New Again: Priscilla Presley
Earlier this month, The New York Times announced that Graceland, Elvis Presley’s estate that opened to the public in 1982, will establish a second location in Las Vegas. The announcement will be made official later this month, though the opening of this museum—set to include an exhibition space and live performances—is long overdue. Having played 837 performances in Sin City, there are few places more crucial to Elvis’ career.
This week, we highlight an interview with his ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, from our December 1979 issue. Priscilla had been with Elvis since she was 14, and although she left him before his death in 1977, the actress would have known Graceland just as well as the King himself.
At the time of this conversation, Priscilla had fallen deeply in love with male model Michael Edwards. She resolved to not discuss Elvis during the interview, but it was impossible to ignore his legacy when speaking about topics like hair products, travel, and caviar.
By Andy Warhol
Part I: Tuesday, October 16, 1979, 9:00 p.m., Quo Vadis. Andy Warhol, Bob Colacello, and actress/fashion-plate Janet Villella are dining with Priscilla Presley and her steady beau, Michael Edwards, a major male model. Priscilla, the ex-wife of the greatest legend in the history of rock-‘n’-roll, is in town to promote Wella hair products, for which she has just become their million-dollar-a-year “spokesperson.” She has let it be known in advance (through PR people) that the purpose of this interview is not to talk about Elvis. But whatever tension and restriction that has created is soon gone as Priscilla begins to speak in a voice as beautiful as her face.
ANDY WARHOL: Are you doing any movies?
PRISCILLA PRESLEY: Not right now. I’ve been offered quite a few things, but for now I’m happy with what I’m doing. I like commercials and I like advertising. It’s just in the process of starting on the Wella commercials. I like working with Wella because it’s a family-owned corporation.
BOB COLACELLO: Are they named Wella?
PRESLEY: No, the family is named Megerle and they’re from Germany. They don’t work out of Germany, though. They have a plant in Englewood, New Jersey.
JANET VILLELLA: Where do you live?
PRESLEY: Los Angeles. I’m thinking seriously about moving though, because I’ve fallen in love with New York.
WARHOL: Isn’t it the best? Especially at this time of year.
PRESLEY: I know. It’s unbelievable. Everytime we come here we can’t leave.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: I really think New York is the heartbeat of the world.
PRESLEY: We’re very good friends with your friend, Joan Quinn, in Los Angeles, Andy. I love that streak in her hair. Every time I see her it’s a different color.
WARHOL: Is it pink or purple now?
VILLELLA: Imagine what Wella would do with her!
PRESLEY: I don’t know. They’re having enough trouble with me as it is. My hair turned green at one point from the chlorine in our swimming pool, and I went through three days of changing it back to blond. I used all the Wella products on it and I must say they really work. Now I have to swim with a bathing cap at all times.
WARHOL: I always thought you had darker hair.
PRESLEY: Yes, I used to have black hair. I’ve gone through the whole spectrum of colors. I’ve been blonde for about five years, and I can honestly say that I think blondes have more fun. It’s fun to change your hair color; your personality changes right along with it.
VILLELLA: You have a child, don’t you?
PRESLEY: Yes, I have a little girl. She’s 11 years old.
COLACELLO: Eleven? Wow. You must have been so young. You only look about 21 years old now.
PRESLEY: I do? That’s wonderful!
EDWARDS: You’re supposed to say ‘neat.’
PRESLEY: I try to keep things light. I guess you could say that’s my secret.
EDWARDS: We’ve been exercising together for about a year now…you know, real exercises.
COLACELLO: Do you live together?
EDWARDS: Yes, and you know, the movie magazines know more about our daily life then we do.
COLACELLO: What agency are you with, Michael?
COLACELLO: How do you feel when you see your picture everywhere you go?
EDWARDS: I don’t look at it.
PRESLEY: He never does look at his pictures. I’m the one who goes through all the magazines and newspapers saying: “Oooh. Look at your picture Michael.” He’s in all the milk ads and Johnson’s baby oil…
COLACELLO: What do you do for them? Oil a baby?
EDWARDS: No. I sit on a beach with a suntan.
WARHOL: You look like the kind of people they’re using in movies now. Michael looks like a better version of Richard Gere.
VILLELLA: Where are you from, Priscilla? California?
