Date March 22, 2014
In the darkness stands Lisa Marie Presley, chewing on a pastille and staring at the spotlight as she waits in the wings for her cue. Alone but never alone - a personal assistant sprinkles talcum powder on her palms and the soles of her bare feet, to stop them sweating and sliding over the stage.
The Hornsby RSL showroom is five-sixths full. Fans with black bouffants and mutton chops sit at numbered tables under the seafood-sauce coloured ceiling. The most famous surname in show business is doing the suburban club circuit, her name up in fluorescents here and in Hurstville, Campbelltown, Frankston, Tumbi Umbi, Rooty Hill.
Hours earlier, she had sat at Table 19, wearing a black leather skirt and black T-shirt with the word "CHIEF" stamped across it. Her stage crew tested the sound speakers, shouting slogans into a microphone: "Serendipitous serenity!" "Show me the money!"
Beyond the doors came the clattering of poker machines. There's a white baby grand in the hall but not for playing. A queue by the bainmarie for the pre-show special: beef OR vege lasagne with chips OR salad ($8.30/9.50).
It's an older crowd in comfortable shoes. Most will stay seated throughout the show. Presley, 46, suspects many have come to see her father through her. "I can tell who is there for me and who is not," she says.
Before the show she sits in a make-up chair marked "LMP" and clears her throat with a concoction of apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper. She meditates, breathing deep as her hair is whipped into curls that won't survive the hot stage lights.
Her hair stretches to the small of her back, not so much framing as bolstering her face. She is smaller than she seems on stage, where she growls and jangles in a floor-length black dress and bare feet with black-painted nails, about love and loss and digging holes to go down. "The next song I wrote when everything was broken," she tells the audience.
"I was surrounded by a bunch of vampires at one point in my life," she explains later. "I was buried by them."
She last toured Australia in 2004, playing the big city casinos. Now she's here in Hornsby, the stage framed by a big white cross and a portrait of the Queen. It's like Elvis playing a five-and-dime. "The [new] record is pretty intimate so the venues are intimate," Presley says. "I just kind of go where I am told to play.
"To be honest with you, I actually lose money when I tour … I just have a purpose in helping people."
Tomorrow, she will sit in a city hotel, her back to the harbour, for a succession of television interviewers asking every which way about her father. They are told not to ask about ex-husband Michael Jackson or Scientology.
Presley will talk about how she is sometimes thick skinned and sometimes not, and how anyone can be famous now. "When I was growing up you avoided at all costs trying to be in the tabloids … Now people have paparazzi on speed dial."
She doesn't mention her father by name, but recalls watching "him" perform when she was young and how she would ask him to sing How Great Thou Art or Just Pretend. "I have always loved beautiful sad songs," she says.
Tonight, her Hornsby show finishes with a cover of Tom Petty's I Need To Know. Off stage, in an upstairs dressing room, Presley describes the crowd as "polite". "It was an older crowd but I think we were in a retirement area."
Then there's a wardrobe change before a meet-and-greet with fans who have paid extra for a personal photograph, among them Greg Page, the Yellow Wiggle once removed. They have been told not to dress as Elvis or Jackson. "It's just awkward," Presley says.
Chris Rutherford, 27, from Berowra, leans in close to say she "saved" him. "I love that she has her own identity apart from her father," he tells me later. "She's got her own sound."
His mother Ann remarks how much Presley looks like Elvis. "There is something she does with her mouth, a half smile, it's sexy."