Being the wife of a rock legend might sound great, but for Priscilla Presley it was a dark and confusing time. She eventually opened up about the uncomfortable things her ex-husband, King of Pop Elvis Presley, made her do and how he controlled her life choices. But the turmoil later escalated even further, with Priscilla recalling that things had gotten “very scary” in their home — and the details aren’t easy to read.
It took Priscilla Presley until adulthood before she learned the truth behind a dark childhood secret. She’d always assumed the man she’d grown up with was her father, an Air Force officer named Paul Beaulieu. But as it turned out, her mother had in fact gotten remarried. Her biological father, a US Navy pilot named James Wagner, had died in a plane crash when she was just six months old.
Eventually she discovered the truth in a dusty box of old keepsakes, but her mom told her not to tell her half-siblings. Back in the early days, her family had moved around a lot because of Priscilla’s assumed dad Paul’s work in the Air Force. And that was precisely how Priscilla met a certain someone.
Priscilla Was Only 14 When She Met Elvis
Paul’s job brought the Beaulieu family to Germany in the late 1950s. That’s where Priscilla met the legendary King of Rock. Already extraordinarily famous, he’d stolen the world’s heart with crooners like “Heartbreak Hotel” and the feverish “Blue Suede Shoes,” not to mention the rebellious, scandalous sway of his hips. He was 25 years old — but Priscilla was shockingly young, just 14.
Upon encountering this powerful young internationally beloved superstar, one might have expected Priscilla to have been starstruck in the presence of Elvis. But it turns out it was exactly the opposite. Elvis was extremely nervous, and acted very awkward around Priscilla. And for good reason.
She Originally Thought He Was ‘Gross’
Before Priscilla Presley had ever met her future husband, she was actually quite repulsed by him. She had tons of friends who loved him, but she didn’t quite agree with the debaucherous rock n’ roll lifestyle he was endorsing. On Australia’s Today Show in 2017, Priscilla talked about a fan club magazine that her friends would look at, and how there was a picture of Elvis “signing this blonde woman” in a place that was inappropriate.
She recalled, “There’s no way I could be a part of this fan club. It’s really gross.” But on the day that Priscilla actually met Elvis in person, her opinions started to change. Even though he was awkward around her, he must’ve had some charm up his sleeve, because she was out with him late into the night.
Her Parents’ Disapproval
But it wouldn’t be long before Elvis would face the mighty wrath of Priscilla’s parents. After all, she was still incredibly young, and he was a grown young adult. On the same day that he met Priscilla, he returned her home at a rather late hour — and her parents were far from happy. In fact, they laid down the law, stating that the music icon was never to see their daughter again.
But Elvis had a way with words. He subsequently promised Priscilla Beaulieu’s parents that he would never have her out that late ever again. Apparently this was enough to win them over, because they finally agreed to let him see their daughter frequently. And it was a good thing too, because Elvis really needed the support at the time.
Priscilla Was His Crying Shoulder
Priscilla stole Elvis’ heart in more ways than one, not least of which was by being a shoulder for him to cry on. This was at a very sensitive time in his life. His mother Gladys had just died unexpectedly, a few months after he’d enlisted to the army. Now, he was far from home, on foreign deployment with his division.
“I saw him at probably one of the most vulnerable times of his life,” Priscilla revealed to Today. “He poured his heart out to me.” When Elvis left Germany, he proved to Priscilla that she wasn’t just some seasonal fling. The King kept in touch with her over the phone, maintaining a long-distance relationship for two years before they saw each other again. But Priscilla had reasons to doubt the rocker’s loyalty.
During their long-distance relationship, Priscilla had heard rumors about Elvis’ apparent romance with singer Nancy Sinatra. This led her to believe that Elvis wasn’t serious about her, but he quelled those doubts by inviting her to move in with him. However, rumors lingered that Elvis had been unfaithful to Priscilla during these early years.
He even admitted to having an affair with Ann-Margret, his co-star in the film Viva Las Vegas. So even though Priscilla and Elvis seemed close, behind the scenes of their early years, he was still maintaining a double life. In addition, some shady details were to surround their future marriage itself.
Possibly Forced Marriage
After living with Priscilla in Memphis for years, Elvis finally proposed to her in Christmas of 1966. However, there were some strange rumors regarding the details of this proposal. For instance, there was a claim that Priscilla had threatened to tell the press about their relationship if he didn’t pop the question soon (apparently their tandem was still a secret at the time).
Another slightly more ominous rumor was that Priscilla’s father, Paul Beaulieu, threatened Elvis in a much different way. Paul claimed that Elvis had once taken a minor across state lines, and Paul allegedly threatened to reveal this information if Elvis didn’t propose. But even when the wedding finally came around, it too was destined to be far from normal.
The Eight-Minute Ceremony
After all the drama, Priscilla and Elvis finally exchanged vows at the Las Vegas Aladdin Hotel. It was May 1967, and media tabloids were eager to get a piece of the action. It would have been safe to assume that the wedding would be a massive occasion. After all, this was the King of Rock himself, tying the knot more than a decade after his explosive rise to stardom.
