Huge scandals that rocked Elvis Presley's family

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Elvis Presley playing guitar and wearing a black leather jacket Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The King of Rock and Roll, a Hollywood heavyweight and an enduring icon, Elvis Presley's life is the stuff of legend. But if we're being honest, the only King with a life and lineage more tragic than Elvis might be King Lear. The "Can't Help Falling In Love" crooner led a life plagued by scandals, including allegations of racism, sexual misconduct, substance abuse, and infidelity. The Viva Las Vegas star's legacy as a heartthrob was tainted not just by how he lived his life, but also how it ended.

The Presley family scandals aren't limited to just the hip-swiveling "Hound Dog" singer. His ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, and daughter Lisa Marie Presley, each also dealt with their own trials, tribulations, and traumas, both publicly and privately, and many of their issues are ongoing.

From sex scandals to drug allegations to dramatic divorces and deep debt, these are the hugest scandals that have rocked Elvis Presley's family ... so far.

Elvis was accused of culturally appropriating Black music

A black and white photo of Elvis Presley wearing rings and with sideburns covering his mouth with his hands Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Elvis Presley has long and widely been accused of culturally appropriating Black music, but whether or not he actually did so deliberately has been hotly debated since his Ed Sullivan Show debut, and Presley himself credited the Black community for inspiring his sound. "A lot of people seem to think I started this business, but rock 'n' roll was here a long time before I came along," Presley told Jet magazine in 1957 (via Pinterest). "Nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. Let's face it: I can't sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that. But I always liked that kind of music. I used to go to the colored churches when I was a kid — like Rev. Brewster's church (Rev. W. Herbert Brewster of East Trigg Ave. Baptist Church in Memphis)." Many Black artists have complimented Presley's contributions and camaraderie with the Black community, including James Brown.

Still, Presley largely benefited from systemic racism, intentionally or not: It's widely recognized that a large degree of the King's success was equally due to his whiteness as it was to his talent. His fair skin, blue eyes, and good looks earned him mainstream (read: white) recognition and opportunities that his contemporaries of color would never receive. It's just whether Presley deliberately took advantage of that fact or not is what's up for interpretation.

Elvis got involved with Priscilla when she was only 14

Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley have rice thrown at them on their wedding day Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

With that face, that voice, and those hips, Elvis Presley could have enjoyed the attention of almost any grown woman on the planet. However, it was a 14-year-old girl who stole his heart, and, well, that's pretty weird.

Presley served with Priscilla Beaulieu's father in the US Army in West Germany, and they first met at a party in 1959 when Priscilla was 14 to Elvis' 24. She recalled to People that her parents initially forbade her from seeing the star, but eventually allowed Elvis to court her, at which point her grades dropped dramatically, and she revolved her entire life around the singer. Elvis tried to mold her into the woman he wanted her to be (even down to telling her to wear more eye makeup), and that whenever she would go to see him, she would scramble to wear her mother's clothes to look older so no one would suspect him of being with someone so young.

Priscilla explained on Loose Women in 2016, "I didn't have my teenage years as a normal girl obviously, so I had to adapt. And I guess I did adapt ... You honestly didn't have your own life. You lived his life. You saw the movies he wanted to see, you listened to the music he listened to, you go to places he would go, so you really kind of lost yourself."

Also just plain creepy? Elvis called Priscilla "Little One."

Elvis Presley had a penchant for young girls

Elvis Presley is mobbed by girls on the set of the "Milton Berle Show" in 1956. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Priscilla wasn't the only young teen that Elvis Presley reportedly romped around with. In the book Elvis Presley: A Southern Life, author Joel Williamson alleges that Presley had a group of three 14-year-old girls whom he would engage inappropriately with while at Graceland, ranging from tickling, wrestling, pillow-fighting, and kissing. One of the girls, Frances Forbes, told Daily Mail, "He didn't pay any attention to me [when I was 13], but when I was 14, he noticed me. Fourteen was a magical age with Elvis. It really was." One of the other girls, Gloria Mowel, claimed, "He'd get serious and you'd just push him away. But I think if he had really pushed, I would have done it." According to Williamson, in 1954, Presley cheated on 15-year-old girlfriend Dixie Locke with a fan ... whom he left in an emergency room after his condom broke.

