Priscilla Presley believes drug treatment programs such as those at Narconon Arrowhead could have made a difference in the life of her former husband, Elvis Presley.
She came to McAlester this weekend to participate in the second year anniversary celebration of Narconon Arrowhead, the drug addiction treatment center on the shores of Lake Eufaula.
Prior to Narconon Arrowhead’s anniversary celebration event at the Southeast Expo Center in McAlester Saturday night, she spoke with the News-Capital & Democrat in an exclusive personal interview.
Presley, an actress, best-selling author, producer and entrepreneur, had been married to Elvis Presley – known universally as the king of rock ‘n’ roll – from 1967-1973.
Asked if she believes Narconon’s programs might have helped Elvis “overcome his drug addictions,” she said “Absolutely, I do.
“Years ago, you had the ‘good’drugs and ‘bad’ drugs,” Priscilla Presley said. “He didn’t do ‘bad’ drugs.” Elvis would never have taken street drugs, she said.
“But prescription drugs, from your doctor, they were fine,” she said, referring to Elvis’ attitude toward prescription drugs.
“They were just as addicting as the ‘bad’ drugs,” she added
But does she really believe Elvis Presley would ever have willingly entered a drug treatment program?
“If he knew the program that Narconon was, they approach it so much differently,” Priscilla Presley said. “You’re not told you have a disease.” Instead, participants are given hope, she said.
Presley joined speakers including District 7 state Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne; District 18 Attorney Chris Wilson and Narconon International President Clark Carr in addressing a crowd of more than 1,000 during the Narconon celebration on Saturday night.
During the program, Narconon Arrowhead President Luke Catton presented News-Capital & Democrat Publisher Chris White with the 2003 Anti-Drug Award.
Catton said it’s rare that a TV station or newspaper will work to educate its viewers or readers on the devastating effects of drug abuse. He spoke of the newspaper’s reporting on the devastation caused by methamphetamine in the McAlester area.
“We don’t enjoy writing about drug abuse and the problems it causes any more than you enjoy reading about it,” White said in accepting the award.
“We will continue to shine a light on this problem so we will never think that drug abuse is something that happens ‘over there,'” he said, motioning toward the distance.
During the program, Narconon Arrowhead gave $1,000 donations to the senior citizen centers in Canadian and Crowder, to the Eufaula Youth Shelter and to the Boys and Girls Clubof McAlester.
Catton said Narconon representatives from 14 states and eight nations traveled to McAlester for the event.
During her interview, Presley said Narconon’s treatment programs can eliminate the craving for drugs and alcohol.
“I have first-hand knowledge of seeing this program,” Presley said. “I’ve not been through it as an addict,” she said, but she has friends and family who have.
She said her daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, went through the Narconon program while still a teenager. She’s seen it work with friends, as well, including one woman who recently overcame a cocaine addiction.
Presley said she came to McAlester because she wants those who are addicted to drugs to know there is hope and a path out of addiction.
“I would like to encourage and empower people,” she said. “I care for people very much. I want to see people be the best they can be.”
Presley said this trip was her first time in Oklahoma, but then she later recalled that she and Elvis had once ridden through the state on one of his buses on their way to Las Vegas.
“But that was at night,” she said.
This trip, she got to see Oklahoma in the daytime.
“It’s a beautiful state,” Presley said. “I’ve never seen so much land and cattle and open spaces.”
In additoin to her other endeavors, Presley confirmed she is busy with another project.
“I’m working on a Broadway musical,” she said. “It’s about my life; it’s very upbeat.”
Presley said the musical will have some of Elvis Presley’s music, other songs from the era and perhaps some original songs as well.
She’s still adding scenes. Sometimes in the middle of a conversation, she’ll remember something that happened to her years ago and add it, she said.
Asked about the stories of famous jam sessions at Graceland, when Elvis would play the piano and sing gospel songs with friends for hours, Presley said those stories are true.
“He loved gospel music very much,” she said. “He came from a religious family of gospel singers.” He had even wanted to be a gospel singer in the beginning, she said.
“He would sit around and play piano all the time,” she recalled.
Asked if she ever joined in the singing, Presley smiled. Yes, she did.
Did she realize that thousands of Elvis Presley’s fans would have loved to have heard that music?
Presley said sometimes you don’t know how special things are at the time they’re occurring.
“Appreciate the moment when you can,” she said. She spoke of how special the years spent with children can be.
“We tend to let life fly by,” she said. “Be in the moment.”
Sep. 20, 2003
James Beaty, Senior Editor