WHILE ON TOUR FOR HER LATEST ALBUM, STORM & GRACE, LISA MARIE PRESLEY SITS DOWN WITH EDITOR-AT-LARGE DEREK BLASBERG TO DISCUSS ELVIS, OPRAH, AND ONE INFAMOUS ROCK-AND-ROLL VIGIL
First impressions: you’re more petite than I realized, but your hair is just as big as I had hoped.
Lisa Marie Presley Well, thank you. It’ll get even bigger by show time. I’ll pump it up before I get out there.
To be expected of a Southern girl. This year is the sixtieth anniversary of the birth of rock and roll, which started with Elvis Presley’s first single, “That’s all Right,” in 1964. When were you aware of the contributions your father made to music?
LMP Not when I was a kid. He was just my dad then. But, obviously, to have that in my life now? I’m proud. Not that it’s easy. To explain to my children that their grandfather started rock and roll? That this thing that is everywhere now didn’t exist before him? Hard stuff. I tried to explain it to my youngest kids a week ago. They were like, ‘So he started music entirely?’ and I said, ‘No, not music entirely, but a certain type of music. Like what is happening now is because of him.’ We’ll try again when they’re older.
Was there a distinction between Elvis Presley your father and Elvis Presley the icon?
LMP There was no stage persona, no spokesperson, no alter ego. Elvis was my father and my father was Elvis.
Do you have favorite songs of his?
LMP I like his songs from the ’70s, because that’s when I was around.
Now you create your own music. Was there ever a point when you wanted to do something else?
LMP Nope. Music or poetry, which is basically what a singer-songwriter does.
C’mon, you never wanted to be an astronaut or a fireman?
LMP Well, there was a time when I wanted to be a nurse.
I wonder what a shrink would say about that.
LMP If I ever feel vulnerable, I get angry. I’ll puff up. But it’s all bullshit. I am the caretaker in the family. I pride myself on being a nurturer and want to help people. I’m also a hypochondriac. I’ve been to the doctor so many times that now if any of my kids or someone I know feels sick, they call me and I’ll tell them what I think it is. It’s not an official diagnosis, but I’m right most of the time.
So family is important to you?
LMP More than anything.
We have a friend in common, Linda Ramone, who told me that when her husband, Johnny Ramone, was sick that you were there for them like no one else.
LMP Yeah, I’d go be with him every day. We’d take shifts. I’d let Linda go home and take a shower and I’d stay with him until she got back. He was never alone.
He finally passed away at home, right?
LMP Right in the living room. In his La-Z-Boy chair. We were with him all day and when he died in the chair. It was me, Eddie Vedder, Rob Zombie, Pete Yorn, Steve Jones—a whole bunch of us. We hung out with him. We watched a movie with him sitting there in the chair. Dead.
LMP His mom called and I told her, “He is with us right now.” And she said, “I believe in that stuff too.’” And I said, “No, he’s actually sitting right here.” I mentioned that to Bono and he said it sounded like an Irish wake. I guess it’s common in Ireland…
But not in Beverly Hills. There is a certain kinship among musicians, though. Do you get that?
LMP I do tend to relate to people in music, but I appreciate any kind of artist. An artist is an artist is an artist.
Is your father an inspiration to you?
LMP Yes, of course. Huge. His background singers, the Sweet Inspirations, were another one. And I loved Elton John very, very early. Elton was the first record I bought that my dad found out about. He was like, “Who is this that she’s listening to that isn’t me?” He went out and bought a few of Elton’s records after that.
Have you told Elton that?
LMP Yes, and he thought it was fabulous. Then I went through a country music phase. I loved the Mandrell sisters. Dolly Parton, obviously. Loretta Lynn. Tammy Wynette. Then I went into the hard-rock phase. Linda Ronstadt. Heart. Pat Benatar? Loved her.
What part of the music making process are you most fulfilled by?
LMP Touring. Interacting with the audience. I like smaller venues because they’re more intimate.
How have you dealt with being a public figure?
LMP I create a little retreat for myself wherever I live. Right now, it’s our house in England. I go there and I’m completely normal. I’ll garden or cook. My husband got me some horses for Christmas. I like to retreat from performing and then delve back into it. Getting away is an important part of the process.
Does the press hound you?
LMP It’s not that hard to avoid it if you want to. To tip off the paparazzi and stage a photo shoot at Starbucks? That’s insane. When I grew up you did everything you could to avoid that. People today think they’re over if they’re not in the tabloids. It’s like a drug.
I think celebrities today want to be in tabloids, but don’t want to actually connect with fans. It’s like, Take my picture, but don’t talk to me.
LMP I’m the opposite. I don’t want my picture in the paper, but I’ll talk to you. I busted my ass putting these records out there, and I’d like to hear what people think of them!
Let’s talk about your love life!
LMP I can tell you I have a lady crush.
LMP Lady Gaga.
Why, did you meet her recently?
LMP No, I saw her perform with Elton John, and she was lying across a piano and belting out these songs, and it was the coolest fucking thing. She seems intelligent. And I decided after that I had a lady crush.
Is it true that you are related to Oprah?
LMP She did an investigation and she said that yes, many, many years ago, a Presley and a Winfrey got together. People were sneaking around and doing stuff and, yes, we are connected as a result.
Does she feel like family when you see her?
LMP It does, actually. But I think she’s like that with everyone. I call her Mama Moses and told her that I wanted her to adopt me.
So, Lady Gaga is your crush and Oprah is your adoptive mother?
And Elvis is your dad.
LMP You got that?
PHOTOGRAPHY ADRIAN Mesko photo assistant steve sikora