Elvis Presley's Death: Anniversary Spotlights Similarities With Michael Jackson

Thirty-two years ago today, Ginger Alden -- then a 21-year-old model with dark eyes, long auburn hair and a wide smile -- awoke from a nap and, not immediately seeing her fiancee, knocked on his bathroom door.

Opening the door, she found the man who seven months earlier had proposed marriage dead from an overdose -- Elvis Presley.

It was just after 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 16, 1977. The book that Elvis had taken into the bathroom four hours earlier, "The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus," lay opened at his feet. He was 42.

VIDEO: Dr. George Nichopoulos was cleared of wrongdoing in Elvis Presleys death.Play

By 4:30 that afternoon, Elvis' father, Vernon Presley, stood on the steps of the singer's Memphis mansion, Graceland, and told the world: "My son is dead."

"I remember an overwhelming sense of sadness, disbelief and feeling as if Graceland had also died," Alden, now Ginger Leyser, told ABC News.com in an e-mail. "It was a complete, complete shock. Elvis was in a great mood and looking forward to going back on tour."

"He had earlier told me that he had been off too long," she wrote. "We had discussed wedding plans in the early morning hours after we went to the dentist. It was impossible to me that there would be a world and he not be there. That day a huge emptiness filled Graceland, Memphis, the world and my heart. It was an indescribable personal feeling of loss."

The anniversary of Elvis' death comes as the world continues to mourn his pop music successor, Michael Jackson.

For decades, comparisons have been made between Elvis -- the so-called King of Rock -- and Jackson -- the self-anointed King of Pop. And now their deaths share eerie similarities.

Both Jackson and Elvis' lives unfurled with similar progression. Born into working-class families, they were musical innovators whose success bridged cultures and generations, and whose fame made them prisoners in their own homes.

But their deaths have an even eerier congruence. With their best days behind them, each planned a concert tour to redefine their legacies. Before getting the chance, however, they each died quietly in their gilded cages from an overdose of powerful prescription drugs.

The aftermaths of their deaths also share a parallel quality. After years of prescription drug abuse, attention was focused on the doctors who fed their habits. Police continue to investigate Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, in much the same way prosecutors tried, but never convicted, Elvis' physician Dr. George Nichopoulos. Family members of both men wondered whether they could have intervened sooner.

Like the members of Jackson's inner circle who knew of the singer's addiction, but were powerless to help him, Leyser said she knew Elvis had a problem but was not in a position to keep him from abusing drugs.

Both Elvis and Jackson seemed to have become initially addicted to drugs to help them sleep.

"Over time in our relationship, I eventually saw that the core problem Elvis had was what most of us take for granted -- the ability to simply lie down, close our eyes and go to sleep at night," Leyser wrote in an e-mail to ABC News.com. "He took prescribed medication for this. He had been doing it for a long time prior to my meeting him. He had doctors and nurses on staff that were there to look after him in a professional capacity.

"Did I question his medication use? Yes. Did I try to get him not to take packets of medication? Yes. Was I in the position to do an intervention? No. We were not married yet and it was not possible. Although I asked him to try not to use the medication that I thought he did not need and there were times that he didn't, I truly believed that in time I would be able to convince him," she wrote.

In a recent interview with "Good Morning America" Jackson's former business manager, Deiter Wiesner, said those who tried to discuss the singer's addiction risked being pushed out or fired.

The Los Angeles coroner's report, indicating exactly what drugs where in Jackson's body when he died on June 25, 2009, has yet to be made public.

ABC News, however, has learned Jackson was given the hospital-grade anesthetic Propofol before his death and was addicted to several powerful painkillers, including OxyContin and Demerol.

Elvis, similarly took a dangerous combination of drugs he called "packets."

Following Elvis' death, coroners found in his body traces of the painkillers morphine and Demerol; the tranquilizers Placidyl and valium; quaaludes; codeine and an unknown barbiturate.

"Both men lived in a world of 'Yes' people who were afraid to intervene and risked being fired if they did," said Stuart Fischoff, a psychologist and editor of the Journal of Media Psychology. "They were surrounded by 'Dr. Feelgoods' who were seduced by having these patients and would give them whatever they asked for."

Dozens of celebrities between Elvis and Jackson have died of similar drug overdoses, a result of the stress in their work and a culture of excess, said Fischoff.

"There is a culture of drug use in the celebrity world. It is essentially a permissive and validating culture," Fischoff said.

Many celebrities turn to drugs to energize themselves to perform and then to relax afterwards, he said.

"You've got to adrenalize yourself -- get into the zone of being a celebrity. It is tremendously draining and fatiguing, which is why many celebs use other drugs to relax and come down. It is a 24-hour cycle of drug use."

Both Elvis and Jackson, he said, were abusing drugs late in their careers when they were past their physical primes.

The strain of constantly having to perform, even when not on stage, and the stress of watching their physical powers deteriorate likely contributed to their addictions.

"Jackson's face had deteriorated and Elvis had gained a tremendous amount of weight. It all showed on their faces and their bodies. They had deal with aging, loss of beauty and waning talent. They found solace in drugs, but they could not live that way," he said.

The two men, of course, shared something else in common. Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, was married to Michael Jackson from 1994 to 1996.