Experiencing Graceland: Through An MJ Fan's Eyes

 

If you tour Graceland and happen to splurge on the VIP tour, there is a very special exhibit that chronicles the life of Lisa Marie Presley and her relationship with her father, Elvis Presley.

http://www.elvis.com/news/detail.aspx?id=6102

It is an exhibit that bears a title very similar to a post that I recently made about Paris Jackson’s tweet: “Through A Daughter’s Eyes.” Well, Paris and Lisa Marie do share more than a few things in common. Both lost their famous fathers tragically, at about the same age (Lisa was nine; Paris eleven). Both grew up with the privileges of wealth, yet would know the heartache of a loss no amount of money can fill. And both, though in very different capacities, would play major roles in the life of one man they both shared-Michael Jackson.

If a tour of Graceland may help you to understand a little better the man who was King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, this exhibit adds an additional element, allowing us to get to know Elvis as not just an icon, but as a father. More specifically, as a father to a little girl who adored her daddy (even though by her own admission she would never really know a true father/daughter relationship, thanks to the divorce that forever altered her life).

Most of the exhibit is focused on one chapter of Lisa Marie’s life-as daughter to Elvis. It is, in many ways, as much a celebration of her life as it is her famous father’s. Although there is acknowledgement of Lisa Marie as an adult celebrity in her own right, that isn’t the true focus of the exhibit. No mention is made of her four marriages, failed or otherwise. There are no photos of her children, Riley, Benjamin, or Harper and Finley. Whether by conscious decision to keep the exhibit focused only on the Presley family, or perhaps a desire on Lisa’s part to keep her own private life out of the exhibit, her four husbands and four children (yes, even the most famous ex-husband of all!) does not rate a mention.

Yet, placed very discreetly and inconspiculously at the foot of a mannequin modeling a simple gray jumpsuit once worn by Lisa Marie, is a photo that is instantly recognizable to any Michael Jackson fan. It is a photo of Michael and Lisa Marie at a children’s hospital in Budapest. Fans will recognize this as the same visit in which Michael was made aware of the story of Farkus, the little boy who was in danger of dying from a rare liver disease until Michael was able to organize a worldwide effort to locate a liver for him. The child in the photo is not Farkus, but one of the many other sick children that Michael and Lisa visited that day.

The information card beside the display simply gives a description of the outfit and states that this was an outfit worn by Lisa Marie presley while visiting a children’s hospital in Budapest. There is no mention that she made this visit at the side of her own very famous husband, Michael Jackson. In fact, Michael isn’t even identified as the man in the photo, or as her husband. For all practical purposes, he could have been any random stranger that Lisa might have posed with that day.

Interestingly enough, despite all of the bitterness over their marriage, Michael is the only one out of Lisa’s four husbands to have a photo displayed in Graceland. But it is a display without fanfare.

But we know better, of course. And, I imagine, so do the hundreds of visitors who come through Graceland daily. As much as some (cough) certain members of the Presley estate might like to downplay this chapter of Lisa Marie’s life as much as possible, one fact is indisputable. Lisa may have married three other men, two of whom actually contributed to the Presley bloodline.

But only one husband has actually made it into Graceland, and is now-in a sense-immortalized there. Perhaps it is no small coincidence that this man should happen to turn out to be the only entertainer who could rival and even top Elvis’s accomplishments. In touring Graceland, I came to appreciate even more just how much these two men-both of them our two biggest American pop icons-had in common.

Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson are, without argument, two of our greatest American Dream success stories; proof that in America, anyone can be somebody, and can rise from rags to riches, with a little talent and determination. Both of them were born dirt poor, one in the rural South; the other in midwestern America. Both grew up in homes barely large enough to turn around in, both would one day break world records and achieve the kind of “Cinderella” (or “Cinderfella,” as the case may be) fame that, for most, exists only in fairy tales.

They would also both convert their fame and vast wealth into a kind of fantasy neverland of eternal childhood, in which both seemed (regardless of their respective methods) to be compensating for their youthful poverty and/or lack of a normal childhood. While many have criticized Michael as a spendthrift celebrity who wasted his millions on a lavish lifestyle, one only has to step foot inside of Graceland (or, more aptly, the extensive, nearby car museum where some of Elvis’s most prized vehicles are displayed) to see that Elvis had set the groundwork for the opulent, extravagant living pop star long before Michael Jackson. Indeed, as a lifelong Southerner who grew up in the same town as Elvis’s sidekick Charlie Hodge and having been raised by two Elvis fanatics (my mom and grandmother) I had heard the stories ever since childhood of Elvis’s legendary (but often questionable) generosity and spending sprees, often gifting cars, jewelry, and large sums of money to even the most casual aquaintances.

(I grew up in the same town as Charlie Hodge, the man who became Elvis’s most constant companion during the 70’s):

http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/news/charlie_hodge_dies_at_71.shtml

The old adage of trying to buy love-or at least many, many friends-comes to mind. Elvis learned the lesson early that, while material wealth doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, it does buy power-and lots of it.

This quote from Theodore Roosevelt-a favorite of Elvis’s-applies eerily to Michael’s life as well

This was, after all, the “Blue Suede Shoes” culture that Elvis sang about. “You can do anything/but lay off of my blue suede shoes.” It harkens back to a far more materialistic and capitalist era in which our pop stars-especially our American pop stars-were expected to live large and spend large. Today, the remnants of this culture still exist largely in hip-hop, where one may still be judged as much for the brightness of their bling and the number of Rolls Royces in their garage as for the quality of their music. Yet for the most part the pendulum has widely swung in another direction, and larger-than-life celebrities like Elvis and Michael Jackson,who were as much noted for their monetary worth, lavish lifestyles, and mystique as for their music seem somehow passe in today’s world of instantly accessible and disposable celebrities.

If one steps inside the Elvis car museum, it’s like stepping inside every boy’s ultimate fantasy-especially when you consider this was a boy who had absolutely nothing growing up. The car museum (which also features many motorcycles and other vehicles owned by Elvis) is all the evidence needed to see that Elvis was, in many ways, an adult indulging a childlike fantasy to remain a big kid forever.An elderly tour guide will regale visitors with the story of the tractor Elvis bought-not to farm, of course, but just as a toy. Like all toys, it probably lost its value as soon as Elvis was bored with it. Always, there is the sense of realizing this was a young man for whom fame and wealth came suddenly-so suddenly he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it all. He was still a kid in many ways, only a kid for whom every day was now Christmas.

