The Elvis Presley ‘curse’ continues: Lisa Marie death is latest chapter in tragic tale
Lisa Marie Presley’s tragic early death at the age of 54 has further deepened despair among her father’s fans who insist the family has been cursed since the stillbirth of his identical twin brother Jesse.
Lisa Marie, The King’s only child and sole heir to his Graceland estate, went into cardiac arrest at her LA home yesterday afternoon and died in hospital with her mother Priscilla by her side.
Lisa Marie suffered a tragic and chaotic life that began for her when she found her father dead on the floor of the bathroom when she was just nine and he was 42 in August 1977.
And, heartbreakingly, today it emerged she herself was found unresponsive at home when her ex-husband brought her two children back from school, just days after she appeared vulnerable and unsteady at the Golden Globe Awards as she struggled to cope with the suicide of her son in July 2020.
Many Elvis fans believe that the Presley family is cursed in the same way the Kennedy dynasty has been and Lisa Marie’s sudden and early passing will further fuel that theory. Some pointed out on social media that her passing came hours before Friday the 13th in California – but on the day itself in the rest of the world.
Elvis, his brother, his parents and now his daughter died young. At the star’s funeral two young fans were killed trying to see his coffin when a car plowed into crowds outside Graceland. And a fortnight later grave thieves tried to steal his body, which was holding a bangle left there by his beloved Lisa Marie.
Lisa Marie with her parents in 1970. She would find her father dead in 1977 and was found unconscious by her family yesterday. She died in hospital with her mother at her side
A two-year-old Elvis Presley poses for a family portrait with his parents Vernon and Gladys in 1937. His twin Jesse was stillborn 35 minutes before Elvis arrived in a moment that would mark his family and some claim would begin the family curse
Lisa Marie Presley, who died on Thursday at 54 after suffering cardiac arrest, penned an essay last August about her overwhelming grief at her son Benjamin’s suicide in 2020. Pictured, the pair in 2012
As Elvis Presley’s only child died, it emerged today:
Elvis Presley, arguably the greatest star of the past century, was born to a poor Mississippi family 82 years ago but his life was marked with tragedy from the start.
35 minutes before he entered the world his identical twin brother Jesse was born without a heartbeat – a moment that would mark his mother Gladys, lead to alcoholism that would claim her life at 46 and spark a stifling obsession with her only surviving son.
Gladys encouraged Elvis to believe that he was destined for great things. When one twin dies, she said, the survivor grows up with all the additional qualities of the other.
One family insider said recently: ‘The curse began when Elvis was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, and his identical twin brother, Jesse Garon was stillborn.’
Others have claimed that an error by an undertaker who misspelled his name as Jessie on the tombstone could be the cause of the curse.
Money had never come easily to Gladys and Elvis’s father Vernon Presley. They met in 1933 at a Pentecostal church in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Gladys was 22 and Vernon 17 and while she worked as a sewing-machine operator in a local clothing factory, he did whatever work he could find in the Great Depression.
The home they moved into after their marriage that same year was a two-room shack with no electricity or running water. When Gladys became pregnant with twins — they ran in hers and Vernon’s families — they couldn’t afford medical check-ups and only when there were complications with the birth on January 8, 1935, did they call a doctor, his fee paid by a charity.
He couldn’t save Elvis’s twin Jesse, who was stillborn. He was buried in an unmarked grave in a local cemetery a day or so later, by which time Gladys, who had lost a lot of blood, had been taken, with her surviving baby, to a hospital. Having lost one son, Gladys was always terrified that she would lose Elvis, too.
When she came out of hospital, she didn’t go back to the clothing factory. Instead, she waited a few months and then went cotton picking which was hard, dry, scratchy work but meant she could lay Elvis down on a sack and drag him along the rows beside her.
Elvis Presley with his parents Gladys and Vernon. Elvis and his mother would both become addicted to amphetamines
Elvis, Priscilla and their beloved daughter in 1968. The couple would divorce five years later
Lisa Marie Presley , 54, pictured at the Golden Globes on Tuesday, had been rushed to a hospital after EMTs responded to her home for a ‘full cardiac arrest’. She was pronounced dead a few hours later
When he was a little older, it’s said that he would help her with the cotton, picking the bolls off the stems. And the bond between mother and son strengthened still further when Elvis was three and his father received a short prison sentence for cheque fraud.