Daily Mail reported that when Presley was performing in Florida in 1956, 14-year-old fan Jackie Rowland's mother found Presley kissing Rowland "in a grown-up way." Before meeting Priscilla, Presley allegedly wanted to "raise" 14-year-old Sandy Ferra to be his wife.

After Presley's split from wife Priscilla, he is accused of pursuing another teen girl. In Alanna Nash's book, Baby Let's Play House: Elvis and the Women Who Loved Him (via Vice), she writes that Presley moved on with a 14-year-old girl named Reeca Smith.

Elvis Presley had a weird obsession with virginity

Elvis Presley in "Jailhouse Rock" in 1957 Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Even though Elvis Presley had quite the active (and sometimes-predatory) sex life, he basically forbade then-girlfriend Priscilla from doing the same until after they tied the knot. While he had rumored dalliances with Nancy Sinatra and other stars during their courtship, he refused to consummate his relationship with Priscilla until their wedding night. As the Daily Mail reports, her perceived "purity" was integral for him to maintain his attraction to her. 

In a piece for People penned by Priscilla, she claimed that they conceived daughter Lisa Marie on their honeymoon and that after Lisa Marie's birth, Elvis had no sexual interest in her anymore. She also claimed that when she was seven months pregnant, Elvis suggested a trial separation but changed his mind within days.

For as much as Elvis was obsessed with virginal women, he certainly didn't limit his own behavior at all. In Elvis Presley: A Southern Life, author Joel Williamson reported that Elvis installed two-way mirrors in his homes to spy on party guests having sex and women undressing.

Priscilla Presley cheated on Elvis, but it was pretty understandable

Priscilla Presley holds a poodle in Memphis in 1963 Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Elvis Presley wasn't the only cheater in his marriage. After Elvis stopped being intimate with wife Priscilla Presley following the birth of their daughter, Lisa Marie, she pretty understandably sought satisfaction elsewhere. In a 1985 interview with Barbara Walters, Priscilla explained that her relationship with Elvis was more of a father-daughter companionship with "terrible" communication than a functional marriage. Priscilla says she turned to hobbies to keep herself busy while Elvis worked and entertained other women. She took karate lessons from stuntman and martial arts expert Mike Stone and eventually had an affair with Stone.

Eventually, Priscilla said of her lack of an intimate life with Elvis, "There weren't too many more nights that I could take." In 1972, she told Elvis she was having an affair with Stone and wanted to end their marriage, sending Elvis into a rage. She went on to date Stone, during which they enjoyed various hobbies together that she hadn't been able to pursue much during her marriage to Elvis.

Despite the acrimonious ending of their marriage, Priscilla and Elvis remained close friends until his death in 1977.

The circumstances of Elvis Presley's death were humiliating

Elvis Presley performs in 1974 wearing a white jumpsuit Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In August 1977, Elvis Presley was dating Ginger Alden, who found him dead in their bathroom — specifically and infamously on their toilet. The King was just 42 years old.

The singer had grown overweight and was long-dependent on several prescription drugs, ranging from opiates to antihistamines, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and hormones; People reported that he'd been prescribed nearly 12,000 pills within less than two years before his death. Quaaludes and opiates Dilaudid, Percodan Demerol, and codeine were reportedly found in his system after his death (via PBS), creating a perfect storm for a heart attack. The singer also suffered chronic constipation, a common side effect of opiates, so he frequently abused laxatives as well. The circumstances of his untimely passing were, of course, humiliating, but as PBS reports, actually aren't too uncommon: Straining to defecate can put real pressure on the aorta and heart and is likely what ultimately killed him.

