She plays darts in the village pub and shops in Tunbridge Wells… How Elvis's daughter became a Home Counties housewife
22:06 GMT, 3 August 2012
22:07 GMT, 3 August 2012
Star turn: Elvis Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, enjoys a Guinness at her new local, the King's Arms in Rotherhide
Depending on your point of view, the King’s Arms in the Sussex village of Rotherfield is the joyously unspoilt epitome of the quintessential English pub or a down-at-heel rural boozer. But glamorous, it certainly is not.
The dark curtains are of indeterminate vintage and the pool table looks as though it’s seen better days, while locals sit around on plastic chairs lunching on pork pies and toasted sandwiches.
Yet this most unstarry, if aptly named, of watering holes has become a home from home for a scion of the ultimate in showbiz royalty.
Lisa Marie Presley, the only daughter of Elvis, is regularly to be spotted drinking pints of her favourite tipple, Guinness, at the bar and has become firm friends with landlord Justin Scales and his wife Kim.
So readily has she taken to British country life after quietly relocating here from Los Angeles two years ago that Miss Presley is often found playing darts, watched over by a distinctly moth-eaten mounted wild boar’s head.
In fact, Lisa Marie is so adept with the arrows that locals tell me the heiress of the man known as ‘The King’ is considering joining the ladies’ darts team.
Waiting for her turn on the oche is not, it goes without saying, the most likely place to find the woman who inherited all the singer’s estimated 500 million fortune and still dreams of following in his footsteps as a singing star.
But on the eve of the 35th anniversary of the death of the rock ’n’ roll legend, the often troubled Lisa Marie, 44, is revelling in life as an English housewife.
Rotherfield, a chocolate-box pretty village, nestles in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the East Sussex and Kent border and has a population of just under 5,000. At one end of the High Street, which has an old-fashioned butcher, bakery and greengrocer, is 11th-century St Denys church. At the other end is the village hall and green, the scene of many a fete and jumble sale.
Surrounded by woodlands and rolling hills, it’s little wonder that the village is often chosen as a film location, having featured in various Agatha Christie mysteries, Midsomer Murders and the film Howard’s End.
For Lisa Marie Presley, the little girl who grew up in the fortress-like Graceland mansion of Memphis, Tennessee, it’s a slice of rural heaven.
‘I never got that social aspect to village life until I lived here in England,’ she told an American newspaper last month.
‘There are lots of pubs near where we live in Sussex, but there’s one that’s become my local. I love that I can walk in there and see everyone in the village and chat and say hello to people.’
For the past two years she has lived quietly with her fourth husband, Michael Lockwood, and their three-year-old twin daughters Harper and Finley on a 50-acre estate set amid rolling East Sussex countryside.
The grounds of the 9 million property are patrolled 24 hours a day by leather-clad security men on quad bikes and feature a tennis court and swimming pool.
Locals who work on her estate are bound by strict, six-page confidentiality agreements, but one neighbour told me this week: ‘It’s as if she has created some sort of Hollywood version of English rural life that no longer really exists.
‘She has made her own little village behind the gates. It is more like a medieval hamlet in there, with a grand main house and then smaller cottages surrounding it, where the people who work for her live and friends stay from time to time.’
From Graceland to England: Rotherfield has attracted a new resident in Lisa Marie Presley
Oprah Winfrey has been to stay but, to date, there have been no sightings of Lisa Marie’s mother, Priscilla. The neighbour also said that Lisa Marie has started to raise a flock of sheep on her land and plans to add other livestock later in the year.
Locals have become used to the sight of Lisa Marie cruising through the country lanes in her four-wheel-drive, as she makes one of her regular shopping trips to nearby Tunbridge Wells.
Increasingly, it seems, the reclusive Miss Presley is loath to leave the sanctuary of her country idyll.
Not least, well-informed sources in the U.S. told me this week, because she is involved in an increasingly acrimonious attempt to escape the clutches of the American-based Church of Scientology into which she was inducted by her mother at the age of 16.
