Gary James' Interview with the owner of
the Elvis Is Alive Museum
Did Elvis Presley fake his death on August 16th, 1977? Bill Beeny believes he did.
Bill is the owner of a museum devoted to King Of Rock 'n' Roll - the Elvis Is Alive Museum in Wright City, Missouri. What follows is our conversation with Bill Beeny about the whole Is Elvis Alive? subject matter.
Q - Bill, there's a new book out called Elvis De-coded. Are you aware of that book?
A - Yes.
Q - Does that mean you participated with the author in any way?
A - Not that my memory serves me.
Q - In Chapter 18, the title is "Elvis related Frauds, Scams and Strange Stories". Underneath that listing is "The Real Lisa Marie Presley? - Bill Beeny, Lucy de Barbin, Billy Miller, Dr. Donald Hinton and Elvis Jr." This information came to me in the form of a press release. I have not seen the book. I have not read the book. Where do you fit in that chapter...a fraud, a scam or a strange story?
A - Some of the bodyguards have attacked me and claimed that I'm just using Elvis to make money. The truth is, our Elvis Is Alive museum, which was started in about 1990, doesn't charge anybody for coming in. It's a hobby of mine. I'm a real estate developer and former Baptist Minister. We have never charged anyone a dollar for coming in here. It's a hobby with me. I got interested in it (because) we had a 50s cafe as a sideline. So people began asking questions - Is Elvis alive or dead? I said of course he's dead. Why would I think any different? They began to bring up questions that I couldn't answer, like how come the body weighed 170 pounds that they buried, it's a known fact, Elvis weighed 255 pounds. Why didn't they collect his insurance? Questions which had a valid reason for being asked, and I couldn't answer them. So, I started as a hobby looking into it. I interviewed some of the people who played in his band; people that were related to him. Then ultimately we were able to get, through a physician in Memphis, a DNA sample, working through my son's law office, a sample of both the cadaver they buried and Elvis when he was performing. We sent 'em off to see if they would match or not, and it turned out they did not match. The doctor who provided it thought Elvis died when he was supposed to, which a normal person who isn't a nut like me would think. But, he was shocked when the DNA samples came back. He said I know these DNA samples are accurate because they were marked by the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, where this all took place. He said I can't argue with science. Whoever the man was in the casket, he wasn't Elvis Presley. So, that's all we've said. EIN had a running thing about whether my DNA was accurate or not. A lot of 'em, like the fella who's coming out with this De-coded thing, were saying we didn't have the proper chain of custody when we had the samples. It wasn't properly cared for. Well, none of them were there! How do they know what it was? My son, who is an attorney and has a law firm in the St. Louis area, the first thing he told me and the doctor was we have to be very careful and adhere to the chain of custody. Anybody that handles these has to sign an affidavit that there is no chance there is a mix-up. EIN wanted me to respond. I said, look, I've got too much to do to argue with my detractors. This is a hobby with me. I'll write one long letter and explain how we got it, and how the chain of custody was adhered to. I said, but it seems to me we cold all be civil in this if we could disagree and still be gentlemen and be civilized. I said I don't intend to attack anyone and I think I should have the same courtesy returned to me. There are some that, when they can't answer your question, the only thing they know how to do is attack you. I debated with Elvis' bodyguards on NBC in New York. They couldn't answer my questions and then they would get mad and start attacking me personally. The old adage - if you can't accept the message, kill the messenger. I know what we have. I know how we got it. I've spent far more on this than I ever would re-coup. The book has not been a money maker. (Bill Beeny wrote a book on the Elvis DNA subject matter.) It was published by Brandon Press in Boston. Quite a few have sold, but when you have a publisher, your percentage is so small that it doesn't bring you a lot of money. The DNA cost me, just one item, about $2,600. I thought when I had it sent out, what's a couple of hundred dollars? (laughs) I got educated.
Q - Depending on who you interview, you can make a case for Elvis being alive or dead.
