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"I love him. I still love him. I've never not loved him. Ever." In a soft voice Priscilla Presley tells me this and tells herself, as if she's checking on that big hunk o' love, burning warmly
four decades after her
[EX] husband Elvis's death.

She tells me this at the end of our chat. She gets up to leave. But then she turns. She has a concern.
"I … I just always think in my mind how things can be misinterpreted, you
know? How somebody could misconstrue [what I mean] when I say 'I never stopped loving him'.

"People will say 'well if you didn't stop loving him why did you divorce him?' It wasn't really him, it was the lifestyle. The lifestyle was very difficult. And I think people just don't get it ...
All right? Thank you."

It's a Priscilla Presley moment. Emotional, heartfelt, but practical. Brand-aware. The devoted [former] bride of Elvis is now a canny promoter, guardian of the Presley legacy,
dedicated to burnishing his image, forever and ever, uh huh.

Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977, aged 42. Priscilla was then 32, mother of nine-year-old Lisa-Marie, having divorced Elvis four years previously. She is 71 now, with the face
of a 32-year-old.......well, sort of.

Talking about her "work", feels rude. On the other hand it is remarkable. On balance I'll just say this – if you're intrigued in a trashy kind of way, go Google it.

Anyway, once you get over the fact you're talking to someone on the cutting edge of impressive cosmetic science, she's so much more than a pretty face.....

I meet Presley backstage at the O2 dome in London, bustling with activity as they soundcheck
Elvis The Wonder of You: the recorded voice of Elvis over the live Royal
Philharmonic, interspersed with home videos chosen by Priscilla. Cello cases are stacked in the corridors and trumpeters limber up, tootling impromptu Elvis riffs in the wings. Later
that night 20,000 people will fill the arena.

On the poster there's an R in a circle after
"direct from Graceland".

Elvis is making more money in death than he did in life.

This wasn't inevitable. Plenty of musical estates dwindle or dilute, decay into a non-corporeal family of copyrights.

But Elvis Presley Enterprises, which manages the
"physical and intellectual properties" of the trust that Elvis left to his daughter, Lisa-Marie, is a success – a lucrative
subsidiary of Authentic Brands Group LLC. It licenses Elvis-related music, film, video, TV and stage productions, it operates a hotel, an RV park, a campground, a grille, a gift shop
and wedding venues, it has a range of fine china, linens, ice sculptures and cakes, it sells T-shirts, hats, necklaces, bracelets and charms; sunglasses, purses, totes, collectible
cars, toys, bathware, napkins and "mounted memories".

When Elvis died his estate was on the brink of insolvency, thanks to his profligate lifestyle and exploitative (mis)management. Many future royalties had been sold off and a
multimillion-dollar inheritance tax bill was in the mail. Then Presley's father died in 1979 and Priscilla became the sole trustee, with her daughter's inheritance and her ex-husband's
legacy in her hands.

Without any business experience but with plenty of what one biographer called
"an untutored flair and an innate toughness", she discovered her inner entrepreneur. Priscilla
says her transformation to businesswoman
"is still mind-boggling to me as well".

"I did not go to college, I didn't go to a business school, it was against all odds," she says. "And I mean all odds. I just had to roll my sleeves up and go 'I cannot let this house go. I
can't let this go."

Her first inspired move was to turn Graceland into a tourist attraction – it is now one of the country's most popular.

"Elvis said he would never, never sell Graceland, that was my main vision, that was my goal and my purpose: to keep it in the family and to do whatever I could to get it to where it is
now."

"Obviously, who knew [what it would become]? It still amazes me. So many people come, once, twice, they come 20 times. There's something very surreal, very calming, very
spiritual about Graceland. And people feel it. I think he's there. I feel his presence in that place."

She has slipped into salesmanship. But that's Priscilla. Her heart is perfectly aligned with her head.

"I lived there for almost 15 years, and I can still see him walking down the staircase. I can hear him singing in the piano room. I have such fond memories of the meditation gardens
where we would go just to get away from the people in the house, and sit, and you know, talk.

"That was his time. We'd sit on the bench down there and talk about books that he'd read, some of the philosophies out there."

Homes sometimes become museums but few are this infused with their occupant's spirit, she says.

"It is Elvis. You look at his humble beginnings in Tupelo Mississippi, a two-room shotgun house with no electricity and no water. And the struggles that his parents had. And you
know he said 'one day Momma you don't need to be on your hands and knees any more. I'm going to pay your grocery bills'. And that dream came true. And that house signifies
what that family did, going through all those hard times. The fact that he made it."

