Priscilla Ann Presley (née Wagner; born May 24, 1945) is an American actress and business magnate. She is the former wife of the late American singer Elvis Presley as well as co-founder and former chairwoman of Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE), the company that turned Graceland into one of the top tourist attractions in the United States. In her acting career, Presley starred with Leslie Nielsen in the three successful Naked Gun films, and played the role of Jenna Wade on the long-running television series Dallas.
Priscilla's maternal grandfather, Albert Henry Iversen, was born in 1899 in Egersund, Norway. He emigrated to the United States, where he married Lorraine, who was of Scots-Irish and English descent. Their only daughter, Anna Lillian Iversen, was born in March 1926. Later she was called – or her name was changed to – Ann. At the age of 19, she gave birth to Priscilla.
Priscilla's biological father was US Navy pilot James Wagner. His parents were Kathryn and Harold Wagner. On August 10, 1944, at the age of 23, he married Priscilla's mother; they had been dating for more than three years. He was killed in a plane crash while returning home on leave when Priscilla was six months old. When Priscilla discovered this "family secret" while rummaging through an old wooden box of family keepsakes, she was encouraged by her mother to keep it from the other children as she feared it would "endanger our family closeness".
In 1948, her mother met a United States Air Force officer named Paul Beaulieu, from Quebec, Canada. The couple were married within a year. Beaulieu took over the raising of Priscilla, and was the only father she would ever know. She took his surname and over the next few years she grew up quickly, helping to care for the growing family as her stepfather's Air Force career moved them from Connecticut to New Mexico to Maine. In her own words, she described herself during this period as "a shy, pretty little girl unhappily accustomed to moving from base to base every two or three years". Priscilla later recalled that she felt uncomfortable moving so often because she never knew if she could make friends for life, or even if she would fit in with the new people she met on each move.
In 1956, the Beaulieus moved to and settled in Del Valle, outside of Austin, Texas, but soon her stepfather was transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany. Priscilla was "crushed" by this news, and after finishing junior high her fears of leaving her friends behind and making new ones were once again at the forefront of her mind.
Initially the Beaulieus stayed at the Helene Hotel when they arrived in Germany, but after three months, living there became too expensive and they looked for a place to rent. The family settled in a large apartment in a "vintage building constructed long before World War I". Soon after moving in, the Beaulieus realized that it was a brothel, but due to scarce housing, they were forced to remain there.
Elvis Presley first met Priscilla on September 13, 1959, during a party at Elvis' home in Bad Nauheim, Germany, while he was serving in the Army. Despite her being 14 years old, she made a huge impression on Elvis with her much older appearance. Elvis allegedly regressed to acting like an "awkward, embarrassed" boy-next-door figure in front of her. However, by the end of the evening he had managed to compose himself.
Despite Priscilla's parents being angered by her late return home during that first meeting and insisting that she would never meet Elvis again, his eagerness for another meeting, and his promise never to bring her home late again, led them to relent. They were frequently together until Elvis left West Germany in March 1960. After Elvis' departure, Priscilla was inundated with requests for interviews from media outlets around the world. She received fan mail from Elvis fans, some nice and some not so nice, as well as mail from "lonesome G.I.'s". Convinced she would never see Elvis again, and with rumors of his ongoing relationship with Nancy Sinatra flying around the gossip magazines, Priscilla believed the romance was over.
After Elvis's return to America, the couple stayed in contact over the phone, though they would not see each other again until the summer of 1962, when Priscilla's parents agreed to let her visit for two weeks. Priscilla's parents allowed her to go only if Elvis would pay for a first-class round trip, arrange for her to be chaperoned at all times, and that she write home every day. Elvis agreed to all these demands and Priscilla flew to Los Angeles. Elvis told her that they were going to Las Vegas and, to throw her parents off the scent, he had Priscilla write a postcard for every day they would be gone so that they could be mailed from Los Angeles by a member of his staff.
It was during this visit, while on a trip to Las Vegas, that Priscilla first took amphetamines and sleeping pills to keep up with Elvis's lifestyle. After another visit at Christmas, Priscilla's parents finally let her move to Graceland for good in March 1963. Part of the agreement was that she would attend an all-girls Catholic school, the Immaculate Conception High School in Memphis, Tennessee, and live with Elvis's father and his stepmother in a separate house adjacent to the Graceland estate until she graduated from high school in June 1963. Part of the agreement also was that they would eventually marry. After a few weeks, however, she was moved into Graceland to be with Elvis, although her parents did eventually agree to her living there if Elvis promised to marry her. Priscilla later said, "The move was natural. I was there all the time anyway."
