We have boots on the ground in Memphis where the PGA Tour event finished this weekend as Elvis Week was kicking off.
“The town,” my friend Jay, a bona fide local, reports, “is full of energy.”
Elvis Presley died August 16, 1977 at Graceland, his Memphis home, and has now been gone, at least in theory, for 45 years, which is longer than he was with us in the flesh, a brief but dynamic 42 years.
We say he’s been gone “in theory” because people have, somewhat routinely, reported seeing him here and there. You can Google — something Elvis would be surprised people were doing to him today — and read of Elvis sightings from Kalamazoo to remote islands in seas you’ve never heard of. In the early-1990s, there was a raft of Elvis sightings on Texas Street in downtown Shreveport, seems like every other Thursday. I’d answer the phone at the paper and, “You gotta get down here to the corner of Texas and Market! Guy who looks, I swear, looks just like Ebis is…”
Ebis. As in Presley.
Things were like that then.
This “Elvis Spotting” trend has waned over a nearly half-century, but there was a time when there was gossip or sensational newspapers at the grocery store, and once a month there would be Elvis on the Front Page, of course.
He’d faked his death and was living in Aruba. He’d gotten in too thick with the Mafia and was living in a witness protection program at a location undisclosed. He’d had plastic surgery and burned all his sequined jump suits and was employed as a janitor at The MGM Grand in Vegas.
And, the one I found the most plausible of all, he’s been hiding out in plain sight since 1985 as an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association where he goes by the name of “Coach Elvis Presley” but, since it’s Sacramento…
If you were in Memphis this week, you probably enjoyed the live band playing and “backing” Elvis on the big screen, the re-showing of a long-ago live concert. You watched the Elvis Tribute Contest Special and all the pretend Elvises/Elvi perform. Probably paid your respects at the annual candlelight vigil.
And you probably concluded as I have, sad as it is, that Elvis really did die 45 years ago, at age 42. I believe it was Horace Logan, God bless him, the producer and announcer of the Louisiana Hayride all those years ago, who innocently uttered what would become an iconic phrase: “Elvis has left the building.”
Do you remember what you were doing when you found out Elvis had left the planet?
I was mowing the parsonage grass, front yard, in Homer when the new preacher at First Baptist, my own personal dad, came outside gyrating in a manner that suggested I turn off the mower. Something terrible must have happened, I thought, because he never suggested I quit mowing unless I was on fire or bleeding.
“Elvis died,” he said, and offered a murky explanation, he having just found out his own self. We had a moment of silence.
“Well,” he said, “I’m gonna keep unpacking. You keep mowing.”
Life for us rural non-entertainers rolled on.
Would love to go to Graceland, but the closest I ever got was the 7-Eleven across the street. Wonder if it’s still there. I had a long layover and caught a cab just to get within Elvis’ gravitational pull. I picked up a pay phone — that’s how long ago it’s been — to call a Memphis-savvy friend. It was one of those moments you have to share.
“It’s just like you said it’d be,” I told him. “I’ve been here 20 minutes and everybody I’ve seen on this side of town has those Elvis sideburns. Even the women.”
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