It was the quietest royal wedding of the century. No mighty chords from Lohengrin, no bellowing crowds, no zooming TV cameras. In fact, not so much as a grain of rice was flung in affection—and that suited everybody involved right down to the ground. Plans had been set afoot in blackest secrecy, and on the great day nobody (but nobody) outside the inner circle of the royal family knew what was about to happen. At 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 3, nine people assembled silently in a pleasant formal parlor inside the Celebrity Center International of the Church of Scientology in West Hollywood. The bride’s mother and her maternal grandparents were there, along with her mother’s sister and three close friends of the family. The bride wore a knee-length dress of pale rose silk, the groom stood beside her in a dark suit. Rev. Sarah Gualtieri, a minister in the Church of Scientology, calmly read the marriage service and, after a seven-minute exchange of vows, pronounced Daniel Keough and Lisa Marie Presley man and wife.
And that, in thundering anticlimax, is how the fairy-tale princess of Graceland, the only legitimate child and legal legatee of Elvis Presley—King of Rock and god of the planet’s most exuberant cult of posthumous celebrity—up and tied the knot. What’s more, the marriage was kept secret for two days. Under California law a cohabiting couple may marry without a health certificate and wait 96 hours before filing notice of the union, and by that time the cunning honeymooners had flown far from the madding crowd of red-faced reporters who had muffed the pop-culture scoop of the year.
Where in the world had the newly-weds gone? Who in tarnation was Daniel Keough? Why had they married with such haste and secrecy? All inquiries were brusquely referred to Priscilla Presley’s publicist, Paul Bloch of Rogers & Cowan, who issued this minimal statement: “Lisa, 20, married musician Daniel Keough, 23, her boyfriend for the past three years. Priscilla said, ‘I am thrilled for Lisa Marie. Danny is a great guy, and I couldn’t be happier for the two of them. The couple will be honeymooning for the next three months at an undisclosed location.’ ”
Three months? Even for a princess royal, three months is much too long for an active young couple to spend on a honeymoon. Could it be that the newlyweds were trying to drop out of sight? If so, why? The world soon found out. Six days after his original communiqué, Bloch issued a terse addendum: “Priscilla Presley today announced that her daughter, Lisa Marie, and Lisa’s bridegroom, musician Danny Keough, are expecting their first child in the spring of 1989.”
The statement settled some dust but left a central question open: Who exactly are the hero and heroine of this torrid front-page romance? For most of her 20 years, Lisa has been one of the best-kept secrets in La La Land, the most carefully secluded of all celebrity children. And Daniel Keough, when the story broke, was a name without a face, Nobody with a capital N. In Britain the blab-tab Sun soon supplied a description: fortune hunter. Zing! went the headline: THE PRINCESS AND THE PAUPER. Zap! went the text: “Super-rich Lisa Marie Presley married penniless nobody Danny Keough yesterday.” And what did Priscilla think of the young man? “Lisa Marie’s mum is said to have forced her son-in-law to sign away his claim to [Lisa’s] multi-million-pound fortune in a contract drawn up by her lawyers.” No evidence to support the allegation, but what the hey!
Money of course is massively involved in this marriage. Lisa Marie is the sole heir to Elvis’s estate. When he died, it was reportedly worth a mere $5 million. Though the King had sold more than a billion records, crafty old Colonel Tom Parker, his business manager, had slunk away with most of the swag, and Elvis had made ducks and drakes of the rest. He owned two airplanes, handed out Cadillacs like autographs and couldn’t tell a tax shelter from a telephone booth. But since his death, a shrewd team of managers, including ex-wife Priscilla, has transformed the Presley homestead into a gold mine and Elvis into a product worth more dead than alive. Last year 608,000 fans spent about $9 million at Graceland alone, and Elvis souvenirs earned five times that amount worldwide. By the end of 1987, the singer’s estate had ballooned to more than $50 million.
Out of this sum, the trustees pay Lisa Marie a handsome monthly stipend. By the terms of her father’s will, she was scheduled to receive the rest of her legacy when she turned 25, but last July she agreed to leave the money in trust until her 30th birthday. By then the value of the estate could double or triple, making Lisa Marie very rich indeed.
