Sunday, August 20, 2006

Going To Graceland

I was never a big fan of Elvis. I associated him with the cheesy movies my little sister watched on Saturday morning or the guy in the tubby white jumpsuit that played the Hampton Coliseum. Then I visited Graceland and realized that Elvis Aaron Presley was the Original Rock Star. Graceland was the home base for the Elvis Empire, just a few miles from Sun Studios where the history of modern music was written. While Graceland from the outside looks staid and conservative, the inside marks it as the lair of a legend. He lived the lifestyle that modern rock and rap stars can only dream of emulating.

GracelandA shuttle van takes tours up to the front of the house which looks like any McMansion in a reasonably affluent suburb. The living room and dining room which are the most tastefully decorated places in the entire place have stained glass and crystal. The kitchen, where all those peanut butter and banana sandwiches were fried, is a gold tone that doesn’t exist in the most well preserved relic of the sixties.

Then the real eye-popping part of tour begins. The media room has as a centerpiece three vacuum tube era televisions lined up in a custom cabinet so he could watch all three networks at once. The walls and ceiling in the basement pool room matches the furniture. And pictures cannot due justice to the Jungle Room. Dark green carpeting covers the wall and all the furniture is carved from wood. A waterfall is along one wall and weird figurines decorate the furniture.

Graceland is the original celebrity crib. Part of his entourage lived in mobile homes right on the grounds. Elvis had a fleet of golf carts including a converted snowmobile for racing around with his buddies. He built a private racquetball court that now houses hundreds of his gold records and his 70s-era stage costumes.

Beyond the house and grounds, several smaller exhibit areas show off different facets of the Elvis experience. His private jet, named Lisa Marie, has gold plated bathroom fixtures, a board room, and a bed with lap belts to comply with FAA regulations. An entire museum in its own right has lots of his cars, including a Ferrari, a Rolls Royce, and, of course, a pink Cadillac.

Heart Attack SandwichThe off-site exhibits are a little scattershot and some seem designed just to lure guests into yet another gift shop. Several restaurants serve food, none of it good. I went with the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich from the 50s-style diner. You could even stay at the adjacent Graceland-run Heartbreak Hotel.

I came away with a newfound respect for The King who created the modern myth of the Rock Star, with both the way he lived and the way he tragically died. Graceland is a musical Mecca that all fans of rock-n-roll and its descendants should visit once in their life.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: What is your connection with the American tragedy that was the life and music of Elvis?

For close-ups and descriptions of the pictures used in the movie as well as many others, see the Flickr set.

Update (8/21/06): The Washington Post reviewed two new Elvis bios this weekend. One is by Jerry Schilling who spent a lot of time at Graceland with Elvis. From the review, it seems he has a lot of stories about the place.


Carli N. Wendell said...

Graceland is so freaking cool.

My connection to Elvis is that I think his music freaking rocks. And Michele sent me.

kimbofo said...

You know I am not an Elvis fan, but I'd love to see Graceland. Thanks for sharing your trip with us all.

Here from Michele's.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing about Graceland. When I saw your title, I didn't immediatly think of Elvis; I thought of Paul Simon. Silly, huh?

My connection with Elvis is that my childhood best friend, Jennie, used to try to convince me that she was born in Hawaii and her dad was Elvis. She showed me the Blue Hawaii album and pointed to one of the girls on the front, saying that was her mom. Of course, it wasn't true, but even at a young age it made me aware of the sadness of divorce. I love the song "Love me Tender" - probably one of the best songs ever written.

Haven't said Hi in awhile, but I've seen you commenting over at Geekwif's, so I had to come by and reconnect. Hi, yello!

Mooselet said...

Thanks for sharing those pics. That pool room must've been a trip when Elvis was high on something. Makes me dizzy now.

I was too young - 6 or 7 - when Elvis died for it to have much of an impact. But I did have a boyfriend once who did great pantomimes to Elvis songs. Cracked me up.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Great pictorial. My mom was/is an Elvis fanatic and has at least 30 of his albums - athough most of them from his "inspirational" line. Needless to say I heard my share of Elvis as a kid.

Anonymous said...

Ha. My mom still has a box full of Elvis 45s from back in the day (I wonder how many people reading this just went "huh"?), with the dustjackets still on 'em.

Paul Simon's "Graceland" is nice, but I like John Hiatt's "Tennessee Plates", a song about a trip to Graceland Gone Wrong (and some fabulous Sonny Landreth slide guitar IIRC).

I remember where I was when I heard Elvis died. I was hangin' in front of my friend Pat's house when his sister threw the screen door open, one hand over her mouth, crying. She could barely get the words out through the sobs and her fingers.


yellojkt said...

bg, welcome back. Be sure to browse the archive.

bc, I may have that John Hiatt song on my iPod; I'll go listen to it. I also recently heard Drive By Truckers singing "Carl Perkins' Cadillac" which touches on the Elvis legend.

mooselet, Like I said, pictures can't do justice to the place. No flash or video photgraphy is allowed, so these are all available light photos, which is why the pool room and Jungle Room look so dark. The giant white furry bed is also something most people think only exists on an Austin Powers set.

others, It seems a lot of mom's had big crushes on Elvis. My mom was always more a Pat Boone/Harry Belafonte type.

Anonymous said...

I was eight when he died, yet I have no recollection of the moment when I heard about it. Maybe it was because my mother was a Dean Martin fan instead. I do remember my Mom saying my Grandfather refused to let them watch Elvis when he was on Ed Sullivan. Oh, those heathen hips. Shakira has nothing on Elvis.

Elizabeth said...

That's funny Blond Girl, the Paul Simon song is the first thing that popped in my head too! :o)
I remember asking my mom if she liked Elvis and she said she didn't. I thought everyone loved Elvis, but I guess not.

Anonymous said...

My connection to the death of Elvis is that he died on my younger brother's 1st birthday, so every year on Ben's birthday my mom would mention how Elvis had died on that day. We always rolled our eyes at this when we were kids. Now I get that Elvis was the KING and how it must have been a big deal that he died on her son's birthday.

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