Below are excerpts from Child Bride: The Untold Story of Priscilla Beaulieu Presley by Suzanne Finstad. Suzanne attempts to make the case that Lisa Marie Presley pursued Michael Jackson, rather than the other way around. This is a plausible scenario if you believe other accounts of LMP being the kind of person who feels sorry for “fallen” others and attempts to rehabilitate them.
I’d like to read a lot more before I make up my mind.
November 1992, Lisa and Michael meet at Brett Livingstone’s house
He had become a successful artist, famous for a million-dollar portrait he had painted of Michael Jackson, who had become his personal friend. Brett, the great connector, considered introducing Lisa to Michael. “She had the talent as well as the beauty and the name, so I thought Wow! The sky is the limit. What an image! I had known Michael for six years or more, and I thought maybe I could introduce Lisa to Michael Jackson. I thought, Hey, the person to get is Michael Jackson, because he’s an artist, instead of dealing with businessmen who would just categorize her and work her way up.” Michael had a new record label, Brett knew, and was looking for exciting, undiscovered talent. Who better than Lisa Marie Presley? “I didn’t discuss this with anyone,” said Brett. “I just thought about it and went about my business and thought that sometime in the future Lisa would like to have a conversation with Michael. From what I could see, Lisa was disenchanted with Jerry’s representation because she didn’t like what the head guy at Sony in New York had told her about where she had to begin and what she had to do—that she had to crawl before she walked.” Lisa wanted to emerge a full-blown star, and Michael Jackson, Brett believed, could help her.
Several months after the idea occurred to him, Brett telephoned Lisa, who was taking courses at the Scientology center in Clearwater, Florida. He said, “Lisa, if you’re really serious about your career, why don’t I put you in touch with Michael Jackson?….I think you should meet him and play your music and sing for him, and I think he could really encourage and inspire you on a direction you could take.” Brett told her that Michael had his own company, Nation Records, sponsored by Sony, and that he could “really launch her big time.” Lisa was intrigued.
Brett’s next step was to telephone Michael Jackson. “I said, ‘Michael, what would you say if I found talent for you that had the potential to be number one in the world in the recording industry—beautiful girl, great voice and also a reputation that would be a public relations dream come true?’ and he said, ‘Who are you talking about?’ So I said, ‘Lisa Presley.’ And he said, ‘What? She can’t sing!’ and I said, ‘She can.’ And then I asked, ‘Have you ever met Lisa?’ and he said no.” The conversation, recalled Brett, was brief, followed by lots of other conversations about it. Michael was “amazed at first, and then said, ‘Well get her to send me a tape.’ ”
At the time, neither Michael nor Lisa recalled their fleeting meeting introduction backstage, at the Sahara Tahoe when Lisa was six and Michael was sixteen. Lisa’s close childhood friend Myrna Smith, who was with Jerry and Joe Esposito when they took Lisa to that long-ago concert, confirmed this. “Lisa didn’t even remember meeting Michael as a child,” Myrna said. “She asked me, ‘Did I ever meet Michael Jackson?’ and I said, ‘Don’t you remember? We took you to see the Jacksons.’ ”
When Brett told Lisa about his conversation with Michael, she was offended that she would have to send a demo. She told Brett, “Forget it, I’ll play the tape for him in person.” Lisa called Brett constantly afterward, inquiring about the meeting with Michael. She told Myrna excitedly that Brett had arranged to have Michael and her get together at his house in Pacific Palisades and for Lisa to play her demo tape.
Lisa took her husband Danny, along to that meeting, and the group gathered in Brett’s living room. “Michael…was blown away by her music,” according to Brett. “She played the tape and was really excited that Michael Jackson was here, and at that point, she looked like a fan of his. And he was really tickled to see that she had a lot of potential, but he didn’t think too much more than ‘Wow, Brett is onto something here.’ ” There was, according to Brett, not even the slightest suggestion of anything romantic between Lisa and Michael at that meeting. “Her husband was here.”
Michael carried on with his own career interests after that meeting, but Lisa, recalled Brett, “kept calling me after that. Constantly calling me. And she wanted to get together with Michael more.” Lisa met with Brett a few times to talk about it, remarking that she had “a few things in common with the Jacksons and maybe she should pursue a friendship with Michael.” Brett, still their intermediary, offered to represent Lisa in a business contract with Michael for a recording deal, even though he had an art partnership with Michael and had been his friend for years. Brett had worked up some figures and talked to Michael, who arranged for Brett to take Lisa to meet with Michael Greenberg, the head of Jackson’s company, Nation Records in Santa Monica.
