Inside the Presley familys tragic legacy of addiction, heartbreak & death


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New York Post

Three generations of Presley women stepped on stage at Graceland last weekend, the ghost of the King of rock ’n’ roll all around them, for a screening of the much-anticipated movie “Elvis.”

Priscilla Presley, daughter Lisa Marie Presley and granddaughter Riley Keough were at the Memphis mansion that Elvis called home, to introduce director Baz Luhrmann’s biopic starring Austin Butler as the icon.

As Riley, 33, has previously stated, she broke down in tears while watching the movie for the first time with her mom and grandma. “I started crying five minutes in and didn’t stop. There’s a lot of family trauma and generational trauma that started around then for our family.”

That multi-generational trauma has included addiction, divorce and tragic death.

For Lisa Marie, 54, the screening was her first public appearance since the devastating loss of her son Benjamin Keough, 27, who committed suicide in July 2020.

She had not joined her mom and daughter at the film’s official premiere at Cannes Film Festival in May. As she was introduced by Luhrmann, Lisa Marie was greeted by screams of “We love you, Lisa” from the audience. “I love you too,” she replied.

Elvis Presley met future wife Priscilla Beaulieu when she was just 14 and he was enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. Daughter Lisa Marie was born almost nine months to the day after their 1967 wedding.Elvis Presley met future wife Priscilla Beaulieu when she was just 14 and he was enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. Daughter Lisa Marie was born almost nine months to the day after their 1967 wedding.

Popperfoto via Getty Images

The new film "Elvis," directed by Baz Luhrmann, tells the rise-and-fall story of Elvis Presley — and is already beloved by his family, including granddaughter Riley Keough, daughter Lisa Marie Presley and ex-wife Priscilla Presley. But the family has been beset by tragedy for decades.The new film “Elvis,” directed by Baz Luhrmann, tells the rise-and-fall story of Elvis Presley — and is already beloved by his family, including granddaughter Riley Keough, daughter Lisa Marie Presley and ex-wife Priscilla Presley. But the family has been beset by tragedy for decades.

GAB Archive/Redferns; Eric Charbonneau/Shutters­tock

In a video seen by The Post, she told the crowd: “My life is a little bit kind of down right now. You’re pulling me up. so thank you.

“I’m so proud of this movie, I really am … To be honest, I haven’t really left my house for the last two years unless it has to do with my children, so to get me to leave like California and fly to Memphis and be here, aside from coming to visit my [son’s grave, at Graceland], it’s a big deal.”

The Post is told that Lisa Marie, who has been open over the years about her struggles with addiction, continues to be supported by her first husband, Danny Keough, the father of Benjamin and Riley. The couple, who were married from 1998 to 1994, are living together once again — albeit platonically.

Austin Butler stars in the new film “Elvis," about the hip-shaking rise of the star.Austin Butler stars in the new film “Elvis,” about the hip-shaking rise of the star.

Warner Bros.

The pair are residing with Lisa Marie’s 13-year-old twin daughters, Harper and Finley Lockwood — whose father is musician Michael Lockwood, her fourth husband — in the Calabasas area of Los Angeles. She sold the nearby house where Benjamin died for $2 million in March 2021.

“They’re friends. it’s nothing romantic,” a family source said told The Post. “They are two parents grieving.”

Over the years, Priscilla, now 77, has fiercely protected Elvis’ legacy and largely been the one responsible for running his estate. And she has given this movie her full support, telling the Graceland crowd: “I’ve never been so enthusiastic about a film, an Elvis film, as I am this.”

Lisa Marie Presley said she has barely left home since the death of son Benjamin Keough, 27, by suicide in 2020.Lisa Marie Presley said she has barely left home since the death of son Benjamin Keough, 27, by suicide in 2020.

Getty Images

Although long divorced, Lisa Marie and first husband Danny Keough — Benjamin's father — are living together, platonically, as they grieve their son.Although long divorced, Lisa Marie and first husband Danny Keough — Benjamin’s father — are living together, platonically, as they grieve their son.

Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In May, Riley told Variety how Luhrmann sat down with her and her relatives for several hours before he started filming “Elvis.”

The family also gave the director inside access to Graceland, but they had no control over the finished product. “At the end of the day, we’re not going to tell Baz Luhrmann how to make a movie,” Riley said.

The film follows Elvis from his dirt-poor childhood in Tupelo, Miss., and Memphis, to his chance meeting with controlling manager Colonel Tom Parker — played by Tom Hanks — through to his final shambolic years dressed in rhinestones on a Vegas stage.

Lisa Marie's second marriage, to Michael Jackson, ended in an ultimatum in which he chose drugs over her.Lisa Marie’s second marriage, to Michael Jackson, ended in an ultimatum in which he chose drugs over her.

Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

While married to Jackson, Lisa Marie co-starred in his music video for "You Are Not Alone."While married to Jackson, Lisa Marie co-starred in his music video for “You Are Not Alone.”

Presley was already a superstar when he was sent to Germany as part of the Korean War, after being drafted into the Army in 1958.