But, just as with Michael, he was a man of many contrasts, impossible to pin down. Just as Michael was able to succesfully combine a Peter Pan-like persona with a razor sharp adult savvy, Elvis, also, was a super sharp businessman who built an empire, and a philanthropist and humanitarian-something he shared with his future son-in-law. One of the most eye opening displays for me in all of Graceland was a case exhibiting the many hundreds of checks and donations made to various causes and organizations, many of them local charities. And, via a recorded  tape of Lisa that loops continuously as one walks through the Lisa Marie exhibit, visitors learn that her father was also an avid reader who collected books on many subjects, especially religion and spirituality, and read these books assidiously, often underlining meaningful passages. Far from being the hillbilly hick that some try to pigeonhole him as, the man that Lisa Marie knew as her father-the man she described in her taped interview-was a man very much like the one she eventually married, a deep thinker, largely self-educated, but highly intelligent and interested in many diverse subjects. Lisa Marie, as someone close to Michael, would have been attracted to this similarity, because as she says in her interview, it was one of the qualities that fascinated her about her father. She mentions the books where he had made note after note in the margins; one of his favorite things was to write “Amen!” when he especially agreed with something. Since this is an exhibit in which Lisa herself personally selected many of the items for display-as the whole idea is that this is her father through her eyes-one can only imagine how she must have felt, going through book passage after book passage, trying to determine, “What was he thinking here? Why did he underline this passage? What did this mean for him?”

Elvis’s desk. The book with the green and yellow cover is a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records-an interest he shared with his future son-in-law.

 

A book featuring many of Elvis’s own handwritten notes to himself in the margins. Like Michael, he was largely self-educated and loved to read books on many subjects, but especially books on religion and spirituality.

 

Some of Elvis’s clothes and accessories, selected by LMP as favorite outfits of hers, reminded me just a little bit of Michael’s style in the early 90’s. These pieces reflect a much more bohemian flair than the more familiar pieces displayed elsewhere at Graceland.

Even Elvis’s clothes which were chosen for this exhibit are personal favorite pieces selected by Lisa, and they represent a marked contrast from the more familiar jumpsuits and leather outfits displayed in other areas of Graceland. The outfits and accessories in this collection represent a more exotic, bohemian style, and more than a few pieces reminded me of outfits I have seen Michael wear. Interestingly enough, many of these pieces chosen by Lisa as favorite outfits worn by her father are very similar to some of Michael’s 90’s outfits, and the looks he was wearing when Lisa fell in love with him.

Lisa’s Baby Shoes. The Exhibit Encompasses Her Whole Life, From Baby To Adult

Which brings us to her marriage to Michael Jackson. One of the things I’d hoped to get out of my visit to Graceland was a better understanding of the woman who eventually became Mrs. Michael Jackson. I feel very certain that I was able to walk away with some of those answers. The feeling that permeates the entire “Through His Daughter’s Eyes” exhibit is that of an adult woman trying to go back to those childhood years in an attempt to understand who her father was. Because Lisa herself, the little girl who lost her father at only nine years old (and even then had seldom spent much time in his company, as Priscilla had custody of her) is in many ways not that much different from the average Elvis fan. She is still trying to understand the mystery of who her father was.

Even during her early years at Graceland, she recalls her father as a rare presence but “when he came down the stairs, it was always an event.” She has described that feeling, invariably, as being bathed “in a glow” or being “in the light”-all interesting phrases, as they are the kinds of phrases usually reserved for being in some god-like presence (as compared to, say, the normal feeling of being with a loved parent). In her 2010 Oprah Winfrey interview, she uses the same phrases to describe how she felt being around Michael, and confesses that only one other person ever made her feel that way-her father.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ptEiFsiQOE[/tube]

Through the years, the media has attempted to analyze and dissect the Jackson-Presley marriage, usually from the angle of Michael as The Manipulator. What was Michael Jackson hoping to gain by being married to Elvis Presley’s daughter?

But how many have stopped to  ask, What did Lisa Marie hope to gain by being married to Michael Jackson? And really, who is Lisa Marie Presley-or more aptly, who was she in 1993, when she fell in love with Michael Jackson?

The biggest clue to understanding Lisa’s psychological “makeup,” per se, came in a surprising way for me. Across the street from the Graceland mansion, beside the gallery of shops and museums, sits two of Elvis’s private touring jets. The larger jet, named Lisa Marie (inspiraton obvious!) dwarfs its smaller companion, the Hound Dog 2. As VIP guests walk through the Lisa Marie, a little-known story is told on the video that loops constantly. Lisa Marie, as a child whose entire early life had been spent shuffling back and forth between her father in Memphis, Tennessee and her mother in southern California-had never seen snow.

The story goes that when it hit Elvis that his daughter had never seen real snow, he whisked her immediatly aboard the Lisa Marie for a quick flight from Memphis to Colorado. Lisa was able to play in the snow “for a few minutes” before, just as quickly, they had to leave.

So there you have it. Chew on this. Here is a little girl-a princess, if you will-who lives a life so privileged that her father can afford to fly her to Colorado just so she can have the experience of seeing real snow. Imagine the awe of this little girl, as she experiences the magic and wonder of seeing snow for the first time! Imagine, too, how it must have felt to know, “Daddy can do this for me; he can create magic!” But imagine that you have no sooner experienced the awe and magic; you have no sooner begun to play, or to build your little snowman, when just as suddenly, it is taken away. You must be whisked back to Memphis. Daddy has an obligation. Or you must be whisked back to California. Mommy has an obligation.

Sure, once you get back home, you have all the toys and luxuries that most kids only dream about. But those things mean nothing to you, when it is what you have known your entire life. You just take it for granted that all kids live this way. But that snow! That was something real. Something you could scoop your hands into, and sift through your fingers. Most of all, it was a rare moment of having Daddy all to yourself, away from the world; away from the crowds and paparazzi; even away from the “gilded cage” environment of Graceland.