Presley's personal physician, George "Dr. Nick" Nichopoulos, was accused of overprescribing drugs to Presley as well as singer Jerry Lee Lewis for years. Dr. Nick insisted he was being careful and that he often gave Presley placebos in an effort to quell his addictions and that the reason he gave him prescription drugs was to prevent him from buying them (or something potentially more dangerous) on the street. He also said the high volume of pills was because he prescribed them not just for Presley himself, but for his entourage.

Priscilla Presley had some plastic surgery disasters

Priscilla Presley appears on Hallmark's "Home and Family." Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Priscilla Presley was and still is a great beauty, but her efforts to preserve her stunning good looks backfired in a major way. While competing on Dancing With The Stars, viewers noticed that Presley's face looked extremely puffy and taut. We learned why eventually: She was a patient and victim of Daniel "Dr. Jiffy Lube" Serrano, who injected several high-profile women, including Larry King's then-wife Shawn, with industrial-grade silicone often used in auto parts — not body parts. 

According to TMZ, the women held "injection parties" at their homes for what Serrano called the "miracle" drug, which cost them between $300 and $500 per vial. For perspective, The Wall Street Journal reported that around the same period, Botox treatments cost between $500 and $2,000, while other fillers like Restylane and Juvederm would set one back about $300 to $400 per syringe, so these women should have known the price was too good to be true.

Serrano's victims alleged that they suffered lumps, "craters," and even paralysis in their faces after his procedures. He eventually pleaded guilty to conspiracy, smuggling, and using unapproved drugs and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. A rep for Presley told Daily Mail, "Priscilla Presley was one of many documented victims of Dr. [Daniel] Serrano. An investigation which uncovered his misconduct ultimately led to his imprisonment. Ms. Presley dealt with this matter years ago and everything is now well."

Lisa Marie Presley's marriage to Michael Jackson was most likely a one-sided PR stunt

Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson take the stage at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards. Frank Micelotta Archive/Getty Images

In 1994, Lisa Marie Presley married Michael Jackson. Presley told Rolling Stone (via Elvis Australia) that they met through a mutual friend, and she said that he insisted the pervasive rumors about him (namely the allegations that he sexually abused children) weren't true, and he was misunderstood. This made her, she says, into a "lioness" who wanted to protect him and was, she said in retrospect, possibly a form of manipulation.

Many speculated that the whirlwind marriage was Jackson's attempt to rehabilitate his own image, but both Jackson and Presley at the time insisted their love was genuine, even discussing their intimate lives in the press. However, Presley later told Rolling Stone that their marriage got "really ugly at the end," noting that their infamous kiss at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards was a "gimmick" and not her idea. She added, "I know that it looks very timely for him, in retrospect — the record was coming out, that other s**t was happening, and I was too caught up in [it all]."

Presley and Jackson divorced in 1996. She lamented, "I don't know how much he can access love, really. I think as much as he can love somebody he might have loved me," he said. "It was always like a mind that was constantly working. It was a scary thing — somebody who's constantly at work, calculating, calculating, manipulating. And he scared me like that."

The press may have played a role in Lisa Marie Presley's divorce from Nicolas Cage

Lisa Marie Presley and Nicolas Cage at the premiere of "Windtalkers" Robert Mora/Getty Images

Shortly after her divorce from Michael Jackson, Lisa Marie Presley met Nicolas Cage. They dated for two years and tied the knot in August 2002, but divorced by November (via Time). She told Larry King Live in 2003 of the relationship, "Similar situations, similar backgrounds. So we connected, we had a great connection. We were both a bit — we're sort of these gypsy spirited, you know, tyrannical pirates. And one pirate marries another they will sink the ship basically is what it comes down to." She added that the media's portrayal of Cage's alleged obsession with Elvis frustrated them both because it "denigrated" Cage from Academy Award-winning actor to a fanboy.