What sort of husband has she chosen to share this outrageous good fortune? Some basic facts: Born in Chicago on Nov. 6, 1964, Daniel is the elder son of Francis and Janet Keough. Tom, his younger brother, works in the movie industry in Los Angeles and is married to a teacher in a Scientology school. Daniel has brown hair and brown eyes, stands 6’1″ and weighs 170 lbs. After his parents’ marriage ended, his mother wed Alan Hollander, a Scientologist who became executive director of a church mission in Davis, Calif., and later moved on to other church assignments in Sacramento, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. During most of his childhood, Daniel went by the name of Hollander. About 15 years ago, while living in Sheridan, Ore., Alan and Janet co-founded the Delphian School, a private Scientology academy. After her marriage to Hollander ended in divorce, Janet stayed on to become the school’s administrator.
“Danny and Tom are both graduates of the Delphian School,” says a Scientologist who has known them both for years. “They had a normal upbringing—Little League and that sort of thing. Lots of art classes and music as well as the basics. Danny was a great kid with a great life—dogs and friends and sports and music. He is a very talented musician and extremely good-looking. Tall, dark and handsome with a great personality. I think he will make a good husband for Lisa Marie. He was a bit of a rebellious youngster but has turned into a fine young man. He’ll be good for her.
“People used to wonder who Lisa Marie would hook up with,” the friend remembers. “Would it be a creep who was only after her money? With Danny, this is not the case. All his needs are met by the church. Besides, he’s not the type of person to take his marriage vows as anything less than solemn. He is rock solid. When I learned of the marriage, my first reaction was: ‘You’re kidding. Little Danny with little Lisa. How perfect.’ ”
Others agree. “He’s a good guy,” says a musician friend, “and not into it for the money.” And Priscilla’s sister and assistant, Michelle Hovey, adds emphatically: “Everyone’s happy, I can tell you that!”
“Danny came to Los Angeles in 1984,” says a fellow Scientologist, “and started dating Lisa Marie about a year later.” They met at the Celebrity Center—the church’s elegant social facility—when Lisa Marie had an apartment there, and they have been living together for more than a year. Danny, a bass player, gigs around the L.A. area and works as a house musician at Mad Hatter Studios, which is owned by jazz pianist and fellow Scientologist Chick Corea. Thad Corea, Chick’s son, is Danny’s best friend.
Until last January, Danny and Lisa Marie shared a three-bedroom, $3,400-a-month ranch house in Universal City, just over the hill from Hollywood, with a group of friends. Since then, they’ve been living in a series of houses owned by Scientologists. To make some extra money, Danny has been painting the houses, and when he finishes one, they move to the next.
For now, though, the church reports, Danny and Lisa Marie are ensconced on the Freewinds, the Scientologists’ 250-passenger yacht, cruising the Caribbean. “I understand,” says Grace-land spokeswoman Patsy Andersen, “that Lisa’s just ecstatic.”
Something approaching ecstasy does in fact animate her face in a photograph taken after the wedding—a look of blazing delight surcharged with the same elemental energy that once streamed from her famous father. In almost any mood, her resemblance to Elvis is eerie. She has the same hot but needy little mouth, the same lush lids that hang like tiny awnings over smoldering eyes, the same bruised shadows floating underneath. Like her mother, she is petite but voluptuous. Sometimes she looks like a femme fatale. Sometimes she giggles like a happy little hoyden. And sometimes the corners of her mouth turn down, her jaw sets hard, her eyes stare without seeing—in an instant she becomes a spoiled and sulky child, ruthlessly determined to get her own way.
Spoiled she was, from the day she arrived. Graceland was her playpen, and its staff her devoted attendants. What’s more, she was Daddy’s darling, and Elvis gave her whatever she wanted. When she wanted to see a movie, he rented the whole theater. When she asked for a ride on a merry-go-round, he bought out the amusement park. At 5, the little brat took to running down the help in her gas-powered go-cart, and when people tried to make her stop, she screamed: “I’ll tell my Daddy to fire you!”
After Priscilla left in 1972 and took Lisa with her, Elvis made outlandish efforts to hold on to his daughter’s love. When she was 8, he bought her a diamond ring and a mink coat—which Priscilla made him return. And when Lisa told him on the phone that she had never seen snow, he instantly gassed up his Convair 880 jetliner—named Lisa Marie—flew from Memphis to Los Angeles, collected his daughter at the airport and roared off to Utah, where Lisa frolicked for about 20 minutes in a light snowfall and then was flown home. Cost of this quality time: about $30,000.