One of her first dresses
Her Crib And Dolls

Lisa Marie, no doubt, was Little Miss Princess-spoiled and living the fantasy life of any child. But it was also a life of over compensation, in which material things often took the place of what every child really needs, and wants most-the stability of a home life with both parents there. As an only child, she would have experienced the isolation and loneliness that often comes with being an only child, but also, no doubt, the sense of entitlement that comes with it as well. Children who are “only” children become used to being the center of everything. Now imagine you are not “just” any only child, but the only child of Elvis Presley. That wasn’t her fault, of course. But nevertheless, it would have played its part in shaping who Lisa Marie Presley was, and who she came to be. In fact, it’s interesting if you contrast her childhood with that of Michael Jackson, who grew up as one of nine siblings, in a house not much bigger than a shoe box.

And who, as a child growing up in Gary, Indiana, certainly saw enough snow to last him a lifetime!

But any sense of normalcy Michael may have known in his childhood ended by the age of ten (and really, by the age of five if you count the years he began singing with the Jackson 5, but before they were signed). Certainly from the age of ten forward, it was a life of recording, touring, and never ending work. It also became, in a sense, a life of privilege-parties at the homes of Berry Gordy, Diana Ross, and Smokey Robinson; swimming pools in the back yard; privacy fences to keep the real world out, as the life behind became increasingly isolated. There wasn’t much in-between for Michael as a child. He went from poverty to wealth and fame in a head spinningly short time, before he was even old enough to process how and why he had gone from a tiny house in Gary to a mansion in California.

Part Of Her Was Bound To Always Be That Spoiled Little Girl Who Was Wisked By Her Adoring Father To Colorado Just To See Real Snow
Michael May Have Had No Need To See Real Snow, But Like His Future Wife, He Would Never Know What A Normal Childhood Was Like

Like his future wife, he understood what it meant to walk that precarious wire between a childhood of privilege and one of denial and sacrifice; between magic and harsh reality. I think that in many crucial ways, Lisa Marie would always be that little girl seeking to recreate the magic of playing in real snow for the first time, with Daddy standing close by. Michael would always be that little boy seeking permission to play; to know what childhood was like. Their respective childhoods had made them both the center of attention, but at a heavy price. Their respective childhoods had also shaped them into the adults they became.

It was, perhaps, what drew them together, and ultimately what tore them apart.

In the Oprah interview, she says she has struggled with the question of why she was meant to go through this experience and loss, not once, but twice in her life. It is an interesting question. As the daughter of Elvis Presley and the wife of Michael Jackson, Lisa Marie, moreso than anyone else, was in a unique position to know what it is like to be around individuals who are powerful enough to “create their own reality.” But as to why she “had” to go through it twice, I don’t think we need look to some mysterious “power in the universe” to get that answer. Lisa made the conscious choice to marry Michael, and I think she did so for one simple reason: To try to understand who her father was, and perhaps as a means of trying to recapture what she felt when she was around her father-those fleeting moments of feeling “so high,” of being enveloped in “that glow” and that magic. I’m sure this was probably on a very subconscious level, but it makes perfect sense in understanding her attraction to Michael. Whether it was a subconscious desire to better understand who her father was; or perhaps some lingering martyr syndrome that she could somehow “save” Michael in the way she couldn’t “save” her dad, I believe strongly now, more than ever, that Lisa simply transferred a lot of the repressed feelings she had for her father over to Michael.

One Has To See These Outfits In Person To Get A Sense Of Just How Tiny and Svelte Lisa Was During The Time She Was Mrs. Michael Jackson

If people say Michael was using Lisa Marie, they only know half the story. Lisa Marie actively sought and pursued Michael before the marriage; she was the one, for better or worse, who seemed to have the biggest emotional investment in the marriage. She was the one who continued to pursue him, even for years after the divorce; in fact, they continued jetting around the world together, sharing hotel rooms (and obviously, still engaging in an active sex life!). None of this is speculation now; whatever lingering doubts anyone may have had about their continued, post-divorce relationship was firmly put to rest in Lisa’s 2010 Oprah interview, where she confirms it.

Of course, no one can ever speculate about what goes on in a private relationship, let alone attempting to get into the heads of either party. But it has become more clear to me that Lisa was drawn to Michael as, perhaps, a way of trying to resolve issues from her childhood, and especially with her dad. And Little Miss Princess, who had experienced early in life the power she could weld over one of the world’s most powerful men, would not have been able to resist the challenge of being Mrs. Michael Jackson. What more fitting way to add another feather to her crown! And, as some have speculated, her attraction could have had as much to do with Michael’s Sony/ATV catalog as the ego trip of being Mrs. Michael Jackson. Certainly it’s something to consider the next time you hear some ne’er-do-well but misinformed Presley fan spouting that same old chiche’ about Michael seeking the Presley fortune! In fact, some sources at the time seemed to think this may have been more a case of Lisa Marie wanting Michael’s savvy business head to take control of the Presley empire!

But are the folks down in Graceland as impressed by Michael? The truth is, Elvis does live on—as a corporate entity. The King left an estate worth only $5 million. But thanks to careful management by ex-wife Priscilla and Jack Soden, CEO of Presley Enterprises, the income from the Graceland museum, memorabilia and royalties is $20 million annually and the value of the estate has multiplied more than 20 times. The Graceland folks may actually appreciate Jackson, an undisputably shrewd businessman. He earns $30 million a year through a music-publishing catalog—including titles by the Beatles and none other than Elvis—that he bought in 1985. A source close to Jackson says the singer has long wanted to acquire the entire Presley catalog. “He’s always had a fascination with Elvis,” says the friend.