PRESLEY: I was born in Brooklyn, but with my father being in the Air Force, I traveled around all my life. I think that’s why it’s hard for me to confine myself to one place. I love to travel. That’s another reason I love being with Wella. I even enjoy going to all those places you wouldn’t ordinarily get to, like Michigan.
WARHOL: Do you have any memories of Brooklyn?
PRESLEY: No. Actually I was raised mostly in Connecticut.
EDWARDS: Do you have any memories of Connecticut?
WARHOL: You to can do the interview with each other. You’re great.
EDWARDS: No, really. We talk a lot but this is one thing that never came up—Connecticut. This could be something important. How long were you in Connecticut?
PRESLEY: Most of my childhood. I love it. I love the East Coast. I love the change of seasons.
WARHOL: I saw the best movie recently, The Europeans. Actually, the best thing about it was the scenery. It was all red and yellow trees changing color and people riding around in buggies.
PRESLEY: I’m so glad the movies are finally re-discovering romance. If I were to do a movie, that is the only type of role I can see myself playing—very romantic.
EDWARDS: We’ve more or less been looking for a project to work on together. But were going to wait for just the right thing to come along.
COLACELLO: Would you say you’re just using the advertising thing to make yourself better known?
PRESLEY: That’s one of the questions that’s most frequently asked and the answer is no. I’m working because I want to work. I want to do something that I enjoy.
EDWARDS: I ask her the same question.
PRESLEY: I believe in what I’m doing now. I’m not looking for fame, fortune, and stardom, I just like feeling as though I’m doing something constructive. For the past two years I haven’t done much of anything, and before that I was a co-owner of a boutique. After I sold the boutique, I laid back for a while. But I feel now is the right time to go to work on something new; I’d certainly rather do this than go back to school or be a secretary.
COLACELLO: Diana Vreeland told me that in all the World War II newsreels there was always a segment of Marlene Dietrich washing her hair with Wella while touring with the troops. So it must be good stuff.
PRESLEY: It is good stuff. And it’s German, just like Marlene.
WARHOL: What have you been doing since you’ve been in New York?
EDWARDS: We’ve been devoting so much time to working that we haven’t been able to do much else.
PRESLEY: What do you recommend? We like to see the stars.
WARHOL: You’re stars. We can take you later to meet Gudonov, the Russian ballet star defector, at Regine’s.
PRESLEY: That would be great.
(Orders. Presley and Edwards in French; Warhol, and Colacello in American; Villella in Italian.)
COLACELLO: I think Las Vegas is the most evil place in America.
PRESLEY: I gambled once and lost almost $2,000 on baccarat, which, unfortunately, is one of my favorite games. I just love the feeling of playing but I hate losing. I feel so stupid.
COLACELLO: Everyone in Las Vegas looks so poor. All the gamblers’ wives stand behind them, thinking about another mortgage on the house.
PRESLEY: It’s a fever. Michael’s not even a gambler, but when we go, he’s at the machines like crazy.
EDWARDS: I remember one night in Vegas, I walked into a casino with no intention of gambling. Well, the next thing I knew it was 7:30 in the morning and I had cashed every check in my checkbook. Still, I can’t wait to go back. When I do I’m going to bring a lot of money. All it takes is two glasses of wine and then I loose my…
EDWARDS: Yup, that’s it: I lose my cool. Priscilla finally had to leave me there. Her final words were, “You’re hopeless.”
PRESLEY: I think you get a little cocky. You start winning and then you take chances.
Janet Villella’s trip to China
PRESLEY: Michael and I just came back from Samoa.
WARHOL: Did you bring your Polaroid camera?
PRESLEY: Oh, yes. And everybody we saw wanted us to take their picture.
VILLELLA: Is that where Brando has his estate?
PRESLEY: I thought that was Tahiti. Samoa is probably one of the last Polynesian countries to remain somewhat primitive. I couldn’t believe it. We were literally living in sarongs and washing our fish and vegetables in the ocean. We got totally immersed in the culture.
EDWARDS: We slept in those little mosquito-net huts. Priscilla, tell everyone about the village.
PRESLEY: In the village that we stayed in there were a lot of sick little children. They really do need missionaries to take care of them.
EDWARDS: All they wanted us to do was take their pictures.
VILLELLA: Do they speak English?
PRESLEY: A little. They have no value for money. They wanted to trade us things for the pictures we would take.
COLACELLO: How did you get there?
EDWARDS: We went from Australia.
COLACELLO: What were you doing in Australia?