It was there that he met Priscilla Beaulieu, who was only 14 years old to his 24. The young teen was living on a West German base with her mom and stepdad, a US Air Force captain, when she was invited to a party at the house Elvis had rented in Bad Nauheim.

As Priscilla told People magazine in 2021, she knew immediately she “had to keep him … I wanted to go places with him. I would cry if I couldn’t be around him.”

Nicolas Cage was Lisa Marie's third husband, in a marriage that lasted three years. Nicolas Cage was Lisa Marie’s third husband, in a marriage that lasted three years.

WireImage

In 1963, three years after Elvis returned to the States, Priscilla’s parents let her move from Germany to Memphis — initially on the condition that she live with the singer’s father and stepmother in their home a mile away from Graceland. Four years later, when Elvis was 32 and Priscilla was 21, they married.

In a 1985 interview with Barbara Walters, Priscilla insisted that Elvis refused to sleep with her until they wed, saying: “There was an agreement he made with himself that the woman he decided to take for his wife he was going to keep her that way until he married her … Somewhere in his past, he said he wanted a virgin.”

Elvis controlled her looks, her clothes, her hair, even her makeup, Priscilla said. “I was definitely under a spell of what I thought was love.”

Almost nine months to the day after the couple’s 1967 wedding, Lisa Marie, their only child, was born.

Lisa Marie and fourth husbandMichael Lockwood are involved in a nasty divorce and custody battle. Lisa Marie and fourth husband Michael Lockwood are involved in a nasty divorce and custody battle.

FilmMagic

But after the baby’s birth, Priscilla said, Elvis no longer wanted to have sex with her.

As he turned to pills — having become hooked on barbiturates and stimulants during his time in the military — Priscilla could no longer cope. They divorced in 1973.

On the night of Aug. 16, 1977, Lisa Marie, then 9 years old, saw her father for the last time, not long before he was found dead in a Graceland bathroom by his girlfriend Ginger Alden. (The official cause of death was heart failure, brought on by his pill addiction.) His body remained in the house for three days, which Lisa Marie later said she found “comforting.”

Before Elvis’s death, the Church of Scientology had come calling according to Scientology expert Tony Ortega, in a bid to recruit celebrities.

Ortega told The Post that Elvis had said “What the hell is this thing?” of the religion. “Elvis wanted nothing to do with it…but Priscilla got sucked in,” Ortega told The Post.

Priscilla and Elvis, seen here with a young Lisa Marie, divorced in 1973 after he lost interest in sex with his wife and turned to pills.Priscilla and Elvis, seen here with a young Lisa Marie, divorced in 1973 after he lost interest in sex with his wife and turned to pills.

WireImage

After Elvis died, former Scientologist Sylvia “Spanky” Taylor said John Travolta sent her over to see Priscilla, who had found books on Scientology among his belongings and was curious. She recruited Priscilla, who brought up Lisa Marie in the church, who then raised her two oldest children, Riley and Benjamin, in Scientology as well.

Lisa Marie, who has said that a boyfriend of Priscilla’s tried to seduce her when she was young, reportedly met musician Danny Keough through the church at age 17. She had dropped out of school.

Six years and two kids later, the couple divorced. In 1994, she wed Michael Jackson, just weeks after her divorce was finalized and he had settled a $23 million lawsuit with the family of a 13-year-old boy he was accused of abusing. This star-crossed union — which included public make-out sessions to convince a skeptical public of their love — lasted 20 months. It ended, she told Oprah Winfrey in an interview, over an ultimatum: He had to choose drugs or her.

Presley remarried and had son Navarone Garibaldi (above).Presley remarried and had son Navarone Garibaldi (above).

Getty Images

Later, Lisa Marie also had a doomed marriage to actor Nicolas Cage from 2001 to 2004.

“We’re all going to screw up,” as she told Marie Claire magazine in 2007. “The important thing is, do you learn from it and not do it again? Can you make it better in the future? Can you change? Because, Lord knows, I’ve f–ked up many, many times.”

She said that leaving her first marriage to marry Jackson was “probably the biggest mistake of my life.”

Lisa Marie, who tried her hand at singing over the years, filed for divorce from her fourth husband, Lockwood, in 2016 after a decade of marriage. The couple share their twin daughters, who lived with Priscilla at the height of the divorce battle, and are still embroiled in a fight over money. At one point, Lisa Marie claimed she had found child pornography on Lockwood’s computer, which Lockwood said was untrue. They will meet again in court this summer.

Lisa Marie opened up about her own struggles with opioids in 2019.Lisa Marie opened up about her own struggles with opioids in 2019.

Kevin Winter

In 2019, Lisa Marie opened up about her addiction to painkillers and opioids in the foreword for Harry Nelson’s book “The United States of Opioids: A Prescription for Liberating a Nation in Pain.”

“I was recovering after the [2008] birth of my daughters, Vivienne and Finley, when a doctor prescribed me opioids for pain,” she wrote. “It only took a short-term prescription of opioids in the hospital for me to feel the need to keep taking them.”

Lisa Marie also battled to leave Scientology, according to Ortega.

He believes that “You Aint Seen Nothing Yet,” a song on her 2012 album, “ Read more – New York Post

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