Strange as it may sound, Jackson could actually be a maturing influence on his new wife, who is set to assume control of the company in 1998. A close friend of the CEO says Soden has long been nervous about what he considers Lisa Marie’s “unpredictable” behavior. The high school dropout went through an admitted period of rebellious drug-taking and battling with Priscilla. And now, if one source in the Presley camp is to be believed, their future chairwoman up and married Michael Jackson—a businessman with a track record of accumulating music rights—without informing them.

http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20103653,00.html

In 1993, Lisa had just come into her inheritance as the sole heir to the Elvis Presley estate, which put her net worth as of 1993 right around 100 million.

http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20109876,00.html

But in 1994, Michael himself was not only worth an estimated 22 million, according to Forbes, but was also less than a year away from his merger of his ATV catalog with Sony, a deal that-even without the inclusion of his own songs-was worth a reported 600 million.

http://books.google.com/books?id=MDsDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA36&dq=Sony/ATV+%22michael+jackson%22&lr=&num=100&as_brr=3&as_pt=ALLTYPES&ei=-JHYSY-XJYbEzQSywKCgCg#v=onepage&q=Sony%2FATV%20%22michael%20jackson%22&f=false

Clearly, Michael was doing quite well in 1993-1995, and certainly was in no dire need of the Presley fortune, thank you very much!

Ah, but let’s not forget that, for Michael, there must have been some ultimate personal satisfaction in winning the King’s daughter. I know that most of you are very familiar with this speech Michael did in Harlem with Rev. Al Sharpton, but listen to it anew and note the especial satisfaction that Michael seems to take when he gloats (albeit truthfully) of breaking Elvis Presley’s records, and the privilege of meeting the daughter of Otis Blackwell, a black songwriter responsible for ‘some of the greatest Elvis Presley tunes” who nevertheless, died broke and all but forgotten.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OBUgE6EDFo[/tube]

While Michael’s motives were probably as equally subconscious as Lisa’s, I believe that there was, no doubt, a genuine sense on his part of “taking back.” Many felt that Elvis’s fame was in some ways an unjustified fame that was built on black labor-the music that made him famous was, after all, “black music” but having a white boy to sing it made it “safe” for mass consumption.

Priscilla’s Parents Threatened To Charge Elvis With The Mann Act. Elvis Evaded The Threat By Marrying Her In 1967-After She Was Of Legal Age.
Chuck Berry, Not So Fortunate, Would Do Prison Time For The Same Offense. His Career Never Recovered.

I think there is some justification in this, but over the years, it has been exaggerated as well. Elvis certainly wasn’t responsible for the historic injustices that had shaped the music industry by the mid 1950’s, but because of his unprecedented success, he has often been held up as a prime example of that injustice. In his own way, I think Elvis was simply paying homage to the music he personally loved, and certainly, he is no more guilty than the Beatles, the Stones, or any other white act whose roots were based in black music. And it’s worth noting that his roots were not just in r&b, but also in gospel and country as well.

Otis Blackwell, Writer of Don’t Be Cruel, All Shook Up, and Return To Sender

But all the same, when we consider stories like that of Otis Blackwell, it’s not surprising that this resentment and sense of injustice does exist. There were many who felt-and still do, to this day-that artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard were far more deserving of “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” title. In fact, Chuck Berry’s career was officially killed when he was convicted on the Mann act, whereas Elvis, who had co-habitated with a teenaged Priscialla for years at Graceland, evaded being charged with the Mann act when he simply agreed to marry Priscilla. When all of this is considered, it’s no wonder that an artist like Michael Jackson should take such pride in not only besting some of Elvis’s greatest accomplishments, but also even down to winning the hand-and heart-of his only daughter! In a way, it was a sense of “taking back.”

And race, no matter how uncomfortable the subject makes us, is also at the heart of much of the controversy over the Presley-Jackson marriage. The Presleys were, after all, from the South, and to this day, there are still many conservative, old school Elvis fans in the South who were outraged that Elvis’s only daughter should marry “a n***er.” (Especially, it might be added, one who had managed to rival and surpass many of Elvis’s accomplishments!). This same faction were also the ones who heaved an immense, collective sigh of relief when the divorce came about. “Thank God, that insanity is over; let’s put it behind us, the sooner the better.”   Sadly, there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if that sentiment isn’t behind the seemingly deliberate attempt at Graceland to downplay the marriage.

The photo of Lisa and Michael in Budapest seemed to have been added almost as an afterthought to the exhibit, and I can’t help but wonder if perhaps this was Lisa’s rebellious attempt in some small way to say, “Yes, I was in Budapest at a children’s hospital, and yes, I was there with my husband, Michael Jackson…deal with it.”

But while we can’t presume to know what subconscious factors may have triggered their attraction to one another, it’s pretty clear that in some crucial ways, they each represented an ego stroke for the other. In other words, theirs was always a two-way street, and anyone who thinks that one or the other was the victim in this marriage is probably sorely deluded. I am very much aware of the bashing that routinely takes place in both camps insofar as “who was using who” and “who did who the dirtiest,” etc, etc. As those of you who read my blog regularly know, I have no interest in bashing anyone, least of all someone Michael cared about, however briefly or however long ago it may have been.

In the end, it came down to one very simple fact. Michael and Lisa probably understood each other better than any other two people on earth possibly could.

Michael Posing With His Step Children, Riley and Benji. I Wonder If He Ever Imagined That One Day He’d Be Step Dad To Elvis Presley’s Grandkids!

At first, the decision to tour Graceland had been simply out of the same sense of curiosity that motivates most tourists in Memphis. Out of the hundreds-if not thousands-who tour Graceland daily, a surprising number aren’t Elvis fans at all, but are simply curious. And because going to Graceland, for many, is simply par for the course. After all, you can’t say you have properly experienced Memphis until you have done two things-until you have strolled down Beale, and toured Graceland.

Some Of The Serenity Of Graceland’s 13.5 Acres

But as a Michael Jackson fan, I knew that my main purpose would be to find those connections to Lisa Marie. This was, after all, the home where her earliest memories and sense of self would have been shaped. Behind the gates of Graceland, it would have been possible; just as it was possible behind the gates of Neverland, to create a sanctuary. At Graceland, one can experience rolling green hills and farmland; there would have been ample spaces for a rambunctious little girl to ride her private golf cart, to go horseback riding, or simply to experience nature (minus the snow, of course!).