Lisa brought Danny along with her attorney, John Coale. “I didn’t know anything about that business,” said Brett, “but I wanted to make sure that Lisa made a deal at the top level…by saying, ‘Hey, Elvis is the King and she’s the Princess. She’s got the talent. All she needs is Michael to help record at the highest possible level and help her choose the songs and teach her some presence on stage. I was trying to get Michael to…make a deal with Lisa at the top—the deal that the other recording companies were making with Madonna and Barbara Streisand. And he was like, ‘Are you crazy? They have proven themselves.’
And I said, ‘No, make the same deal; a deal over a period of time…based on performance as the records sell. And not only will you make the deal with Lisa, you’ll promote the company.’ And I knew that’s what Lisa would love, if she was put on a pedestal.”
February 1 1993, Michael is busy and Lisa is ambivalent
Lisa was torn. Part of her was in “turmoil,” recalled Brett, “on her mind was ‘I have my kids,’ and she was in turmoil with her husband and what should she do? If she wanted to be a star, she had to really want to live and breathe that.” Michael Jackson also advised Lisa similarly: If she wanted to pursue a singing career, she would have to dedicate herself to it. During the following weeks, Brett found herself the hapless man in the middle, caught between a balking and busy Michael, and an ambivalent yet driven Lisa.
Brett made arrangements for Lisa to visit Michael in Japan while he was on the tour for Dangerous, and tried to facilitate other plans, some of which occurred while others dissipated. According to Brett, Lisa was, “in relentless pursuit of Michael Jackson,” and phoned [Brett] constantly to find out whether the deal would occur. Michael, in Brett’s characterization, was obviously intrigued by the thought of signing Lisa Presley, “but there was more desire on Lisa’s part for something to happen.” Lisa, he recalled, finally said to him, “It doesn’t seem like I can make that deal with him, and I don’t want to push him too much.”
Brett, who was still hoping to bring them together for a record deal, finally arranged for a representative from Michael’s office to send a formal letter to Lisa stating that Michael was still interested in keeping things going. At the same time, Prince also began pursuing Lisa to sign a recording contract.
Lisa celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday with a huge party, planned by Priscilla, at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Prince was among the guests, along with a sprinkling of celebrity Scientologists such as Kirstie Alley, Nicole Kidman, and Juliette Lewis. Lisa invited Michael Jackson as her special guest, “and he would have loved to have gone,” said Brett, “but he had other things.” Brett suggested to Michael that he should at least send Lisa a birthday gift, “so he told me, ‘Well you go get it!’ ” Brett selected, as Michael’s gift to Lisa, an art book on Michelangelo and a silver picture frame in which he placed a photograph of Michael and Lisa’s original meeting in his living room. Brett, attempting to be gallant on Michael’s behalf, wrote sweet birthday inscriptions in the art book and on the birthday card, making them appear to be from Michael. “I was just trying to be a good friend for him,” said Brett. “I went to the party with my son Jason, and when I got there, Lisa was like, ‘Oh! Where’s Michael? I hope it’s all right that Prince is here.’ I said, ‘Michael just couldn’t make it, but here is a gift from him.’ And I didn’t say anything [else].” Lisa, he recalled, “latched onto the gifts excitedly and immediately opened them to check them out.”
He later figured out, said Brett, that he had inadvertently played matchmaker to Michael and Lisa by buying the birthday gifts, for Lisa, seeing the card and the inscription in the art book, both of which she believed to have been written by Michael, misinterpreted Brett’s affectionate words as an indication that Michael Jackson had feelings for her. “I wasn’t trying to bring two people together to get married. I look back on it now as a sign that [she was thinking], Wow! He really cares about me. And she secretly wanted a relationship with him, because I always talked about him as a passionate man [who was] extremely loving…and that attracted Lisa, that loving part, and loving children.”
Lisa never knew that Brett wrote the birthday card and signed her book. “I can’t recall what I wrote exactly in the book or card,” said Brett, “but that might have been something she read over and over again and thought, Jeez! And afterwards, Lisa kept calling me, and eventually, after the many calls and pursuits and my little bit of fairy dust that I sprinkled about the place, hey, those guys [got] together, and I thought, ‘Maybe they’ll record something,’
And I remember Lisa saying, ‘Brett, what do you want out of this?’ and Michael Jackson asked me the same thing, and I thought, ‘Boy, there must be something happening here.’ I told Lisa, ‘You can give me whatever you think is fair,’ and I told Michael the same. I thought up the idea and executed it, and I stayed on top of it. Any other business person would be claiming something, but since I am an artist, I told them, ‘If you do record something, give me a job at art direction instead of hiring somebody else.’ So we didn’t think anything else or more about that other than that it was going to happen.”
Late February 1993, Lisa expresses a romantic interest in Michael
In late February, a few weeks after her 25th birthday, Jerry Schilling received a mysterious phone call from Lisa. “Something is going on,” she told Jerry, “but I can’t tell you what. And it has nothing to do with you, but I’m not going to continue with this record contract right now.” Lisa told him, said Jerry, that she was busy with her new baby and wanted to put the Epic deal on hold. Jerry, who had no idea Lisa had even met with Michael Jackson, simply said fine and puzzled over what might be happening in Lisa’s life.
