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Monday, August 13, 2007

Dead Elvis Week

Well, that's not the official name of the observance, but many of the less reverent use the name to differentiate it from the annual January festivities honoring The King’s birthday. Dead Elvis Week, however, is a far bigger deal around here, and this year is the 30th anniversary of his too-early death. Many thousands of people from around the world have traveled to their mecca for this observance. Memphis area hotel rooms have been booked for more than a year. Last week there were even two programs on the Travel Channel about Memphis and Elvis and the upcoming anniversary. It’s huge.

I wouldn’t attempt or desire to tell you everything that’s going on in the area this week, but allow me to provide a sample of the activities you might want to take in if you were visiting Memphis this week.

In a broad-brush stroke, there will be blues, rock and jazz concerts and shows all over town. Mike’s band is playing the Horseshoe Casino this week, and he says they will have larger crowds due to the influx of visitors. Everywhere has larger crowds this week, but the Horseshoe activity will be heightened by the Tribute to the King performance three nights in the main lounge.

An event I’ll be sorry to miss is the annual Dead Elvis Ball at the P&H (poor and hungry) Café downtown. Mike says the P&H is a true joint, but with bar, band and food, I think they have a grand time. The group has already announced, however, that this will be the last year for the ball. Maybe they’ve become bored with their indifference.

Other event choices:
* Elvis Scrapbooking Class at Graceland - $30, two-hours, receive an El scrapbook kit
* Elvis Mass – church services followed by a spaghetti dinner at St. Paul Catholic Church
* At least two “El” impersonator contests
* Events at the zoo and laser concert at the planetarium
* Sing Like a Kid – Elvis Karaoke for children at the museum
* Photos and paintings at the Museum of Art
* Observance yesterday afternoon at the Redbirds (Cardinals’ farm team) baseball game
* Elvis Expo 2007 - Elvis tradeshow with music, movies, celebrity autograph sessions – Cook Convention Center
* Memphis Mafia Reunion at Alfred’s – Q&A, etc. “Memphis Mafia” is the term used to denote Elvis’ hometown buddies who were always around him. Alfred’s is a club on Beale St.
* Elvis International Fan Club Charity Dinner
* Elvis Insiders Conference – two-day event at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts
* Book signing by Sonny West (one of the Memphis Mafia) – Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business

The highlight of the week is the annual candlelight vigil at Graceland which begins at 8 p.m. on the 15th, the day before the anniversary of Elvis’ death. The faithful start lining up outside the wall encircling Graceland early that day – if not the night before. More than 20,000 are expected.

Side note: When Elvis bought Graceland and the acreage around it, the property was outside Memphis’ city limits. Now it’s in quite a busy area and sits on a broad and busy street. Crowd control and traffic control are major issues. This week’s extreme heat could also present a problem. Today, free water was provided at several locations on Graceland's grounds. They had fans set up on the lawns, and paramedics were on site.

At the appointed hour, which should be about dusk, the gates are opened and visitors are welcomed onto Graceland’s grounds. Each is given a lighted candle. They file up the long driveway, around the mansion and to the back where they somberly pass the graves of Elvis and his parents. The processional continues until everyone in line has passed the gravesite.

Elvis was originally buried at a local cemetery, but there were immediate vandalism problems including people trying to dig up the coffin. His remains were moved to Graceland, as were his mother’s, and a lovely prayer garden was developed. Vernon Presley was later buried there. Jesse, Elvis’ twin who was stillborn, remains buried in Tupelo.

A final Elvis thought:
The Memphis Flyer, self-proclaimed alternative weekly newspaper, had a fascinating article in this week’s issue. The premise: what if El hadn’t died in ’77? What would he have done? Check it out. The article is written as an obit as if Elvis had just died this month.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week in Memphis Elvis never left the building.


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