Lisa Had Her Own Golf Cart With Which To Explore Graceland. Years Later, Michael’s Neverland Estate Would Also Come Equipped With Golf Carts

 

Inside the house, I was somewhat surprised. Everything I had ever read about Graceland had prepared me for what I thought was going to be an ostenatious house full of tacky, ornate furniture and the somewhat “bizarre” trappings of a man who gloried in unconventional style. In reality, although some of Elvis’s tastes certainly wouldn’t have been mine (no more than Michael’s would have been) I was pleasantly surprised to discover a very inviting and quietly elegant home. Sure, there may have been peacock glass-stained double doors in the living room, and the famous “jungle room” may seem a bit ornate, but overall, I could certainly see Graceland as a homey kind of place where one could just sit back and chill after a grueling tour. Quite simply, a man’s home is his castle, and this was Elvis’s castle. One cannot experience it without coming away with a renewed respect for who “The King” was, and all he endured in his life to arrive at this place. And whatever else we Michael Jackson fans can say, one thing can’t be denied. Via Graceland and Memphis, Elvis fans will always have the kind of center that we can only envy and dream about.

Graceland Offers Elvis Fans The Kind Of Center That MJ Fans Can Only Wish We Had

One has only to make the pilgrimmage to the Meditation Garden to realize how true this is. Graceland is more than just the home where Elvis lived; it is also where he died, and where his body rests. To his right are the remains of his beloved parents, Vernon and Gladys. To his left rests Grandmother Minnie Mae. There is even a memorial placque for his twin brother who died at birth, Jesse Garon. A Presley fan does not have to go any further than this; for them, Graceland is their mecca; it encompasses the heart, soul, and body of Elvis and the entire Presley family. For sure, if history had turned out differently for Michael, Neverland would have been his center as well, and perhaps today would have been that center for his fans. But it was not to be. However, we can’t change history now. The fact is that Michael’s center was destroyed; Elvis’s center remains-and most likely will, in perpetuity. Detractors can say what they want about Graceland; about its tacky commercialism; its exploitation, whatever you want to call it. But I can only say that I came away with a profound respect for what the Presley estate has accomplished, and a renewed sadness that Michael’s fans have nothing similar.

Saying Good-Bye To Daddy

More than just Elvis’s center, it was, for a few too brief years, the center of Lisa Marie’s world as well. But unfortunately, it was also the scene of her greatest trauma. Lisa was there, at Graceland, the day her father collapsed and died there. Graceland became more than just the center of her world. It also came to represent the place  where her world was shattered. Her experience would eerily parallel Paris Jackson’s experience thirty-two years later.

Perhaps this, more than anything, is what continues to fascinate me most about the whole Jackson-Presley saga. It is amazing to stand inside of Graceland-especially in the Lisa Marie exhibit-and to think of these very famous lives that have intersected. Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson will always share much more than just being music icons, and much more than just their shared title of King.

They were two kings who shared the heart of one princess.

And that, no history can change.

37 thoughts on “Experiencing Graceland: Through An MJ Fan's Eyes”

  1. Hello Raven, thank you for the enlighting article ! I was in Graceland in June 2009 just three weeks before MJ died ! Graceland is a very beautiful and peaceful place even for people, who are not Elvis fans !
    Graceland was opened in 1982 for visitors, 5 years after Elvis death. We have to keep the faith, that there will be something similar for MJ someday, maybe Hayvenhurst or Neverland, which is be very rural and far away, it could be difficult to handle greater groups of people! The estate should have a financial interest in having a place like Graceland !

  2. Hello Raven,
    thank you very much for sharing your experience in Graceland with us.

    The picture of Michael and Lisa with one of those sick children is very sweet.
    In regard to the story of the little boy who needed a liver, I find that the part of the Private Home Movies in which Michael talks about it is really moving.

    I think that in the book of rabbi Boteach there are interesting quotes from Michael on Lisa.
    I don’t know what happened in their relationship and obviously I have no intention to judge them or to say who was right and who was wrong: I simply believe they were beautiful together. The picture you posted of them with Michael in red shirt and Lisa in jeans is absolutely one of my favourite pictures. To me, they simply look great there. And thank you for posting the photo with Michael and his step children: I didn’t know it.

    I also have a curiosity. Once I heard or read somewhere that visitors are allowed to visit every part of Graceland, but not Elvis’ bedroom. Is this story true? Thanks.

    1. Yes, that is true. In fact, the entire upstairs area is off limits to visitors. They do not take people up there because that was Elvis’s private space when he lived, and out of respect for that, the upstairs bedrooms remain closed to visitors.

  3. “Michael Posing With His Step Children, Riley and Benji…”

    He wanted be dad of his own children more than anything he wanted. That part in “the book of rabbi Boteach” is heartbreaking.

  4. I saw Craig Baxter’s take on the interview with Diane Sawyer, Lisa and Michael. He is the body language expert who has a Kindle book on Michael’s body language. He had an interesting comment in the interview, when Michael reaches his arm over to touch Lisa and she doesn’t respond or react. He thought she was not open to his affectionate gestures in that interview. His discussion is on youtube.

    I just think, my own take on it, that Lisa did not love Michael as much as he loved her. It’s not just the Craig Baxter analysis, although it is convincing. When he collapsed in New York before the HBO concert, the doctor who treated him said he was near death, severely dehydrated and with flu. He was in a coma. Lisa has said he was on drugs and that’s why he collapsed. She went to the hospital and they had an argument and she was asked to leave b/c she was upsetting him when he needed to heal. She filed for divorce a little while later. Now, here is the doctor saying one thing and Lisa saying another and I believe the doctor!

    The dehydration issue also came up in the 05 trial when Dick Gregory took Michael to the hospital during the trial, after Joe called him and asked him to come to NL. Gregory said the doctors told him that Michael would have been dead in another 12 hours if he had not gotten fluids, and Gregory said they put him on IV fluids for 12 hours. Gregory’s account is on youtube too.

    For some reason, dehydration was a big issue for Michael. Either he did not drink enough fluids or he was too thin on top of that, especially when under stress. I feel Lisa discounted this and kept on talking about drugs exclusively. I think she is very immature, at least during that time of her life, and as you said, she was a spoiled princess.

    1. Yes, I recall that particular clip from Craig Baxter where he analyzed that video. His entire series is really interesting!

