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What Price for a Glimpse of Elvis' Granddaughter?

June 15, 1989|GARRY ABRAMS | Times Staff Writer

Elvis Presley's genes are the next best thing to the King himself, judging by this week's People magazine and the tabloid National Enquirer. Both publications feature cover photos--apparently obtained by checkbook and by stealth and heralded with large headline type--of the late rock 'n' roll legend's first grandchild, born May 29 in Santa Monica.

Outweighing the turmoil in China at 7 pounds, 2 ounces, Danielle Riley Keough, born to Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, is an earth-shaking event in celebrity-oriented journals, where Elvis remains a staple nearly 12 years after his death. Both People and the Enquirer clearly expected to score exclusives with the first photos of the infant. And both believe they did--despite the duplication.

A source at the National Enquirer said that the tabloid declined to bid the $450,000 being asked for Los Angeles photographer Cesare Bonazza's photos of the baby with her parents--partly because the Enquirer had obtained its own photos by secret methods and partly because the price was too high given the subject. The Enquirer photos show the infant alone, swaddled and in a bassinet, leading to the suspicion that the photos are an 'inside' job--by a member of the hospital staff or of the Presley retinue.

Enquirer Assistant Executive Editor John Cathcart declined to discuss specifics, including how much his paper paid for its photos. "We would not have paid that much," said Cathcart, referring to the price allegedly paid by People. "To us it wasn't worth it. . . . Elvis Presley in his coffin was probably a more significant picture than this."

Cathcart clearly implied that the Enquirer's photos were the result of months of preparation. "We were planning for this long before the baby was born," he said, refusing to give details.

People is thought to have paid a still staggering $300,000 for Bonazza's photos, snapped in a 10-minute session the day after birth. They include the color cover photo of mother and child and an inside black and white double-page spread of mother and father--musician Danny Keough--with the baby.

In both cases the baby girl has a pacifier in her mouth and her eyes are closed, a source of glee to Enquirer Articles Editor David Perel who crowed, "I think we have the better baby picture by far." (In a third photo in People the baby isn't using a pacifier but her eyes are closed. The baby's eyes are half-open in the Enquirer cover photo and half-open in its inside picture, which by Perel's computations apparently add up to a wide-eyed portrait.)

Cathcart said that "three, or four at the most" publications were approached to make offers on the Bonazza photos, with the bidding handled by L.A. attorney Stephen Spataro. Neither Bonazza nor Spataro returned calls. People spokeswoman Elizabeth Wagner declined to confirm or deny how the magazine got the photos, or how much it paid, saying, "We never discuss the nature of how information is obtained."

Articles accompanying the ballyhooed photographs in both publications report that Elvis' grandchild was the object of extremely tight security and that the family went to great lengths to maintain privacy at the hospital, which had been staked out by photographers.

To flesh out its story, People fell back on quotes from a December, 1988, interview in Life magazine with Lisa Marie and her mother, Priscilla. The Enquirer extensively quotes "a source close to the couple" and reiterates its revelation of last week that "a weird group" had threatened to kidnap the newborn. Meanwhile, People hinted that the secrecy surrounding the child may be at the insistence of the Church of Scientology, which claims both parents and grandmother Priscilla as members.

Radiating Warmth

The second installment of The New Yorker's three-part series on radiation may send a chill through people who are used to sleeping warm. In this week's issue, writer Paul Brodeur cites research by a Denver scientist that seems to indicate a greater rate of miscarriage among women who use electric blankets and electrically heated water beds than those who don't. The research conducted in 1983 and 1984 by Nancy Wertheimer is one of many investigations reported by Brodeur in his examination of the effects of electromagnetic radiation--from high-current power lines and some radar systems as well as electric blankets--on human beings.

These and other radiation sources that have been linked to increased rates of cancer are likely to become the source of major liability battles in the near future, Brodeur asserts. One large potential source of liability may well be the nation's computer industry, he concludes. " . . . What will be the liability of the nation's vast computer industry for claims arising from illnesses that may be caused by exposure to the low-level electric and magnetic fileds that are known to be produced by video display terminals, of which there are now some thirty million in use in the United States alone?" he asks.

Victorian Victory

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