Happy Birthday to Elvis Presley who would have been 79 years old today. Elvis has always been special to me because he helped me get into college. He didn't tutor me in calculus (although goodness knows he might have been better than the guy who did tutor me in calc and was later arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in a park).
No, I wrote an essay about Elvis that I used to get into college. The subject of the essay was something like, "If you could meet anyone, living, dead, or fictional, who would it be and why." Doesn't a topic like that bring you back to being 17 years old and jumping through all kinds of hoops to prove that you are smart enough to make it through four years at the college of your choice? A better assessment would have been a trial weekend at the college where you are required to live in a crappy dorm room with a roommate who hates you, fed turkey tetrazzini and other cafeteria delicacies, given large amounts of low-quality beer, and then forced to attend an 8 am class on the theology of macroeconomic or something. If you survive the weekend and are still up for attending the college, they should just admit you. As an aside, spellcheck insists that tetrazzini isn't a real thing, which is something I had long suspected.
My essay was probably a piece of crap, to be honest. It was all about how Elvis was possibly living, possibly dead, and partially fictional. This was shortly after you saw all these supermarket tabloids declaring that Elvis Lives! The evidence was compelling-ish: his middle name was spelled wrong on his gravestone, his coffin weighed 900 lbs even though Elvis weighed less than 200 lbs, his supposed corpse was missing a bruise on the shin that he'd sustained in a racquet ball accident. You can read more about it here. I thought my essay was incredibly cheeky and clever, but it probably induced eye rolls in the poor soul that was forced to read it.
I think that the idea that Elvis faked his own death was due to a couple of factors. One, a lot of big Elvis fans fervently wanted him to be alive. Two, this was in the late 1980s right after that story arc on "Dallas" when Patrick Duffy, who played Bobby, wanted off of the show, so they killed off his character. Then, the next year, he decided he wanted back on the show, so the writers had Bobby's wife Pam, played by Victoria Principal "wake up" to hear the shower running. She walks into the bathroom to find Bobby taking a shower:
So, the entire 1985-86 season was a dream. I think people were wishing that Elvis's death was just a bad dream and they'd wake up to find him taking a shower.
The unfortunate thing about choosing to write an essay about Elvis was that I didn't know a heck of a lot about Elvis other than what I gleaned from the Weekly World News headlines that I saw at the supermarket. Pre-internet there was no way to catch up on the life of someone who died when I was a toddler. I didn't realize the intensity of people's love for Elvis until I visited Graceland, after I graduated from college. When I saw people dabbing away tears as they looked at Elvis mementos in the gift store I realized that I had been unfeeling and flippant about a person who had really touched a lot of people.
Now, there's something totally over the top about Elvis fans, but honestly, there is something very charming, as well. I still remember the Hunka Hunka Burning Love Fan Club bus that I saw in the Graceland Parking lot. Folks, that must have been twenty years ago and Hunka Hunka is still going strong, now with a Facebook page. There is an Elvis Week in August in Memphis. Of course, you have to be in Memphis in August to go, but you get to see the fan clubs participate in the Elvis Week Honor Guard. This website has listings of all the Elvis fan clubs. It is awesome to know that Brazil has three Elvis fan clubs, including one called "Sweet Elvis Fan Club" which sounds like a lullaby.
No discussion of Elvis fans would be complete without a shout out to Graceland Too in Holy Springs, Mississippi. Paul McLeod is an eccentric, but completely devoted Elvis fan who has turned his entire house into a shrine and homage to his idol. It is open 24 hours a day, so you can go at any time to see what may be the most valuable collection of Elvis memorabilia outside of Graceland. One Yelp! reviewer called it "sort of like a spiritual experience, fever dream, and brush with death all at once." The K took me there back in the late 1990s and I'll agree with the fever dream assessment. Mr. McLeod wasn't there so we were shown around by his son, Elvis Aron Presley McLeod. No kidding. It was like being in an episode of a new TLC show called "Thematic Hoarders Who Are Really Kind of Organized, but in a Crazy Way." To wit:
To have inspired that kind of fanaticism? Amazing. Sorry to have treated you like a punchline back in my callow youth, Elvis. Happy Birthday.
Don't forget to enter the contest to win the "Foolproof" cookbook. Your odds are darn good right now!