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David Beckwith, Publicist and Gatekeeper of Graceland, Dies at 67

David Beckwith, the veteran publicist whose crowning achievement was his work representing Elvis Presley’s Graceland museum since it opened more than four decades ago, has died. He was 67.

Beckwith died Friday in Phoenix (Jan. 19) after his hip replacement surgery was followed by sepsis, fellow publicist Lynn Weiss announced.

Beckwith for many years also represented Wolfgang Puck, his annual Governors Ball dinner at the Academy Awards and Spago. With the chef and agent Swifty Lazar, he arranged a fine dinner at Spago for industry heavyweights who were not at the Oscars, complete with a large-screen TV for them to watch the show.

When Presley’s home in Memphis, Tennessee, was first opened to the public in July 1982, Beckwith helped manage the 700-plus members of the media there for the opening news conference with Priscilla Presley. He continued his work with Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises until his death.

Born on April 28, 1956, in Albion, Nebraska, Beckwith graduated from the University of Oregon as a journalism major. His began his career in 1979 at Rogers & Cowan and three years later lanched his own business, The Beckwith Co.

In 1979, he arranged a deal for Moet & Chandon to serve as a sponsor and exclusive champagne of the Golden Globes, with magnums placed on all tables and the label prominently visible. It’s still the official champagne of the awards show.

The publicist also represented Freddie Gershon and Music Theater International along with the entertainment attorney’s annual scholarship for teachers with the Kennedy Center and Stephen Sondheim.

Beckwith was a pioneer in the LGBTQ+ community, serving on the local and national boards of the Human Rights Campaign, and was instrumental in creating Los Angeles’ Outfest, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ film festival.

Survivors include Dietrich Nelson, his partner of 42 years and husband of 15 years, and his pets Edie, Arlen, Daisy and Doris.



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