But in fact, the entire ceremony took a total of just eight minutes. That’s not exactly the fairy tale wedding that most young ladies dream of. Sure, Priscilla was now married to the man so many others pined for. But the hard life as a rockstar’s wife was about to get even more frustrating.
No Control Of Her Life
Although Priscilla Presley enjoyed being a stay-at-home housewife, she claimed that Elvis was pretty possessive in their relationship. He would dictate what she wore, what her interests were, and many other things in her life. She told The Guardian in a 2015 interview: “‘He was very opinionated on what he wanted: ‘I don’t like you in that color. Brown isn’t good for you. Green looks horrible, it’s a dull color with no spark to it.’”
Despite her relishing the opportunity to pamper him with the cooking, cleaning, and overall playing house, she still had to do it on his strict terms. But those weren’t even the half of the hardships she had to deal with as his wife.
Elvis Tried To Prevent Her Aging
Priscilla Presley was more than a decade younger than Elvis, and yet he was obsessively worried about her getting older. He would do things to make her self-conscious about her appearance, as documented by Priscilla herself: “He would slap me on my forehead and say, ‘Don’t do that, it gives you wrinkles on your forehead.’ I didn’t even think about wrinkles back then!”
These kinds of comments were basic foundations for the overwhelming sense of negativity she would come to feel. But unfortunately it didn’t end there. In addition to the age-shaming, there was another dark facet of their relationship that she would come forward with in later years: aggression.
Scared Of Her Husband
Even though Priscilla loved her husband, she didn’t always feel safe in his presence. She explained to The Guardian that she felt genuinely afraid during moments when Elvis felt particularly aggressive. This was especially true when he was holding his .357 Magnum gun.
According to Priscilla, he would even pop off a shot towards his television set if he was bothered about something: “It’s funny now. But scary at first. Very scary. There was no warning.” She also recalled certain times where he would randomly grasp his gun while looking at someone he didn’t really like. This frightening behavior had an effect on other aspects of their life too.
Nervous About Her Pregnancy
Not long after Elvis and Priscilla Presley had gotten married, she learned that she was expecting a baby. This made her nervous because of previous comments she had heard her husband make in the past, with him even saying that women sometimes use “pregnancy as an excuse to let themselves go.”
Similar to other times, this made her insecure about her body, even causing her to go so far as to consider having an abortion. However, the pair both couldn’t bear to go through with it. Eventually Priscilla gave birth to daughter Lisa Marie Presley on February 1st, 1968. Nonetheless, it was comments like this that made Priscilla begin to really doubt herself as a woman. When would she reach her boiling point?
Living In A ‘Bubble’
Living the rockstar life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that applies to everyone in their family. Priscilla Presley had already felt like every aspect of her life was being controlled by her husband, but conditions eventually became rather extreme. She wasn’t able to go where she wanted, or live any kind of normal life.
As she later explained, “We didn’t go out. He didn’t like eating in restaurants because people would take pictures of him and he didn’t want to be shot putting a fork in his mouth.” Within the confines of her own lavish home, she felt trapped. But despite her deteriorating situation, there was still one thing she could control.
Always Made Up
Even though Priscilla’s patience and willpower were being broken down, she still felt compelled to make herself look presentable to her husband. She was determined not to lose Elvis to another woman on the road, so she made sure that he would never see her without her makeup on.
She also never let him watch her putting it on, maintaining the illusion that she “woke up like that.” As she put it, “There are things you keep to yourself.” Priscilla also said that she made an effort to imitate the looks and styles of other famous women of the day, to keep Elvis interested. But eventually, the other shoe had to drop.
The Karate Instructor Affair
Priscilla Presley had been trying for years and years to maintain her husband’s interest, but after not receiving the emotional and physical support she needed, she responded in her own way. After starting to take karate lessons at Elvis’ suggestion, she and her instructor Mike Stone struck up an intimate bond.
This bond eventually grew into something much stronger, and soon evolved into an all-out affair. Elvis didn’t expect this at all, and it actually made him realize the fault in his ways. But by the time he tried to reconcile things with Priscilla, it was too little too late for her. Elvis, however, was still fuming towards Stone.
Divorces And Dark Desires
The affair between Priscilla Presley and Mike Stone tore a hole in her marriage with Elvis. By that point, it was hard for either of them to look past it, and eventually she and her husband made the decision that it was time to get divorced. Their split was surprisingly amicable, and they both moved on as friends. However, Elvis still had some unfinished business with Mike Stone.
Even though Stone was still in a relationship with Priscilla, Elvis allegedly thought about arranging someone to end the karate instructor’s life. According to reports, Elvis had stated, “There’s too much pain in me. Stone must die.” However, the frontman backed out of these alleged plans, and nothing became of it. Priscilla, on the other hand, was receiving something much nicer.
Priscilla’s Big Payday
After getting divorced from Elvis, Priscilla received quite a hefty sum of money. First of all, she received $725,000 in cash. That would amount to roughly $4.2 million in today’s currency. She was also given the rights to child support, spousal support, and half the money that would eventually be earned from the pair’s Beverly Hills mansion.
