Elvis Presley is “hot” right now, thanks to the new movie, “Elvis”. Of course, for many fans, he’s always been The King. And if you are a serious fan, chances are you’ve made a pilgrimage (there’s really no other word) to his home in Memphis, known as Graceland.
Personally, I was never an Elvis fan, but I still took the tour when I was in the area about 30 years ago. It’s really a “must-see” if you’re ever in Memphis. While the home lies somewhere between gorgeous (the outside) and tacky (the inside), it’s still fun to see how a cultural icon lived.
About 10 years ago I was one of the producers of a television segment on Elvis, which would feature an interview with his ex-wife, Priscilla, who was returning to Graceland on the anniversary of his passing. While I didn’t know everything about Elvis, I was very familiar with Priscilla from her days on the TV show Dallas. (She played Bobby Ewing’s sweetheart, Jenna Wade.) Because it was one of my two favorite shows of all time and I never missed an episode in 14 years, a chance meeting with her became a memorable one. And at this point in time, there was a reboot of Dallas, but for some odd reason, she was not in the show. Instead, Bobby had a wife who wasn’t nearly as interesting as Priscilla Presley. In fact, she was downright boring and often brought the plot to a screeching halt. This will become important, so stay tuned.
The whole gig was unusual, as there were very special rules about shooting video in Graceland. First, since we were “behind the velvet ropes” all members of the crew had to wear booties over our shoes so as not to soil the white carpet. And the friendly public relations woman was extremely accommodating but very clear about the biggest rule. “Don’t. Touch. Anything.” Still, it was cool to see stuff the general public didn’t see on an average tour. The place was like a museum.
Priscilla arrived for her interview, still stunning in her mid-sixties. But things took a bad turn when the reporter asked about Elvis’ drug use. I could tell she wasn’t happy with the line of questioning, and the conversation with the reporter went downhill from there. I felt bad for her, as she had come to Memphis for the annual candlelight vigil which attracted thousands of fans.
The interview ended and Priscilla quickly left the room. I started to help pack up the gear and carry it out to the truck. I was walking toward the door when Priscilla came out of another room and nearly ran into me. I could tell she was still upset from the look on her face.
To me, she wasn’t Elvis Presley’s wife but a character on a favorite show… who should have been on the reboot. I had to say something about this injustice. “Hey, so why isn’t Jenna Wade on the new Dallas?”
She immediately flashed a big smile. “I know! Isn’t that show really great?”
“Yeah, nice to see all the original characters. But that woman playing Bobby’s wife… talk about someone with no personality. Seriously, they need to put you on that show. Bring Jenna back somehow. Hey, they brought Bobby back from the dead.” I kept going on and on about her character in the original series.
She was flattered that I knew so much about a character she had played more than 20 years ago. And for the next 10 minutes, we talked about Dallas and all the wild storylines, plot twists and cliffhangers from that show. Usually, when you talk to an actor or actress about a role, you hear about playing the part. But she acted like a pure fan.
The woman couldn’t have been nicer.
With no cameras or reporters around, she seemed to be “herself” and I could certainly see why Elvis was charmed by her. Just an incredibly sweet personality.
After a while I noticed the crew had packed up most of the gear and knew I had to get going. “Well, nice talking to you.”
She smiled. “You too.”
“Hope to see you on Dallas.”
We went our separate ways, as she returned to being Graceland royalty for the anniversary. I have no idea what Elvis fans think of her, but in my book, Priscilla Presley rocks.
Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow, and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].