      That story of Elvis flying her all the way out to Colorado just to play in real snow for a few minutes has haunted me. Apparently she was quite a handful for her mom to handle at that time, also. Some believe her marriage to Michael was as much an act of rebellion as an act of love. But I will give her credit where it’s due; at least in the Oprah interview, she admitted she was as much at fault as he was.

      1. Yes, I think she was genuinely moved by his death, and it was very interesting to me that she said she had been crying all day the day he died before she knew about his death. She couldn’t understand why she was crying. They clearly had a connection on a deep level but I have a lot of trouble accepting what she did by going out on so many interviews and saying incredibly damaging things about Michael. Yes, there was anger there, but why vent to the world like that, instead of to a few close friends or better yet, a therapist? I can’t forget how she hurt him, not only personally but in terms of his reputation, his public image, his career.

        Michael IMO did better as a single man than when he started doing what everyone wanted him to do, follow the ‘normal’ pattern and get married. He could have adopted children or had them with a surrogate without paying millions of $$. The later relationships he had with women did not include marriage.

        1. Not everyone is marriage material. I know this has been debated on many forums-was Michael or was Michael not truly “husband material?” In my humble estimation, I think perhaps not. He was cut out to be a great PARENT, but these days one doesn’t necessarily have to be a spouse in order to be a parent. I think part of him wanted the whole fairy tale with a wife and kids, but part of him had to have realized at some point that it probably wasn’t the path he was intended to take. He would have been raised in the belief that a traditional marriage was a necessity, but I think in his later years he was finally mature enough to accept that having non-committal relationships was okay (in other words, he gave himself permission to have that kind of freedom, without guilt). It probably took a lot of soul searching, given his teachings growing up. No doubt, the LMP marriage was probably an eye opener.

          Not everyone is cut out for the altar, just as all of us are not parent material. I think it is the wise and mature person who realizes and accepts this. Michael, I firmly believe, finally gave himself that permission to be himself, and to stop trying to fit into societal “norms.” Of course, at 50 he was still relatively young. We don’t know what choices he might have eventually made had he lived.

          1. Its really hard to understand Lisa. In that internew u mention, she comes off as so distant….god, just wooden and cold! But I recently saw her recent interview about her recent album and there again, she is the same person…no warmth of being a human at all. Comes off as a person so full of her self…even the way she talks. Sorry if this sounds judgemental, I really feel that.

            Coming to Michael, in SB book he himself mentions that he is not perhaps a marriage material bcoz he cannot compartmentalise love, he said, I love all children…not possible to love just my own and Lisa did not understand this. They argued about it, Michael says a woman gets jealous easily. Also, Michael mentioned that he cud not be in one place all the time, he had to travel…sometimes even if he had no travel plans, he wud check in a hotel just to feel different! This behaviour again not suitable for a family life…

            So as u say, he was pretty much aware that he cud not hv the traditional wife n stuff…but over all LMP comes across as a very cold person at least in public she talks and acts like that.

          2. I think possibly some of that is just her way. The fact that it’s a consistent trait with every interview says a lot. Even as a child, she had the same demeanor. My grandmother used to think there was something “off” about her, and this was when Lisa was a child. My grandmother always thought she was a little slow or that something was wrong, but people also tend to misjudge all the time. As a person who myself gets misjudged a lot (because I tend to wear a poker face and do not show emotion easily or as blatantly as others) people have accused me of being cold or distant when I was not, or should I say, that was not what I was feeling at all.

            The story about the snow says everything to me about who Lisa was, and what made her that way-an only child, daughter of a rich and powerful man, herself a constant center of attention, and for all the wrong reasons (because of who her father was; not for who she was), product of a divorce; sent here, there, and everywhere to live.

            I would imagine, to this day, Lisa is still trying to unravel who SHE is. That she hasn’t exactly been succesful at maintaining relationships should come as no surprise. Like Michael, I think she was damaged goods in that departtment, although she seems to be on track now with Michael Lockwood. We’ll see.

          3. Hello Raven!

            I read your wonderful account of your visit to Graceland. I truly hope that the Estate will be instrumental in creating a museum for Michael Jackson memorabilia. I also hope that his children take possession of Neverland, somehow, and help to create that hospital for children–Michael Jackson’s Healing Haven for Children.

            I just now finished reading the incredibly eye-opening and thought-provoking blog over at Dancing With the Elephant. Willa and Joie interviewed author Susan Fast. If you’ve not yet read this blog, you must not miss it. Susan is so intuitive and perceptive regarding Michael Jackson’s music and how he challenged just about every aspect of what society deems as normal and socially acceptable. I’m convinced his intelligence was clearly “missed” by many. Genius doesn’t seem to do him justice. He was a seer, a prophet, and a master of understanding and challenging the “norm.” It’s illicited lively commentary albeit some that seem to miss the truth in Susan’s writings and are offended.

            There’s a new book released and available on Amazon called Behind the Mask (Michael Jackson’s Body Language and What It Told the World). Lisa Campbell’s great new book combining the original with her later story into one new volume. I’m anxious to read that one!

            Wishing you all a wonderful, peaceful Thanksgiving Day. We have so much to be thankful for, too!

    2. She also claimed that Michael was high on drugs when he went up his Giving Tree in the “documentary” made by Martin Bashir, in an interview with Oprah in 2005 or after Michael’s passing.

      I don’t think she was still too young at the time, and the timing of making such claims couldn’t be worse, either when Michael did not need more bad publicity in 2005, or after he died “of drugs” …

      1. Well, the only thing she said in the 2010 Oprah interview was that he appeared high and/or sedated in the Bashir interview. She did not state that scene in particular, unless this was an earlier interview, as you said, 2005 or so.

  5. Just want to add it is important to realize that Michael was a performer and artist and Lisa was not. I think that was a big divider in their understanding of each other. Yes, her father was a performer and artist but she was not (until much later after the divorce from Michael).

