Fame and Fortune: The Slow Burn Decession of Lisa Marie Presley.

A little over a week ago Lisa Marie Presley, who died at the age of 54, attended her father’s annual birthday celebration at Graceland in Memphis. In front of an online and physical audience outside the Presley family home turned tourist attraction, ElvisThe only child of cut a piece of a huge birthday cake and led the singing of a cheerful rendition of ‘Happy birthday’. As if everyone involved believed him there, living, breathing and celebrating with them. A sadly comic scenario, showing on the one hand the humility of a troubled woman, and on the other a confirmation of the relentless consumerism around a man who has been dead for several decades. The Elvis production line, always creating myths and derivative products, never stops.

Those few curious minutes reminded me Greil Marcuswork dead elvis, in which the author imagines fans and critics carving up the rock n roll legend’s corpse, turning them into ready-made burgers to be devoured by the masses for the highest and lowest bidder. A metaphor that Marcus’ storyline might just be, but one feels uncomfortable with the state of play since 1977 and before, come to this. Elvis was on a grueling treadmill for years, albeit bound in golden handcuffs.

If Elvis was the world’s first popstar, then Lisa Marie was one of the first offspring to struggle with the consequences of fame, money, and the associated baggage. With untimely deaths in the Presley family – his stillborn twin Jesse, Elvis dead at 42, his mother Gladys at 46, Lisa Marie Benjamin’s 27-year-old son by suicide three years ago – there are a great temptation to romanticize and seize on simplistic solutions. And it’s so predictable that it happened. Saying that Lisa Marie died of a broken heart and the Presleys are weak-hearted, so you know… it’s easy to get away with. Conspiracy theorists wasted no time suggesting the anti-vax ridiculousness. We don’t know Lisa Marie’s cause of death – not that it’s our business anyway – but her loved ones didn’t experience natural and unavoidable deaths.

The truth is brutal and uncomfortable. Elvis’ mother had a heart attack brought on by liver failure due to alcoholism, Elvis’ death given the familial cause cardiac arrhythmia – simply that his heart stopped – brought on by a significant addiction prescription barbiturates. And we can also add a major eating disorder to the mix.

Luhrmann’s film shows Presley’s gruesome rise and fall, concluded as a Shakespearean tragedy, adding to the perceived glamor of an untimely death. Lisa Marie’s fate had a slower burn; father died at age 9, legacy burden and Presley brand. She achieved modest success as a singer and songwriter, and wrote a few songs with the cool King of Sheffield Richard Hawley. Marriages to other musicians and celebrities did not work out – indeed, a brief union with actor Nicolas Cage soon ended with a stubborn suspicion that Lisa allegedly considered her a rare memory of Presley. She struggled with addictions. The essay she wrote on the realities of grief after the death of his son was a revelation. He brought no surprises to those who have lost a spouse or a child; his stories of lost friendships, the inevitable isolation and loneliness did not resonate so much as reverberated and resounded in every bone.

There’s a unique sadness to a young death, with fame adding an intoxicating touch. Take Club 27’s notion of bad taste – those who die at a tender age as a cool, genuine goal. Mention singer and songwriter Tim Buckley and wince as his son Jeff is also brought up with joy, along with the story of his own untimely departure. Well done guys, live through the tragedy so we don’t have to. There was a – thankfully short-lived – venue in Liverpool called the 27 Club. The cities of the North are generally more anchored. On John Lennon’s birthday in October and the anniversary of his murder in December, the National Trust turns on the light in his teenage bedroom, a quiet but touching act. Miles to all levels of Memphis Circus. But we also participate in the macabre; the prototype of Elvis’ original headstone was brought back to Liverpool in 2003.

The fun side of Elvis fandom – collecting anything that wears his handsome face is nice and frothy; I myself am an enthusiast. It’s important to remember though, while we can laugh at Elvis’ tacky disguises and enjoy a cheap plastic tattoo with his name on it, Elvis was no joke. What happened to him is no joke either, and that ridiculousness happens in any fandom; watch football fans turn on men minutes earlier named heroes. Competitiveness is everywhere, with major strengths and bragging rights. With Elvis, not going to Graceland and paying your respects is considered a lack of dedication. In a UK fan magazine that spanned decades, the editor would goad and goad fans, berate them for failing to perform their duties – for example, asking for songs to be played on the radio. He then published the irritated replies that harassed him, in the following issue. The Baz Luhrmann Elvis last summer’s biopic hinted at Elvis’ reliance on his own fame, an interesting and unconvincing take, but fandom and fame are complex concepts and as the world turns, concepts change. After the film’s release, a conversation with a muggle arose from the question, what did Elvis do? Apart from singing. Did he help people or what? Because singing was not enough. As if Elvis Aaron Presley, an undisputed influence in music and popular culture, was an X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent looking for a lucky break. The one who simply needed a justification to exist.

On what would have been Elvis’ 88th birthday last week, Lisa Marie cut a sizable slice of the giant birthday cake, briefly bringing a slick of thick sugary icing to her lips without taking a convincing bite. A new exhibit in the big house has been completely sealed off and, coincidentally, a jet plane bought by his father a year before his death has been auctioned off in Florida for $260,000 on behalf of a Saudi company. There’s nothing like a heart-tugging birthday to add that extra ker-ching. Commenters on the auctioneer’s Facebook have speculated that the plane could be sold for parts or converted into an Airbnb. The way Graceland marks the day seems classy in comparison. And yet, Lisa Marie stood just yards from the graves of her blood family, exposed to strangers, and joked that the faithful pilgrims in the crowd each year were her only reason to leave the house. As she shared the sobering anniversary with business associates, nameless faces in the crowd taking selfies and insisting passionately on love, one couldn’t help but think, what a complete fucking head.

Comments are closed.