Priscilla was always keen to go to Hollywood with Elvis, but he kept telling her that he was too busy for that and she was made to stay in Memphis. During the filming of Viva Las Vegas, Elvis began an affair with his co-star Ann-Margret. When Priscilla read of these reports in the press, she confronted Elvis. He told her that they were simply rumors to promote the film and that she should not believe everything that she read in the press. For the next few years, Elvis would have intimate relationships with many of his leading ladies and co-stars, all the while denying their existence to Priscilla. Eventually she was allowed to visit him in Hollywood, but her visits were kept short.
Shortly before Christmas 1966, Elvis proposed to Priscilla. Accounts suggest that Priscilla threatened to take her story to the press if Elvis refused to marry her, and that her father threatened to have Elvis charged under the Mann Act; "taking a minor across state lines for sexual purposes". Colonel Parker, Elvis' manager, also attempted to encourage him to marry by reminding him about his RCA "morals clause" within his record contract. Priscilla suggested in a 1973 interview with Ladies' Home Journal that she and Elvis were quite happy to just live together, but "at that time it wasn't nice for people to [just] live together". Accounts by Elvis' cook, Alberta, claim that he was so upset about the wedding that she caught him crying about it one day. When she asked why he didn't just cancel the wedding if it upset him so much, he replied "I don't have a choice." Marty Lacker, a close friend to Elvis, has also spoken about Elvis' reluctance to marry, while others such as Joe Esposito have asserted that Elvis was excited to marry Priscilla.
In her 1985 autobiography, Elvis and Me, Priscilla describes Presley as a very passionate man who was not overtly sexual towards her. According to her account, the singer told her that they had to wait until they were married before having intercourse. He said, "I'm not saying we can't do other things. It's just the actual encounter. I want to save it." Priscilla says in her autobiography that she was a virgin and she and Elvis did not have sex until their wedding night. However, this claim is questioned by biographer Suzanne Finstad.
The couple married on May 1, 1967, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. The wedding, arranged by Parker to maximize publicity, featured very few guests and was over in only eight minutes. It was followed by a quick press conference and a $10,000 breakfast reception, attended by friends, family, and business associates from MGM, RCA, and the William Morris Agency. The wedding caused rifts between Elvis and several of his closest friends who were not invited to the actual wedding ceremony. Red West, especially, was furious about the situation. He and his wife had been personally invited by Elvis to Las Vegas for the wedding, had dressed for the occasion, and at the last minute were told that they would not be present. For Red, who had been with Elvis since the beginning of his rise to fame and had given Elvis the role of best man at his own wedding, this was enough of an insult that he decided to quit his job working for Elvis. Many other friends of Elvis were also disappointed and held resentment towards him for many years to follow, although they mainly blamed Parker for their exclusion rather than Elvis himself.
Following the reception, Elvis and Priscilla boarded a private jet and enjoyed a short honeymoon in Palm Springs. On May 4, they flew back to Memphis and retreated to their private ranch, just over the Mississippi state line, for a three-week break. Many of Elvis' inner circle joined them, although for the most part the couple were left alone and were able to enjoy each other's company without the intrusion of the Memphis Mafia. Priscilla reveled in her chance to be a proper wife; cooking, cleaning, and washing for her husband. "I loved playing house" she later remarked, adding "Here was an opportunity to take care of him myself. No maids or housekeepers to pamper us." In an attempt to heal rifts, Elvis and Priscilla held another reception at Graceland on May 29 for the friends and family who were unable to attend the original ceremonies.
Soon after, Priscilla found out that she was pregnant. She was upset at such an early pregnancy, certain that it would destroy the closeness she had finally found with Elvis. She had asked him earlier if she could take birth control pills, but Elvis had insisted they weren't perfected yet. She considered abortion, and even discussed it with Elvis at one point, but both decided they could not live with themselves if they had gone through with it. Their only child, Lisa Marie, was born exactly nine months after their wedding, on February 1, 1968.
Priscilla wrote in 1985 autobiography, Elvis and Me, that around the time Elvis was filming Live a Little, Love a Little (1968) she began taking private dance lessons. She found herself deeply attracted to the instructor, known simply as Mark in the book, and she confesses to having a short affair. She implies regret, however, saying "I came out of it realizing I needed much more out of my relationship with Elvis."