Left to fend for herself and Elvis, Gladys was unable to pay the rent while Vernon was incarcerated and so they were evicted, thereafter moving from house to house.
‘Don’t worry, Mama,’ he told Gladys when he overheard his parents worrying about money one day. ‘When I grow up, I’m going to buy you a fine house and pay everything you owe at the grocery store, and buy two Cadillacs, one for you and Daddy and one for me.’
Wherever they lived, the three of them always slept in the same room.
But whenever Vernon was away, seeking work in other towns, Gladys and little Elvis spent the night in the same bed, talking in their own private baby language.
For Gladys, further proof that Elvis was a child apart came when he fell so ill with tonsillitis that they thought they might lose him.
Once again unable to afford a doctor, they knelt by his bed and prayed and when the fever eventually passed Gladys was convinced that it was a message from God, proof that her boy really was special.
And so it proved – and he became the brightest star on the world stage.
When she saw him going off to engagements out of town, she was uneasy. The world outside frightened her, and as his success grew, her fears increased.
He had noticed that she had begun taking some pills – amphetamines – she was getting from the doctor and that they were making her fretful and overactive in the house — always running around and cleaning.
He pretended not to notice her drinking, because he never touched alcohol himself and didn’t like drunks —he had been told that Vernon’s father, Jesse, had been an alcoholic. But he had noted how the pills also gave her energy — something he needed for what he was doing on stage every night — and soon began taking some himself.
A grieving Priscilla Presley is seen leaving the West Hills Hospital and Medical Center hours after her daughter’s death
The gated community in Calabasas where Lisa Marie Presley was living
Elvis moved to Graceland and bought his mother a house – but she would say that she ‘wished we were poor again’ after posher neighbours suggested she was bringing down the area, especially because she loved speaking to her son’s fans, offering them lemonade and a dip in her pool in hot weather.
Much like Elvis, Gladys suffered a sudden period of intense health decline and substance abuse, leading to her death at 46 of heart failure. Some said she died of a broken heart.
Elvis, who was in the US Army at the time, was hit hard by her death and was in a state of “near hysteria” at her funeral where he began yelling: ‘Oh God, everything I have is gone. I lived my life for you. I loved you so much.’
Gladys’s death has long been attributed to hepatitis, caused by liver problems due to drinking. Gladys had three brothers, each of whom also died in their forties from heart failure or lung complications.
In the recently published biography, Elvis: Destined to Die Young, author Sally Hoedel argued the deaths of Elvis, his mother, and his uncles were likely caused by a genetic defect brought on by the incestuous marriage of Elvis’s maternal grandparents, who were first cousins.
Vernon died when he was 63 after a heart attack in June 1979 – two years after his son passed away. He was living on the Graceland estate with his second wife, Dee.
Elvis met his future wife Priscilla when she was 14 and they married when she was 22 – it was an unhappy union but would bring him his beloved daughter.
As a child at Graceland, she had ponies, private access to an amusement park for herself and her friends, and staff at her beck and call.
When Elvis found out that Lisa Marie wanted to see snow for the first time, he ordered his private jet to fly her to Idaho to play in the snow for twenty minutes, before flying her home again.
By 1977, the year he died, Elvis was addicted to prescription drugs and bingeing on junk food, weighing approaching 30 stone.
On August 16, 1977, Lisa Marie, then just nine, may have been the last person to see her dad alive.
She said in later life: ‘I don’t like talking about this. It was 4am I was supposed to be asleep, actually. He found me.’
Later that morning she walked into a bathroom to find Elvis face down and Ginger Alden trying to wake him up. But he was already dead.
‘My daddy’s dead! He’s smothered in the carpet!’ she apparently said. She added later: ‘His body was in the house for three days and there was something very oddly comforting about that, which made it not necessarily real to me.’
Even his hasty funeral two days later was marked by tragedy when a car hit a group of mourning fans trying to see the coffin outside the gates of Graceland, killing two young women.
Then a fortnight later someone tried to steal his body from his mausoleum – some claimed it was a ransom plot, others believed it was to find out more about his death.
As the only daughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, she was quickly thrust into the limelight as a child and has had her fair share of tragedy
Lisa Marie (right) and her mother Priscilla (left) were at the Golden Globe Awards on Tuesday night to see Austin Butler (center) who played her father in the movie ‘Elvis’
Her mother Priscilla, who divorced Elvis in 1973, turned out to be a business genius, and turned around the estate.
