Elvis Presley performs ‘Hound Dog’ in 1956
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It is the second-most famous home in the United States (not even The King can top POTUS) and one of the most famous in the world. But while a succession of families have passed through The White House, only one little girl ever grew up at Graceland – and she still calls it home. Lisa Marie spent her first ever Xmas at the Memphis mansion as a toddler, being lavished with presents from her famous father and mother, Priscilla. Her grandfather Vernon dressed as Santa and the whole house was decked out in spectacular decorations. Scroll down to watch footage of that fabulous first family holiday and hear about how she has carried on the Presley Christmas tradition, although her only son is now buried there. The last person to live there died in 1993 – Elvis’ ‘Aunt Delta’ – but the mansion had already been open to the public since 1982.
Priscilla famously described how much Elvis always loved Christmas: “It was his favourite time of year. He was like a kid. He loved to pick out gifts. He would tell the jeweller to bring over pieces. He loved giving.”
But she admitted that the arrival of Lisa Marie made it all even more magical: “It was beautiful. You have a child celebrate Xmas with you, you want to shower them with gifts and that is what we did. The tree was filled with gifts for her.”
In fact, there were two trees – the huge white one covered in red and gold baubles in the living room, and the green tree draped in tinsel and decorations in the dining room. Priscilla has spoken fondly of her frustration with her husband who would scrunch up the tinsel into balls and throw them at the tree.
Angie Marchese, Director of Archives at Graceland, said: “If you thought Christmas at Graceland was special before Lisa Marie was born, can you imagine what it was like the Christmas of 1968? Elvis, Priscilla and the guys go all out that year, making Christmas so special. One of the things we still have in the archives today is a little toy that Lisa got for her first Christmas.”
In a behind the scenes video at Graceland, as well as the pretty plastic dome containing a mini hot air balloon, Angie also showed Lisa Marie’s recently rediscovered Christmas stocking, beautifully decorated with her name and seasonal images. It is too fragile to be on permanent display to visitors.
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Elvis LOVED Christmas: Priscilla describes Xmas at Graceland
Priscilla has described Lisa Marie’s delight with it all, although she was a little confused about the mysterious man in red with the big white beard: “My father-in-law would dress as Santa. My daughter would look at him, trying to figure out who was holding her… Just like any other typical American family.”
Over the years, Elvis’ gifts to his daughter would become increasingly extravagant. On The King’s very last Christmas in 1976, he gave Lisa Marie her own golf cart. Her parents had already separated in 1972 and she split her time between their homes, even when Priscilla moved to LA.
Lisa Marie has spoken of how her night owl father would sometimes wake her up in the early hours and the two of them would tear around the grounds of Graceland, even occasionally crashing through fences which would be immediately repaired the next day.
WATCH GRACELAND AT XMAS BELOW: LISA MARIE FROM 8.30 MINUTES
After Elvis’s death, Graceland was inherited jointly by Lisa Marie, who was only nine at the time, her grandfather Vernon and her great-grandmother Minnie Mae.
Lisa Marie became the sole heir after Vernon died in 1979, followed by Minnie Mae in 1980. Although the house is now a major public attraction, she still has full access and often brings friends and her own family over for holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lisa Marie has three daughters, 32-year-old Riley and 13-year-old twins Harper and Finley. Her only son, Benjamin Keough, died on July 12 last year.
The kitchen, dining room and family rooms will typically all be used during family visits. Lisa Marie is also one of only two people (with her mother) who have unlimited access to the bedrooms upstairs at Graceland, which are not part of the public tours.
Angie Marchese says: “Christmas at Graceland for Lisa is always a very special time of the year. In fact, today she still brings her family here to celebrate the holidays. Graceland is a very special place not only for fans but also for Lisa. It’s home to her. And when Lisa’s here and has dinner h
The China is stored in Elvis’s Aunt Delta’s old drawers, which are in her old bedroom, right next to the kitchen.
Second, they set up more table space. They set up two tables in the home’s dining room, so the family can eat together. Lots of the changes are to both preserve the home while allowing Lisa Marie and her family to visit.
A large piece of plexiglass rests over the oven to prevent tourists from touching or taking the knobs. When family comes to town, however, they take the plexiglass off and even turn the stove on so the family can cook.
Angie says of the upstairs area of Graceland: “The one thing about Graceland and its mystique is the upstairs and the fact that it was Elvis’ private area… It looks as if he just got up and left. It is part of my job to maintain it. So we do go up there to maintain the space.
“The record on the record player is the last record he listened to. There’s a styrofoam cup that sits on a bookshelf. The bed is made, so we really maintain it the way that Lisa wants us to preserve it. So, unfortunately, we can’t see it, but it is taken care of.”
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