It's the American dream, then. Or some version of it. It's the built text of Elvis' life and you can read into it, if you like, a descent from authenticity to Vegas-style gaudiness, or an
ascent from poverty to success. It was his fortress, or his prison, and the place where he was found, dead.

A lot has been written about the life and death of Elvis. Priscilla oozes disdain.

"Listen," she says. "There have been over 800 books written about Elvis Presley and I have only looked at a few of them and went 'oh my God'… they're taking other people's
words, they're coming up with recipe books [with recipes] that he never cooked, you know?

"Or, you know, 'friends' who said they knew him and they were intimate. Elvis didn't have that many friends. His friends were who he grew up with. His friends were family, guys that
joined him in the army that he brought back that worked for him.

"We had a close inner circle. And he did that to get away from the frenzy of the outside world, to get the privacy that he needed. Truly, he was a private person. So to have all
those people say they know him? I'd love to meet all 800 of them and go, OK, let me look at them and let me judge ... some of the names I've never even heard of.

"It's exasperating; it makes me angry as well because there's so much untruth out there. There's so much. So many things have been misunderstood. He always felt he was
misunderstood. He always felt Hollywood didn't get him. And it didn't."

Priscilla feels this is her role – to guard his legacy. She uses the word – guard – deliberately. She wants everything linked to Elvis to – as she puts it – "have his DNA".

"(It's about) keeping his truth there," she says. "He deserved it."

So she stays on. Even after Lisa-Marie divested most of her stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises, both of them are still at the core of the project, making the calls, deciding what is
worthy of the Elvis name and what is misguided, exploitative or just inappropriate.

Sometimes people have ideas and they just feel wrong, she says. It's almost like Elvis himself tells her.

"I knew him so well, his character, his wants, his needs. It's all pretty much intuitive."

It's what she genuinely feels he would have wanted. "I'm very protective in that way," she says. "He was a very proud man … it's just trying to get that point across. 'Let's keep
things Elvis'. And doing things that he would like, or would do, or would envision."

A good example is this tour (and the resulting album, which has sold remarkably well). Priscilla went to Sony and convinced them that performing big arenas with an orchestra was
the sort of thing Elvis would have done. They resisted, she says; they thought it wasn't rock 'n' roll enough. But she came back at them with her knowledge of the man: his personal
music collection held Brahms and Mozart. He watched Mario Lanza movies "seven times".

And she shaped the concert into a tribute to the man – he's there on the big screen, hovering above the front of the orchestra.

"You see his sense of humour, you see the little jokes that he plays, you see the personal side of him," she says. "I think there's a sense of sadness as well because he was so
young and so beautiful, so talented [and] that he missed so much, that he could still be doing today."

She still gets a tear in her eye, even though she knows the show backwards, when they play An American Trilogy and If I Can Dream: "really personal songs, both very close to
him and I know how close they were"
.

What does she want from a show like this?
"I want it all," she says. "I want the audience to walk away feeling 'my God, this is one of the biggest entertainers in the world' … [to] look
back and go 'look what we're missing'. I want kids to look at him and go 'now I know what my parents are talking about'.

"I want people to know that he was an amazing human being."
She laughs. She doesn't feel like she's devoted her own life to someone else's. "It's still my life," she says.

And she is confident that she is making the right calls, because she feels Elvis' presence in her life.

"I feel like he has never left, you know? Elvis and I were very close, even after we divorced. He would still come over to my house … I would still sit in his lap, he would still call me
my pet names that he gave me. He would still come by my house at two o'clock in the morning and talk for hours, and when I went to Graceland it's the same thing.

"I never really, I never deserted him. I never left him. I was always there for him."

I ask if she feels she owes him this lifelong dedication to his memory. She is quiet for a while.

"No, I don't owe it," she says eventually. "I'm only doing it because I love him." And then there's that parting shot. She still loves him, but she had to leave him, because of the
lifestyle that a few years later would claim his life.

Beyond the marketing, I can't decide if this is a tragedy or a triumph?

If Priscilla is haunted by a 40-year-old ghost, or has turned a troubled past into a satisfying, lucrative life?

Maybe she doesn't know either.

"What I do have is that we were so close. So I feel that I've never really left him. And he knew that."

Quietly, she says it again.

"He knew that."

The Wonder of You is at ICC Theatre, Sydney, on June 2 and Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, on June 9-10. elvislive.com.au
Elvis Express Radio News
ELVIS LIVES...THANKS TO PRISCILLA?
January 07, 2017  -  By Nick Miller for The Brisbane Times  /  Elvis Express Radio
Where there's a will? Priscilla was never mentioned in his will, but she wound up with the lot in the end.