EDWARDS: We don’t know. We were only there for 36 hours. It was just a stop-off point along the way.
WARHOL: I want to go there. It sounds like the new California.
PRESLEY: I was supposed to go to New Guinea for a safari last year but I canceled it when I met Michael.
COLACELLO: Are you very athletic?
PRESLEY: Very. I love exploring, just getting in a jeep and discovering things. One day I’ll get to New Guinea. I sacrificed going because I was afraid Michael wouldn’t be there when I got back.
WARHOL: Bob met Governor Brown at Diane von Furstenberg’s the other night. Do you like him at all?
COLACELLO: It’s amazing how everyone is getting interested in politics these days.
PRESLEY: I think it’s because there are so many young, new politicians.
COLACELLO: I think it’s because the country’s falling apart.
EDWARDS: I like Jerry Brown. He seems like a nice guy.
PRESLEY: I’ve never met him but I feel like I know him. I get very confused with politics. There’s politics in sports, advertising—everything. It’s hard to deal with.
COLACELLO: Do you mean competition?
PRESLEY: In a way.
COLACELLO: Well, I think modeling and acting are the most competitive fields. You really have to go into those things with your eyes wide open.
VILLELLA: Or closed, as the case may be.
PRESLEY: It all depends on what you want out of it. I’m not a real competitive person. I go in to things I want to learn form or experience, I’m not interested in competition.
COLACELLO: You must have some ultimate goal.
PRESLEY: I don’t know…
EDWARDS: I could answer that. I think it’s rather simple: to enjoy. What we’re doing is really enjoyable. We’re having a good time and meeting a lot of very nice and interesting people.
WARHOL: It’s true. You do meet a lot of great people on tours.
COLACELLO: So it’s communication.
PRESLEY: Yes. That’s the major thing.
VILLELLA: How are you with making decisions?
PRESLEY: Any decision that I make is something I really want to do. I think these things over very carefully. It took me a year to decide to go with Wella.
COLACELLO: Did they come to you?
PRESLEY: Yes. I was signed with the William Morris Agency when an advertising agency approached me about being a spokesperson for Wella. The negotiations went on for a year and I couldn’t decide. I was also asked to be one of Charlie’s Angels. That was one decision that I didn’t have any trouble with. I told them “no” right away.
EDWARDS: She’s a Michael’s Angel.
WARHOL: We met the Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors, in Washington.
PRESLEY: Is he worth it?
WARHOL: I asked him for his autograph, and he said, “Are you kidding?”
COLACELLO: I hate people who don’t give autographs.
PRESLEY: I feel a little reluctant about it myself. My case is a little different. I didn’t choose to become famous. I married someone famous. People ask me if I get into a big career with Wella will I change my name; why should I change my name? My god, I have a daughter and it’s her name, too. Some people accuse me of trying to cash in on the name. Well, that’s totally untrue. If I had wanted to cash in on the name, I would have done it years ago. I believe I would be doing the same thing I’m doing now regardless of my name. I’ve always been involved with fashion and I’ve always loved it. Sometimes my name works for me and sometimes it works against me.
EDWARDS: When we were in Western Somao among natives and near-savages who could barely speak English, the one name they knew was Elvis Presley: the man who made the best music.
COLACELLO: There’s no doubt that Elvis Presley was, and still is, one of the most famous people in the world. A name like that doesn’t die with the person. But, of course, you have many things going for you in your own right, Priscilla. I’m sure you’ve had people asking you to model since you were very young.
PRESLEY: As a matter of fact, I was modeling when I was very young. I always wanted to model but I thought my height would be a detriment; I’m not quite 5’4″ tall, although in photographs I appear much taller.
COLACELLO: So even as a young girl, you were always interested in fashion?
PRESLEY: Yes, always. I mean, my life isn’t dominated by it, but it has played a part for as long as I can remember.
COLACELLO: What kind of clothes do you like to wear?
PRESLEY: Calvin Klein’s. I think he is wonderful. He has more than taste, he has style.
EDWARDS: I like French clothes.
COLACELLO: Do you go out much in L.A.?
PRESLEY: No, we don’t socialize all that much. I like to stay home and cook. You know, I thought I could cook, I mean really cook, until one evening when Michael decided he wanted to make dinner. I was laughing to myself but I went along with it, mostly to humor him. As it turned out, it was one of the most delicious dinners I had ever eaten in my life. Michael is one person who has a natural talent for cooking. Now I feel embarrassed when I have to cook because it can never compare to Michael’s.