Her new album, Storm And Grace, which marks her latest attempt to launch her singing career, contains bitter coded references to the cult-like religion, which counts Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its disciples, and of which Lisa Marie had long been a principal celebrity cheerleader.
In one song entitled You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, she describes herself as ‘suppressive’, the Scientology buzz-word for someone who is an enemy of the sect, founded by Fifties sci-fi novelist L. Ron Hubbard, who claimed humans are descendants of space aliens called Thetans.
Fancy a pint What would the iconic Elvis have made of The King's Arms in Rotherfield
It’s all quite a turnaround, given that Miss Presley once credited the religion with saving her life after she was enrolled, at the age of 17, in one of its rehab centres in Los Angeles by her mother Priscilla — to help cure an addiction to cocaine and painkillers.
Ironically, it was originally thought that Lisa Marie, who was just nine when her father died in August 1977, had moved to Sussex to be close to the British Scientology HQ, Saint Hill Manor, near East Grinstead, which is just a few miles from her home.
She branded her LA existence ‘shallow’, complained of the phoneys and the hangers-on and even admitted she hates the perpetually sunny California weather.
Not, it has to be said, that escaping LA has offered a cure for all her problems. Most notably, the pop career she launched in a bid to emulate her father continues to stumble from one disappointment to another.
Her latest album has flopped dismally, selling a miserable 15,000 copies before disappearing from the American charts last month. To add to her woes, a U.S. tour, which she has just completed, was blighted by half-empty venues, poor reviews and a recurring throat infection.
A planned tour of the UK, which had been scheduled for November, is apparently on hold. The stress of the failure of the album and the tour is said to have taken its toll on three-times divorced Lisa Marie.
She married guitarist and musical director Lockwood, the father of her twins, in February 2006.
Her first husband was another musician, Danny Keough, with whom she has two older children, daughter Riley, 23, and 20-year-old son Benjamin, who is the image of his famous grandfather. That marriage collapsed after she met singer Michael Jackson at a dinner party in 1993. The odd couple married three weeks after her divorce came through a year later.
Given her desperation to break into pop, the marriage was derided as a publicity stunt, particularly as it emerged that she had refused to move her children to live with the Thriller singer in his Neverland ranch and insisted on staying in a guest suite when she visited.
After just 20 months it was all over. And if the relationship with Jacko was weird, then her subsequent 107-day marriage in August 2002 to movie star Nicolas Cage was equally odd.
Cage had harboured a life-long obsession with Elvis and spent the whole of their first date babbling about his love for her father.
Out with the old: Lisa Marie Presley has chose to distance herself from the Church of Scientology by taking in a new way of life
Then, days before their wedding in Hawaii in August 2002, she flung the 65,000 engagement ring he gave her into the sea amid rumours that Cage was having an affair with socialite Paris Hilton. The ceremony went ahead, but the marriage collapsed almost immediately, with Cage citing ‘irreconcilable differences’.
By comparison, her fourth marriage to 51-year-old Lockwood has seemed refreshingly normal.
Locals in Rotherfield, who have become friends of the couple, told me this week that her husband, who prefers to be addressed by his surname, is a long-suffering figure who worships his often fiery wife.
‘He is a genuinely nice guy,’ says one. ‘Lisa Marie can be a bit prickly depending what mood she’s in, but Lockwood is a calming influence and I think he is good for her. We often see him in Drusillas Park Zoo in Alfriston with Lisa Marie and the children. They seem just like a regular family.
‘They have been away in the States for a few weeks on tour, but Lisa Marie always says she misses the quiet life when she is away.’
Miss Presley says of her rural idyll: ‘We have found the quality of life so much more enriching and fulfilling.
‘The civility, the culture, the people and its beauty have reawakened me and have smoothed out some of my bleak and jagged views about people and life.
‘I can honestly say I am the only person who came to England for the weather. I love the cold and the rain.’
That, it seems, and the simple pleasures of a good, old-fashioned English country pub.