Elvis Heiress In Cult Shock
Daily Express 7th August 1986
ROCK king Elvis Presley's daughter and heiress to his millions is in the grip of a controversial religious cult, it was revealed yesterday.
Lisa Marie Presley, 18, has joined the Church of Scientology which a High Court judge
branded as "a dangerous, sinister" organisation.
Presley's widow, Dallas star Priscilla, is devastated by her daughter's move from her Beverly Hills home into a cult "safe house" in a crime-ridden area of Los Angeles.
A friend of the actress said on the Dallas set yesterday: "She won't admit it, but she knows she has lost her daughter. Lisa Marie is caught in a web.
"Sometimes they talk on the phone, and meet occasionally but whenever Priscilla mentions anything specific about the organisation, her daughter changes the subject."
Scientology chiefs expect hefty donations from recruits. Individual "tithes" from members have sometimes amounted to six-figure sums.
In Los Angeles last month, a jury awarded 20 million to an ex-Scientology official who claimed his 11 year old membership in the sect had left him emotionally and financially ruined.
Lisa Marie received two million dollars (£1.3 million) from her father's vast fortune on her birthday earlier this year. She gets another two million when she is 21.
And at 25 she should inherit as much as 35 million dollars (£23 million) plus Presley's palatial Gracelands estate.
A waitress at the Scientology retreat where Lisa Marie now lives in spartan surroundings said: "The group expect to a get a large chunk of it.
"They never refer to Elvis. They do not tell anyone that she is his daughter. She is not thought of as a celebrity."
A former Scientology worker who has spoken to Lisa Marie since she left home, said: "She is a hard core member of the group.
"They have cut her off from her friends. That's the way they operate with wealthy people."
In the High Court in London two years ago Mr Justice Latey described the multi-billion dollar outfit as 'corrupt and immoral"
The cult has led to the break-up of homes and brought heartache to parents of young recruits.
Elvis Daughter Trapped In A Web
ON THE glossy set of Dallas, Priscilla Presley tries desperately to forget her troubles and go about the serious business of being a star.
Just a few miles away, in a crime-ridden sector of Los Angeles, the subject of her concern is bedding down in a spartanly furnished dormitory. Lisa Marie Presley, aged 18 and heiress to the rock millions of Elvis, has walked out on luxury to join the controversial Scientology cult.
The Church of Scientology—of which Lisa Marie is a "hard core" member—was founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. The church expects hefty "donations" from its recruits —past followers have paid up to 40,000 dollars to take Scientology courses that the church claims could cure almost any physical or mental ill.
Individual "tithes" have amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars to the money-making cult, which United States tax detectives estimate has assets of around one billion dollars.
One asset is the apartment building in a run-down, High Street crime section of Los Angeles—one of four Scientology "houses" in the city where Lisa Marie lives
Her involvement with Scientology has estranged her from her mother. Ironically, it was Priscilla, 40, who herself had lived in the shadow of the Elvis legend, who first introduced her daughter to the sect.
"Priscilla brought Lisa Marie into Scientology never knowing it would take over her daughter's life so completely," said one of her co-workers on Dallas.
Priscilla said that about three years ago she went to a few Scientology lectures. One time thinking it might help her daughter become more emotionally stable, she took Lisa Marie with her.
For Priscilla, it was just more or less a passing phase, something she said she had heard about from one of her friends. A lot of people in the entertainment industry have had a fling with Scientology.
Priscilla stopped going to lectures when the pressure got too intense. She said she wasn't ready to make an all-out commitment. It wasn't a passing phase for Lisa Marie. But when asked about her daughter on the set of Dallas, Priscilla said: "Oh, she's just fine. She's away a lot visiting friends." But her co-worker explains: "Priscilla tries to hide the pain that Lisa Marie has caused her. She said she feels she has lost her daughter.
"She won't talk about it, won't admit it, but she knows she has lost Lisa Marie to them. She has lost motherly control.
"Priscilla said she had asked Lisa Marie not to get so involved with Scientology and not to take it so intensely to heart, but Lisa Marie wouldn't listen.
"Sometimes they talk on the phone, but they don't see each other too often.
"When Priscilla asks about what she's doing, her happiness and anything specific about Scientology, about her life with the organisation, Lisa Marie just changes the subject.
"It's the biggest disappointment in Priscilla's life that her daughter is caught in that web."
Lisa Marie 5ft. 4in. tall, with light brown hair and eyes, and her father's lips.
She is too young to have witnessed • the impact her father had, but old enough to be bathed in his myth, a curiosity as a living link to the world's first rock 'n roll hero.
All along her mother has been determined that she be a " normal child" living a " normal life." Priscilla Presley, who fought so hard to establish her own identity, is now suffering one of the great parental nightmares.
When she turned 18 last February 1, Lisa Marie didn't just cut into a birthday cake but, for the first time, into her inheritance.
The multi-million dollar estate earns huge profits from continuing record sales and Elvis merchandising (last year's " Elvis at 50 " celebrations and marketing was a big dollar bonanza).
Lisa Marie's access to it grows as she does. At 21 she will inherit again and then, four years later, there will be more, including her sole ownership of Elvis's estate, Graceland, in Tennessee.
The Church of Scientology is after chunks of the King's financial legacy to his daughter, ex-members of the cult claimed yesterday.
" Lisa Marie is a hard-core member. They have cut her off from her friends and family, and estranged her from her mother," says a former Scientology worker.
" That's the way they operate with wealthy people. I've seen her, talked to her. She needs something to hang on to, something to believe in.