Such indulgence appalled Priscilla. From the age of 16, she had been Elvis’s toy, a live-in Lolita he manipulated with sex and chemicals and romantic illusions, and she was determined to keep little Lisa’s feet planted on firmer ground. She gave her a modest allowance, made her do chores around the house, checked over her homework, sent her to unpretentious private schools and steered her away from kids who had too much money for their own good. But in her middle teens Lisa rebelled, and for the next three years mother and daughter were at war.
One night Priscilla found Lisa and a teenage boy together in a neighbor’s hot tub. “I can’t let her out of my sight for a minute!” she wailed. “She’s boy crazy.” To which model-actor Mike Edwards, the man Priscilla was living with at the time, replied, “She takes after you, baby.” In Priscilla, Elvis and Me, his book about the seven years he spent with Priscilla, Edwards also describes a more drastic confrontation. One night, on holiday in Florida, Priscilla agreed to let Lisa go dancing and then spend the night with Edwards’ teenage daughter Caroline at the home of his ex-wife. The deal, says Edwards, was that Lisa and Caroline would be in by midnight—and no drinking. At midnight the girls called and said they were home. Actually, they were still out dancing—and drinking. Hearing crowd noise in the background, Priscilla guessed as much and roared over to Caroline’s to confront them when they got home. In a flaming snit Priscilla slapped both girls, then dragged Lisa out to the car and began spanking her—hard. Lisa screamed bloody murder, and before long the police arrived. Reluctantly, Lisa said she was all right, and the cops left. But next morning Lisa and her mother flew back to California.
“Some people say I’m overcautious,” Priscilla said later in an interview. “But I have to think of things long-term, not short-term. It’s not easy raising a daughter as a single parent, especially in Los Angeles, where there’s a lot of peer pressure.” Not to mention drugs, which sometimes figured in Lisa’s little rebellions.
She turned to Scientology for help. Founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a messianic science-fiction writer, Scientology is a controversial cult that prescribes self-purgative disciplines and hi-tech therapies to lead its members to higher awareness. Critics of the movement claim that the church milks huge sums of money from its devotees and reduces them to brainwashed beatitude, but initiates credit it with helping them to kick bad habits. “It’s no secret that Priscilla wanted to save Lisa Marie from the exposure to drugs like her father,” says a church member. “Scientology is the only religious science which takes such a strong stand against drugs and alcohol,” though Mormons might dispute that claim.
Certainly something happened after Lisa joined her mother as a church member. Gradually, Priscilla learned to allow her daughter freedom, and Lisa learned to take responsibility for her life. Whether it was because of the church’s influence or because of the normal passage of adolescence, mother and daughter agree that for the last two years their relationship has been close and strong. “I love my mom,” Lisa said recently. “Very much.”
Obviously she also loves Danny, and between them, mother and lover have helped a shy and rebellious girl transform herself into an increasingly independent and responsible young woman. Encouraged by Priscilla, Lisa has begun to think seriously about her role as future mistress of Graceland. She has even risked a first, cautious sally into show business. In a forthcoming Oldsmobile commercial that she made with her mother (for a $250,000 fee plus a new car), she looks great, performs stylishly and seems to relish the text as a takeoff on their once-troubled relationship.
Lisa: If I want a new hairdo, my mother puts her foot down.
Cut to: Priscilla, putting her foot down.
Lisa: If I want a new boyfriend, my mother puts her foot down.
Cut to: Priscilla, putting her foot down.
Lisa: I’m sure she’ll put her foot down on this car too.
Cut to: Priscilla, putting her foot down on the accelerator of an Oldsmobile—which takes off like a jackrabbit.
Not much, but it’s a start. Could the next step be singing lessons? Her father’s fame and talent are undoubtedly daunting—his songs, she has said reverently, are “incredible, the type of music that will live forever.” But friends say Lisa has a dark, vibrant voice that sounds like Pat Benatar’s. The genes are there—will she muster the will? Probably not for a couple of years. Ever since last year, when Priscilla and her current live-in lover, Marco Garibaldi, had a baby, Lisa has longed to have one of her own. If it’s a boy, friends wonder, will she call it Elvis? After all, if a skinny little kid from the boondocks of Mississippi hadn’t bought himself a $12.95 git-tar and taught himself to whomp it, would anyone be smiling now at the thought of little Lisa, happy at last?
—Brad Darrach, and Lois Armstong, Eleanor Hoover, Karen G. Jackovich and Jacqueline Savaiano in Los Angeles