11 April 2006

Graceland Declared “Historic”

And it’s about damn time. Where else can you experience the brilliance of white-trash taste and rock ‘n’ roll cash?

I love Elvisyoung Elvis (“Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “Mystery Train”) … middle Elvis (“Kentucky Rain” and “Suspicious Minds”) … old Elvis (“Burning Love” and “Way Down”). And, yes, I’m still holding on to the hope that he’s alive and pulled off the greatest escape in history. Wouldn’t that rock?

A visit to Graceland is a must for anyone who loves music. I've been to Graceland twice: with Simeon in August 1991 and with Dan in March 2002. During this historic moment, I think it’s time to reminisce about those two visits to Elvis’ home.

August 1991

As luck would have it, my pilgrimage with Simeon was smack dab in the middle of Elvis Week, which is celebrated on the anniversary of his death.

The Memphis tourists during Elvis Week were the coolest I’ve ever shared a city with. The city was packed, but it still had a laidback, peaceful feel. Everyone was friendly, brought together simply to pay tribute to Elvis. Start the day at the Shoney’s breakfast bar? No less than five people stopped by the table to ask if we’d seen Ronnie McDowell’s concert the night before … or if we were planning to join the candlelight vigil that evening … or to ask if we were enjoying ourselves. Lines were long, but that just gave us more chances to bond with our fellow Elvis-lovers. Yep, Elvis people are good people.

This is me with Bob, one damn good Elvis impersonator from Cincinnati who was on the Graceland tour with Simeon and me. With his two dyed-and-teased ladies in tow, Bob asked the tour guide important questions, such as what alcoholic beverages Elvis enjoyed (seems he was just a pill boy); Simeon asked about Elvis’ album collection (mainly gospel LPs). Simeon sneaked a few photos of Bob — but I went for the gold, asking him to pose with me at the Graceland gates. I still keep a copy of this photo on my office desk; it's my favorite photo ever.

My request opened a floodgate of photo ops; we drove by an hour later, and Bob was still posing with fellow Elvis lovers. We made Bob's day!

Here's Simeon in front of the Graceland gates. He took some great photos during our tour of Graceland, including the multitude of mourners around Elvis' grave, but I can’t find any of them, dammit, except for these. The photo of Simeon and Bob at the gates is brilliant, and I'm sorry I can't find my copy. There are also great shots of Simeon being possessed by Elvis' spirit in front of Sun Records and the Elvis statue on Beale Street.

I do, however, still have this photo from that trip; that's me sitting in front of the sign at Al Green’s church. Unfortunately, our last day was Saturday and we couldn't stick around for Sunday services — but I took (and still have) a broom that was in the Right Reverend's trash.

March 2002

Dan took me to Memphis for my birthday in 2002. Here's a photo of Elvis' living room that he took during the Graceland tour. Note the classic beauty of the stained glass.

Better yet, check out that white ceramic monkey! Elvis had an amazing collection of white ceramic monkeys. Bet you don’t have pieces that nice in your home — or that you can make yellow and blue look this garish.

The Jungle Room is the room Elvis decorated himself (a professional did the other rooms?). I’ve heard the Memphis Mafia talk about hanging out in this room. Can you imagine the mingling of sideburns and shag carpet and Hai Karate?

After reliving these great moments and looking at these photos, I realize I should make the Graceland pilgrimage more than once a decade. Who wants to join me for the Memphis trek in the next year?

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At 4/12/2006 01:56:00 AM, Anonymous paul said...

Anybody with a white ceramic monkey collection is okay in my book.

At 4/12/2006 01:05:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

You're preaching to the monkey choir, my friend.

At 4/12/2006 01:27:00 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

I still have my Madonna Monkey and Child in a place of honor.

At 4/12/2006 01:36:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

... which came from the thrift store shown in my photo essay on R.E.M.

At 4/12/2006 03:07:00 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

See how it all dovetails back together? Beautiful.

At 4/12/2006 10:26:00 PM, Anonymous Dayle said...

Ok this is great - this is when I remember you the most. I remember when you and Simeon took your tour of places. I think you got pictures with large statues of odd things - like maybe something like a large rabbit or whatever you would see at roadside attractions! Love it.

At 4/12/2006 10:47:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

You have a great memory! Sim did a photo series posing with large plastic, plaster and rubber animals. I found those while looking for the Graceland series; I might have to run those one day soon.

I also found some photos of you when you were about 11 years old; I'll scan them and send them to you.

At 4/13/2006 07:18:00 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

My brother's doing a photo series wherein statues of animals are giving him oral.

He wants to do a coffee table book.

At 4/13/2006 09:15:00 PM, Blogger Paul M. Sark said...

Hail Elvis, Al Green, and Hai Karate!


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