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- June 19, 1989
- Vol. 31
- No. 24
The Presleys' Newest Star
Swaddled in Secrecy, Danielle Riley Keough, Lisa Marie's Daughter and Elvis's Only Grandchild, Takes Her First Peek at the Planet
Amid such regal silence, a fine crop of rumors blossomed and flourished. Not since Elvis was sighted last summer at a Kalamazoo Burger King and at various shopping malls has the Presley dynasty dealt with so much unsubstantiated static. It was variously reported that Lisa Marie had delivered the baby four days past her due date or had been three weeks late; that she had been visited by Priscilla in the labor room or had been attended only by Danny and the medical staff; that she gave birth not in L.A. on May 29 but several days earlier in Phoenix. One overheated tabloid ran a cover picture of an infant and the headline LISA MARIE PRESLEY'S BABY GIRL but didn't go out of its way to tell readers that the baby pictured was Priscilla's son, Navarone. Particularly inspired rumor-mongers, aware of Lisa Marie and Priscilla's affiliation with the Church of Scientology, spread the story that the child would be named Elron, in honor both of Elvis and L. Ron Hubbard, the church's founder.
The one irrefutable fact was that Lisa Marie, who had trained with a Lamaze coach in the months before the birth, had produced a healthy girl and that she and her family couldn't have been happier. The weeks before the birth had apparently been difficult for the small-boned Lisa Marie, who is just 5'3" and weighed 105 lbs. before her pregnancy. Says Joseph Beaulieu, Priscilla's stepfather: "Lisa Marie was getting anxious for things to happen. She's doing super now. She's jovial, doing as well as you could for having just gone through having a baby. And Danny's beside himself. He's the most attentive young father." Postpartum visitors, says Beaulieu, were kept to a minimum: "It's not a social event. Danny's stepmom was there, I believe, and of course Priscilla. She's always bubbly, and she's just more so now." For his part, Beaulieu was delighted. "Everyone is pleased," he says. "It's been the main topic of discussion in our family."
According to Cesare Bonazza, a photographer who was given exclusive rights to take pictures of the newborn Danielle and her mom, the hospital-room setting was happy and low-key. Summoned by the family on May 30, Bonazza was allowed 10 minutes to photograph a relaxed Danny and Lisa Marie, who was coiffed and carefully made up for the occasion.
By all accounts, Lisa Marie and her family had been determined from the beginning to keep the blessed event from becoming a sideshow. Long sheltered from the press by the savvy Priscilla, Lisa Marie, who will inherit her father's zillion-dollar estate, including Graceland, when she reaches 30, has already proved that she wishes to avoid the sort of spotlight that transformed her father from a sweet, sexy country boy into a dissolute neurotic. Last October, when she married Keough, a bass player, at the Church of Scientology in Hollywood, the ceremony involved just nine people. The newly-weds were off honeymooning on a church-owned yacht before Priscilla's publicist announced the marriage to the press. All details of Lisa Marie's pregnancy, including the exact due date, guarded secret.
And while the veil was drawn over Lisa Marie's baby, in part because of the Pres-leys' desire for privacy, it may also have been inspired by the Church of Scientology, an organization with something of a passion for secrecy. Priscilla, Lisa Marie remained a closely and Danny are all devoted Scientologists. A member of the controversial faith for more than 10 years, Priscilla brought Lisa Marie into the church in the early '80s. Danny, whose mother and stepfather cofounded the Delphian School, a private Scientology academy in Oregon, was raised in the church; he met Lisa Marie in the Celebrity Center, its social facility in Hollywood.
Like other members, the new parents have been steeped in the belief that confessional therapies and rigid disciplines can lead to higher awareness—an awareness that believers feel can't be fully appreciated by non-Scientologists. In fact, even without the object lesson of what publicity and adoration did to Elvis, Lisa Marie and Danny would have had powerful indoctrination from their church on the importance of keeping the outside world at bay. "The word is paranoia," says ex-Scientologist Bent Corydon, co-author, with renegade scion L. Ron Hubbard Jr., of a 1987 critique of the church, L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman? "Outsiders are called wogs and treated as fair game. If you're considered to be an enemy, you can be tricked, sued, lied to or destroyed. But celebrities are treated with kid gloves-John Travolta, Priscilla and Lisa Marie, Karen Black and [other celeb members] are given the star treatment. They're all protected—they know nothing of what actually goes on in the organization."
