11 questions for Priscilla Presley
This Saturday, Priscilla Presley – actress, activist and, perhaps most notably, widow of Elvis – is coming to Milwaukee for an open conversation about her life and experiences. The Pabst Theater show, which she calls "Elvis and Me," will be a look into an incredible life that has been widely reported in tabloids, but rarely from the original First Lady of rock 'n' roll.
We caught up with Presley, 71, before she arrived in Milwaukee to get a glimpse of what to expect at the 8 p.m. show.
OnMilwaukee: What can we expect from your visit to Milwaukee?
Priscilla Presley: I haven't been really to Milwaukee. I'm going to enjoy that. As time has gone by, I can reflect and tell my story – tell what I've learned, what I've gotten out of it, not gotten out of it. I'll take questions and answers from the audience. I meet so many people in my life and all the things that I'm doing.
I get so many questions on my life, being a small girl of 14 years old, and kind of just being thrown into the world of rock 'n' roll. My take is just it's a human interest story, and it is. Someone says what would you recommend when you're with a rock 'n' roll star? I said it's a rollercoaster ride. You've got to get on board, or jump off.
I was 3 years old when Elvis died, but I certainly remember it. I went to Graceland in college, and I thought that was an amazing experience, but that was a long time ago. Do you think that people's memories are starting to fade of that time, or is this a story that lasts forever?
I think it's a story that lasts forever. It's a boy of poverty. His story is just so touching and inspirational, and I think he just is really the American dream. Interest is unbelievable and has not faded. That's for sure. It just seems like it's even more so, and I don't know why that is. I mean, I go to England a lot, and I do plays there.
It's just fascinating the questions that I get, and they're not usually the typical questions. It's just serious things that come out of it. They're asking more about how I made it. How did I come out of it? How did I become who I am today with the knowledge that I have? It's just curiosity, and it still just gives me that opportunity at this time in my life where I feel comfortable with talking about it.
There really has never been anything like the phenomenon of you and Elvis, and there hasn't been anything since then, right?
No, I can't imagine it happening again. He was the first. He opened the door, that's for sure, for many, many artists and for people, even with just his story of how he made it. Actually what he went through. I do have a great story, and I do want to tell it. I do think that it's such an inspiration to learn from the mistakes. You know, from my mistakes. What came out of it for me.
You must have been royalty in America at that point in your life, and you were very, very young, right?
Very young, absolutely, and didn't know how to handle it. I mean, handle it yes, with grace, but internally. I think that's really what it's all about is when you internalize and how you look at things and what comes out of that. Your perspective. Will it ever happen again? I don't think so. In this day and age, first of all, today to be a rock 'n' roll singer, it doesn't just happen like that unless it's a fluke. It takes hard work.
You were already divorced from Elvis by the time he died, but you continued to run his foundation and Graceland. You maintained a good relationship with him in the last few years of his life, right?
My daughter gave me the biggest compliment when she was asked on television how did she feel when we divorced. She said, "I never knew they were divorced," because we still carried a lot of affection for each other. Whenever he would come over here, in my home or vice versa at Graceland, we still held hands. I still sat on his lap. I still pampered him.
Did you by see the kind of fictionalized depiction of Elvis on the HBO show "Vinyl" this year?
I didn't. Sometimes I'm reluctant, to be honest, to watch that stuff because I find myself getting upset. I heard briefly about it, and I just didn't want to look at it. I find that when other people make movies or write books that never knew him, or just knew him from other people, or just know him from his shake. I mean, so many people say they know all this, but they just shook his hand. A lot of stories have been out there. So much untruth, I mean truly. There's over 800 books on Elvis Presley.
What was it was like making the "Naked Gun" series, because that was some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen in my whole life. Were you just laughing the entire time?
Yeah. Actually that was a great time. Now, I'm not a comedienne, but I took this holding my breath, let's say. I do like taking risks. I feel that that's an opportunity to grow and learn from, and I like to face my fears. This was one. When I got the part, who was helpful was Leslie Nielsen. He was just a gem to work with. The set was fun.
It's not always like that in movie making. We couldn't get through a scene. It was never a one take scene with Leslie. It would be four and five times because everyone would laugh. I said, "Oh my gosh, how are we going to know when to stop because everyone is laughing?" He said, "That's just it. When they stop laughing, then that's when we go for the scene."
I find myself using quotes from "Naked Gun" in my daily life without even realizing that I'm doing it. Do people come up to you and say lines?
Yeah, they'll call me Shirley. I already know the favorite scene with guys.
You haven't lived a one-dimensional life. You're more than just Elvis' widow, right?
No, thank God, really. I mean, it's definitely been exciting. It's been challenging at the same time. I think the big challenge is really trying to prove myself. That I'm capable and that I'm willing, and that I do take risks and chances. A lot of it has been very, very good for me, so anyway, I've tried different things. I was also a designer, a clothing designer, which I've always had a passion for, but I'll tell all this, too.
Another thing that's important to you is your work with the Humane Society. You're an animal lover, and you're a good voice for them, right?
Yes. I'm right now just concentrating on passing a bill. In fact, I think it's in the news today with pushing for stronger horse protection for the Tennessee walking horse.
We're looking forward to seeing you in Milwaukee.
Thank you. I'm really looking forward to the audience. I just feel so much more comfortable. It wasn't always like this. I was always a bit shy of people, and I still am very private, but being out has really helped me. Being in other shows and talking to people and seeing how warm they are and how interested they are. It really gives me this opportunity to answers questions, tell stories, and I have videos. I have photos that I'm going to be sharing.
'I'm boiling a roast. How hot and wet do you like it?'
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