All the fame and money in the world could not save Elvis Presley’s daughter from a life of pain and anguish or from squandering much of her father’s $100 million fortune.
The only child of the man known as The King died from cardiac arrest Thursday at age 54.
Those who knew Lisa Marie paint a picture of a woman trapped by her birthright — and the demons of addiction — despite multiple bids to fight the burden of both.
It all started, apparently, with her father’s death — also from a heart condition — at age 42 in 1977. Lisa Marie, then just 9 years old, was at Graceland at the time and reportedly saw her father’s lifeless body.
Karen de la Carriere, a former top-ranking Scientologist who was tasked with counseling Lisa Marie shortly after Elvis’s death, said that Lisa Marie later “drowned herself in drugs for years” due to the sustained trauma of his passing.
“Lisa Marie had such a tough life. Broken marriages, corrupt money managers who ripped off a lot of her fortune at Elvis Presley Enterprises,” de la Carriere told The Post. Not to mention four broken marriages and the tragic suicide of her son, Benjamin, in 2020, which turned Lisa Marie into a heartbroken recluse in her Calabasas, Calif., mansion.
Lisa Marie Presley 1968-2023
“I’ve dealt with death, grief and loss since the age of 9 years old,” Lisa Marie wrote in an essay published in People in August 2022. “I’ve had more than anyone’s fair share of it in my lifetime and somehow, I’ve made it this far.”
Lisa Marie was born on February 1, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., nine months to the day after her parents’ wedding. Elvis and Priscilla divorced when their daughter was 4.
After Elvis’ death, Lisa Marie became joint heir to his estate along with her grandparents Vernon and Minnie Mae Hood Presley. When they both died just a few years later, a pre-teen Lisa Marie became the sole heir and inherited Graceland, her father’s famous Memphis home.
By then, she was already being indoctrinated into the Church of Scientology along with Priscilla, who reportedly became involved with the group after being introduced to it by John Travolta.
This made for a tortuous childhood, according to de la Carriere, who was the last person trained by Scientology’s founder. L. Ron Hubbard. In 1979, she began spending as much as two and a half hours a day with an already rebellious Lisa Marie at the church’s facilities.
“Priscilla would show up and drop her off with two words: ‘Handle her!” claimed de la Carriere, who defected from the church in 2008. “No child wants to be dropped off at a strange place and sit in a room with a stranger holding soup cans for hours and months.”
“Soup cans” is a reference to the E-meter, a lie detector-style device used by Scientologists for “auditing” counseling.
“Some people want to go to a therapist and tell them every last thing. Lisa Marie did not. She did not want coaching or therapy. But she had to go to Scientology,” de la Carriere said.
“Karen de la Carriere would have no first-hand knowledge of Lisa Marie or her relationship with the Church. The Church does not comment on parishioner counseling,” a Scientology spokesperson told The Post. “The Church’s relationship with Lisa Marie was one of warmth and care. We are saddened by Lisa Marie’s passing. Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time.”
“She found her father’s dead body. She was 9 years old. That was one of her first traumas, de la Carriere said of Lisa Marie.
Entering her teen years, the girl became even more of a “renegade and a rebel,” de la Carriere added. “She drowned herself in drugs for years and years. She underwent three Scientology Purification rundowns [vitamins and sauna treatment for detox] but it didn’t work. She would always relapse.”
Lisa Marie told the Los Angeles Times in 2003 that she “was kind of a loner, a melancholy and strange child … I had a real self-destructive mode for a while. I never really fit into school. I didn’t really have any direction.”
She began dating musician and fellow Scientologist Danny Keough as a teen and the two got married in 1988. They shared two children, Benjamin and Riley, now 33 and a respected actress.
On her 25th birthday in 1993, Lisa Marie was given control of her father’s full estate — which had grown to an estimated $100 million thanks to the careful work of Priscilla, who had turned Graceland into a business and a huge tourist destination.
Lisa Marie, in turn, created her own revocable living trust, appointing others to act as trustees over her inheritance. Ten years later, she appointed business manager Barry Siegel as a co-trustee and person primarily in charge of managing the trust assets.
Three weeks after Lisa Marie and Danny divorced in 1994, she shocked the world by marrying Michael Jackson.