Corydon, who was a member of the church for 20 years, predicts that, like other children born within the faith, Elvis's granddaughter will most likely be cared for by baby-sitters who are Scientologists and sent to a church-run preschool. Ultimately, he says, she will probably attend where Danny's the Delphian School mother is an administrator.
As peculiar as the notion may seem, such a strict regime echoes—albeit in a radically nontraditional manner—the King's own religious upbringing in hard-scrabble Tupelo, Miss. His parents, Gladys and Vernon Presley, were regulars at the fundamentalist First Assembly of God Church. Elvis sang in the congregation and, according to lore, often was packed off for revivals and camp meetings. Somewhere along the way, of course, his fervor took a decidedly secular turn, and by the time he and Priscilla brought Lisa Marie home to Graceland in 1968, he was hardly prepared to think about discipline or moral guidance.
Wildly indulgent toward his daughter, Elvis treated her much as he had Priscilla, who had moved into Graceland by the age of 16: To him, Lisa Marie was a cunning little toy. The Presley princess seldom heard a discouraging word at Grace-land, which she often visited after her parents separated amicably in 1972. Elvis gave her a mink coat and a diamond ring (trifles that Priscilla returned) and jetted her to Utah when she told him she had never seen snow (after she had played in it for about 20 minutes, he had her flown back to L.A.). Elvis's stepbrother, Rick Stanley, recalls that the singer allowed Lisa Marie to snuggle beside him even when overnight visitors were still in his bed, and she witnessed much of the other colorful, self-destructive behavior that characterized his later years.
Nonetheless, to Lisa Marie, Elvis seemed close to being a perfect father. "He was always up to something, shooting off firecrackers or guns, running around, driving golf carts or snowmobiles," she said recently in an interview with LIFE. "He'd pull me in a sled and scare me to death. On that long steep driveway that goes up to Graceland, he'd be pulling me up and falling at the same time. He called me Buttonhead or Yisa. He'd never call me Lisa unless he was mad at me." Like others who were close to Elvis, Lisa Marie also witnessed the darker moments: "I used to see my dad take pills, but I was so young that I didn't think anything about it," she said. "All the bad things never changed my love for him."
It fell to Priscilla to act as disciplinarian. Steeped in gaudy excess as Elvis's child bride, she was determined to put Lisa Marie on a different path. In L.A., where Priscilla moved permanently after separating from Elvis, Lisa Marie was sent to a succession of unpretentious private schools, given a negligible allowance and required to be home by 10 P.M. When she crossed the line by experimenting with drugs or dallying with the wrong boys, she was reined in promptly.
"The most difficult part of being a single parent [was] being mother, father, friend and disciplinarian for her," Priscilla told LIFE. "HOW could I take any disciplinary action without destroying her trust in me? I dealt with her problems as if they were mine and would give her the best advice I could."
Looking back, Lisa Marie seems to be glad that Priscilla showed a strong hand: "I'm very normal," she has said. "I'm not a little body-guarded celebrity child, running around spending money and driving a Rolls-Royce.... I'm capable of making a cup of coffee."
And, she hopes, of becoming the sort of mother that Priscilla has tried to be. These days, the two are extremely close. Lisa Marie was pleased when she learned that Priscilla was pregnant by her live-in beau, Marco Garibaldi, who is 11 years her junior. Lisa Marie attended Lamaze classes with Priscilla—"a wonderful bonding experience," she called it—and was in the delivery room when her half-brother, Navarone, now 2, was born in 1987. Watching him grow, she says, has been the perfect short course in motherhood. "My mom is my best friend," Lisa Marie said just before her own wedding. "I plan to raise my kids the way she does the little one."
—Michelle Green, Lois Armstrong, Eleanor Hoover and Robin Micheli in Los Angeles and bureau reports
September 24, 2016
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