She made Graceland a global tourist destination, and capitalized on merchandising, image deals, and royalties from songs recorded after the RCA deal – leaving the trust with $100 million by 1993.
Lisa Marie lived most of her life in Los Angeles, but in 2010 she and then-husband Lockwood bought a 15th Century manor house set in 50 acres of rural England, in East Sussex.
Coes Hall boasted an orangery, pond and indoor swimming pool plus spectacular grounds including walled gardens, tennis courts and parkland.
She sold the house in 2021 for £3.5million ($4.3m), after five years on the market.
Presley had in March 2020 bought a 3,500-square-foot five bedroom Calabasas home for $1.8 million.
But scarcely four months later, her son Benjamin Keough, 27, took his own life on the premises, shooting himself in the head. She sold the home for $2 million in March 2021 in an off-market deal.
In August 2022 Ms Presley penned an essay about her attempts to move on from her son Benjamin’s death to mark National Grief Awareness.
‘I can understand why people may want to avoid you once a terrible tragedy has struck. Especially a parent losing their child because it is truly your worst nightmare,’ she wrote in her essay, which was published by People.
Benjamin Keough was 27 at the time of his death. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office announced following the incident.
Presley shared her son with her first husband Danny Keough, whom she married in 1988 and divorced in 1994.
In the emotional essay, Presley admitted that she had kept her distance from the parents of other people whose children died by suicide, something that seemed to haunt her.
‘I can recall a couple of times in my life where I knew parents who lost their child and while I could be there for them when it happened, I avoided them after and never bothered to follow up with them because they quite literally became a representative of my biggest fear,’ she wrote.
Lisa Marie fought to keep her addiction private, but details of her battle for sobriety emerged as she filed paperwork to divorce her fourth husband – musician Michael Lockwood
In August last year, Lisa Marie opened up about life after the loss of her son Benjamin Keough to suicide aged 27, who’s father Danny Keough Lisa Marie is seen posing with
Lisa Marie was married to pop idol Michael Jackson from 1994 until 1996
‘I also low-key judged them, and I swore I’d never do whatever it was that I felt they either did or neglected in their parental actions and choices with their child.’
At the time of her death, Presley was living at another Calabasas home with her first husband Danny Keough, to whom she remained close. It was unclear whether she owned it.
Lisa Marie Presley’s death has left unresolved legal battles over her finances, and questions as to how she managed to lose the $100 million fortune left to her by her father.
Presley, whose death on Thursday was confirmed by her mother Priscilla, was still battling her fourth and final husband Michael Lockwood when she died.
Lockwood, father of her twin daughters Harper Vivienne and Finley, was seeking $40,000 a month in child support and insisted she had more money than she claimed in court documents.
Presley, in turn, said she was at one point $16 million in debt, following disastrous business deals made by her business manager Barry Siegel.
She sued him in 2018, accusing him of mismanaging her inheritance.
Presley was married to actor Danny Keough, Michael Jackson, and Nicholas Cage before Lockwood, but is not believed to have gained financially from her marriages to the King of Pop and Oscar-winning actor.
She appointed Barry Siegel in 2003 to manage the money – the same year she launched an ill-fated musical career of her own.
Siegel, senior managing director of Provident Financial Management and a prominent entertainment business manager, counted Al Pacino, Elijah Wood, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as his clients.
But in 2005 Siegel sold off 85 percent of her share in Elvis Presley Enterprises, which saw her lose control of her father’s name and image rights.
Siegel said the deal ‘cleared up over $20m in debts that Lisa had incurred and netted her over $40m cash and a multi-million dollar income stream’.
Presley said it lost her millions thanks to a subsequent investment in Core Entertainment, the company behind American Idol that went bankrupt in 2016.
He then allegedly began liquidating Presley’s assets in order to supplement her trust income. She also claimed his business decisions left her with a $500,000 credit card debt.
In 2021, Priscilla reportedly sold her LA mansion for a profit to try to assist with her daughter’s debt.
Lisa Marie, meanwhile, begged a judge to ‘declare her officially single’ from her Lockwood, after five years of separation. He refused to divorce her.
She said there was ‘no hope’ for the couple to reconcile and wanted to ‘move forward’ with her life.
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