EDWARDS: One of my favorite restaurants is Quo Vadis in Barcelona. If you eat there often and you enjoy the food enough to compliment the chef, then they invite you back into the kitchen. I think I picked up more about cooking in that kitchen than I ever could from a book. I just noticed everything. Then it became a habit. I did it everywhere I went —English, French, or Swiss restaurants—I would always visit the kitchen.
COLACELLO: Are you going to go into the kitchen tonight?
EDWARDS: I don’t think so.
PRESLEY: I was a vegetarian before I met Michael. But one night he talked me into a steak dinner and that was the end of that. When we went to Mexico City, we ate everything in sight. We were just so curious. We both got sick but we kept on eating.
COLACELLO: I hope you remembered not to drink the water.
EDWARDS: No, we didn’t drink the water; we drank tequila.
PRESLEY: We also went to a bullfight.
EDWARDS: The bullfighter was such a coward, I had never seen anything like it. Finally they let the bull go free. I think it was probably one of the few times that’s every been done.
PRESLEY: Half of the stadium cushions were in the arena. The audience was so mad.
EDWARDS: The most exciting part of the whole bullfight was when they turned the bullfight’s car over. Usually the bullfighter comes out after the fight riding on a horse, but there was now way in the world they were going to let him do it this time; they would have killed him.
COLACELLO: Do you do most of your traveling together?
PRESLEY: Are you kidding? I wouldn’t let him out of my sight! There are always so many beautiful girls around. It’s more than just that, though. They go to the most beautiful locations—and Michael always does the cooking.
COLACELLO: It’s a good thing you both like to travel.
PRESLEY: I don’t think I could ever stand not to. Even though I consider Los Angeles my home, by no means do I feel sedentary. I love to come to New York. There’s just no comparison between the two cities. You know I had a fear about moving to New York, that’s partly why I decided on Los Angeles. I thought that people in New York would be so mean and aggressive. Now I’m finding the opposite is true. While L.A. is very cliquey, New Yorkers tend to be extremely friendly and helpful. L.A. people just don’t have that same sense of, ‘let’s all meet here and then we’ll all go there.’ In New York it’s like that. It’s great.
COLACELLO: In L.A. all people do is drive around in cars.
WARHOL: And get stopped to take breath tests.
PRESLEY: You too?
EDWARDS: They made me twirl around three times and touch my nose. Once they stopped me to ask if I had been drinking and I told them, yes, I had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner. Then they said, “Well, how about the young lady next to you?” And I said, “Officer, the young lady is 10 years old. We’re going home to rejoin her mother.”
PRESLEY: When Michael tells me that this sort of thing goes on I can hardly believe it. Oh, Michael, remember that one night? You were so bad! He was trying to make a left hand turn and yelling at the car in the left lane to move out of the way. It just so happened that the car was a police car. Nothing happened though. We had a good time. We never did get to the Odyssey.
COLACELLO: Once I was in a car with a bunch of people and a dog. We were on our way to the Odyssey when we got stopped. They not only asked the driver for his license, they asked the dog for his.
WARHOL: What’s Odyssey?
COLACELLO: An all night fruit juice disco for teenage blonds, sort of.
PRESLEY: The one bad thing about going out and staying out all night is that it can keep you from getting up early in the morning. And I hate missing the morning. I love to get up early.
EDWARDS: What do you mean? You get up at 7:30 regardless of what time you go to bed. I get up with her but that’s as far as it goes. I usually go right back to sleep.
PRESLEY: I have to get up with my daughter and get her off to school.
EDWARDS: When we went to Western Samoa, we got up at 5:00 in the morning and took a long ride up into the hills to the place where Robert Louis Stevenson went to die. It was so beautiful.
WARHOL: He went there to die?
EDWARDS: Yes, he had tuberculosis.
PRESLEY: My daughter and I were having lunch in this restaurant when Robin Williams came in. She got so excited because she just loves him. She kept saying “Mommy, Mommy! Look it’s Mork! Can I meet him? Please!” All of a sudden she looked down and realized she had on her Mork and Mindy jeans and she became so embarrassed that she didn’t want to meet him anymore.
WARHOL: He’s seeped into so many lives. Kids who don’t know anything else know Mork.
(Dessert: everyone orders strawberries, which never appear.)
