This year marks the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death; and, as his devoted fans do every August, a candlelight vigil was held at his Graceland home in Memphis. The turnout in 2012 exceeded expectations, with approximately 75,000 in attendance. However, hard as it may be to fathom, this ritual almost never came to be.
Elvis's ex-wife Priscilla Presley told Today on Thursday that she was advised not to open Graceland to the public. "I was told that Elvis passed, and that he'll be forgotten in the next couple of years. Life goes on," she said. "Thank God I didn't listen to any of those people."
The residence was opened in 1982 and quickly took its place in American culture, earning the distinction of National Historic Landmark in 2006. It currently hosts more than 600,000 visitors a year. "We had no idea--we knew we'd have maybe some visitors, but not to this extent," Priscilla noted.
She explained that she believes fans are attracted to the site due to its enduring vibe. "[Elvis's] presence is just all around, going into each room."
Elvis and Priscilla's only child, Lisa Marie, joined her mother on Today--a first for the pair, who have never been interviewed in Graceland together. "I'm always really happy when I'm here," Lisa Marie said of the iconic residence. "It always reminds me of when I was the happiest, I think, in my life."
Priscilla and Lisa Marie additionally surprised fans at the annual vigil this year with another first-time event--appearing together at the gathering and thanking fans for their devotion.
"This is something that Elvis would never, ever have believed could have taken place here," Priscilla noted at the vigil.
She told Today that Elvis himself worried that he'd be forgotten quickly if he chose to retire. "And to see this every year? It's like, 'Oh my gosh, you were wrong. Look at this! Look what you do every year,'" she said. "It brings a smile to my face, because...if he only knew."
The two have largely avoided public appearances in conjunction with Elvis's death. However, Lisa Marie ultimately decided that this year was "important" to commemorate. Meanwhile, her mother simply told Today, "It just seems like it's the right time."