Despite Priscilla's affair and Elvis' on-and-off relationships with his co-stars and leading ladies, the first few years they were married seemed a happy time for the couple. However, when Elvis' career took off again after his 1968 television special, he was constantly touring and playing in Las Vegas. Elvis had also been seeing other women on and off, often leaving Priscilla at home with Lisa Marie. Due to Elvis' being away so often, the marriage soured.
Elvis was a keen karate student and persuaded Priscilla to take it up. Priscilla thought it was a good idea, as it would pass the time she spent alone if she had a hobby on which to concentrate, and she was also keen to share in Elvis' interests. Following suggestions from Elvis, Priscilla began taking lessons from Mike Stone, a karate instructor she had met in 1972 backstage at one of Elvis' concerts. She soon began an affair with him. Priscilla states in her book, "My relationship with Mike had now developed into an affair. I still loved Elvis greatly, but over the next few months I knew I would have to make a crucial decision regarding my destiny." She later states "Elvis must have perceived my new restlessness." A couple of months later, she said that Elvis had requested to see her in his hotel suite. It was then that she writes in her book that Elvis "forcefully made love to me...[as he said] 'This is how a real man makes love to his woman.'"
She later stated in an interview that she regretted her choice of words in describing the incident, and said it had been an overstatement. She went on to say following the incident, "what really hurt was that he was not sensitive to me as a woman and his attempt at reconciliation had come too late" suggesting that his actions were a deliberate attempt at reconciliation or compensation for his lack of sexual interest in Priscilla which had been a source of hurt and discontent for her for years. Priscilla states in her book "He had mentioned to me before we were married that he had never been able to make love to a woman who had a child" and she later expressed the personal repercussions of their sexual dysfunction "I am beginning to doubt my own sexuality as a woman. My physical and emotional needs were unfulfilled." After this incident, Priscilla summarized "this was not the gentle, understanding man I grew to love."
Elvis and Priscilla separated on February 23, 1972, and filed for legal separation on July 26. To avoid Priscilla's having to make her home address available on the public records and therefore risking the security of both her and Lisa Marie, Elvis filed for divorce on January 8, 1973. Later that month, Elvis reportedly became paranoid about Stone and said: "There's too much pain in me... Stone [must] die." His outbursts continued with such intensity that a physician was unable to calm him, even with large doses of medication. After another two days of raging, Elvis' friend and bodyguard, Red West, made enquiries to arrange a contract killing of Stone, but was relieved when Elvis said, "Aw hell, let's just leave it for now. Maybe it's a bit heavy." The divorce was finalized on October 9, 1973.
The couple agreed to share custody of their daughter and Priscilla was awarded an outright cash payment of $725,000 as well as spousal support, child support, 5% of Elvis' new publishing companies and half the income from the sale of their Beverly Hills home. Originally the couple had agreed upon a much smaller settlement; a $100,000 lump payment, $1,000 a month spousal support, and $500 a month child support. Priscilla was keen to make it on her own and prove that her marriage to Elvis was not about money. However, soon afterwards, her new lawyers had persuaded her to up her demands, pointing out that a star of Elvis' stature could easily afford more for his former wife and child.
Priscilla and Elvis remained close, leaving the courthouse on the day of their divorce hand in hand.
In 1973, after her split from Elvis, Presley set up a joint venture with her friend and stylist Olivia Bis. Together they opened a clothing boutique in Los Angeles called Bis & Beau. Elvis was supportive of Priscilla's venture, and even contacted several friends in public relations to help with promotion for the launch. In a 1973 interview to promote the opening of the store, Priscilla said, "After the separation, I had to make up my mind about what I wanted to do, and since I had worked with Olivia for such a long time on my own clothes, I decided to try it professionally. We both do the designing for the shop, and have people who sew for us." The shop was a successful venture, with celebrity clients including Cher, Lana Turner, Barbra Streisand, and Natalie Wood shopping there regularly. The shop closed in 1976.
