August 17, 2012

Elvis Presley 35th Death Anniversary

Tribute from Hawaii
August 16, 1977 -- Elvis Presley died at age 42, leaving zillions of fans bereft of his talent and charisma. At the time, other than shock that he died, his death had little effect on me. I wasn't actually a fan. I'd never purchased one of his records, although when Kentucky Rain came on the radio I always turned it up. I never dreamed one day I'd live down the street from Graceland, but here I am.

Ray had mentioned us attending both the Candlelight Vigil and the movie/live concert held at the FedEx Forum this year, because it's Elvis' 35th Death Anniversary. The movie/live concert is a yearly event where fans gather to watch Elvis perform on a huge screen while his actual band members and backup singers perform live on stage. This year Priscilla and Lisa Marie were to appear for the first time ever! Tickets for that event were $300 (VIP) which included premium seating, a pre-event reception plus a special concert gift bag with Elvis merchandise and collectibles, $105, $95, $85 and $65 for the nosebleed seats.

How about that Candlelight Vigil on Wednesday? From years passed I knew the area around Graceland would be a riot of exhausted, heat-stroked fans standing in line for hours just to walk past the Presley family grave sites. I'd read about fans from much colder climates, like Norway and England, actually dying from the intense heat. This summer held record 100+ degree temperatures. To say I was not embracing Ray's enthusiasm is putting it mild. Local news reported 75,000 fans stood in line from 8:30 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. to walk with their candles past his grave. Ray and Kim Kozlowski were not among them.

Here is a link about the Candlelight Vigil:

Thursday night. Ray comes home, growling about how his high school chum, Gary Hernbroth, expressed shock that we had not attended the Candlelight ceremony. Uh...Gary? You ever spend time in Memphis in August, standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers who may or may not have bathed all week? I felt lightheaded just thinking about it. Not only that, but... Graceland is not sitting in a picturesque country-like area of Memphis. Sadly, over the years Memphis has become Detroit's twin sister for crime stats. Though measures are taken to secure the area surrounding Graceland during Elvis Week, I live here. I watch the news. It ain't a place ya walk much, ya know?

Ray wanted to just drive past Graceland to say we were down there during Elvis Week. And of course last night was his actual Death Date, so... I caved. We'd be safe inside a locked car. Before I could change my mind, Ray hustled me into the car and twenty minutes later we arrived at Graceland, thoroughly shocked to find a parking spot right in front of the house. On any given day of the year, other than this week, you can park for a few minutes and walk along the 7 foot high wall to read the fan graffiti scrawled on the stone wall.

Before I could say Hound Dog, Ray was out of the car. "People are walking up the driveway!" he shouted. "It's open!" Thank god I'd left my wallet at home. I know my husband so well.

Sure enough, fans were posing by the famous gate (no picture, it was too dark to photo it well) and then walking with utmost reverence up the winding driveway toward the mansion. Before the guard could ask for our Elvis Fan Club I.D.s, we hot-stepped our way through the gates and up the driveway.

The grounds are gorgeous with well-manicured green lawns and age-old trees highlighted with colored spotlights. At the end of the winding drive is Graceland. I've included a Wikipedia link here about the house.

Floral dedications from fans all over the world line the walkway from the house to the Presley Family grave site, situated to the right of the house, adjacent to the pool. With most of the fans attending the 35th Anniversary Concert at the FedEx Forum, only those who couldn't afford the ticket prices, or like us, were there out of curiosity wandered along the path, reading the tributes.














I'm sure the number of these types of fan tributes was quadruple in years past. Still, it was amazing to see how many foreign fan clubs sent memorials.

At the end of the walkway was the swimming pool, circa 1970s style.

And behind that are the graves with a Grecian-column-styled viewing platform with stained glass in a brick wall.

 Vernon Presley's mother, Minnie, died last, in 1980, a month short of 90th birthday,
 sadly seeing her son, daughter-in-law & grandsons go before her.





 Ray pointed out the photo of the man wearing Santa hat, wondering if the person may have passed and his last request was for his photo to be placed on Elvis' grave that year.


Back outside the gates, we saw more people had arrived, leaving additional tribute graffiti.

 Am I glad I saw Graceland last night? Yes. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and Ray was thrilled to have been there. I, personally, was just thrilled to return home safe to my suburban Mississippi house and the bowl of Moose Tracks lite ice cream waiting for me.


  1. Now that would have been interesting to see. We drove by GRaceland once on our way to Florida many many years ago. I can still picture it in my mind and that lovely ornate metal fence surrounding the property..

  2. Anonymous11:17 PM

    Atta girl, check it off the 'bucket list'.......