" She is retreating from the outside world; living under her father's image is depressing and frightening for her.
" She turned to Scientology —they did the rest. They psychologically ensnared her."
Lisa Marie was seen demonstrating with about 50 other Scientologists outside a court building in Los Angeles. She was very stoic—she looked just like a zombie. She wore jeans, a plain shirt and no make-up.
A waitress at the Scientology canteen in the building where Lisa Marie lives, said: "They consider anyone who actively disagrees with Scientology as an enemy.
"There is a secret clause in their inner sanctum philosophy that if someone is an enemy they go on an all-out campaign to ruin them and Lisa Marie is part of that campaign. They are using her.
"Their courses are supposed to free people and heal people but they ask people to donate large sums of money to do this.
"The group has their eyes on the big dough—the jackpot. They think she will give a major portion of it—if not $ practically all of it—to them ' at age 25. Lisa Marie is being handled very carefully.
"On purpose they do not refer to Elvis ever. They do not tell anyone that she is Elvis's daughter. She is not thought of as a celebrity.
"They know if they put a stigma on her, they are defeating their purpose. She wants to be free of that. Free of hang-ups that being pointed at and stared at have caused."
Another worker at the retreat where Lisa Marie is living, says that other celebrities come to dinner there and are afforded star status—but not Lisa Marie.
" John Travolta, Karen Black and Frank Stallone (Sylvester's brother) come to dinner and occasionally stay all night at the dormitory where Lisa Marie lives, and are treated with deference.— " They use reverse psychology to keep her in line. She is like everyone else—and hooked just like the rest."
There have been recent reports that Lisa Marie planned to follow her father and become a singing star but said her highly placed friend:
"That wouldn't be Lisa Marie. There must be some mistake.
" Lisa Marie is happy with us. The outside world is of little interest to her. She knows that her life is within the Scientology family. She is one-of us and that would be a breach of her faith to deal with the outside world.
" She knows she would not be welcome to be with us as a high member, a teacher, a lecturer and that she could not be ' clear' to go on to a much more advanced level." Within Scientology much is made of quasi-military titles like Commander and Warrant Officer and quasi-fantastic like International Finance Director and Clear is the term for graduation. Getting a Clear can cost up to $100,000.
There are, of course, more advanced, and presumably costly, levels.
The waitress says Lisa Marie works at a Scientology building on Hollywood's famous Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street. "It's the big blue building.
She works there and takes classes night and day."
The former Scientologist says: "I used to "see her at the canteen during the late afternoon and she only had one friend with her—one girlfriend, one buddy.
"She was quiet, serious. I don't believe I ever heard her laugh.
"One day I heard her talking about going to the beach and she started getting enthusiastic about the idea. She was talking about how much she loved the beach and the ocean. •
"She doesn't try to glamorise herself, dressing like normal teenagers. It's as if she is trying to look plain and blend into the group."
The waitress says: "I see her at night in the halls. She looks unhappy. She is not a personable young lady. She is walking alone and looks down a lot. She doesn't smile a lot, doesn't say hello first.
"I've tried to smile, say 'Hello,' but got the cold shoulder. She has lost weight, looks thin. She looks like she needs vitamins, not Scientology.
Living in the shadow of a legend
SHORTLY after the birth of the king of rock 'n roll's daughter, the event was captured in a now famous photograph. Mother PrlsciIa, her hair back-combed Into a souffle, is sitting oh the edge of a bed holding her new •.daughter while Elvis, eyes to the camera, has his left arm around his wife. It was 1968. Ten years later, Priscilla confessed: "It was hard raising Elvis's child—I pray I can maintain the closeness as she gets older."
Today, Lisa Marie is closer to Scientology than her mother.
It follows many bumps In their relationship. Prlscilla Beaulieu Presley, who as a 14-year-old, had caught the eye of Sgt. Elvis Presley In West Germany, stunned the world by walking out on their marriage in 1972.
She received a $1.7 million plus $8,000-a-month divorce settlement and Joint custody of Lisa Marie, who also spent time with her father at Graceland.
When he suddenly died and the almighty aftermath of fact and fiction followed—the sex and drugs and rock 'n roll including recently her mother's version in the book "Elvis And Me"— friends say Lisa Marie wanted to run away. And she did just that a couple of times—once after reading early drafts of her mother's book.
Priscllla says her early problems with her daughter were trying to control Elvis's extravagance:" He wanted to give her fur coats and diamond rings. I told him there was no way I would allow her to wear a diamond ring—that was when she was eight. He Just needed to be enlightened a little bit."
And at those happier times, Priscilla said: " I'm very strong with Lisa. I want her to have career goals, be enthusiastic about earning her own money. I think kids need that to build self-esteem.
"I want her to be liked for herself."
After the marriage breakup, Elvis was involved with singer Linda Thompson and then, immediately before his death, with redhead Ginger Alden.
Panic. On August 16,1977, when Elvis died. Lisa Marie was nine and visiting her father at Graceland.
She panicked when people began rushing in and out of her father's bathroom. Ginger Alden remembers hearing Lisa Marie cry: "Something's wrong with Daddy and I'm going to find out."
The last Ginger heard was Lisa Marie saying: " My Daddy's gone ? I can't believe my Daddy's gone."
Elvis's private plane—the Lisa Marie—flew Prlscilla from Los Angeles to Memphis.
Lisa Marie hung on to her mother's hand throughout the funeral. Today she's found something else to hold on to.
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