Elvis' daughter and her mother watched vigil from Graceland mansion

Friday, August 16th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Elvis Presley's newlywed daughter, her movie star husband and her mother secretly visited Graceland in the wee hours Friday morning and watched from the mansion windows as fans carried candles to Elvis' grave in an all-night vigil on the 25th anniversary of his death.

A Graceland representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Lisa Marie Presley, husband Nicolas Cage and mother Priscilla Presley arrived after midnight to witness the largest gathering of fans since Presley died at the mansion on Aug. 16, 1977 _ an estimated 35,000. They were unseen by the crowd as they entered and left.

They then made a brief stop at Elvis Presley's Memphis, a restaurant and night club on Beale Street, where they watched revelers from the privacy of a VIP area.

The family also prepared for an appearance at the 25th Anniversary Concert at the Pyramid Arena Friday night. About 14,000 tickets were sold months ago. An additional 500 tickets that were made available Thursday were snapped up within five minutes, the Graceland representative said.

Fans who began gathering at Graceland early Thursday morning for the vigil, continued their parade to the grave until about 9:30 a.m. Friday. They carried candles and left poems and trinkets in the Meditation Garden where Elvis is buried.

Their spirits were undampened by a wild storm. The rain, thunder and lightning delayed the start of the vigil for an hour.

Rain continued off and on through the night and many fans rushed to souvenir shops to purchase Elvis umbrellas and plastic ponchos, then returned to their places in line for the candlelight procession.

``I spend all day at Graceland and then I stand and stand and stand,'' said Renate Bressner, a fan who came from Munich, Germany.

``My back hurt,'' added the 56-year-old Bressner, an Elvis fan for more than 40 years. But she said was not giving up until she reached the grave site, which she finally did after 2 a.m.

Bressner said her family, including her 35-year-old daughter who was raised on Elvis music, discouraged her from making the trip to Memphis by herself but she was adamant: ``It is something I have to do.''

Melanie Figueroa of the Austin, Texas, fan club, which led the procession, said the inclement weather didn't bother her.

``We've been doling this for years,'' she said. ``I was going to stay whether it was rain or sleet or snow.''

Sandy Bates of Baltimore said she's been attending for years but found this one the most inspiring.

``He's been gone 25 years but he's still making all these people happy,'' she said. ``You have to admire someone who can bring about all this loyalty in this day and age.''