Just moments before Elvis Presley boarded a plane to the US from Germany, where he’d been stationed as an Army sergeant, he shared a private goodbye with his girl, Priscilla Beaulieu, who would eventually become his wife, Priscilla Presley. “He was my life. That’s all I thought about. I waited for him to call me every night,” Priscilla exclusively told Closer Weekly of her feelings on that day in 1960, when she was a lonely 14-year-old living in Wiesbaden, where her Air Force officer dad also served.
In their fleeting farewell, she said, “[Elvis told me] if he saw a sad face in the papers, that would make him sad. He told me he’d wave to me from the top of the stairs, and I waved back and put a smile on my face. I didn’t think I’d ever see him again in my wildest dreams.” But their fate was sealed. Their first meeting in September 1959 set Priscilla and Elvis on a course that changed both their lives. Through their nearly eight-year courtship, battles with her parents, wedding jitters, and the birth of their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, the couple became one of the most-watched in the world.
Now Priscilla, 72, has “made the decision to talk about my life,” she said at Elvis and Me: An Evening With Priscilla Presley, in Australia on Nov. 6. “Over 800 books have been written about Elvis,” she pointed out. “I realized how much misinformation is out there. Either it’s been altered, they’re lies [or] they’re somebody else’s perception.” Priscilla then shared their story in her own words and revealed new details about the hopes, fears, and dreams of the Elvis only she knew. Said Priscilla, “I want to just tell it like it is.”
Priscilla at age 16 in Germany in 1960. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Priscilla still remembers the thrill of meeting Elvis for the first time. “I’ll never forget it,” she said. But there were early obstacles — namely, her parents. When she asked permission to attend a party to which she’d been invited with the entertainer, “My father said, ‘Absolutely not!’ My mother said, ‘I won’t let you walk across the street to see Elvis Presley!’” Priscilla recalled. “I knew this was going to be a battle.”
But she won, and “it was all very proper… He was sitting in a chair with one leg over it and he looks over the back and said, ‘Well, who do we have here?’” She worried her age would be a problem, but Elvis didn’t care. “He started talking to me about who was popular, and I told him about Bobby Darin, Fabian, Bobby Rydell. His biggest fear was, because of being away from music, the fans would move on to other singers.”
When Elvis wanted to see her again, her parents still resisted. “My father interrogated me! He wanted to know, ‘What happened the first night? Why does he want to see you again?’” she said. And he wanted to size Elvis up in person. So, the King showed up at their house “in full uniform. He came absolutely decked out in white gloves, hat, everything!” Priscilla marveled. “Already he won my father over! They talked for an hour and a half.”
Elvis and Priscilla on their 1967 wedding day. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Her parents were so charmed by Elvis, they agreed to let Priscilla move to Graceland three years later. Her life there “was lonely,” she admitted, as she lived among Elvis’ friends and family. And Priscilla was, in essence, hidden away. “There were no pictures of us ever taken,” she explained. Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ powerful manager, “didn’t really want Elvis [to have] a steady girlfriend.” He still worried about Elvis’ fans deserting him. “He was kind. He just didn’t want [fans] to know I was ‘the one.’”
After seven years of courtship, even Parker couldn’t keep their relationship under wraps, especially after Elvis popped the question. The couple had code names they used between themselves, and on the night he proposed, “he knocked and gave me his code name: Fire Eyes. When he got angry his eyes would look like fire!” she said. “But [that night] he was in a good mood.” She shares that Elvis got down on his knees to say, “‘Remember when I told you when the time was right we’d get married? Well, the time is right.’ It was just before I was 21.”
Planning the wedding was a big undercover operation, as their efforts to keep their love out of the spotlight continued. Priscilla revealed that to avoid the press, they sneaked away from Las Vegas’ Aladdin Hotel at 3 a.m. to get their marriage license. They both were “very nervous,” she said. “I didn’t want anyone to know about [the wedding] until after the fact.” It went off without a hitch on May 1, 1967, and Priscilla swears she and Elvis didn’t consummate their relationship until their wedding night: “That was a promise he made to my father.”
The couple was relieved to finally be married, but his fans weren’t happy. “Hate mail started coming in,” she said. “It was hard on me.” Still, fans had to accept the marriage when their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, arrived nine months to the day after the wedding. “Elvis was a great dad,” Priscilla pointed out, even though he “was a nervous wreck” on that day and they drove to the wrong hospital.
Elvis was a doting dad, but “he had a hard time watching babies eat because they’d be drooling all over,” she remarked; she’d bring Lisa to the table after she’d been fed. “And no, he did not change diapers. Not one. Not ever. That wasn’t a man’s job.” What Elvis viewed as his job was to give his daughter everything, including a fur coat. “I didn’t let her have it much because she was three!” Priscilla admitted. “Even when she lost a tooth, he gave her five bucks. I said, ‘Look, you can’t give her five dollars!’” But Elvis would say, “She’s Elvis Presley’s daughter!”
Things changed between the couple after Lisa’s birth. “It was really difficult because we would still go out at night,” Priscilla said. “Elvis kept up his lifestyle.” And she knew he wasn’t faithful. She turned a blind eye “for as long as I could. But I did know that there was some finagling going on.” Ultimately, she admits there was infidelity on both sides. By 1972, Priscilla had enough of their diverging lives. She filed for divorce, which became final in 1973 — but she and Elvis remained friends.
Lisa Marie, Elvis, and Priscilla in 1970. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Elvis, she said, seemed increasingly unhappy. “He didn’t really know where he was going with his career, and of course there was our divorce. Things came down at the same time,” she said. Making him feel worse was the 1977 book Elvis: What Happened? which came out just before Elvis’ death. Written by three of his cronies, Red and Sonny West, and Dave Hebler, its tagline was “The dark another side of the brightest star in the world.” Priscilla calls it “horrible. It was such a betrayal.”
The men have said they wrote it to try to shake Elvis out of his spiraling drug addiction, a topic Priscilla rarely talks about — although she admitted she took diet pills with Elvis to stay awake as far back as 1963. Red West, who died last July, once said, “Everything in that book is the truth.” Although he admitted, “I wrote the book to try to save him and to make money.” Elvis died on Aug. 16, 1977, and Priscilla said that day “was the eeriest I had ever experienced… It’s like the world stood still. I just couldn’t believe my ears. Not him.” Even today, Priscilla said, “It’s still hard,” but she’s worked to keep Elvis’ legacy alive, through sharing their story. And she’s helped build his estate, which is worth an estimated $300 million.
Now, Priscilla concentrates on enjoying time with Lisa, 49, whom she’s “trying to push to write more music,” she said, and her grandchildren, Riley Keough, 28, Benjamin Keough, 25, and twins Finley and Harper Lockwood, 9. “They’re very, very special to me.” And she finds comfort in the fact that Elvis is still so beloved. “He never would have believed that his popularity is still going and people still love and care for him,” she said. But they do. And so does she. “He was so much a part of my life in every way,” Priscilla said. “He was everything to me. My confidante, my husband, my everything.”
Priscilla and Lisa Marie in 2013. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
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