We may know things about peoples’ lives, but that doesn’t mean we know what’s in their hearts or understand the journey they’ve been on. That is true for all of us, but especially celebrities who are the subject of so much hearsay and gossip. That’s why it’s important to remember that speculation isn’t fact and rumors aren’t the truth and both can be destructive.
Take Priscilla Presley for instance. The public knows her as the only wife of Elvis Presley, the “King of Rock and Roll” and the mother of their only child, Lisa Marie Presley, who was once married to Michael Jackson. But what else do we really know about her?
We know that she spent five years of her acting career on the hit nighttime drama Dallas and that she showed off her comedic talent in the three Naked Gun films. We might also know that she is an astute businesswoman with her own fragrances, a line of fine bed linens and a new jewelry collection on QVC.
But for the most part we don’t know a lot about who Priscilla Presley is as a human being because she has been fiercely protective of her and her children’s privacy (in addition to Lisa Marie she has a son, Navarone) and has kept a very low profile over the years, which is quite understandable considering how she was thrust into the harsh spotlight at a very young age, and how Lisa Marie’s life has been unfairly sensationalized, scrutinized, and criticized by the paparazzi ever since she was a child.
Priscilla Presley has always remained somewhat in the background by her own choosing, so when the Nevada Ballet Theater chose to honor her as their 2011 “Woman of the Year” because of her contribution to the performing arts, her philanthropic work, and her connection to the Las Vegas community, and when it was confirmed that I was going to interview her for the January issue of Luxury Las Vegas magazine, I started doing my homework.
I knew that Cirque du Soleil had recently opened a new show here in Las Vegas called Viva Elvis, a high-energy fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music as a tribute to the King; but I didn’t know that Cirque had partnered with Elvis Presley Enterprises and that Priscilla was a consultant on the project.
As part of my research, I read Priscilla’s autobiography, Elvis and Me, in which she talked quite a bit about her life growing up and the years she was with Elvis. As the daughter of an Air Force officer, Priscilla was unhappily accustomed to moving from one military base to another every two or three years, which made it hard for her to make friends. When she found out the family was going to move yet again from Texas to Germany, Priscilla was devastated. It’s hard changing schools and having to make new friends, but to move to a foreign country with different customs and a different language can be traumatic, especially for a teenager.
Little did 14-year-old Priscilla know that it was in Germany that she would meet the 24-year-old rock n’ roll legend, Elvis Presley, who was finishing up his last six months of duty in the Army. Isn’t it amazing how good can come from what we perceive as bad, how a chance encounter or a certain set of fortuitous circumstances can radically and forever shape and alter the course of one’s life?
LIFE LESSON: Here is the translation of an ancient Chinese folktale called “The Lost Horse.” It’s the story of a Taoist farmer named Sei Weng who owned a beautiful mare which was praised far and wide. One day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”
A month later, the horse returned bringing with it a splendid wild stallion. Now the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good fortune for that enhanced the farmer’s wealth. “What makes you think this is good fortune,” he said.
While the farmer’s son was trying to break the horse, it threw him off its back and he broke his leg. Everyone tried to console both father and son, but Sei Weng said once again, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”
Soon thereafter war broke out and all the men of the village except for Sei Weng’s son were drafted into the Army and killed. Once again the neighbors commented on the father and son’s good fortune.
So was it fate, destiny, luck, Karma, or simply Priscilla’s youthful beauty, innocence, and devotion that captivated Elvis heart?
Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakably tender hand, placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
In her autobiography Priscilla candidly talks about the couple’s seven-and-a-half year courtship and how Elvis molded her to look and act like the woman he wanted her to be. On May 1, 1967, the King of Rock and Roll married his bride at the Aladdin Hotel (now Planet Hollywood) in Las Vegas. While millions of girls’ fantasies were crushed, Priscilla’s fairy tale had just come true and exactly nine months later on February 1, 1968, Lisa Marie was born.
Here are some photographs that will take you down memory lane.
But fairy tales don’t always have happy endings and Priscilla learned early on that fame is a double-edged sword. She had her prince, but she also paid a high price. Six years after their wedding and almost 14 years after they first met, Priscilla walked away from the marriage. On October 9, 1973 news of their divorce made headlines around the world, and at 28-years-old Priscilla was in charge of her life for the first time. Perhaps the greatest testament to their love was the fact that they remained friends after they split.
