metal Betsy" "Dead Sisters Walking"
1997 Touched by an Angel Dr. Meg SaulterEpisode: "Labor of Love"
1998Breakfast with EinsteinKeelinTV film
1999 Spin City Aunt Marie PaternoEpisodes: "Dick Clark's Rockin' Make-Out Party '99" and "Back to the Future IV: Judgment Day"
Hayley Wagner, StarSue WagnerTV film
2008Dancing with the StarsHerselfPlaced 8th
2019Wedding at GracelandHerselfTV film
2023Agent ElvisHerselfAlso co-creator, executive producer

Portrayals

Since 1979, Presley has been portrayed in several screen and TV films focusing on various aspects of her life with Elvis Presley, her husband from 1967 to 1973. Actresses who played Priscilla Presley include Season Hubley in Elvis , the 1979 TV movie; Susan Walters in Elvis and Me, a 1988 TV miniseries; Kehli O'Byrnein in Elvis and the Colonel, a 1993 TV movie; Alyson Court in Elvis Meets Nixon , 1997; Antonia Barnath in Elvis, a 2006 TV miniseries; Ashley Greene in Shangri-La Suite, 2016; Olivia de Jonge in Elvis , 2022; and Cailee Spaeny in Priscilla , 2023.

Bibliography

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Early life of Elvis Presley</span>

Elvis Aaron Presley, popularly known by his first name Elvis, was an American singer and actor. He was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and relocated to Memphis, Tennessee with his family at age 13. His music career began there in 1954, recording at Sun Records with producer Sam Phillips, who wanted to bring the sound of African-American music to a wider audience. Presley, on rhythm acoustic guitar, and accompanied by lead guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, was a pioneer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues. In 1955, drummer D. J. Fontana joined to complete the lineup of Presley's classic quartet and RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who would manage him for more than two decades.

References

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Sources