Bzzzz May 15th, 2007

I have posted a number of new photos of my recent visit to Graceland in my photo album. But I want to offer a few observations to go along with the obvious voyeurism of these pix.

To this day, Lisa Marie still own Graceland. She long ago sold off everything else from her father’s estate to support the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. But she has held on to Graceland. I presume that it serves three functions: 1) As a source of continuing income to support the aforementioned lifestyle and 2) to honor her dear old pops and 3) to fend off public criticism for selling off Graceland.

If I were Lisa Marie (which I clearly am not) I would do several things regarding Graceland and the memory of my dear, departed father.

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1) If I were Lisa Marie, I would raise the overall level of the current Graceland tour from a National Enquirer-like spectacle of a dead, drug-obsessed superstar to the level of a National Historic Monument to a legend.

We might forgive Lisa Marie (just a little bit) for her inability to see the fine distinction between these two. After all, she grew up as a girl and lived her adult life as a subject of the National Enquirer. She had a birthday party with her little girl friends on an AIRPLANE named after her during a time when NO ONE but the elite flew anywhere. Her daddy flew her to Colorado to play in the snow FOR A FEW MINUTES when he realized that she had never seen the stuff. She has been married to some exceedingly questionable characters.

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Given this type of history, she might not understand that there is a better, more refined way of doing things.

For example, she could re-orient the whole tour from a voyeuristic glimpse into Elvis’s private life into the story of his contribution to rock and roll. Oh, I understand that she needs to make a buck to pay for her own extravagant lifestyle and that the voyeuristic tour SELLS. But I think there is a continuum and she has slid so far to the end that she could afford to slip back a bit toward the middle.

She could actually PLAY SOME OF HIS MUSIC throughout the tour. Aha! What a concept!!!!

She could talk about some of the major MUSICAL events that occurred while he was living at Graceland. Or the host of MUSICAL SUPERSTARS who joined him in the various and sundry rooms in his home. She could overall put his life into context of his contribution to music. Not just tell the story of a man who lived in a house.

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2) Along the same vein, she could spruce the place up a bit. If I were Lisa Marie, the first thing I would do would be to hire a proper lawn service. The grass looks unkempt and the poor excuses for flowers in the beds look like something even the local high school key club would not claim credit for. Even if Elvis didn’t splurge on the flora during his lifetime, Lisa Marie could at least do that now in his memory.

I would also upgrade the signs. The local 7-11 has better quality signs than Graceland. The ones they have are digitally produced on foamcore. It reeks of cheap, cheap, cheap. It’s like she went to the Wal-Mart Sign Shoppe.

3) If I were Lisa Marie, I would not ignore or disregard the hard lessons of my father’s death. I would acknowledge that he was sensitive, troubled and needed help he did not get. I would implore the Graceland visitors to not let the drug problems and mental deterioration that happened to my dear old dad happen to the people they love. I believe this can be done in an exceedingly sensitive manner.

At the end of the tour I would have people donate to an Elvis Presley Musician’s Drug Rehab/Rescue program. (We need a catchy name.)

4) Finally, if I were Lisa Marie, I would stop dating, and especially marrying, creeps and losers. I mean, really. Who marries both Michael Jackson AND Nicholas Cage? Lisa Marie needs her own personal intervention program.

For what it’s worth. That’s what I would do if I were Lisa Marie.

The End.

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Bzzzz May 12th, 2007

Since I know you’re going to ask, yes, I made it to Graceland. Harry asked if I cried. No I did not. (Okay, almost.)

I WAS a bit sad that someone with so much early talent and good looks spiraled out like that. Elvis weighed 350 pounds when he died. He had spent most of his last years secluded in his room reading books on spirituality. (And taking pills.)

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Graceland itself is utterly tacky. Not just because it gives us a slice of a tacky era, but the presentation itself is decidedly downscale. Signs are cheap. The grounds are poorly maintained. The shops are filled with snow domes, bendy Elvis dolls, ash trays, thimbles, spoons and key chains. There are movies and CDs, of course, but the only books to be found are the Presley family cookbooks and the Graceland commemorative books. That’s probably because any biography would present a decidedly different view of his last years from the rosy one painted on the tour. (He died of heart failure, according to them. Yes, technically his heart DID stop.)

Priscilla is fairly well marginalized and Lisa-Marie is featured prominently in the audio tour. (To be expected, I suppose since she still owns Graceland today.)

About Memphis…

I do believe Memphis is the most friendly city it has ever been my pleasure to visit.

Now, that’s not to say I want to move here or anything drastic like that. I mean, it is a city whose officials feel the need to post billboards extolling the fine citizens to “Call on common sense before calling 911.” And there is clearly an issue with poverty that they’re working on.

Nevertheless, the people I met are fine, fine, fine (pronounced fahn, fahn, fahn).

I was chatted up by everyone I met, and I’m not just talking about “How are you today?” “Have a nice day.” People actually take the time to TALK with you, and especially to have a LAUGH or two. I had people flag me down after walking away from a posted map to ask if I needed help finding my way. A woman nearly threw out her back flagging me down as I was driving through town. When I pulled over she wanted to let me know, kindly, that my tire was nearly flat. Everyone wants to know where I’m from and the response is often “Oh, my! You like it there?”

The folks here display their sense of humor in a number of ways, most particularly in what they name things. There are establishments such as the Mo’ Money Taxes, Pony Up Cleaners and the Normal Hair Salon. (I guess they don’t do oily or dry hair.) And they have fine (fahn) names for roads too, like Getwell Road.

I was excited to say at the Peabody Hotel, home of those famous ducks that parade through the lobby and spend their days in the fountain. I have to say that what began as a drunken stunt by the hotel manager and his whisky swilling pal back in 1932 has probably contributed to keeping the Peabody alive in times when more grand hotels were biting the dust.

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These ducks have become internationally famous. Twice a day—when the ducks parade in and when they saunter out—HUNDREDS of people with cameras line up on either side of the red carpet to take pictures, as if they were movie stars. HAVEN’T THEY EVER SEEN A DUCK?

Of course, the Peabody shamelessly promotes the duck connection in ads and with images of the ducks on everything from napkins to coasters to little soaps in the bathroom and embellished on the towels.

The hotel itself is nice enough—not great. It lacks the refinement of a place like a Ritz-Carlton (whose doorman and car valet greeted me by name when I checked out in Phoenix). But they do compensate for any lack of refinement with the aforementioned Memphis friendliness.

Mo’ Memphis…

While here I also did a tour of the Memphis Botanical Garden and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. More photos will be posted soon…

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