The King of Rock n' Roll had a personal life most people would strive to stay away from, intimate relations with a minor, and strong drug abuse were just some of them.
Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is a great deep dive into the relationship between Colonel Tom Parker and the artist, however, the relationship that needed the spotlight didn’t get any. There is nuance to the dynamic between Elvis and Priscilla. Onlookers are agitated by the fact that Elvis was much older than Priscilla and started dating her when she was a minor, but the ex-wife still has a lot of love for the artist and has continued to propagate his legacy, according to TIME.
But let’s go back to the beginning. Elvis meets Priscilla, it is 1959, Presley is serving in the US Army visiting West Germany when Beaulieu was there with her father who is a .S. Air force officer named Paul Beaulieu. They connect over drinks and get together soon after. However, it is expected that her parents weren’t too keen on their 14-year-old daughter dating a 24-year-old Army officer. But they had relented a little on the man after he showed up to their house. “He arrived in his BMW wearing his Army uniform to impress dad,” she said. He was able to make a good lasting impression and the two began a dating routine in which “Elvis would call after 7 to let me know that I’d be picked up at 8,” mentioning her schedule. “I had to dress quickly, trying to find some way to appear older than my age.”
Their relationship evolved over time such that she would go live at his parent’s house in Memphis to be close to him while she finished studying at the local Catholic girls’ school, where Elvis would drop by often to pick her up in his limo. They got married in a ceremony that lasted eight minutes and involved only some of their closest family members and friends. She was 21 when they got married, it is then when the duo started testing the waters with physical intimacy. “That was a promise he made to my father,” she confirmed, indicating that they hadn’t done so before she was of age and had gotten married. But this flimsy excuse of respect didn’t last long enough, their marriage became something of what one would call an unequal power dynamic.
He was reportedly doing her makeup and conducting the way she would appear to him and the people around him. “He applied makeup so heavily that you couldn’t tell if my eyes were black, blue, or black and blue,” she explained. “That was what Elvis wanted.” She has also mentioned how she essentially became “Elvis’ living doll, to fashion as he pleased. He taught me everything. How to dress, how to walk, how to apply makeup and wear my hair, how to behave, how to return love—his way,” she added. “Over the years, he became my father, husband, and very nearly God.” And if this sounds concerning, she has also mentioned that he “wanted to mold me to his opinions and preferences,” and she had her hair dyed black to match his. All this pomp and performance and Elvis had never seen Priscilla without makeup. “He never wanted to see me getting dressed, he wanted to see the end result,” she ruminated.
Nine months after they got married, Lisa Marie Presley was born but even before then, their marriage had taken a turn for the worst. “He wasn’t faithful,” Priscilla mentioned when asked about Elvis’ numerous alleged affairs during their marriage. “Not that he had someone special, but when you’re in the entertainment business there is always that and I tried to turn my back to that, but I just didn’t want to share him.” She had also been in an extra-marital affair that she didn’t seem ashamed to be questioned about. Recalling how her marriage was troubled from the start, she said, “With Elvis, my life was his life. He had to be happy. My problems were secondary.” Eventually, it was the feelings of “neglect and loneliness” that drove them to divorce. She had to find herself outside of this relationship and after completing a degree and opening a boutique, setting up a business and acting, she has made a name for herself. “We never lost our friendship and our care for each other,” Priscilla reminisced. “He would call me at night. I really valued his calls. I valued him telling me what was wrong.”
Cover Image Source: Elvis Presley (1935 - 1977) being fed a mouthful of wedding cake by his bride Priscilla Beaulieu (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)