Priscilla Presley solidified her place in history as the one and only wife of The King of Rock 'n' Roll. Yet that honor was hers for only a decade or so in the early part of her life. In the years following she's become an entrepreneur, a model, an actress, a sex symbol, steward of a multi-million dollar estate and something of a pop culture icon in her own right. Not bad for a woman who started out as a starstruck, 14-year-old army brat who just happened to catch the eye of the biggest star in the world.
Born Priscilla Ann Wagner in Brooklyn, NY, on May 24, 1945, Priscilla's biological father, Air Force pilot James Frederick Wagner, died in a plane crash shortly after her birth. Her mother, Anna, married another Air Force officer, Paul Beaulieu, who later adopted Priscilla and raised her as his own. Together, the Bealieu Family moved from base to base, a situation that left Priscilla a shy and awkward young girl, thanks to constantly making and then losing friends. By 1959, the Beaulieus were stationed in Wiesbaden, West Germany. It was here young Priscilla attended a party held by newly inducted Army serviceman Elvis Presley. A well known momma's boy, Elvis had lost his mother just a month before and found himself in a vulnerable state. That all changed upon meeting young Priscilla, who it was said reduced him to something of am awkward boy-next-door. The two instantly hit it off and spent much of their free time together while Elvis was stationed in Germany. He returned home in March of 1960, which Priscilla assumed marked the end of their brief fling. She thus returned to her normal life.
Though life never quite returned to normal for Priscilla. She was inundated with Elvis fan mail, both complementary and belligerent, as well as several personal letters from other lonely GI's. The only contact between she and Elvis was through letters and phone calls. Reports that Elvis had begun a relationship with singer Nancy Sinatra troubled Priscilla, but she remained close to Elvis for the next two years, the two maintaining regular contact. Despite cycling through several public relationships with beautiful women of the day, Elvis remained enamored with the young teen. Eventually, they managed to convince her parents to let her spend a couple weeks with him in LA in 1962, though with a substantial list of caveats, including first class, round trip plane tickets and a chaperon. Elvis managed to bypass many of their demands by secretly squiring Priscilla on a side trip to Las Vegas. It was during this time Priscilla adopted what would become her signature 60s look, including the massive hair and thick mascara, much of it at the request of Elvis himself.
Priscilla moved to the States to be with Elvis in March of 1963, while still technically a minor. While public and press outcry over the relationship remained muted, things were starting to become problematic with those around the couple. Many of Elvis's people were uneasy with his relationship, citing previous public image disasters with fellow rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis and his child bride. Priscilla's family was similarly dissatisfied with how things were progressing, insisting that Elvis's intentions toward Priscilla remain honorable. Early signs of trouble between the couple began to surface around this time. Absconded to Elvis's Graceland estate in Tennessee, attending Catholic schools and living with the singer's family, Priscilla longed to be closer to Elvis, who at that time spent much of his time in LA filming movies. When rumors of his affair with actress Ann Margaret began to sweep through the tabloids, Priscilla confronted Elvis with it, who dismissed the now well documented affair as the studio's attempts to drum up publicity. Still more rumors began to spread about Elvis's reluctance to marry and the pressure being placed on the two to do so anyway. Eventually, Elvis and Priscilla did marry in a ceremony held in Las Vegas in 1967. Priscilla became pregnant shortly thereafter. Their only child, Lisa Marie, was born exactly 9 months from their wedding day in 1968.
More issues in their relationship began to surface during Priscilla's pregnancy, escalating so far as to prompt Elvis to suggest a trial separation while she was still pregnant. Reasons for their marriage difficulties remain cloudy. Elvis's many extramarital dalliances, his growing dependence on drugs and the rapid dimming of his fame following the British Invasion were no doubt factors on his side of things. There was also his insistence that his wife remain the housebound and dutiful spouse, a move that almost completely and purposefully kept his wife from the various goings on in his career. Priscilla herself eventually began to indulge in affairs shortly after their marriage. The first of these was with a dance instructor, the next a karate instructor Elvis himself encouraged her to learn from. By the early 1970s, with Elvis's career heating up again and his frequent touring consuming much of his time, the two were virtually estranged from one another. Elvis remained a doting father to Lisa Marie and a devoted friend to Priscilla, who in actuality may have only ever been just that to him. The couple finally separated in 1972, their divorce finalized a year later. They held hands throughout the proceedings and left the courthouse arm in arm. In years following the divorce, Priscilla often attended Elvis's concerts and even advised some of his long term girlfriends on how best to look after him. The two remained friends right up to his death in 1977. Priscilla still refers to him as the love of her life.