  6. Enjoyed reading the post……however, not sure why you had to say “obviously, still engaging in an active sex life”…..we really don’t know this about them or about any couple for that matter! Such a private thing especially for someone like Michael. One should not assume that because they spent time together after their divorce that this was an obvious part of their relationship. Maybe it’s your use of the word “obviously” that bothers/concerns me as though they could not just be friends. She had her children with her so again I don’t understand why the sexual component needs mentioning…..could have just been a mini vacation. People spent years wondering if he had or had not had a sexual relationship……the only person that has spoken up is Lisa and she always sounds defensive to me in her interviews. This whole discussion shouldn’t even be happening! I have never heard Sawyer or Oprah ask anyone else in an interview if they were a virgin…..ridiculously outrageous and unprofessional in my opinion. Whether they did or didn’t before, during or after the marriage is none of our business.

    1. I just don’t happen to buy for a minute that it was a mini vacation. They had a relationship during and AFTER the marriage, which I think says everything about their attraction for one another and, possibly, the love they still felt. Some people simply can’t live together or apart. I think that was Michael and Lisa for a long, long time. Now obviously it “shouldn’t” be anyone’s business but the media has made the Presley/Jackson relationship their business ever since 1994. I just think that if a couple is still continuing to share hotel rooms together even four years after the divorce, what should that tell anyone? (Jab aimed at the cynics and doubters, obviously).

  7. Thanks for the input……I am neither a cynic nor a doubter of the relationship. I know they continued to see each other after the marriage officially ended – it was in the media and Lisa verified this in her last Oprah interview. Michael was human and deserved the same level of happiness and fulfillment as anyone else. In hindsight, maybe mini vacation was the wrong term to use but it seems you missed my whole point. I just felt your need to add the sexual assumption in your post was unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the topic you were writing about. I would also ask how you (or anyone) REALLY knows they shared a hotel room and how they spent their time together……you are saying it was obvious and I don’t happen to buy this.

    1. Chris, from the photos we’ve all seen of Michael and Lisa together after they divorced, it’s obvious they still loved each other very much. You can see the love in the way she looks at him and the way he touches her. It seems so strange speculate about the sexual aspect of marriage. I think they married because they loved each other, plain and simple. They loved each other and sexual expression is one of the most beautiful aspects of a loving relationship. This is just my spin on their relationship but I feel they were two people who were very strong personalities and very set in their ways. Lisa lived a charmed, spoiled life. Sure she was messed up. Who wouldn’t be after discovering your beloved father, dead, on the floor? I think what Raven picked up on about the two of them is pretty spot-on. In a nutshell, they couldn’t live together and had a hard time living apart (the physical attraction was intense). I’ve known couples like them. They get together, seem to be on track and then…Bingo! They’re at each other’s throats and break it off. There’s all sorts of theories about if Lisa had gone ahead and had a couple of children with Michael, would he have behaved differently with her, becoming softer and more yielding, and she too would have stopped behaving like it had to be her way or the highway. They found a deep but strange connection and I’m sure that Lisa acknowledges that and even though she is obviously happy with Michael Lockwood, a part of her heart will always belong to Michael Jackson. I think he’s just mature enough and smart enough to understand and not question it. I can’t help but indulge in the “What if’s? What if they would have sought serious counseling and got back together, and stayed together? Would Michael still be with us?

  8. This new tabloid book by Andrew Sullivan claims that Michael died a virgin. I mean how many times does LMP have to say they had sex? She said it while they were married, after the marriage ended, and after his death. What’s the problem?

    The one time she said it best was when she spoke to that creepy Howard Stern and he asked her: “Did Michael Jackson satisfy you sexually?” And she answered:” Why would I marry someone who didn’t??”

    1. It’s starting to look as though this Sullivan trash isn’t something that can be ignored (sigh). Just when one thinks the tide is turning…

      1. There was an interview with R. Sullivan on HuffPost Live and he is saying that LMP and Michael had some sexual activity but not intercourse. How the hell would HE know and why does he contradict LMP, who said it was a normal husband-wife relationship??? There were a few outside guests, including sanemjfan, but the host never let them say much while letting R. Sullivan blather on.

  9. About Mr randall Sullivan book “Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson” I would love to read a review by sanemjfan!Thank you

  10. @Raven
    Yes, a single, lonely child of a famous father and from a broken marriage. Circumstances, play a large role in who you become. Next time, I will remember, “Never judge a person unless you have walked in their shoes”.

    But yes, her body language suggests nothing positive. Interesting to read ur grandma’s comments…human minds are oceans god knows what goes on inside each head 🙂

  11. The fact that LMP and Michael got together and got married under the dire circumstances of the allegations and aftermath, when Michael was in deep trauma, is also important. Maybe if Michael’s life had not been derailed at that point they would never have gotten together that way. I think she always implied that he took advantage of her, when Oprah asked her if he ‘used her’ and she agreed, and there was another interview when they talked about ‘manipulation’–of course, Michael being the evil user and manipulator. But he was definitely very vulnerable at that time when she came into his life, but that does not mean he used her, etc. Maybe she used him?

    In fact, no one knew anything about LMP, at least in the general public, until Michael married her. He put her in the spotlight, and everytime she was interviewed after the divorce it was to ask her about Michael. She was not in the midst of a traumatic experience on a personal level during the relationship, so she was more able, presumably, to be objective. I agree with BlueLotus that she was relatively unemotional, reserved in her interviews, but in the last Oprah one I think she was genuinely trying to understand their relationship and explore her feelings. I wish Oprah had just let her talk more without interrupting her and stopping the flow.

  12. In listening to what LMP has to say in various interviews, I am not impressed with her, not impressed with her mind, her understanding, b/c I don’t see much depth there in her thinking. I think Michael was light-years away from her, and even though they loved each other IMHO it was not going to last b/c of the differences between them. Plus IMHO she did not understand him, even after his death in the Oprah interview, she was still struggling to make sense of it all, and if it takes THAT long to figure it out–well, I am not holding my breath. Michael was a complex person; he had a library of 20,000 books, one of the largest personal libraries in the world–he was someone with a thirst for knowledge and a breakthrough artist, I just don’t see that LMP, no offense, was in the same league. Not saying that opposites don’t attract, but being on the same wave length is important and having someone to talk to, who understands what you are saying, not sure LMP was there for him in that regard.