After Priscilla left Elvis she embarked on a transformational journey that led her to develop her own identity, discover her talents, and distinguish herself as an actress, author, producer, businesswoman, philanthropist, and environmental and animal rights activist.
Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.”
– Marianne Williamson
I had the pleasure of talking with Priscilla for three hours over the course of two days. It was obvious during our non-stop conversation that we both feel so deeply about things like protecting the planet and helping humankind. She may be soft-spoken, but she is quite willing to speak up about the things she is passionate about.
When I asked her what makes her angry, she didn’t hesitate. Here is a portion of what she had to say. “The beautiful parks are for everyone to use and then there are those few who abuse them. When people see litter, most times they’re like, ‘I didn’t do it so I’m not going to pick it up.’ Well guess what, it’s your responsibility because the other people are gone and we want it to look nice. We need to teach our children that it’s a cooperative effort. It’s about all of us working together. Everything has to be an accumulative effect. We get sloppy or lazy and throw something on the ground, the next person does the same thing and that’s what destroys the beauty of nature.
“Genetically-engineered food makes me angry. When I read about it, I wonder where we can move to. Our choices are being made for us by big corporations. It’s frightening. Places like Germany and England that are so community driven and into self-sufficiency are fighting against genetically engineered food. Why aren’t we? “It’s all about protecting the environment. I have my own garden where we don’t use insecticides or pesticides and the fruit tastes so much better. We use gray water and when we remodeled the house we used lumber that was certified green. I don’t have solar yet, but I will.
“People don’t understand the ramifications because they are disconnected from their environment. I don’t want to come across as condescending, but I want to wake people up to what’s happening. Someone has to deliver the message. I gave a lecture once and poured my heart out about how we need to find what we’re passionate about, whether it’s the elderly or education, and get involved. Afterward I had a book signing and a group of ladies came up and said it was a great talk. I said, ‘Thank you. Don’t forget you have to have a voice. Find what you’re passionate about and do something.’ And one woman said, ‘Oh no, we have you.’ My mouth fell open. I thought I was pretty clear that we all have to take part. It’s amazing how people don’t see themselves having to take responsibility. They want somebody else to do it for them.”
We talked about important life lessons and what words of wisdom she lives by. She said, “I like the saying, Less is more. Yes I live in a beautiful house and drive a nice car, but I don’t need multiple homes and possessions scattered all over. Some houses are like castles. I call them ‘monuments to excess.’ How much do you need? More things don’t bring you happiness. If anything they bring you less because you’re got more to worry about.”
Less is more. Yes I live in a beautiful house and drive a nice car, but I don’t need multiple homes and possessions scattered all over. Some houses are like castles. I call them ‘monuments to excess.’ How much do you need? More things don’t bring you happiness. If anything they bring you less because you’re got more to worry about.”
“We’re such a consumer society. I look at things and ask myself if I really need that. I don’t know if it’s something that happens as you get older, but I’m really content with less. When you simplify your life there is such peace of mind and you appreciate the simple things in life that bring you pleasure….Possessions are temporary…it’s about being comfortable with who you are. When you are content with yourself, you don’t have to prove anything or compete with anyone. It’s not about getting, it’s about giving.”
For the past ten years Priscilla has been a spokeswoman for the Dream Foundation, which is the only organization that helps dreams come true for adults with life threatening illnesses.
Priscilla also did a very brave thing when she appeared on Dancing with the Stars. I’ve had my own ballroom dance experience which I wrote about in another post called I Could Have Danced All Night and I applaud Priscilla because I know first-hand the long hours and hard work it took to make this dance look so elegant and effortless. It’s especially poignant and touching because Priscilla and her partner Louis van Amstel are dancing to Elvis singing the song “Surrender.” It’s as if he was there watching over her and I know how very proud he would be of the woman Priscilla Presley has become.
Priscilla has such a kind, sensitive, caring spirit, and a tremendous compassion for humanity. You can read my full interview with Priscilla as it appeared in Luxury Las Vegas Magazine by going to Up Close and Personal with Priscilla Presley.
Here is a comment written by one of the readers, Gigi Ballester. “This is one of the best articles I’ve read about Ms. Presley. She is a beautiful, caring, accomplished and fascinating woman. Besides caring about our environment, she has managed to maintain a very healthy familial environment for her children and grandchildren. Her relationship with her parents apparently is reflective of that. It is very apparent that she still loves and cares for Elvis. They were an amazing couple. More power to her and her endeavors in business and her many charitable involvements.”