28-years-old, divorced and a single mom, Priscilla was faced with the choice of how to proceed. Despite getting a substantial settlement from Elvis in the divorce, she remained determined to make her own way in life. Thus began her joint endeavor with friend and stylist Olivia Bis in the LA boutique Bis & Beau. While an initial success, with the likes of Cher, Lana Turner, Barbra Streisand, and Natalie Wood as regular customers, the boutique closed a few years later. Shortly after the death of Elvis's father in 1979, Priscilla became the steward of his estate, which she held in trust until her daughter's 21st birthday. The estate was heavily in debt at that point and almost bankrupt. The threat of imminent foreclosure on Graceland loomed when in 1982 Priscilla decided to transform Elvis's former home into a tourist attraction. Ardent Elvis fans quickly made the tour a rite of passage and the entire estate became a Mecca for rock 'n' roll fans the world over. This instant popularity quickly earned Priscilla back her initial investment in the venture in less than 4 weeks and transformed Lisa Marie's inheritance from a mere $1 million in 1979 to a purported $100 million by the time she took charge of it a decade later.
Earning millions for her daughter and successfully establishing herself as her own woman, Priscilla could essentially do as she liked upon entering her dirty 30s. She spent some of her time modelling for various designers, in the process illustrating the dire chemical haze that made The King somehow think he couldn't be satisfied with the supreme hotness he had waiting for him at home. While married to Elvis, Priscilla had expressed an interest in acting - something Elvis strictly forbade. After her divorce, Priscilla was free to begin dabbling in an acting career. She was briefly pursued to become one of Charlie's Angels. However, Priscilla declined, citing her disliking of the show. Her acting career began modestly with a co-hosting gig on the ABC series Those Amazing Animals in 1980. She later won a recurring role as Jenna Wade, Bobby Ewing's first love and baby mamma on the 80s mega hit Dallas. She left the show in 1988 due to conflicts over the direction of her character and the series as a whole.
Of course, most of us probably remember Priscilla best from her role as Jane Spencer, the hottie with the nice beaver who becomes the love interest of Frank Drebin, LA's most inept police lieutenant, in THE NAKED GUN trilogy. Her comically sex-charged performances earned Priscilla fame beyond her time as a rock star wife, in the process making her a full-fledged celebrity all on her own.
Priscilla has taken up a whole series of things in the last few decades. She launched her own fragrance, Moments, in 1988. That yielded a second brand, Experiences, in 1994 and Indian Summer in 1996. She became a mother for the second time in 1987 at the age of 42, giving birth to her son Navarone with Italian screenwriter and director Marco Garibaldi, with whom she had a 22-year relationship. Priscilla continued to act throughout the 1990s on TV shows like Melrose Place and Spin City. She was also connected to several Elvis-related projects, including a short-lived series on The King and the indie comedy FINDING GRACELAND.
She endured a wave controversy with the publication of a biography on her time before, during and after Elvis. The book, Child Bride: The Untold Story of Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, draws from testimonials of friends and distant relatives of Elvis, painting a very different picture from Priscilla's own accounts of that time. It downplays her reputation as a teenage victim caught up in a whirlwind and makes her out to be more of a sexually voracious opportunist, out to ensnare a rock god for herself. Though opinions vary on the reliability of the book's accounts of things, it definitely blurred lines and shook up opinions about what went on during the couple's relatively brief time together.
Not letting the controversy get to her, Priscilla was nominated to the board of directors of MGM in 2000, overseeing various projects for that studio. She's involved in Make-A-Wish style charities and has become an outspoken scientologist, often delivering rhetoric on that organization's anti-psychology viewpoints. Now almost 70, Priscilla's life has made her many different things to different people. However you look at her, she's certainly far removed from those days as a real life Cinderella, who's crystal slipper never seemed to fit quite right.