WARHOL: Do you suppose they forgot?
PRESLEY: The waiter probably got carried away starting at Michael.
WARHOL: I just noticed you’ve got a Kieselstein-Cord belt on Michael.
PRESLEY: I feel in love with his things before I knew his name. He’s wonderful. I should have worn my belt tonight.
EDWARDS: She designs her own shoes, don’t you Priscilla?
PRESLEY: Yes. I love to design jewelry, clothes.
COLACELLO: Do you think you’ll do your own line?
PRESLEY: I had my own line. I just feel that once you’ve done something you might as well move on to other things.
COLACELLO: Where was this, in the shop?
PRESLEY: Yes, and we were very successful. I just decided that I’d had it and that it was time to go on to other things. I remember seeing Calvin Klein on the Phil Donahue Show. A heavy woman stood up from the audience and said, “Why don’t you make your designs in bigger sizes. I can’t wear Calvin Klein clothes.” And he said, something to the effect of: “You shouldn’t be wearing my clothes, and if you really want to, then lose some weight.” He’s so frank! I’d really love to meet him.
WARHOL: You really should. We’ll take you to meet him sometimes this week.
PRESLEY: It would be such a treat. I’d just like to tell him he’s a genius.
PART II: Monday, October 22, 1979, 1:00 p.m., The Factory Board-Room. Warhol, Colacello, Presley, and Edwards are lunching—food from Les Trois Petits Cochons.
WARHOL: Isn’t it beautiful today? It’s like summer.
PRISCILLA: I know. It’s wonderful. It’s so nice seeing you again.
WARHOL: What have you been doing?
EDWARDS: Seeing shows. We saw Sugar Babies, which we loved; and then last night we saw Nosferatu.
WARHOL: How was that, boring?
EDWARDS: No, not at all. We enjoyed it.
PRESLEY: How long did you stay at Regine’s last night?
WARHOL: Not too long. Everything is getting crowded in New York now with all the foreigners. It’s great.
PRISCILLA: Last week I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in L.A. and she was saying, “Lately I just hate Los Angeles. It’s so boring.” Now I understand what she meant. After you’ve been to New York, everything seems boring. It really can make you have second thoughts about going back to L.A.
WARHOL: Michael, your boots are cracking. That’s one reason that I don’t buy lizard shoes anymore. For $75 there’s a place you can send them to and they’ll make them seem brand new again.
EDWARDS: Luchese are my favorites.
COLACELLO: We tried to get Calvin to come but he’s doing a collection. He was so flattered. He said to stop by and see him anytime.
PRESLEY: That’s great. I’m wearing Calvin today.
WARHOL: Michael, have you ever seen that thing on TV “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” Would you like to go on .. and do that? You just go on for a few minutes and say, “Michael Edwards, model. It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” It’s on Channel 5, Metromedia, before the news. Isn’t the news so abstract lately?
PRESLEY: Can you believe the difference between Carter’s image when he first took office and now?
COLACELLO: He’s gotten thinner—among other things. Do you think he has a chance?
PRESLEY: One thing about the American people is that we have a tendency to forget things so quickly. We always seem to be rooting for the underdogs.
COLACELLO: I don’t think always.
WARHOL: Carter said on TV the other day that his outlook is the same as Kennedy’s. It’s just that Kennedy would want to spend more money, but with the same outlook.
PRESLEY: Is Carter running again?
WARHOL: He’s trying. It’s going to be a hard race. Carter could win.
PRESLEY: We’ve been traveling so much we’ve hardly had time to read the paper.
COLACELLO: You must have put in 24 hours a day for Wella during this promo week, well, last week.
PRESLEY: I was going to work at seven and not coming home until 10:00, 10:30. By the end of the week I was a complete physical wreck; my eyes were bloodshot, my hair was standing up on end.
COLACELLO: Does Wella make products for men as well as women?
PRESLEY: Not yet but I think they’re planning to. I think it’s wonderful how men are now using products that were always considered to be in the women’s domain. Michael uses all the Wella shampoos and conditions, as do I, my mother, my daughter, and my sister. It’s just great how today men can wear makeup or go to the salon to get their hair done or permed or whatever. For so long men were afraid to do those things.
COLACELLO: A lot of men are getting their hair streaked for highlights.
EDWARDS: My hair has always been a problem. They were always trying to color it or get out the frizzies or something.
