Friends And Family Mourn Lisa Marie Presley At Graceland

Friends and Family Mourn Lisa Marie Presley at Graceland

Friends And Family Mourn Lisa Marie Presley At Graceland

The service on Sunday, open to the public, was followed by a procession for visitors.

MEMPHIS — Under slate gray skies, mourners at Graceland gathered near Elvis Presley’s famous plane, the Lisa Marie, for a memorial service for its namesake, the rock ’n’ roll legend’s daughter.

Family, friends and fans attended the memorial in Memphis for Ms. Presley, the singer-songwriter and only child of Elvis Presley who died Jan. 12 in Los Angeles at age 54. The exact cause of death has not been determined by the Los Angeles County coroner.

The program for the service reflected Ms. Presley’s stature as rock royalty, and included performances by friends Alanis Morissette, the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan and Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose. Sarah Ferguson, Britain’s Duchess of York, gave a eulogy, to be followed by Ms. Presley’s mother, Priscilla; her oldest daughter, Riley Keough; and the longtime Elvis Presley associate and manager Jerry Schilling.

Baz Luhrmann, director of the 2022 biopic “Elvis,” arrived with his wife, the designer Catherine Martin, as Elvis’s rendition of “How Great Thou Art” played, hugging members of the family already present. He and Ms. Presley appeared together this month at the Golden Globes awards, where Austin Butler’s portrayal of Elvis won him an award for best actor in a motion picture drama.

The livestreamed public memorial at Graceland, Elvis Presley’s eclectic eight-bedroom home that became a museum in 1982, was a reflection of how important Ms. Presley’s fans have been to the family and how much Graceland meant to her, according to David Beckwith, a spokesman for Elvis Presley Enterprises.

“She always called Memphis home,” he said.

A procession followed the memorial so fans could view Ms. Presley’s headstone, where they were invited to leave flowers or other offerings.

Ms. Presley was interred last week in a private funeral at Graceland’s cemetery next to her father, who died at age 42; her grandparents Vernon and Gladys Presley; her great-grandmother Minnie Mae Presley; and her son, Benjamin Keough, who died by suicide in 2020 at age 27.

Ms. Presley was famous from the moment she was born as the daughter of one of the biggest stars in the world, the man known as the king of rock ’n’ roll, who transformed American music in the 1950s. But she had a tumultuous life. In addition to the death of her son, she lost her father when she was 9. Ms. Presley married and divorced four times — including a marriage to Michael Jackson from 1994 to 1996. She also struggled with an opioid addiction.

Less than five months before her own death, she wrote in an essay in People magazine that Mr. Keough’s loss had “destroyed” her but that she kept going for the sake of her three daughters: Ms. Keough, 33, and twins Finley and Harper Lockwood, 14.

“I’ve dealt with death, grief and loss since the age of 9 years old,” she wrote. “I’ve had more than anyone’s fair share of it in my lifetime and somehow, I’ve made it this far.”

People visiting the grave sites at Graceland on Friday. Tannen Maury/EPA, via Shutterstock

Though Ms. Presley spent most of her life in California, where she enjoyed the status of a major celebrity but struggled to distinguish herself as a star in her own right, she maintained ties to her hometown with frequent visits to Graceland, her childhood home. She most recently visited this month for a four-day celebration of what would have been Elvis Presley’s 88th birthday.

The grounds of the sprawling Memphis mansion were set entering the weekend, with a tent pitched for family and friends, a stage erected for speeches and performances by musicians in Ms. Presley’s orbit and the front lawn designated for the public.

Kevin Kane, the chief executive of Memphis Tourism, and Mr. Beckwith said they expected several thousand visitors at the service.

Graceland’s 450-room hotel, a separate property on its grounds, sold out “immediately,” Mr. Kane said, and hotels near the museum and Beale Street, where musicians such as Elvis Presley and B.B. King recorded, were “seeing an uptick in last-minute reservations for the weekend.”

Charlie Vergos Rendezvous, a beloved downtown Memphis barbecue restaurant, often feeds big groups of tourists going to Graceland. Dean Carayiannis, the longtime manager whose mother attended high school with Elvis, said the restaurant was no busier than usual on Saturday, “but the Presleys keep bringing people in,” he said.

“Elvis and his family brought a lot to Memphis — a lot of notoriety, a lot of good will.”

Graceland staff members had become accustomed to welcoming fans and mourners since Elvis Presley’s death in August 1977. That evening, more than 1,000 people kept vigil outside Graceland. Solemnity turned into panic when fans tried to charge the gates of the mansion and the cemetery.

Two women were killed and one was critically injured after a car plowed into a crowd of mourners in the early morning.

The next day, the gathering turned more carnivalesque, with hawkers selling Elvis memorabilia as a procession of politicians and celebrities, including the singer James Brown, came to pay their respects.

Observing his death at Graceland is now a weeklong event that includes a candlelight vigil on Aug. 15.

Ms. Presley’s three surviving children will inherit the estate, including the Graceland mansion “and all artifacts and everything inside of it,” Mr. Beckwith said.

With Ms. Presley’s twin daughters still being minors, “Riley will be the one in charge” of the trust, he added. “There will be no changes at Graceland or the operations, it will just continue on as it is now.”

Ms. Presley’s personal net worth was not clear. As Elvis Presley’s sole heir, she inherited her father’s estate in 1993 after the deaths of Vernon Presley and Minnie Mae Presley, according to court records in 2018.

The blockbuster “Elvis” may have boosted the star’s holdings — including Graceland, a song catalog and a merchandise and licensing business — to a billion-dollar valuation. But not all of the assets remained with Ms. Presley, who sold off chunks of the business to investors over the years.

At the service on Sunday, however, the focus was not on the family’s fortune but its heartbreak.

In the essay she wrote for People, Ms. Presley said: “Death is part of life whether we like it or not — and so is grieving.”

Dan Bilefsky and Claire Fahy contributed to this report.

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