Behind the Gates at Graceland – Rolling Stone

Friends Jeanene Erdahl and Lisa Larson drove all night from Minnesota to Graceland, arriving in Memphis at 4:30 in the morning to stand in line for a memorial honoring the life of Lisa Marie Presley, who died last week at 54. Later today they will turn around. and do it again.

Erdahl and Larson, who became fast friends seven years ago after bonding over their mutual love of Elvis, watched the memorial service just steps from where mourners such as Axl Rose and Alanis Morissette paid tribute to Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s only child.

“She was part of our generation, and [we] saw her go through struggles in her life and overcome them,” says Erdahl Rolling stones. “She had strength and character and pizzazz and she just seemed like so much fun.”

Mourners traveled from around the world to pay their respects to Lisa Marie, a talented musician herself, as well as the caretaker of her father’s legacy for most of her life. Debbie Ramage of Courtenay, British Columbia, planned to finally visit Graceland next year for her 60th birthday, but decided to come now instead of paying her respects to the family. “I think she was brilliant,” Ramage says of Lisa Marie. “She looked a lot like her father. She has the beautiful spirit of her father and she was a beautiful singer.”

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Under a cold, gray winter sky in Memphis, family, friends and a crowd of mourners estimated to number in the thousands gathered in front of a stage set up just outside the gates of Graceland – the mansion Elvis bought in 1957 and the home where Lisa Marie spent her first four years . Attendees lined the circular drive, stretching toward the stone wall that runs along the north side of the property, as an array of guests, from Priscilla Presley to Memphis Mafia alum Jerry Schilling, took the podium. As each guest exited the tent, the audience – uninvited – raised pictures of Lisa Marie and waved them in tribute.

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – JANUARY 22: Fans gather to pay their respects at the memorial for Lisa Marie Presley on January 22, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. Presley, 54, the only child of American singer Elvis Presley, died Jan. 12, 2023, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

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Like the general mood, the musical performances were mostly somber, with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins (whose friendship with Lisa Marie dates back to their 2003 collaboration “Savior”) playing Adore cut “To Sheila” on an acoustic guitar. Alanis Morissette took to the stage with a pianist to sing “Rest,” which she wrote after Chester Bennington’s suicide in 2017 and released for Mental Health Action Day in 2021.

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Then, in a surprise appearance that could only be overshadowed by a cameo from Elvis himself, Axl Rose appeared. Dressed in a long dark coat and scarf, the Guns N’ Roses frontman stood vulnerable and emotional behind the podium at Graceland and admitted he was tongue-tied and nervous about being asked to speak at the memorial. “I’m still in shock, which I feel like I will continue to be for a while,” said Rose, a longtime friend of Lisa Marie. “I feel like I’m supposed to text her right now.” He followed his remarks, reading from his phone, by taking a seat at the grand piano and playing a fleet-fingered rendition of GNR’s signature ballad, “November Rain.”

After the service, which lasted just over an hour, mourners – who were asked not to photograph family members and guests out of respect for Lisa Marie – quietly walked up Graceland’s driveway to Lisa Marie’s final resting place in the Meditation Garden, the same route thousands of Presley worshipers take each August 15 as part of the candlelight vigil to mark the anniversary of Elvis’ death.

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – JANUARY 22: Fans gather to pay their respects at the memorial for Lisa Marie Presley on January 22, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. Presley, 54, the only child of American singer Elvis Presley, died Jan. 12, 2023, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

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Wreaths sent from Elvis fan clubs in Italy, Japan, Sweden and Germany lined the walkway leading to the garden. A bouquet of white and red roses was placed nearby, with a card reading “In Loving Memory, From Axl Rose.” Mourners slowly made their way through, first passing the graves of Elvis and his parents, Gladys and Vernon, before bowing to pay their respects at Lisa Marie’s grave next to her son, Benjamin Keough, whose suicide in 2020 devastated Lisa Marie. Flowers, stuffed animals and other mementos surrounded their mausoleums, with another bouquet of white roses — this one sent by Oprah Winfrey — bridging the gap between them.

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After paying her respects, Katrina McElyea of ​​Memphis — whose mother was a nurse for Elvis’ controversial doctor, Dr. George Nichopoulos, and who occasionally plays Elvis’ mother in re-enactments of his life – about Lisa Marie’s memory and what she meant to the global Elvis community.

“She was someone who cared not only about her family and her father’s legacy; she cared about the fans, she cared about the tribute artists,” says McElyea. “She truly loved each and every one of us, and being here and giving back a fraction of that love is really special to me.”


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