PRESLEY: That’s one thing I’ve noticed since coming to New York. Everyone wants to change you. They just can’t accept the way that you look.
COLACELLO: It seems as though being a model must be one of the most difficult things. Just to hear things like: you’re not for us, you’re too fat, you’re too tall, you’re too dark, you’re too light. Does it make you feel kind of…
PRESLEY: Rejected? Yes, sometimes it can really do that to you.
EDWARDS: When I first came to New York in 1967, I was a young, green kid from Florida and my eyes were wide open. I met some people, who at the time I thought were ultra-sophisticated, and they introduced me to Lutece, which is a restaurant where a meal cost $100. They gave you vodka, caviar, everything. Anyway, it’s strange to come back 10 years later and see the whole thing in a different light.
COLACELLO: People are so fond of asking, “When was the first time you had sex?” Maybe what they should be asking is, “When did you have your first caviar?”
WARHOL: When did you have your first caviar?
PRESLEY: A year ago.
WARHOL: Really! Did you like it?
PRESLEY: I loved it. You know, I love food but for some reason I always stayed away from caviar. It just wasn’t something that appealed to me. But I finally had it in this restaurant in L.A. called Scandia. Now you can’t keep me away.
WARHOL: Do you eat it by the spoonful with nothing else?
WARHOL: I can do that—eat a whole pound with a spoon and nothing else.
EDWARDS: Have you done that?
WARHOL I don’t know. I have no memories.
EDWARDS: You have no memories? Does that mean I can do whatever I want to you and the next da you won’t remember a thing?
WARHOL: Sure. The paper said you two were married, it isn’t true is it?
PRESLEY: No. I called the agency right away about that.
WARHOL: Since we’ve brought up the caviar subject, when did you have your first sex—not together.
PRESLEY: Oh, Michael. We’d better be careful.
WARHOL: I don’t like sex.
PRESLEY: You don’t like sex? I think sex is everything. I guess unless you’re with the right people it can be really bad.
COLACELLO: Let’s get back to the caviar. Didn’t Elvis eat caviar?
PRESLEY: Never. He hated fish, period. If you were in the kitchen and he smelled fish, he would kick you downstairs. Fish was never allowed in the house. If he had meat, it had to be burned. He didn’t enjoy meat. He enjoyed eating but he liked to eat other things.
COLACELLO: It sounds like he had the typical bad American diet. Americans eat so poorly. Charcoal broiling is so bad for you.
WARHOL: I thought charcoal was natural.
PRESLEY: We’re not big meat eaters. Occasionally we’ll go out for a steak, but I don’t really enjoy eating a lot of meat. I was a vegetarian until I met Michael.
COLACELLO: Everything’s good in moderation. You still didn’t tell us when you first had sex.
WARHOL: Did you tell Rona Barrett?
PRESLEY: Absolutely not. Someday. It will be a shock to everyone.
COLACELLO: I know you don’t want to talk about this but if you were going out with Elvis Presley ever since you were 14, you must have felt like a child all over again during these past five years since you left him.
PRESLEY: Absolutely. In a sense I’m just growing up now.
WARHOL: Why did you leave him?
PRESLEY: It was just too much.
COLACELLO: Truman Capote told us once that Elvis invited him to dinner in Las Vegas and it as the most unreal thing! Doris Duke was there. And 10 guys from Memphis.
PRESLEY: It could be. I don’t know. We never went out to dinner.
COLACELLO: This was in Elvis’ room.
PRESLEY: That’s possible. Doris Duke as a friend.
COLACELLO: Do you ever go back to Los Vegas?
PRESLEY: Yes, I go back. I have no reason not to.
COLACELLO: Does it still bother you when you see stories about your ex-husband and drugs?
PRESLEY: Yes, it does. But you can only say so much in defense and then people take another view. Sometimes it’s better not to say anything. There’s been so much said already. It’s painful. Why can’t they let him rest?
COLACELLO: Are you ever going to write a book about your life?
PRESLEY: It’s not in my immediate plans. As you said, I’m just now starting over again. And there’s so many books out now, a lot of which are based on falsehoods.
WARHOL: I hear another maid is planning to write a book on Marilyn Monroe.
PRESLEY: You know it’s getting so hard to trust people, and then they wonder why you’re so suspicious.
EDWARDS: But you’re one of the least suspicious people I’ve ever known.
