Lisa Marie Presley, Vanity Fair, and “Elvis at 21,” on Her Birthday Today

by Chris Murray on February 1, 2023

Photo by Carlotta Hester/Govinda Gallery.

It was my good fortune to discover photographer and filmmaker, Alfred Wertheimer and his photographs of Elvis Presley in 1956. Alfred became a great friend and collaborator for over 20 years. I edited Wertheimer’s four books featuring his photographs of Elvis, and curated and organized over 25 remarkable exhibitions of his photographs in museums and galleries internationally. The first book we did together, Elvis at 21 (Insight Editions), featured an essay by Presley’s biographer, Peter Guralnick. I love that book, and it was a moment I’ll never forget in October of 2006 when I had the opportunity to present a copy of Elvis at 21 to Lisa Marie. She was performing with her band at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia for her second album Now What. I was able to meet with Lisa Marie at her tour bus and gave her a copy. She commented that she liked Alfred Wertheimer’s photographs and we took a photo together with the book. I thanked Lisa Marie, and she went on stage and put on a dynamite performance. Esteemed music critic Robert Hilburn wrote in 2003 of Lisa Marie and her “…powerful, hauntingly personal work,” and of her “…gutsy, blues-edged voice.”

Editor and author extraordinaire, David Friend, asked me to assist in editing the special photo supplement Icons of Rock that accompanied the last issue of Vanity Fair from the 20th century, which was December 1999. The text was written by the esteemed music writer, Lisa Robinson, and the cover featured Gered Mankowitz’s truly iconic portrait of Jimi Hendrix.

Tommy Hilfiger threw a great party in Los Angeles at his flagship store to launch the Icons of Rock issue, which he sponsored. I was at the party with photographer Bob Seidemann, who lived in Los Angeles. I included his remarkable portrait of Janis Joplin in 1967 wearing nothing but some beads that Seidemann happened to have in his studio, in the special Vanity Fair issue.

Janis Joplin, 1967 © Bob Seidemann.

Suddenly, I saw Lisa Marie arrive at the party with three or four of her friends. I wanted to say hello to Lisa Marie and I asked Seidemann to come with me as he was wearing the very same beads that Janis wore in the photograph. I thought Lisa Marie might enjoy meeting Bob and seeing him wearing the beads. When I said hello and introduced Lisa Marie to Bob, I showed her the photo of Janis that Bob had taken. She did indeed enjoy seeing that picture of Janis, and Bob wearing the very same beads that Janis wore! The DJ at the party was amazing, and I asked Lisa Marie if she’d like to dance. She said yes and we had a great time together. After a little while, her friends joined us on the dance floor. Lisa Marie was wonderful.


Remembering Lisa Marie on her birthday.


Category: Blog, The Back Room   

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