If all that wasn’t enough, she was given a 5% stake in her husband’s lucrative publishing company. When Elvis Presley eventually passed away, which came far, far sooner than anyone could have imagined, she would come to control a lot more than that.
Denial Of His Death
When Elvis passed away suddenly in 1977, it hit the world like a ton of bricks. And it’s safe to say that no one took it quite as hard as Priscilla. In fact, she couldn’t really process the information when it happened. She told Today in an interview, “It was shocking. He was in the hospital lots of times and he always made it through.”
In the aftermath of this tragedy, Priscilla Presley opened up about who Elvis had been deep down. She explained that beyond the macho persona he presented both on stage and screen, “He really was alone. He really didn’t have a peer, not with a group and not really with anyone.” And that’s when she decided to cherish his memory in other ways.
Graceland The Attraction
Two years after Elvis had died, Priscilla was given the reigns over his Graceland estate. Although this palace was worth millions of dollars, it had also cost a fortune to maintain. and that’s when Priscilla had the ingenious idea of turning it into a tourist attraction.
By opening up the iconic Memphis landmark to the public, she would not only make a beautiful profit, but also be able to honor her late ex-husband’s memory by allowing his fans to pay tribute to him. In fact, it was so profitable that their investment was recouped a mere four weeks after Graceland opened. Indeed, Priscilla’s career was starting to thrive, and in more ways than one.
Making A Name For Herself
It wasn’t long before Priscilla Presley broke out of being known as just Elvis’ ex-wife. She began to thrive as a businesswoman, becoming president and chairwoman of Elvis Presley Enterprises, which she helped turn into a $100 million company. Priscilla also dipped her professional skills into the fashion and fragrance industries, working with the famous stylist Olivia Bis.
If that wasn’t enough, she also became a respectable actress. Priscilla Presley appeared in the decade-defining classic ’80s series Dallas, and The Naked Gun comedy film trilogy. More recently, she was a contestant on the popular reality show, Dancing With The Stars. But beyond her professional life, Priscilla’s romantic life started to blossom as well.
The Other Men In Her Life
Priscilla Presley maintained a relatively steady string of romantic relationships after being married to Elvis. The first one was obviously her karate instructor Mike Stone, who she stayed with up until 1975. Eventually, however, she moved on to other men, including the likes of lawyer Robert Kardashian, photographer Terry O’Neill, and financier Kirk Kerkorian.
In more recent years, whispers have circulated that she and the famous singer Tom Jones had been together, but she has since dismissed these rumors. By this point in her life, it wasn’t just the men in her life she was worried about. It was the men in her daughter’s life as well.
Worried About Michael Jackson
Priscilla Presley had once been married to the King of Rock. Now she worried about her daughter’s relationship with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. “I just didn’t know if it was authentic or not. I just worried about if she was doing the right thing,” Priscilla recalled thinking, concerned as to what his agenda was. Similar to her mother, Lisa Marie had met Jackson when she was just a little girl (seven, to be exact), while he was already famous.
Nearly 20 years later, Jackson invited Lisa Marie to live in Neverland Ranch, even though she was married at the time. Secretly getting hitched in the Dominican Republic, their four-year marriage caused a stir in the press, no less thanks to a visibly awkward onstage kiss at the 1994 VMAs. Lisa Marie, like her mother, clearly had a fondness for musicians — which makes this following fact about Priscilla all the more surprising.
Priscilla Almost Never Saw Elvis Perform
Even though Priscilla Presley met her future husband in the late ’50s, it took her nearly ten years before she actually saw him perform on stage. That means after hours and hours of talking on the phone, years of living together, and even years of marriage — the main crux of Elvis’ stage persona was a mystery to her!
In 1968, Priscilla finally saw her hubby take the stage in front of an adoring crowd, and she found herself surprised about how impressed she was. On the Good Morning Britain talk show, she recalled what that experience was like: “I loved being his wife. I loved taking care of him. So, when I saw him on stage it was like, ‘Oh my God I get it.’” Beyond show business, Priscilla had some passions of her own.
When Elvis died in 1977, Priscilla Presley was obviously going through some hard times. In that year, she devoted her passion to the Church of Scientology. This was helped by fellow celebrity John Travolta, who at the time was also a follower of the controversial practice.
Presley went on to raise Lisa Marie to follow it, but in 2014 her daughter decided to get out. Her daughter explained that Scientology had been taking her soul, her money, her everything. Three years later, Priscilla followed in her daughter’s footsteps and left the Church of Scientology too. And yet she was still getting attracted to the spirit world in other ways.
Even though Elvis passed away over 40 years ago, Priscilla claims that she still receives communication from him. She explained to The Guardian, “When I go to Graceland, my gosh, I can walk in that door and see him walking down the stairs, I can hear laughter, I can hear the music playing in the music room. It’s a very surreal feeling. But it’s not scary, it’s beautiful.”
Even when Priscilla walks into random record stores, she recalls how she still gets reminded of her late ex-husband: “I’ll be in a store and ‘White Christmas’ will be playing and hearing his voice still has an impact.” After all they went through, it’s a great testament to their love that she still feels those special moments.
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