Lisa Marie said of Jackson in a 2003 interview with Diane Sawyer: “When he wants to lock into you, when he wants to intrigue you or capture you, or you know, whatever he wants to do with you, he can do it.”
She added that she “fell into this whole, ‘You poor, sweet, misunderstood man, I’m going to save you.’ … I fell in love with him.” After much public mockery, their marriage ended in January 1996. Lisa Marie later said it was due to Jackson’s drug addiction, telling Oprah Winfrey that she gave her husband an ultimatum: “The drugs or me.” He chose drugs.
In 2002, Lisa Marie wed actor Nicolas Cage after meeting him at a party, but that only lasted a few months.
Her fourth marriage came in 2006 to guitarist Michael Lockwood. They welcomed twins Finley and Harper a year later and — as Lisa Marie later publicly revealed — a doctor altered the course of her life by prescribing opioids for pain.
“It only took a short-term prescription of opioids in the hospital for me to feel the need to keep taking them,” she wrote of the addictive drugs in the foreword to the 2019 book “The United States of Opioids: A Prescription for Liberating a Nation in Pain.”
She did work alongside sober coaches, The Post is told by a source with direct knowledge of Presley’s ongoing health battles, and her family desperately tried to get her help.
Lisa Marie and Lockwood divorced in 2016 with a bitter court battle over custody and cash that was only settled last October.
It was during this period that she allegedly lost much of her fortune.
Court documents obtained by The Blast revealed that Lisa Marie owed more than $1 million in taxes at the time of her death and had squandered her estimated $100 million fortune through a series of bad business decisions.
The documents stated that Lisa Marie had declared to have $95,266 in cash and $714,775 worth of stocks, bonds and other assets while battling Lockwood. However, in the same papers, she also cited a $1 million debt to the IRS, clearly putting her in the red.
In 2005, Lisa Marie had sold off an 85% stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises, allegedly at business manager Siegel’s behest — relinquishing almost all control of the company responsible for her father’s legacy.
She later sued Siegel, saying he placed the payout she received “in risky ventures in hopes of attaining his own celebrity in the entertainment industry.” She also accused him of “reckless and negligent mismanagement and self-serving ambition.”
Siegel fired back, telling the Blast in 2019 that the deal to sell off her 85% stake “cleared up over $20 million in debts Lisa Marie had incurred.” He also claimed it “netted her over $40 million cash and a multimillion-dollar income stream, most of which she managed to squander.”
Amidst the money woes and custody battle, Lisa Marie was also battling Scientology, according to reporter Tony Ortega, who writes about the church.
He claimed she had a “showdown” with Scientology leader David Miscavige in 2012, while defending Miscavige’s father, Ron, who had defected from the church. It was this argument that led to her supposedly quitting the church, according to Ortega.
“That never happened,” said a Scientology spokesperson.
Lisa Marie then reportedly helped get a story published about Ron’s situation in the Los Angeles Times.
“I really liked her. I thought that she had been brought up in almost impossible conditions,” Ortega said. “Later, she was trying to do something about it. She wanted the world to see, but it’s so sad that so many things seemed to go wrong [for her].”
Still, Ortega said, “I know that I am critical of Scientology, but I’m afraid her biggest problems were her own.”
After her son Benjamin committed suicide in 2020, a grieving Lisa Marie rarely left her home. She skipped the Cannes premiere of “Elvis,” the Baz Luhrmann-directed film biography of her father in 2022, but made it to a special screening at Graceland that June.
In a video seen by The Post, she told the crowd: “My life is a little bit kind of down right now. You’re pulling me up. so thank you.
“I’m so proud of this movie, I really am … To be honest, I haven’t really left my house for the last two years unless it has to do with my children, so to get me to leave like California and fly to Memphis and be here, aside from coming to visit my [son’s grave, at Graceland], it’s a big deal.”
Lisa Marie will now be laid to rest at Graceland “next to her beloved son Ben,” a family rep said Friday.
She repeated the sentiment last week at a Graceland event for what would have been her father’s 88th birthday. “I keep saying you’re the only people that can bring me out of my house. I’m not kidding.”