HELLO AMERICA!─It was so sad and emotionally disturbing to hear about the death of Elvis Presley’s grandson Benjamin Keough. It forced me to remember what a good friend his granddad was to me when I first arrived in Hollywood. Sonny West, one of the Presley crew and a close friend of mine brought him over to the RKO lot where I was filming “Carmen Jones.” John Wayne and Susan Hayward were next to my stage filming, “The Searchers.”
We all had lunch and had the entire commissary singing, “Now is the Hour.” When invited to my first industry premiere, Sonny West mentioned that I would be attending. He asked how I was getting there, and when West indicated that I would probably use a taxi. Well, Presley was outraged and said that was ridiculous and arranged for a Rolls Royce for my first Hollywood premiere.
Elvis was a very sensitive, caring human being who quietly understood how it felt to reach for the stars. When he married Priscila, it was a major step in his life because of his relationship with his mom superseded any other one. When he and Priscila and Elvis broke up, she opened a small beauty type shop in Beverly Hills. One thing for sure, she was determined to make her life mean something. It was no surprise that she landed a fantastic role in the hit series “Empire.”
During that time, I was a West Coast correspondent for TV Radio Movie Guide magazine. One of my assignments was to interview Priscila at her shop. When I called, she agreed immediately. She was also attempting to build herself a place in films or television. The interview was easy, fun, and extremely informative concerning the woman Elvis married. She was one who knew who she was and needed to express her independence.
Of course, everyone associated with Elvis, whether they liked and accepted him, or not, they were background only to the real thing Elvis the Star, that the world over admired and in some places worshiped. It was difficult for all those who worked and traveled with him, who had dreams of their own of reaching some kind of personal talent recognition. It was very frustrating, not only for the guys who ran with him, but all the women as well. No matter who the feminine star was or how much of a beauty she was, when Elvis arrived, there was no one else worth watching. He was magic, and immediately stole the hearts of everyone.
When Lisa Marie, his daughter was born, one would believe that she was one of the luckiest little girls in the world. Unfortunately, because of Elvis’ global fame, it affected her life completely; she attempted to sing. That didn’t impress that many people. There were attempts at acting, but it wasn’t something in the cards. She even married Michael Jackson, but it was no surprise how that turned out. The world expected the same kind of magic Elvis had, accept this was an impossible happening. The woman he married was not him, even though she was rather attractive, the daughter was the spitting image of him, but that was about it.
When Benjamin was born, he resembled his grandfather so much, one would not accept that he would not have the same kind of magic. Even though he loved music, had talent, it was obvious it would not reach the same level of acceptance of his legendary grandad, Elvis. Of course, this is not unusual in Hollywood; there have been tons of fantastic stars who had children who had a hunger to follow in their footsteps. However, very few are successful. As a result, they end up as alcoholics, drug addicts, bitter, and finally writing about how they survived under the banner of the fame of “mom and dad, or both.”
However, it is extremely sad about Elvis’ grandson, may he rest in peace.