PRESLEY: There are few people I don’t like. We had one couple working at our house who were just wonderful. They were an old black grandma and grandpa. They were full of energy. For a while we had a young couple and my daughter became very attached to them. She just goes about her business. She gets along with everyone, too.
WARHOL: What’s your daughter’s name?
PRESLEY: Lisa Marie.
COLACELLO: You two strike me as being very organized.
EDWARDS: It doesn’t come naturally. We not only struggle, we maneuver.
COLACELLO: It’s hard to juggle simultaneous careers, isn’t it?
EDWARDS: You’re not kidding.
PRESLEY: We’re working at this all the time. I’m usually the silent one in our relationship. Often Michael will tell me that I should take more, get it out more. I really can’t imagine myself being like that.
EDWARDS: Most people walk around keeping everything inside mainly because there’s not a lot to let out. But some people have a lot to them which the keep inside and you never know about it.
WARHOL: What’s going to happen when he comes a famous movie star?
PRESLEY: Then I’ll become more quiet.
EDWARDS: No, what will happen is that we’ll do it together because that’s what we want. You know, I can’t believe that she really doesn’t want to become a star. I do because I have things I want to say to people. But Priscilla doesn’t have that drive to become an actress or to do a film.
COLACELLO: Maybe it’s because she’s seen the negative side of what success can do to a person.
EDWARDS: It’s true. Everywhere we go, and I do mean everywhere, she gets people running up to her screaming her name. So at one point she decided that she does want to acknowledge these people rather than ignore them. I said, “Priscilla, if that’s what you wan to do then there’s got to be communication. You can talk to them and I’ll stand by playing ‘the nice guy’ and make sure it’s alright.”
WARHOL: You seem so protective.
EDWARDS: I am. I wouldn’t want to go through that myself and I can imagine how it feels.
PRESLEY: One thing I have learned from my situation is to be a little careful. All my life I’ve always been protected and my basic nature is to be trusting of people, so it can be hard.
COLACELLO: Most of the time, though, all people want is your autograph or to tell you how great the think you are.
PRESLEY: But there is always that other small percentage…
WARHOL: What size is your waist, Michael?
EDWARDS: Thirty. I’ve wanted to be a 30 ever since I turned 30. I don’t understand it.
COLACELLO: How tall are you?
PRESLEY: He’s the perfect model. But I shouldn’t say that because someone made a comment the other day in the paper: “Priscilla wouldn’t talk about Elvis but she doesn’t stop talking about Michael.” It’s funny, I try not to talk too much about anything.
EDWARDS: It’s unfair the way the press treats her. I know that one day Priscilla will outgrow the stigma of Elvis and have a real life of her own.
PRESLEY: I feel there’s a time and place for everything; now people are out for sensationalism and I’m not out for that. The public will always want something and unless you put a stop to it, it will go on forever.
EDWARDS: As you’ve told me, Priscilla, you have to have respect for your daughter’s feelings above everything else before you go ahead with a book or interviews. She had to be able to discuss things openly and feel comfortable about the man who was her dad.
WARHOL: What does she look like?
PRESLEY: She has his eyes.
EDWARDS: It was rather funny how Lisa and my daughter finally came to accept each other. In the beginning, it was a little tricky to explain; “I’m your mom’s friend and this is my daughter.” But eventually, everything worked out nicely.
PRESLEY: There were some major hassles. For one thing, both of our daughters are the same age. Another problem as the names, for instance, I’m Priscilla to Michael’s daughter and Mommy to Lisa. And then of course, the obvious: the publicity. The last thing the press cares about is the kids. They’ll print anything.
COLACELLO: I think you have to teach them at a very young age that it’s all a joke.
PRESLEY: Lisa doesn’t pay a bit of attention to any of it. She handles it very well. She’s a great kid; she’s got a lot of common sense.
WARHOL: Do you have a photograph of her?
PRESLEY: No. I don’t like for her to be photographed. She was photographed at one event we went to. I don’t know how they recognized her, she was with my parents. I was heartbroken but she didn’t mind it. She’s a very strong kid. Excuse me for a minute, please.
EDWARDS: Where are you going?
PRESLEY: I’ll be right back.
EDWARDS: Would you like me to go and stand outside the door and wait for you?
PRESLEY: Oh, Michael! Isn’t he wonderful?
THIS INTERVIEW ORIGINALLY RAN IN THE DECEMBER 1979 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW.
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