Elvis Presley's princess is one for the money: For her 25th birthday the King's daughter gets a dollars 200m present. Phil Reeves reports
Sunday 31 January 1993
It will be her birthday, an occasion the King of rock 'n' roll would certainly have marked with an outrageous gesture - perhaps a jet, or a mansion, or a yacht. Instead, she will get a still larger gift. She formally inherits the colossal fortune generated by his estate. More than 15 years after his premature death, Elvis's only legitimate offspring - the spoilt little girl whom he jetted hundreds of miles just to play in the snow with - finds herself having an estimated paper worth of at least dollars 200m (pounds 135m).
Tomorrow, Lisa Presley (she has told friends to stop using her full name, Lisa Marie) will be 25, the age at which the courts decreed that she becomes the sole heir to her father's riches. But she has agreed to wait another five years before taking over control of the management of Graceland, Elvis's cash-generating Memphis mansion which is a Mecca for millions of fans.
Although her father is show business's greatest posthumous celebrity, it is her actress mother, Priscilla, whom she has to thank. Not long after Elvis died, his estate was valued at only dollars 5m, despite a hugely successful recording career in which he sold more than dollars 500m worth of records, and made many millions from concerts, 33 films, and countless appearances. In his 42 years, he earned more than dollars 1bn.
The drug-addicted superstar, who had a habit of handing out limousines to his cronies as if they were sweets, squandered a fortune. Another gold mine was lost when his business manager, Colonel Tom Parker, sold the master tapes of hundreds of Elvis songs to RCA for a mere dollars 5.4m.
The situation worsened again, four years after his death, when the US government hit the estate with a dollars 10m inheritance tax bill in 1981. Desperate to salvage matters, Priscilla Presley agreed - very reluctantly - to open Graceland to the public. Ever since, the place has been besieged by Elvis devotees, who go there to pay homage at his grave and buy armloads of memorabilia. As a result, the estate brings in more than dollars 20m a year, a record sum for a dead entertainer.
Elvis would surely have approved of his daughter's good fortune, as he was a loving parent, whose devotion increased after he separated from her mother when she was four. The stories of his generosity are legion. He had a private jet, named after Lisa, in which he flew her to his appearances in Las Vegas. When she casually complained that she had never seen snow, he dropped everything, clambered into the jet and flew her to Utah, merely to allow her to see a few flakes falling for 20 minutes.
When she was eight years old, her mother forced her to return one of Elvis's more elaborate gifts - a mink coat and a diamond ring. It wasn't long before she began to show the ill effects of her father'sextravagant affections. There are accounts of her driving around in an electric golf cart, screaming at Graceland staff: 'I'll tell my Daddy to fire you]'
It is uncertain how the restrained adult Lisa Presley will handle her inheritance, which was not easily won. There were years of court battles, which included rebuffing a claimant purporting to be Elvis's illegitimate child. Ms Presley seems to have calmed down after a turbulent adolescence, marked by clashes arising from her mother's anxiety to protect her from a highly predatory outside world. There were bodyguards, expensive private schools, big homes behind electronically operated gates, skirmishes with drugs. Fictitious stories circulated in Hollywood alleging relationships with Eddie Murphy and Jerry Lee Lewis.
These days she lives in a large five-bedroomed home in Tarzana, a discreet and not especially chic suburb of Los Angeles, with her husband, Danny Keough, 28, a bass guitarist. The couple, who have two young children, are involved with the Church of Scientology, prompting speculation that at least some of Elvis's millions will end up in its coffers.
Occasionally, Lisa Presley puts in an appearance alongside the Hollywood stars. She checked into a Washington hotel to celebrate the inauguration of President Clinton. She has flirted with an acting or writing career, but mostly she remains outside the limelight. She regularly attends executive meetings of the five- strong Graceland management team, headed by her mother, which will continue to control the estate until 1998. But she is, as she has made clear in a recent interview, just a normal girl at heart, trying to get on with her life in a world that continues to be obsessed with the man she eerily resembles. 'I personally do not feel like I am a celebrity,' she said. 'It is hard for me to accept being - well not worshipped exactly, but admired. I don't deserve to be looked up to until I have done something to earn it.'
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