A - Sure. The thing that amazes me is the hatred for this thing. People come in here (the museum) and say I don't think Elvis is alive. I say that's fine. Here's the museum. We just say here's the evidence we have. You look at it and make you own mind up. We're not here to convince anybody of anything. Certainly I'm not going to let it upset me. (laughs)
Q - Before you opened this museum, were you a fan of Elvis?
A - Just a nominal fan. Nothing super.
Q - How many people, if you were able to give a percentage passing through your museum doors, believe Elvis is alive?
A - We did, in the early days when we opened in '90, a little survey and that was the only survey we did. I'm sure the people were probably biased towards us. So, it wouldn't be anything like an accurate survey, because they were Elvis fans and a lot of Elvis fans wish that he was alive, whether he would be or not. It ran, I think 61% believed he was alive, and 39% believed he was not. Now, one of the early people who interviewed me was A Current Affair. Back then it was quite a popular show. That was in the early 90s. They got so many phone calls about the interview they re-ran it like eight times! Then, they called and told me they were going to ask the people to phone in whether they thought Elvis was alive or dead. It ran 47% believed he was alive and 53% believed he was dead.
Q - I read somewhere that you believe Elvis may have called your museum? Did you accept that call or did someone else at the museum?
A - My secretary did. I never said that Elvis called. What I said was, it was a man who sounded like Elvis. It could've been anyone. Shortly after we opened, he called. My secretary came in and was kind of pale and said "I think Elvis is on the line." So I laughed. He said "This is Jon Burrows." Of course that's a name that Elvis used at times, an alias. The F.B.I. would use that when they'd call him, when he was feeding them information. They would call for Jon Burrows. He would drop everything and come right to the phone. So, this guy, whoever he was, called and said "I'm Jon Burrows." I kind of laughed. I thought it was a disc jockey and it may have been. I said "Well, I'm Sivle", which is Elvis spelled backwards. We both laughed. He sounded more like Elvis than Elvis. Of course a lot of the impersonators do and said "aren't you afraid you might endanger Elvis' life by saying he's alive, since he was working with the F.B.I. on some touchy stuff?" I said "Well, the F.B.I. said they'd never lost a man that went into protective custody." Then he laughed and the laugh was identical to Elvis. He said "Well, if they had lost a man, do you think they'd admit it?" I said "No, I don't." I thought at any minute he was gonna say this is a disc jockey from WOKZ or whatever. But instead he said "Well, thank you very much sir. I appreciate what you're doing and I'll drop by and see your museum when I'm that way" and hung up. So, I never said to anyone that was Elvis, 'cause it would be presumptuous on my part.
Q - According to this Elvis Inc book, Graceland was contemplating a lawsuit against you in an attempt to shut down the museum. I guess they backed off because they didn't want to give the museum any more publicity. Would that be accurate?
A - I don't know what the reason was. After we opened, I had checked with my son about the legality of it, since he's an attorney. He said in Missouri, when an icon dies, somebody of notoriety, their rights to them die with them under Missouri law. He said if you want to spread information about Elvis under the Constitutional right of Freedom Of Speech, you have the right to do so, especially since you're not making any money on it. So, with his advice, we proceeded. Right after we opened, the Associated Press came out and the story went world wide. Then Graceland responded through their attorney Barry Ward, that they were going to file suit. So, I called Barry. I taped the conversation in case I needed it later on. He was, I would say a little on the arrogant side. He said don't you hicks up there or something to that effect, know that we own the right to the name and image of Elvis Presley? You have no right to mention his name or have a museum saying he's alive. I said well Barry, I had my son give me the guidance on this and he said under the Constitution, the fact that we're not charging, we're not a money making thing, that we're legal. He said, well I rather suspect that we're gonna have to shut you down. I will be getting a Cease and Desist order. I said, I'm sorry you feel that way. I was hoping we could work it out, but if that's the way you need to go, go ahead and do it and we'll take it from there and let the judge decide on it. Graceland is very trigger-happy about filing lawsuits. I've had people sued that I thought would never have been sued by them. Over in Kansas City, they have an Elvis Day. They have about six to eight thousand people out and block off the streets. They asked us to come over with Elvis memorabilia, which we did. A little lady came up who had embroidered Elvis' head and was giving them away. Graceland got wind of it for Heaven's sake and they wrote her a real nasty letter and said stop this or you'll be in court. They are very touchy about the name and image of Elvis. So, why they didn't proceed to stop me wasn't because they were afraid of me. They could've probably squelched me like an ant, but for some reason they didn't pursue it. In actuality, I think the museum here helps their attendance down there. Anything you do about Elvis, if it's given in a positive way, and we hold Elvis in high esteem and make a positive presentation even though we think he's alive...a lot of people say yeah, we're going on down to Memphis from here. But why they backed off, I don't know.
