How Lisa Marie Presley’s Death Affects the Elvis Legacy

Between the success of Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis, the awards achievements of its star Austin Butler, the tragic death of Lisa Marie Presley, and the birth of Lisa Marie’s first grandchild, the Elvis Presley legacy has dominated the headlines as of late.

Out of respect for Lisa Marie and her family, I wanted to wait to weigh in on her untimely passing and how that passing resonates in the annals Elvis Presley family lore. It gave me time to gather my thoughts on yet another artist we’ve lost too soon.

Like many children, I grew up idolizing Elvis. When I was a child, they aired old Elvis movies every weekend on the television. It was something I looked forward to all week.


I can’t say that there was ever an Elvis film I didn’t like, but some of my favorites were Jail House Rock, Kid Creole, Kid Galahad, Roustabout, and Viva Las Vegas.

As I sat  there hypnotized by Elvis’ charisma each week, the seeds were planted for my own singing and dancing styles. Indeed, later in life my affinity for singing rockabilly and my highly sexualized dance style led to repeated jobs playing Elvis-based rockstar Conrad Birdie in the musical Bye Bye Birdie.

People said I did a respectable job at channeling Elvis. Tickling my funny bone, the National Association of Elvis Impersonators named me an honorary member based on my role in Bye Bye Birdie. I was even supposed to take the role to Broadway in 2004, but the revival got cancelled.

Lisa Marie Presley was Elvis’ only child, born out of his marriage to Pricilla Presley. Like many children of famous entertainers, Lisa Marie faced certain struggles.


Lisa Marie’s parents divorced when she was four, so she never really had a traditional family upbringing. She lived in Los Angeles with her mother, but would visit her father at his Graceland estate in Memphis.

However, Elvis died in 1977 when Lisa Marie was just nine years old. In 2003, she revealed that the man her mother started dating shortly after Elvis’ death began sexually abusing her when she became a teenager. 

Lisa Marie did not immediately gravitate towards a career in music like her father. Living in the shadow of a legend isn’t something that is easy to do. You will always have an asterisk next to your name in the court of public opinion.

“Yes, they’re talented. But that runs in the family,” is the typical kind of disregard such a person faces.

But in her thirties, she decided the time was right and released her first album: To Whom it May Concern. It was a deeply personal album with Lisa Marie writing or co-writing all lyrics and melodies.


The album was well received and peaked at Number 5 on the Billboard 200. She released two follow-up albums and several singles, including ones with her dueting with recordings of her late father.

Love in the world of entertainment is not an easy thing to manage. Lisa Marie was married four times, including brief stints with Michael Jackson and Nicholas Cage. She also explored the world of Scientology, famously befriending John Travolta who took on a paternal role in her life. But, ultimately she left the religion.

While marriage and Scientology were not a match for Lisa Marie, motherhood was. She was known to be a very loving mother to her four children. Sadly, one of her children died in 2020 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, something no mother should have to experience.

While there was some addiction issues in the past, Lisa Marie did not live fast and burn out young. Her death wasn’t due to drugs or partying. It was a heart attack – the same thing that had killed her father and her grandmother at early ages. As strong as the Presley genes might be for musical talent, they seem to also carry a fatal time limit.


It’s interesting for me to be reflecting on the life of Lisa Marie Presley. Just prior to her death, my screenplay The Elvis Conspiracy racked up a host of Best Screenplay wins in major competitions.

Unlike Luhrmann’s Elvis, this script is in the growing “alternate history” genre. Cut from the same cloth as Quintin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Elvis Conspiracy takes real events and then gives them a fictionalized twist.

In this case, the legend of Elvis involves four men who jointly pass for the King over the years thanks to plastic surgery and lip syncing. Also unique to this film, Col. Parker is the lead character, while the actor playing four versions of Elvis will have a strong shot at Best Supporting Actor consideration.

Lisa Marie is not a big character in the script. Yet from the research I did, it feels like I know of her, even if I didn’t know her.

My hope is that this project adds to the quilt of quality television and film works celebrating the life of Elvis, and his relationships with his family.


Mine is not the only Elvis project in the works. Sofia Coppola is filming an adaptation of Priscilla Presley’s book Elvis and Me under the title Priscilla. The film stars Jacob Elordi as Elvis and Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla.

Undoubtedly there will be more Elvis stories in the form of books and movies. Who knows, perhaps there will one day be a Lisa Marie Presley film.

Indeed, Elvis is an industry. And Lisa Marie Presley the icon will always be a part of that world. But both Elvis and Lisa Marie were real people at the end of the day, with real feelings, real joys, real loves, and real heartbreaks.

I thank them for sharing their talents with the world.

Peace. Love. Trust.


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