After Elvis's death in 1977, Priscilla acted as executor for his only heir, their daughter, Lisa Marie (who was then only 9). Graceland itself cost $500,000 a year in upkeep, and expenses had dwindled Lisa Marie's inheritance to only $1 million. Taxes due on the property and other expenses due came to over $500,000. Faced with having to sell Graceland, Priscilla examined other famous homes/museums. She hired a CEO, Jack Soden, to turn Graceland into a tourist attraction. Graceland was opened to the public on June 7, 1982. Presley's gamble paid off; only four weeks after opening Graceland's doors, the estate made back all the money it had invested. Priscilla became the chairwoman and president of Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE), stating she would remain in the position until Lisa Marie reached 21 years of age. Under Presley's guidance, the enterprise's fortunes soared and eventually the trust grew to be worth over $100 million.
In 1988, Presley launched her own range of fragrances, and followed this up with a range of linen. She has also helped produce a couple of films, including Breakfast with Einstein and Finding Graceland. In September 2000, Presley was elected to the board of directors at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Always supportive, in 2015 Priscilla became the executive producer of a 14-track album titled If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. She states "If Elvis were here, he would be evolving and taking risks, seemingly like everybody else today." Also in that year the U.S. Postmaster General, Megan Brennan, and Priscilla Presley dedicated an Elvis "forever" stamp which featured a 1955 black and white shot by photographer William Speer. It was her second dedication of a USPS stamp. The first Elvis stamp, issued in 1993, was the most popular edition of stamps in the Postal Service history. Elvis became the first musical artist to be featured in two different collections of stamps.
Hal B. Wallis, a Hollywood producer who had financed many of Elvis' earlier films, had shown an interest in signing Priscilla to a contract. Elvis, however, had no intentions of allowing his wife to have a career of any kind; in his opinion, albeit a very common one at the time, "a woman's place was in the home looking after her man". Priscilla had shown an interest in dancing and modeling, but her knowledge of Elvis' opinion meant that she kept them as hobbies instead of pursuing them as careers. She did get the opportunity to model for a local store once, but when Elvis heard about it, he asked her to give it up.
Presley had originally been offered a role as one of the angels on Charlie's Angels. She turned down the role because she disliked the show. Priscilla made her television debut as co-host of Those Amazing Animals in 1980. In 1983, she got her first chance to act professionally on a season 2 episode of The Fall Guy titled "Manhunter". She then found a role in a television film titled Love is Forever, starring alongside Michael Landon. Although she was treated well by most of the cast and crew, and her acting was praised by several of her co-stars, she found Landon difficult to work with on set. After the television film aired, Presley landed the role of Jenna Wade on the popular prime-time soap opera Dallas. She played the role of Wade for five years, leaving the show in 1988 to focus on other parts.
In 1988, Presley starred opposite Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! as Jane Spencer. Presley would go on to act in the next two movies in the series: The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994). In the late 1990s, she made guest appearances on a number of television series, including Melrose Place, Touched by an Angel, and Spin City
In 2013, Presley spoke out against the Tennessee Ag-Gag Bill in a letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Presley cited her and Elvis' love of horses and expressed her concern that the bill would hinder animal cruelty investigations and reduce protections for horses and other farm animals.
Priscilla has a square named after her in Egersund: Priscilla Presleys plass. The square is on the street where her grandfather was born and lived. The opening ceremony took place August 23, 2008.
|1983||Love Is Forever||Sandy Redford||TV film|
|1983||The Fall Guy||Sabrina Coldwell||Episode: "Manhunter"|
|1983–88||Dallas||Jenna Wade||Series regular, 143 episodes
Soap Opera Digest Award for New Actress in a Prime Time Soap Opera (1984)
|1988||The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!||Jane Spencer|
|1990||The Adventures of Ford Fairlane||Colleen Sutton|
|1991||The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear||Jane Spencer||Nominated — MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss|
|1993||Tales from the Crypt||Gina||Episode: "Oil's Well That Ends Well"|
|1994||Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult||Jane Spencer|
|1996||Melrose Place||Nurse Benson||3 Episodes: "Peter's Excellent Adventure" "Full Metal Betsy" "Dear Sisters Walking"|
|1997||Touched by an Angel||Dr. Meg Saulter||Episode: "Labor of Love"|
|1998||Breakfast with Einstein||Keelin||TV film|
|1999||Spin City||Aunt Marie Paterno||2 Episodes: "Dick Clark's Rockin' Make-Out Party '99" and "Back to the Future IV: Judgment Day."|
|1999||Hayley Wagner, Star||Sue Wagner||TV film|
|2017||Family Guy||Jane Spencer||archive footage|
Gutenberg, Project. "Priscilla Presley." Priscilla Presley | Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing - EBooks | Read EBooks Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2017