Q - There was a time when they were contemplating the idea of stopping all Elvis impersonators, but they never acted on that.
A - They filed a test suit in Las Vegas and lost it, and so they backed off.
Q - You appeared on the TV show America After Hours and stated that the Lisa Marie the public knows as Lisa Marie is not the real Lisa Marie. How did you come to that conclusion?
A - Well, they were the ones that brought that up and it is true we had some questions about that, and had investigated it pretty thoroughly. I told them when I was on the show I didn't want to get into it because just dealing with Elvis being alive was a plateful and the limited time they had, this was a whole other issue. If they wanted to schedule a separate show for that, I would be glad to come back. I said there's too much to discuss on each one to cover it in one short interview. When we had a cafe here, I came in one day and a fella had been waiting for me, a Swedish fella with a Swedish accent. He introduced his-self. He said "I am a friend of the real Lisa Marie Presley." I said "what are you talking about?" He said "well, the other girl who married Michael Jackson is a stand-in. She's not the real Lisa Marie." I said "what makes you say that?" So he gave me the story. The story was that Lisa, right after the funeral, was taken by the mother and by the bodyguard of the karate fella that she was then engaged to, and took her to Europe to leave her there with Gladys Presley's cousin until she grew up, because there were a lot of death threats Elvis was getting and kidnap threats towards Lisa. She was supposed to stay there until she was twenty-five. That's when she was to inherit everything and then the mother would bring her back. I was pretty skeptical and he gave me names of people. He said there's a lady in Florida who grew up with Lisa. I'll give you her name and you can check it out with her. So, I did. In fact, I went down and took one of my boys and we interviewed her and her husband. She had grown up in Upsila, Sweden where this girl had grown up. She said we wondered about the girl when she was nine years old, coming to our school because she spoke perfect English but didn't know any Swedish, and she's supposed to have her mother here in town. Then she got to know her better and the girl confided in her when they became very close friends, that she had been left by her mother, Priscilla Presley. Then I began to go back into our archives of paper and I pulled out an old newspaper article and sure enough, Lisa Marie was taken to Europe by the mother and by the karate boyfriend. The reporters asked her in the article why are you bringing her here? Her answer was for security, because she's been having a lot of kidnap threats. We're going to leave her here until the threats are gone. So, that kind of peaked my interest a little because here was an independent, secular source that had nothing to do with what they were asking that corroborated what this Swedish fella, Alex, had told me. From there, a lot of other investigation on the side. And again, this was a hobby like the other. Then Fox News wanted to do an interview. They heard about it. They wanted to do an interview with the Lisa girl in Sweden. I had talked to her and she was very frightened. She was frightened of all things by the Church of Scientology. Scientology, which Priscilla and Michael's former wife were both heavily involved with...she was fearful for herself and her children. She had two daughters. She didn't want to do it. Finally she agreed to and Fox said we want to do an investigation and see if this girl's a phony first. We'll have our investigative reporters do a routine deal, and so they did. They called me back from New York and said we definitely want to do it because this girl checks out. We found out that she has money being sent to her by Graceland. It goes to Japan. Their name is laundered off of it and then it's sent to her in Upsila, Sweden. The girl lived like a queen. She never worked. Her husband never worked. He said furthermore, we checked the lady that's supposed to be her mother there in Upsila and we found from her medical records; I don't know how the newspaper found all of this stuff; that she had had an operation to where she couldn't have children before the age that Lisa would've been born...that she physically could not be her mother. So, they wanted to do it. We had it all set up and they were gonna pay my way over and then a bizarre thing happened. Lisa's fears were evidently well-founded because she called me up in tears and said my closest friend, who is the god-mother for my children, was brutally murdered and her body parts were scattered around on the playground where my children go to