Benjamin Keough, Lisa Marie Presley’s adored son, had ‘been struggling’ before death

Benjamin Keough was no stranger to family turmoil: His legendary grandfather, Elvis Presley, died at 42, his mother was once devoted to Scientology, and his stepfathers briefly included Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage.

The Mercury News/July 13, 2020

By Martha Ross

Unlike his sister, Riley, who has pursued a successful career as an actress in film and TV, Benjamin Keough has mostly kept out of the spotlight. In 2009, he gave an interview in which he said he had signed a $5 million record deal, but nothing ever came of it, the Hollywood Reporter said.

In 2015, Keough shared a photo of an Elvis Presley outfit he had bought, the Daily Mail reported. He wrote on Instagram: “I purchased a piece of grandad today from a collector. He wore it in 1974. I feel a lot closer to him now.”

If Keough had been “struggling” recently, it’s not entirely clear how, but in his famous show-business family, his grandfather, Elvis Presley, was known for his excesses and dysfunctional personal life, which included his marriage to Keough’s grandmother, Priscilla Presley, whom he began dating when she was just 14 years old.

Elvis Presley’s death in 1977 came after years of reported drug abuse. Lisa Marie Presley, 9 at the time of her father’s death, became the sole heir to Graceland and to the rest of his estate.

While Lisa Marie Presley grew up in her father’s shadow, she eventually won some acclaim for her own musical career, which included three rock albums, but she gained most of her headlines for own troubled personal life.

Presley was married to Michael Jackson from 1994 to 1996, just as the late troubled mega-star was hit by the first wave of child-molestation allegations. For three months in 2002, Presley also was married to mercurial actor Nicolas Cage.

Keough’s father is Lisa Marie Presley’s first husband, musician Danny Keough. Presley and Danny Keough married in 1988 and together they had Riley Keough in 1989 and Benjamin Keough in 1992. Presley and Danny Keough divorced in 1994, just before she married Michael Jackson, but she has said in interviews over the years that she and Danny Keough have remained close friends and musical collaborators.

At the time of her son’s birth, Presley was a devoted Scientologist. She had been brought into the controversial, cult-like Church of Scientology by her mother, Priscilla Presley, in the late 1970s.

When reporting on Benjamin Keough’s birth in Tampa, Florida, the Associated Press quoted a spokesperson who said the 24-year-old Presley delivered the 7-pound, 8-ounce boy “naturally and in complete silence in a calm and supportive environment” under guidelines set out by Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, in his book “Dianetics.”

Presley’s devotion to Scientology extended through the 2000s when she was honored for her work on behalf of a church-backed literary crusade. She also took up the church’s opposition to psychiatry and the use psychotropic drugs for mental health conditions. At a 2002 congressional hearing, Presley testified against the use of psychiatric medications for children diagnosed with ADHD or with other behavioral, mental and emotional problems.

“What I do want to emphasize here today though, is that only by looking for alternatives to drugs will parents discover for themselves the numerous simple, workable and drug-free answers to the problems of attention, behavior and learning,” Presley testified at the Committee on House Government Reform.

But later in the decade, Presley grew discontented with Scientology and finally left the church in 2016, the Underground Bunker site reported. She released a song, “So Long,” in 2012 that decried churches that “don’t have a soul” and “corrupt” religions that run people’s lives.

On Monday, the Underground Bunker reported that Keough was definitely raised in Scientology. A source told the site: “The important thing is that the entire family was shaped by Scientology, and it’s paying the price because of it.”

Keough also had struggled with addiction, recently been to rehab and badmouthed the organization to friends. As recently as May, Keough told friends, according to the Underground Bunker, “how (expletive) up kids get in Scientology.”

Long before Presley reportedly left Scientology and tried to pull her older children out, she married for a fourth time in 2006 to guitarist and music producer Michael Lockwood. They became parents to twin daughters, Harper and Finley, in 2008. But Presley filed for divorce in 2016, and the two became locked in a bitter custody battle.

Throughout her various marital troubles, Presley has stayed close to her only son. In 2009, Presley and Keough got matching tattoos, the Daily Mail reported.

Presley also liked to remark on her son’s resemblance to her father, saying in an interview, according to TMZ: “Ben does look so much like Elvis,” Presley said in an interview. “He was at the Opry and was the quiet storm behind the stage. Everybody turned around and looked when he was over there. Everybody was grabbing him for a photo because it is just uncanny.”

It’s also been said that Presley wrote her 2012 song “Storm and Grace” about her son; Storm is Benjamin’s middle name, The Hollywood Reporter said.

“You have the most beautiful heart that I’ve ever known,” the lyrics go at one point. “It kills me you can’t ever show it/And a shell has been grown/Stop moving so fast there, and then/Take your foot off the gas.”

“You blow me away,” the song continues. “Your storm and your grace/My heart can’t seem to take it/Your storm and your grace.”

This story has been updated to include reporting from The Underground Bunker site, which is run by journalist Tony Ortega.

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