Lisa Marie Presley: Remembering the Gen X Kid Who Lost Herather

I’ve never met Lisa Marie Presley. But we were kids together. At least he feels that way.

I’ve never heard a single song by her, nor have I kept coming back and her celebrity. But I’m still sad about it A 54-year-old woman I never knew has passed away.

Maybe something from Generation X or the 1970s. When I was young, she was one of the few kids in the public eye who wasn’t a child actor. Big celebrities came and went, but here was Lisa Marie, another girl my age, with a generic face and name. Like me, she has never had starring roles in movies or TV shows. Instead, there would be the occasional photo of her in a Christmas dress or something, posing with her famous side-swept dad, who loved her so much that he named his kite after her.

Elvis’ plane was named after his daughter, Lisa Marie.

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fathers and daughters

Solidarity, Sister – I also had a dad with sideburns. That was in the seventies. Most of the children have a father with sideburns. Our sideburns parents weren’t world-famous singers identifiable only by their first name, and they didn’t have airplanes they named after us. But they sure posed for awkward family photos looking uncomfortably sweaty with giant lapels on their jackets, just like Elvis.

Even her name marked her as one of us. The year she was born, “Lisa” was the most popular baby girl name in America, and “Mary” certainly seemed to be one of the most popular middle names. I have about a dozen friends called “Lisa” to this day. Generation X nursing homes could have an entire Lisa ward if they wanted to one day, cater only to elderly Lisa. Maybe a few Kims and Amys.

The ’70s were an embarrassing era for this country, and an ugly time to be a kid. The events – the Vietnam War, Watergate – were grim. The sights we were surrounded by didn’t get much better: orange carpet, avocado hardware, bell bottoms.

Do you know where your children are? No!

Children of the 70s weren’t as well catered for as they are now. The memes are right: Your parents kicked you out of the house one summer morning and didn’t expect to see you again until dinner.

If Mom needs you in between then, good luck. You might play kickball, smoke at someone’s club, stroll along railroad tracks picking up bumps from Toughskins, risk knee-deep in a pond scavenging for dead fish, or risk playing tetanus while playing flag in a junkyard. You might have a blast, you might get bullied, you might get bored out of your skull. Your parents never knew, and they wouldn’t ask.

There were no social media sites of course, no “influencers”. Very few kids my age were famous. Lisa Marie was one of them.

Lisa Marie Kitchen

Forever frozen, this ’70s-style Graceland kitchen looks and feels a lot like the kitchen you grew up with, thousands of miles away and millions of dollars away.

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lose her father

Lisa Marie had fallen out of the spotlight by the time her father, Elvis, passed away in 1977. Of course, it was huge news and shook the world. Giant headlines and news reports were everywhere. Elvis is deservedly heralded as a legendary singer.

But something inside me remembered that little girl in the pictures, and realized that while the world might have lost an artist, there was a child my age who lost her father.

She was nine years old. I was 9 years old. My dad wasn’t Elvis, and he didn’t have a plane to name after me. We didn’t have Elvis money, first-class air travel or fancy homes.

But Lisa Marie and I were 9, and I had to be 10, and 11, and 16, and 25, and 40, and my dad was still around, giving advice and thinking up my dad’s bad jokes and showing up at my school functions. Clapping for me at plays, teaching me to drive, walking down the aisle, and being soft on my baby daughter. Lisa Marie didn’t understand that. Hundreds of millions of dollars couldn’t buy that.

That Graceland swing set

Lisa Marie has been in and out of the headlines as she grows up. Her life seemed more unreal and complex than those simple pictures of dad and daughter in the 1970s. I became a mother when I was still finishing college and trying to figure out a path. She was married to Michael Jackson, and later to Nicolas Cage. She has come a long way since her childhood days. We obviously had very little in common besides our birth years.

But when I visited Graceland in 2017, I felt a kinship with Lisa Marie again. Graceland is a big house, but it’s not a Kardashian-style mansion. It looked instantly familiar—a somewhat oddly decorated wacky house in the 1970s, with shaggy carpet, huge tube TVs, and a game room with a canvas ceiling and a ripped-in pool table cloth where some family friends tried a trick and messed up.

This red, white, and blue 1970s metal swing looked like a million swing sets I’d been playing on. We lived together on our Bicentennial, Lisa Marie and I, and everything was painted red, white and blue.

crop-lisa-marie-swingset

Is this Graceland swing set for Lisa Marie? The bicentennial style and color scheme is easily recognizable to any child of the 70s.

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Lisa Marie has lived a complicated life. The luxuries I knew and the challenges I faced, good and bad, are things I will never understand. But her early, innocent fame burned so brightly that I never forgot her. After all, she was a mother and daughter, singer-songwriter, businesswoman — it was many things.

But my Gen X heart will grieve for her as a little boy with a father he lost too soon.


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