Priscilla Presley Talks About Life With the King

By: Alexa Danner
Source: ABC
September 17, 2007

Elvis Presley was one of the most beloved performing artists of all time, a man who will continue to have a profound impact on music for generations to come. Thirty years after his death, his legacy endures, and he continues to enjoy a celebrity that many only dream of.

But behind closed doors, Elvis lived a very different life. He surrounded himself with people he trusted, holding them close and revealing his true self only to them.

In an intimate interview with ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, Elvis' ex-wife Priscilla Presley reflects upon her years spent with Elvis and reveals some exclusive anecdotes about the man behind the pomp.

Priscilla Beaulieu and Elvis Presley
Priscilla Beaulieu and Elvis Presley.

The fascination with the private life of the 'King' is a phenomenon that can be partly explained by the 'electric charisma' he exhibited onstage and on the silver screen. Everyone wanted a piece of Elvis, and even today fans still claim a piece of him as their own.

Before Priscilla was Elvis' wife, she was a fan. Although her parents forbade her to watch Elvis on television, she sneaked her first peek of him on the 'Ed Sullivan Show' through the crack of a door.

As a young adolescent, she didn't quite understand the controversy surrounding the handsome singer, who with a shake of his hips was revolutionizing the world of rock 'n' roll. But like many others, she was drawn to him and began listening to Elvis' albums. She even joined his fan club.

Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley
Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley.

When Priscilla was 14 years old and living on a military base in Germany with her family, a strange opportunity presented itself. An older acquaintance introduced her to Elvis at an autograph signing. Presley was in the Army at that point and stationed nearby. Priscilla and the 24-year-old Presley began seeing each other several times a week for the next few months.

Priscilla said her parents were apprehensive about the situation at first, but they ultimately changed their minds. 'Well, after they met Elvis they -- you know, Elvis could talk his way out of a paper bag', said Priscilla. 'I mean, he literally was charming. It threw my parents. They were totally taken aback by him'. Elvis' mother had died not long before and he seemed to be in need of companionship and nurturing. Priscilla immediately assumed the role of caregiver and despite their age difference, she became one of Elvis' closest confidantes.

Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley
Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley.

'I was truly interested in the things he had to say', said Priscilla. 'I had a lot of compassion for him. I really felt what he felt. I really didn't come with any preconceived ideas. I didn't come with any hopes and dreams of marriage'. After a yearlong international courtship, Priscilla moved back to the United States to be with Elvis. Still in high school, Priscilla worked her life around his schedule.

'I'd do my homework while he was still sleeping sometimes so that I could not have to do it when he was awake, so that would take time away from him', she said. 'I catered to him basically hand and foot'.

Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley
Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley.

They were in love, but there were difficulties. Elvis was always in the public eye and there were rumors of other women. His movie career wasn't going quite the way he wanted and he was continually disappointed. But confronting him about their problems only seemed to make them worse, so Priscilla learned to do things his way. That meant being up for anything at any time and accommodating his desires. It also meant hanging out with his entourage. When Elvis proposed, Priscilla said it was a romantic moment, but that she knew their life together would be more complicated. 'That was all part of the deal is that I didn't just marry Elvis', said Priscilla. 'I married the group. It was very difficult to maintain that relationship because that was understood that he always had people around, he liked having people around. That was his life'. Over time, the burden of Elvis' career hiccups and his unpredictable lifestyle began to take their toll on the marriage, ultimately resulting in a divorce. But even after their marriage broke up, Priscilla remained a caretaker and friend. She remembers her late husband with fondness and respect. 'Elvis had more compassion in his little nail, in his finger, than I'd say this planet', said Priscilla. But one thing is for sure, she said, 'being with Elvis was never normal'.

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