  13. Kuddos to the EP estate for establishing such an outstanding place that truly honours the man and the artist that Elvis was and for the whole handling of Elvis legacy.
    It didn’t happen overnight and there was some serious wrestling after Elvis passed away. But whatever criticism there was from fans on Priscilla, she did a tremendous job.
    I hope one day except for the businesses, Michaels belongings and legacy will get out of the hand of lawyers, judges and businessmen and handled on a more personal level. I believe that for anything to succeed on a spiritual level it needs the blessings of the ones close to the deceased. Now it feels like all these projects in Michaels name lack heart and soul. That’s why the cirque immortal tour and the This is it documentary were a success and the other projects not so much.
    I hope for Michaels mom that this will happen before she goes to meet her son again.

    LM and Michael were the proverbial attraction of opposites. Michael may have had much in common with Elvis but very little with Lisa. She was born in wealth, never had to work a day in her life, spoilt and treated like royalty. He came from a black family of 11, struggling with racism and poverty and had worked his butt off to get where he was by the time they met. She was only child of a broken marriage , traumatized with the tragic loss of her father, streetwise and experienced in relationships from an early age, went through a divorce herself and maybe looking for a thrill after marrying much too young. And she was an open book. He- as far as the public knows- never had a long lasting relationship, a recluse and very protective of his private life. She had children to take care of and her money and income were taken care of for her. He was still married to his work, showed no signs of slowing down and putting family first and had a huge responsibility to run his billion dollar business . On top of that he was just getting into a next sprint with a tour ahead.
    Then there were on both sides people whispering in their ears and openly sabotaging the marriage, on one side for fear of losing their spot next to Michael on the other side of Elvis turning in his grave for having mixed race grandchildren or losing his cathalogue.
    Soon after their divorce, Prince was on the way , Michael married Debby, LM became his mistress on tour, their relationship a ménage a trois and all of them seemed fine with it.
    In the end they were all adults and equally responsible for the succes or failure of the relationship. Besides,1 in 3 marriages ends in divorce and except for their names, theirs was no exception and to be expected with everything that was going on.
    Its sad that LM s bitterness got the better of her. They could have stayed friends because they seemed to enjoy each others company. And she seems like one of few people who had the guts to tell him about people he should avoid.

    1. “I hope one day except for the businesses, Michaels belongings and legacy will get out of the hand of lawyers, judges and businessmen and handled on a more personal level. I believe that for anything to succeed on a spiritual level it needs the blessings of the ones close to the deceased. Now it feels like all these projects in Michaels name lack heart and soul. That’s why the cirque immortal tour and the This is it documentary were a success and the other projects not so much.
      I hope for Michaels mom that this will happen before she goes to meet her son again.”

      I think you nailed it exactly! That is what I picked up on that day at Graceland; what makes it such a unique experience. It is a labor of love from the people who were closest to Elvis and knew him best. In the bargain, of course, I’m sure they have managed to line their own pockets aplenty (just multiply the number of guests that go through there on a typical day and do the math, lol!) but the fans get the ultimate payoff. Besides, they have to be putting a vast amount back into the property, just to keep it running on a daily basis.

      That was a very good analysis of Michael and Lisa’s relationship, too!

  14. Well, it was great update. I’ve just found your blog. I wish I could visit Graceland on my own some day. You’re right, Elvis fans have something we don’t have. Neverland can’t be our mecca. So many things happened….
    I can’t really understand why people don’t believe in MJ/LMP relationship. For me, it’s something normal. People are always looking for reason, why MJ married Lisa, but you mentioned, why they don’t ask “what reason Lisa had to marry Michael”
    I think that even if Lisa wrote a book about Michael and their relationship, people wouldn’t believe.
    I am really grateful for this article 🙂

    1. It is amazing how ‘dug in” people are when it comes to their beliefs about Michael.

      Thanks for the kind words; I hope you get to visit Graceland one day. It’s just one of those places that everyone should experience at least once!

  15. That Lisa effect on public health is cool does not mean that it is too cold in your in Inside their. This may mean that she was brought up his recent feelings outwardly. Ľdeti are countries where raising the fact that they can not show their feelings in public, that it is not. And this is an expert on body language I would say that such people have when analyzing famous couples such a nice fat fee are able to tell a lie. I think I forget that Lisa when she was 10-12 years then sexually molested Priscila friend Lisa, who was supposedly possessed. So it had to it after mentally bounce and I think that .. And that she felt something for him, evidenced by the fact that in Graceland and all the houses have photos of MJ with his children. And sorry, but if Mj Peter Pan syndrome suffered so 100% was not created for Serious and responsible partnership život.Ja I was 12 when Lisa was married to Michael Jackson and I had to have the impression that Lisa does not know or are afraid to give their feelings on Java. A I think a collapse of their marriage they are responsible not only two, but the people who create barriers that are those two together. And I can openly name: DR Klein, Karen Faye, La Toya Jackson, Priscilla Presley, Diana Ross, Shanna Manghatal, Tathiana Thumsen, Danny Keough, echoes scandal Jordan Chandler, Scientology, Elvis’s stepmother and her children, family priscilina, Elvis Fans and the Mj fans. and you know what intrigues and jealousy

  16. Hello,
    let me start off by saying that this article kind of gave me a new impression of who Elvis was and way more respect and admiration for him. When it comes to Lisa though it seems to me that all the fans out there kind of want to portray her as Michales real soulmate and the perfect understanding wife for him and as a person that has been there for Michael til the end. But everyone seems to ignore her various interviews and comments about him that were downright rude, offensive and fictional. Even if her words alone didnt convey that message at least her mimics and gestures made Michael look like an abusive, self-centered, weird idiot. Michael said in an interview she had promised him to have his first child right after their wedding and it turned out she never intended to. It broke Michaels heart at the time. Dont get me wrong i belibe Lisa had real feelings for him, whatever they originated from but starting a couple of years after their divorce she seemed to care only about rebuilding her public image after having been proclaimed “wacko jackos crazy wife”. And all of that went on while Michael never said a single bad word about her publicly. Its so obvious just looking her in the eyes during those interviews. Mike deserved better than that.

  17. Your information on Elvis is incorrect. Priscilla didn’t move to Graceland until 1963. She was born in 1945. She was seventeen for two months and in May she turned eighteen. Elvis did not live with an underage girl for years.

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