were married on Elvis’ birthday. Hold on there big fellah,
it was just a coincidence.
I didn’t even realize it until
I woke up in a champagne haze, with the TV still blaring on
our wedding night.
I knew the Fates
had conspired when I half-opened one eye and saw there on the news,
thousands of fans lined up to worship outside the gates at the temple
of Elvis, Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.
<– (not us)
I have a deep
appreciation for all things Elvis, first and foremost his music.
The early stuff was genuinely ground-breaking, classic Rock &
Roll and some of the later Vegas-era tunes were also
The King of Rock & Roll may never have threatened
to walk off with an Oscar but hey, who doesn’t like it when an
Elvis movie pops up on your TV in the middle of the night or on
some rainy Saturday afternoon?
C’mon, good clean campy 60’s fun
with the star speeding his brains out on medicine
while bursting into song every five minutes.
du jour fighting the Elvis magnetism, but in the end, falling
head over heals for him and then joining in for a duet.
script writing and songwriting to die for. No academy awards here
but a Spinout, Roustabout, Clambake of a good time.
the cars, the airplanes… he was great at the whole star power
lifestyle, with a hillbilly twist, and Graceland was a huge part
I had wanted to see Graceland for decades,
and now the end is near, I did it my way.
doesn’t just walk through the famous gates of Graceland –oh
no — one must be bussed the five hundred or so feet from the
ticket booth across Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Not knowing that,
we just headed up the driveway
like we were family.
Getting stopped gave us a chance to check out
the graffiti on the wall by the gates before going across to get
tickets. People from all over the world have etched in their reminiscences,
best wishes or just their moniker for posterity.
were procured, we were properly herded aboard the bus and instructed
to switch on the recorded tour in the provided headsets. Let me
add here that Lance LeGault, (The A-Team’s Col. Decker) who narrates
the excursion, is perfect. His deep baritone voice took me back
to the days of Rex Allen saying All you add is love
for Purina Dog Chow.
Lance knows his stuff, he was there. He appeared
in three of The King’s films, working as his stunt double and
taking on minor roles. Look close, that’s Lance sitting on the
side of the stage playing tambourine in the ’68 comeback special.
tacky opulence hit the moment we walked through Graceland’s
front door. These first rooms are actually the most tastefully
decorated in the mansion.
The living room looked as
if Liberace played the inside of I Dream of Jeannie’s bottle.
the entry hall, the dining room decor could best be described
as early Southern grandma.
But hands down, the highlight of
these first few rooms has to be Mama’s purple poodle bathroom.
We craned our heads around the doorway as far as we could
to get a good look.
the hall, past the conventional kitchen, into the heart of The
King’s lair, the feel of the house shifted from southern comfort
to Hillbilly Cat.
living area has a bar — Elvis liked to entertain. The groovy,
mod style TV / target practice (when something displeasing
to The King came on one of the sets) room, all yellow and
black with mirrored ceilings set the tempo.
E had heard that Lyndon Johnson had three sets to watch the news
on all three networks at once so… three sets, no waiting on the
game room was magnificent, with colorful, patterned, pleated
Indian-inspired fabric covered the walls, pillows AND the
Tiffany-style lights hover over the billiard
Knickknacks that couldnt possibly be conducive
to a game of pool adorn the room.
the infamous Jungle Room.
The King goes green shag carpet native —
on the floors and, oh yeah, the ceiling.
Tiki tacky barely
begins to describe this conglomeration. Rock-A Hula! Blue
Hawaii must have really rubbed off on E.
A colorfully lit
fountain cascades down an entire
stone wall and the furniture is unbelievably, well, let’s just call
it Paradise, Hawaiian Style.
the inside of the house, we see Vernon Presley’s office. Vernon
was Elvis’ daddy and ran the business affairs from an office
right on the grounds of Graceland.
The sign on the door pretty
much sums up his business attitude:
NO LOAFING IN OFFICE
STRICTLY FOR EMPLOYEES ONLY! IF YOU HAVE BUSINESS
HERE. PLEASE TAKE CARE OF IT AND LEAVE. – VERNON PRESLEY
the office we proceeded through a long hallway filled with
memorabilia. Gold records, movie posters, photos, clothes, awards and a rather disturbing doll lined the walls.
I found it interesting that none of the three
Grammy awards given to The King of Rock & Roll were for
Rock & Roll.
He won them all in the Gospel Music category.
It also struck me that all of the suits, even the later Viva
Las Vegas models, seemed to be tailored for the earlier, skinny
up in the Meditation Garden, which Elvis built for quiet reflection
back in the sixties, but due to security issues at the Forest
Hill Cemetery, now serves as the Presley family private cemetery.
Here we see the final resting places of daddy Vernon, mama Gladys,
grandmother Minnie May, a memorial to twin brother Jessie Garon
and, of course, Elvis.
With the tour
of Graceland complete, we headed back across Elvis Presley Boulevard
into the sea of swag offered to the pilgrims. In amongst the shops
disguised as attractions is the car museum. Definitely worth a
For all the
jokes about his taste in decorating choices of Graceland, Elvis
certainly had good taste in cars. As Rock & Roll royalty,
The King had to have a couple of Rolls Royce Silver Clouds, but
also a 1975 Ferrari Dino, a ’62 Lincoln Continental, a Mercedes
limo and a convertible 280 SL (for Priscilla) from back before
most Americans knew what a Mercedes was.
There are also two Stutz Blackhawks in the collection. One, a
1971 model, is the first Stutz ever brought into the United States.
The other, a ’73, the last car that Elvis ever drove. Of course
Cadillac was his favorite and there are a couple of great ones
The ’55 pink
Fleetwood makes your basic Mary Kay model look like nothing but
a hound dog…
…but I must say, the 1956 purple El Dorado convertible
is as good as it gets. It massively screams cool and you could
make at least three Toyotas from the steel in this Detroit classic.
browsing through several more of the attractions
and passing up treasures like the $275 Elvis and Priscilla
dolls, the $210 incredibly tacky watch, the $319 purse and
flask set and a most tempting $3,300 replica jumpsuit, we
decided it was time to see the Lisa Marie.
A faux airport gate entrance leads to the Elvis Fan
Detector security checkpoint and then up the jetway
to board The King’s Flying Graceland he named after his daughter, the Lisa Marie.
This Lisa Marie is a former Delta
Airlines Convair 880, which was a state-of-the-art, long-range
jumbo jet for its day and is the best preserved
of the few remaining 880’s.
interior is set up with a lounge area up front, then a corporate
style meeting room, both with the mandatory wet bars, and
finally Elvis’ private quarters aft.
The stateroom includes
a king sized bed (what else?) with the FAA required seatbelt
across it and a private dressing
room / bathroom complete with 24 karat gold plated fixtures and
sink. The gold plating is sort of a theme running throughout the
aircraft, right down to the seatbelt buckles.
obvious, as we were leaving the grounds, that the spirit
of The King never left the building. He lives on in each
new generation, as embodied by the Little Elvis we passed
as he headed out for a trip aboard the Lisa Marie.
you, thank you very much.
YOUR TURN: Do you love Elvis as much as I do? Would you make a pilgrimage to see the King at Graceland?