school...a private school. She said I don't want to do the interview. She said we're moving to another location and I'll get back to you later. She sent me the Swedish newspaper which verified what she had said. So, that cancelled the interview. But, I could go on and on and on. But, she finally wrote a book, I, Lisa Marie. She asked my son to represent her, to try and set up a meeting with her mother. She said I'm not wanting to sue or anything for money, but I want to know why they left me there and never came back for me, why mother did that. Andrew (Bill Beeny's attorney son) wrote Priscilla and her attorney wrote back and said this little girl's a fraud and said you need to drop the case or we'll have your law license pulled. They were very arbitrary about it. I talked to her (Lisa Marie) last week. She was over here. They came to my house by the way and spent the weekend back in the '90s and I got to know her a little better. She is real spoiled like the young Lisa was and I had to get after her about that and tell her she needed to open up and start respecting other people and not be so spoiled and want everything her way. She went back after that happened. They tried to get her children taken away from her, Graceland did. She called me and said would you contact the Human Services Department over here in Sweden. They claimed she was over here and didn't have her children in school and they were gonna take the children away from her. I said she was doing a book tour and my son is representing her on the book tour and that she did home school the children. She was at my home and would set a time every day. One was like four and the other was about nine (years old). So, that let her off the hook, but it did scare her about coming over here during school time. When they were here last week, they just flew over, all four of 'em for the weekend. They're still in plenty of money and don't work.
Q - I heard once that the Lisa Marie married to Michael Jackson had a different forehead when you compare it to the nine year old Lisa Marie photographed with Elvis and Priscilla. what can you tell me about that?
A - Her skull (nine year old Lisa Marie) is larger and your skull can't shrink. At the age of nine her skull was larger. Not only that, if you look at a young picture of Lisa, her hairline goes back very far on the left side, uncanningly far back. Michael Jackson's wife has what they call a widows peak. Now, the girl from Sweden, Lisa, her hairline was real far back. In fact to get evidence, she had the Royal Canadian Mounted Police do a missing child's deal (on her). She told them she was trying to determine her identity. I saw the report. I had the report and published it at the time. They checked her picture and they checked Michael Jackson's wife's picture against a nine year old picture of Lisa and their results after an exhausted facial analysis was that she was the one who was the small child, not Michael's wife. The two girls are just totally different. Lisa Marie in Sweden is an intelligent child. She has a Masters degree. Michael's wife was a druggie. She dropped out of school when she was in junior high school and had all kind of problems after that.
Q - So, what name then does the "real" Lisa Marie use these days? Does she even use her first name?
A - She uses her first name of Lisa. She married a Swedish fella when she grew up. His name is Alex Johansen. She goes by the name of Johansen in Sweden. She doesn't want a lot of notoriety over there. She's scared to death that somebody is gonna harm her children. Her children were something else too. Just recently her youngest girl, who is now eleven, was on all of the news in Sweden as having the highest I.Q. of any girl they ever checked in Sweden. She was so smart they put her in the University at the age of eleven. She has evidently a beautiful voice. I'm waiting to get the CD. Lisa was over here the week before last. Her daughter Emma and her (Lisa's) husband Alex had been over here for almost two months doing a demo. She (Lisa Marie) has been training for these two months under a tutor who is one of the top tutors in the United States. A lot of the stars that have made it tutored under him. He is so good he has over a thousand people waiting to be tutored, but when they brought little Emma over, who is only eleven by the way, they put her at the head of the list. She had been tutoring for over a month with him, with her father being here with her. I said how did she arrange all this, being from Sweden and how could she get to the top of the list? Evidently some company has already signed her up to do a CD and I'm waiting to get the CD. To use Lisa Marie's words, "her grandfather made it all happen", of course meaning Elvis.