Mike Edwards, who had also remained close to Brett after his breakup with Priscilla, began getting phone calls from an amazed Brett about this time. “He’s saying, ‘Gosh, Lisa’s calling me and Lisa’s really interested in Michael!’ ” Brett’s impression, said Mike Edwards, was that Michael was absorbed in his work, but that Lisa was really interested in him. “And I said, ‘Come on! What do you mean?’ [Brett] said, ‘You haven’t met him, but he’s very charismatic.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but I can’t believe it.’ He said, ‘Yeah, she’s kind of pursuing him.’ And I went, ‘My God! What’s gonna happen?’” “I could see that Lisa fell in love with him,” confirmed Brett. What attracted her in part, he felt, was that Michael was not after her money. “I think she didn’t know him very well, though. She didn’t know his quirks and eccentric lifestyle, and she thought, This guy is going to be great. A stepfather for my kids.”
Lisa, according to Brett, was the one who was in pursuit. “I think it was the passion of a woman who fell in love. And Michael wasn’t even interested at all. And he is a gentleman, he wouldn’t have wanted to pull her away from her marriage to Danny. And she pursued him. Family friend Bob Wall, who heard about it after the fact, confirmed this. “I know that Lisa is the one who pursued the relationship.” She did it, Bob felt, to create an identity separate from the Presley name, to be known as something other than “the daughter of.” “Lisa really wants to be credible,” said Bob. “You’ve got her father, who’s a genius. Her mother’s done incredibly well. And all she’s got is a lot of money. So maybe that’s important to her, to create her own identity.”
Around March 21st, a secret romance is revealed
Brett, seeing the progression of the friendship, suggested that Michael take Lisa to the Oscar ceremony that March, just as he had escorted Madonna the year before, but Michael balked, since Lisa was a married woman. The relationship intensified on Michael’s part that fall however, after 13 year-old Jordan Chandler accused him of child molestation, causing a scandal to erupt worldwide. Later, Michael would quietly escort Lisa to the Jackson Family Honors.
Lisa, who was then spending time with Myrna Smith, a childhood friend who use to sing with Lisa when Lisa was a child, told Myrna about her secret romance with Michael Jackson. Myrna perceived that Lisa felt sorry for Michael because of the sexual molestation charges and the devastating effect the scandal had had on his career and his image. Myrna also believed Lisa had sincere feelings for Michael. “Yes, she did, according to what she told me. She did. She’s like her father—they like the underdog…she did it for her own reasons, but she didn’t do it because Michael coerced her. She genuinely cared about him and she thought he cared for her.”
Myrna, who knew and knew of Michael through music circles, tried to warn Lisa about the relationship, which she considered both dangerous and absurd. “I can only guess what his motives were, and I could only tell what I thought, what a smart businessman he was, and that he was only pursuing her for what she could do for him, and that he wasn’t interested in women. And she told me he was.” Lisa did not tell Myrna whether she and Michael had sex, though Brett believed they did. “Yeah, sure, I think, because of what happened. I didn’t want to ask any questions. I could have asked Lisa the nitty-gritty.”
Christmas 1993, Marriage is on the cards
By Christmas 1993, Lisa was discussing with Myrna the possibility of marrying Michael Jackson. “He told her,” said Myrna, “that she was the only woman he could see himself marrying. And I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding.’ ” Myrna recalled that Lisa responded, “Myrna, you don’t understand.”
June 1995, The Diane Sawyer Interview
As Lisa and Michael prepared to do their much-publicized, hugely anticipated and widely watched July 14, 1995 interview with Diane Sawyer on Primetime Live answering questions about their bizarre marriage, Lisa was seen coming out of the president’s office at the Celebrity Centre in the Hollywood Hills the afternoon before, where she was being advised on how to handle the questions and answers. Another one of Lisa’s childhood friends, Dana Rosenfeld, watched the interview, along with most of America, and was stunned. “My only take on that is that for so long she was hidden from everybody and nobody knew anything, and what better way to just catapult yourself to the center of the media’s attention than to marry someone like that?”
January 26th 1996, The end of the line
Lisa’s ill-founded marriage to Michael came tumbling down within six months of the Diane Sawyer interview, when Lisa filed for divorce in January 1996. The inside word was that, before the marriage, Michael had promised Lisa a recording contract with his company and had later reneged. “That’s what he might have been promising her,” commented Myrna, who disapproved of the marriage from the outset, “but that might not have been his intention.” Lisa, she revealed, was devastated by the experience. “He’s very much top of the pile in his world, and that’s probably one reason why Lisa filed for divorce,” said Brett. “And the things she asked for from Michael, he wasn’t willing to do.”