"He was in the tabloids [and] there was all this Elvis fascination and Elvis obsession and I said, 'I can't believe they are actually pulling it off with you now too,'" Presley recalled. Still, they remained close friends, with Presley saying she still "adores" the Con Air star.

Lisa Marie Presley's ugly divorce revealed her struggle with addiction

Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Lockwood at the BMI Country Awards in Nashville, Tennessee, in October 2012 Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Tragically, Lisa Marie Presley battled some of the same demons as her father and struggled with substance abuse throughout her adult life. In June 2019, she opened about her opioid addiction in the book The United States of Opioids: A Prescription for Liberating a Nation in Pain, writing (via Yahoo!), "You may read this and wonder how, after losing people close to me, I also fell prey to opioids. I was recovering after the [2008] birth of my daughters, Vivienne and Finley, when a doctor prescribed me opioids for pain. It only took a short-term prescription of opioids in the hospital for me to feel the need to keep taking them."

Presley previously admitted to abusing drugs and alcohol in a 2017 court deposition from her divorce from musician Michael Lockwood after 10 years of marriage. In a bitter custody battle over their young twins, Lockwood has accused her of abusing opioids and cocaine, while Presley accused Lockwood of having inappropriate photos of children on his electronic devices. Lockwood denied the allegations, but the couple's twins were temporarily placed in the custody of Priscilla Presley. People reported that it's not uncommon for a third party to maintain custody in similar situations. Priscilla maintained custody of the girls for nine months, and an investigation ultimately cleared Lockwood without any charges. Presley was ordered to pay Lockwood $100,000 in legal fees.

Lisa Marie Presley went broke

Lisa Marie Presley poses on the red carpet while speaking to her daughter, Riley Keough Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Something else revealed by Lisa Marie Presley's divorce from Michael Lockwood: Her depressing financial state. In a February 2017 filing obtained by the Associated Press, Presley revealed that she was $16 million in debt, primarily composed of credit card bills and back taxes. In her filing, Presley said she gets $100,000 of monthly inheritance, plus a $4,300 salary and health insurance through Elvis' estate, as well as a 15 percent stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises through a trust.

A year later, Presley sued her financial manager, Barry Siegel, for allegedly squandering her $100 million fortune from Elvis Presley Enterprises until she was left with just $14,000. In documents obtained by The Blast, Presley alleged that Siegel sold 85 percent of her interests on a slew of risky and poor investments, then scrambled to liquidate her assets to replenish the income from her trust. She also accused Siegel of using her trust to purchase a $9 million home in England, then nearly blowing all of her cash "when he couldn't make the $6.7 balloon payment" on the property. 

For his part, Siegel alleged that Presley was responsible for her financial situation because of her own overspending. As of January 2020, the battle was still ongoing.

Lisa Marie Presley's only son died by suicide

Benjamin Keough and Lisa Marie Presley on the red carpet at the premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" in 2010 Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

In July 2020, Lisa Marie Presley's son (and Elvis Presley's only grandson), Benjamin Keough, died by suicide. TMZ reported that Keough, just 27 years old, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Keough was a musician with a smattering of acting credits but ultimately lied low for most of his life. He was the inspiration behind Lisa Marie's song "Storm & Grace," as "Storm" was his middle name.

On what would have been Keough's 28th birthday, Lisa Marie posted a photo of him blowing out candles on a cake with the caption, "My beautiful angel. I worshipped the ground you walked on, on this earth and now in Heaven. My heart and soul went with you. The depth of the pain is suffocating and bottomless without you every moment of every day. I will never be the same. Please wait for me my love, and hold my hand while I stay to continue to protect and raise your little sisters and to be here for Riley. I know you would want that. Happy Birthday my sweet, sweet Boy. You were much too good for this world."

Just days after his death, Lisa Marie's ex, Michael Lockwood, filed to strip her of primary custody of their twin daughters, alleging risk of her relapsing after Benjamin's suicide, as well as fears of there being a firearm in her home.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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