Q - Is the "real" Lisa Marie in contact with her father? Does he call her?
A - Oh, yes.
Q - And in-person visits?
A - Yes.
Q - Why would Elvis fake his death? I've heard he got into some trouble with a business deal. Would that be accurate?
A - We've go 3,500 pages right from the F.B.I.'s office that Gail Brewer Giorgio and Phil (Aitcheson, founder of The Presley Commission) donated from their files. They detail and chronicle, especially right at the end...they were investigating a group in the Caribbean called The Fraternity. It was a mob group that had tentacles that went all the way up to John Gotti. They wanted to bust this group, but they hadn't been able to bust it. They had scammed people out of ten billion dollars. So, they got Elvis, who had an airplane he was going to put up for sale...he had three jets. He was going to advertise it. The F.B.I. got with him and this is all chronicled in their files and asked him to advertise it in the Miami newspapers to see if this group would take the bait. They wanted to set up a sting operation. To make a long story short, he did advertise it. They did take the bait. That was the type of thing they'd work on, movie stars, bankers and personalities that had a lot of money and would fall for their schemes. The had the ringleader of the group. Peter Frederick Pro called Elvis and said we want a cargo plane to start a cargo business and it looks like we can take this Jetstar and have it re-done and make it a cargo plane. We'd like to buy it. So, they set a time for him to come up. He was to bring a cashier's check for 1.2 million dollars. He came up. The F.B.I. was monitoring everything that was said and done. He met with Elvis and Vernon, who was Elvis' financial manager. Unfortunately, it was a bad decision 'cause he only had like a fourth grade education. They presented the check and the F.B.I. said have them let you call the bank. They told him that ahead of time. So, Vernon called the bank. A lady answered and said "First National Bank of Bahamas" or whatever it was. He said "we have a check for 1.2 billion dollars from Peter Frederick Pro. We want to know if it's good." She said "oh yes, Mr. Pro is one of our most valued customers and any dealings or checks you have with him are good as gold." He thanked her and hung up. In reality, that woman was sitting in an empty room at a desk, pretending to be a banker. They had already figured that would happen. So, they got the plane, took it down, landed it. They sold it for 1.2 million dollars in Miami. The minute they sold it, the F.B.I. moved in on 'em. They got the weakest member and he turned evidence on the others. It was such a high profile thing and so dangerous, they immediately put him into a federal witness protection program. Elvis was supposed to appear before a federal grand jury on August 16th, 1977, which happened to be the day of his so called death. But, what he did was, he gave a deposition to them instead of appearing before the Grand Jury. They used that to indict them with. But, I thought that was coincidental that he died the day he was supposed to be at the grand jury.
Q - Bill, do you personally believe that Elvis is alive?
A - Yes, I do. This has nothing to do with my livelihood. The Lord's been good to me. I've been developing business now for over thirty-five years. I go by the evidence. If I had to take this into court, I would treat it as an attorney would with the evidence and the opposing evidence, especially since we have the DNA. With Lisa, in the DNA, we used her also. My son sent it off like it was a paternity case with two fathers. We wanted to know were the fathers were different or the same man. He said he was confused on that, and which one was she (Lisa Marie) the child of. It turned out that Elvis and the cadaver didn't match, so it wasn't Elvis in the casket. It turned out she was not related to the man in the casket. Her DNA was 95% of the Elvis when he was performing; a 95% match. In the U.S., if she was going to court, she would lose because you gotta be 99 point something. In Europe, 95% would qualify you as being the daughter of someone. So, that's where her DNA registered at.