A Visit to
"Iím tired of staying home all the time," I
proclaimed. "I wanna do something this weekend."
"Well, what do you want to do?"
"I want to go to Memphis and see Graceland," I said.
"Iíve never been there." I was halfway joking.
"Okay, letís go!" said my honey. "We could do
it. Itís not that far."
The previous week was the anniversary of Elvisí death. Guess
that is what gave me the idea. Everybody that wants to go has already been, so
itís a good time - no crowds.
I thought, "Why not?"
Parking across the street, we are told to follow the red awning to the ticket
office, offering a variety of Elvis attractions, complete with a mini mall of
restaurants and assorted gift shops with Elvis related items, from records to
coffee mugs, all in a theme park like atmosphere.
Graceland is the final and ultimate exploitation of Elvis.
A shuttle bus transports us across the street to the
"mansion." Actually, Graceland is much smaller than the vast southern
mansion I have always envisioned. The old home seems tired and weary as bus
after bus pulls up, and load after load of tourists pour through the front door.
We are given tape players and head sets for a pre-recorded guided tour.
Graceland dťcor is frozen in the 50ís, a time when Elvis
was at the peak of his popularity. I had heard that Graceland is tacky Ė Elvis being notorious
for his flamboyantly bad taste. Still, the reality is nearly overwhelming.
and worn, the white furniture of the main living room seems not quite clean. A
large gaudy, stained glass archway dominates the living room and looks like a
relic from an ancient church. This is an Elvis addition, as are the televisions
sets located in almost every room of the house.
There are many small rooms, each decorated differently. It
must have been crowded when Elvis was at home with his entourage, the
"Memphis Mafia." The game room with itís faded fabric-covered walls
and pleated ceiling has long ago seen itís better times.
Other rooms in the
converted basement are also very unusual. One has a dizzying decor with a bright
yellow color scheme and mirrored squares on the ceiling, reminiscent of a pimp
palace. Green shag carpets decorate the floor of another room Ė as well as the
ceiling. That was the style in the 50ís the tape recorder told us.
The real shocker, and granddaddy of all bad taste, is the
infamous "jungle room" filled with burl oak furniture and carved wood.
Elvis supposedly spotted the furniture in a store window and bought it all for
Graceland because it reminded him of Hawaii. We are told by the recorded message
to take as much time to look as we want. Thing is, we donít want much time.
Unable to control my urge to laugh, I am more than happy to
exit out the back door.
Numerous other buildings are located on the property; one has
been turned into a "trophy room." Another was a racquet ball court
during Elvisí life, but now has its walls covered with gold and platinum
records. It is quite awesome. Elvis is buried out in the back yard by the pool
along with his beloved mama and his daddy. The graves are covered with floral
tributes from the various Elvis fan clubs worldwide.
Shuttled back, we tour the automobile museum and see the pink
Cadillac as well as Elvisí other cars, golf carts, snowmobiles and assorted
wheeled vehicles that are favorite playthings for the filthy rich. His airplane,
the Lisa Marie, named after his daughter and customized to his orders, is on
display. Yet another museum holds his famous jeweled jumpsuits, and one of the
TV sets he shot with a pistol in a fit of rage.
Well, it is an experience, I must admit. Graceland is the most
visited home in America, after the White House. What I will always remember most
about it is the sight of all those gold records. Elvis had 149 top hit songs. He
sold a billion records. Tasteless, wealthy, eccentric, extravagant, and generous
are but a few of the adjectives that are used to describe him. He is a strange man with a
All the gold records, all the platinum records, so many of
them. Thatís what Graceland is all about and what Elvis is actually all about
too, I guess. That is what makes him the biggest recording artist of all time,
and forever the King of RockíníRoll.
"So, whadda ya want to do next week?" asked my
"Iím hanging up my blue suede shoes," I replied.