125. Graceland, Where the King Died on His Throne

7 Mar

gracelandOf all the Mississippi natives who’ve reached the first-name-only level of fame, I daresay that Elvis tops the charts for Most Interesting Residence. I reckon Oprah’s place is none-too-shabby, but I wouldn’t know, seeing as I’ve yet to snag an invite. (Sorry, Mr. Grisham, I know your admirers are legion, but the media’s not about to start referring to you as “John.” I mean, even Mr. Lennon never made it to single-first-name status and his band was more popular than Jesus. Except in the South. Where there’s two things you don’t mess with: Texas and Jesus.)

You know you want one...

You know you want one…

During my sojourns in Memphis, I’d passed Graceland a time or two before stopping in for a visit. I always thought they’d open up the gates and let me drive right on in. They. Do. Not. Instead, you park across the street and go into the souvenir shop to purchase tickets. After you’ve had sufficient time to examine all the trinkets at least twice, you’re transported to mansion in the manner of a herd of cattle, if they would fit on a shuttle bus.

But once you arrive at the mansion and pass the threshold, WOW, it all looks so…normal. Yes, that white couch probably seats about 17 folks (20 if you scooch in), but it’s not bejeweled in any way. Plus, I was kinda hoping for a disco ball or two.

billiard roomNow the billiard room is impressive in that it’s the only place I’ve ever seen where the fabric on the couch matches the fabric on the walls and the ceiling. They had the pool table roped off with a sign saying Please Do Not Touch. However, if you do, it’s not like you’ll be shocked, tasered, or anything. Probably. I’m just speculating.

Next up: the infamous Jungle Room. I always thought the furniture was custom made for The King. Turns out he bought the whole kit and caboodle from a furniture store’s showroom. Everything from the primitively carved, fur-covered furniture to the green shag carpeting (on floor and ceiling) was already constructed and just waiting for some rich guy with crazy-ass taste to come in and buy it. Voila! Elvis! For an extra special treat, check out this 360° view of the jungle room from the official Elvis site. jungle room closeup

I loved how his bar/lounge featured a wall of TVs like you’d find at Best Buy. The arrangement on the wall, I mean, not the TVs. They’re the sort you might find at Goodwill, seeing as they were made in the 70’s. If Elvis IS alive, I’m sure he has a top-notch media room. With a ginormous couch. Apparently, he had a thing for huge couches. Also, the color yellow.

Not pictured: Eternal flame.

Not pictured: Eternal flame.

I think these days they might let you go upstairs, but that whole part was roped off, so I don’t have much more to report. There were other rooms, but none that left an impression. They let you go outside and look at his grave, where there’s an eternal flame burning to keep his spirit alive. Not sure how it fares in the rain, but I reckon it’s the thought that counts.

There’s also a museum where you can see some of his outfits and other ephemera. It costs extra to check out his cars and airplanes, so I didn’t.

Finally, the shuttle bus takes you back to the souvenir shop parking lot so you can retrieve your car and drive off into the sunset. Unless, perhaps, you’ll like to take a final stroll through all the Elvis paraphenalia…No? Ok then.

Have you been to Graceland? What’d you think of it? Please do tell.

And now, I’ll let Paul Simon sing us out:

Photo Credits: Graceland Mansion and Billiard Room by Danube66, Flickr Creative Commons; Jungle Room by NoirDame, Flickr Creative Commons; Elvis’ grave by Su_Anna, Flickr Creative Commons.

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17 Responses to “125. Graceland, Where the King Died on His Throne”

  1. Hippie Cahier March 7, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    For no particular reason other than I’ve never gotten around to it, I’ve never seen a picture of the Jungle Room. Your post is the most fitting introduction to behind-the-scenes Graceland. Thank you. Thank you very much.

    • Kim Holloway March 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

      Thanks, Hippie! Always happy to oblige!

  2. TommieLyn March 7, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    I’d never been an Elvis fan when I visited Graceland…I only went because the person I was with had been directed by her mother to go. And I’m so glad I did. I got a glimpse into who Elvis was…a country boy who’d been rocketed to fame and fortune, but who still retained many of his values. I gained an appreciation of the man, who, when he wanted to go to church, had to wait until Sunday night, slip in after services started and sit on the back row, hoping not to be noticed.

    The little “museum” which houses some of his clothing, also had on display some of the personal mementos that were important to him, things he was proud of…like the card from the sheriff’s office that proclaimed Elvis was on call for service when needed. Afterward, I was very glad I’d made the visit, even though it hadn’t been my idea. It made a fan of me.

    And I’ll always remember Elvis’ motto, which was inscribed in various places throughout the house, airplane, etc….a lightning bolt with the letters TCB…i.e., “Taking Care of Business in a Flash.”

    • Kim Holloway March 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      Thanks for sharing those insights and memories, TommieLyn! I’ve always loved Elvis’s TCB motto, not enough to buy a belt-buckle featuring it, but still…

  3. Tiffany March 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    First of all, let me start this by typing that my mother gave birth to me by listening to Elvis. That’s right… She brought a tape player and an Elvis tape into the delivery room. She figured it would be more helpful than Lamaze (at 5’4″, 100 lbs pushing out a 10 pound baby is not exactly relaxing). She kicks herself because she can’t remember the song that was on when I was born. Uh… She was a toothpick pushing out a prize-winning watermelon. There were more important things happening.

    Anyway, we started going to Graceland when I was very young. This was a huge event. She made us matching outfits and everything. I’ve been with my mama almost every year from 0 – 23. Ha!

    I’m actually planning to move to Memphis in the fall! I’m getting out of Florida! Why Memphis? If it was good enough for the King, it’s *certainly* good enough for me. 😉

    • Kim Holloway March 7, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

      Tiffany, I bet you’re one of the very few people who can truthfully say “I’ve been an Elvis fan since BIRTH!” Or most likely before, because I’m guessing your mom introduced you to Elvis in the womb. Love that she made y’all matching outfits for your annual Graceland pilgrimages! Memphis is a fun city. I’ll bet you love it there!

      p.s. “toothpick pushing out a prize-winning watermelon” HA! No ordinary watermelon, you. 🙂

      • Tiffany March 8, 2013 at 8:06 am #

        Oh, my heavens, yes! She told me she wouldn’t be able to take it if her very own child didn’t love The King. She started me out early (and right, may I say!).

        My mama (before she remarried, of course) had an Elvis kitchen. The whole thing – all Elvis. Anything you can dream of – Elvis. Also, the license plate on her car reads “1ELVIS.” I can’t make this stuff up.

        Even though we haven’t been to Graceland in a year, we attend our fair share of Elvis impersonator events.. By “fair share,” I mean at least once a month. Ha!!!!!

        • Tiffany March 8, 2013 at 8:19 am #

          OH! I thought of something else that might tickle you! Of course, we’ve done the car/airplane tour. Every. Blasted. Time. He had a bed on the Lisa Marie and it had a giant seatbelt slapped across it. I always thought that was the funniest thing!

          • Kim Holloway March 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

            That’s hilarious! “Turbulence” happens, I suppose.

        • Kim Holloway March 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

          I’ll bet those folks at the gift shop across from Graceland are always delighted to see your mama coming!

          Speaking of impersonators, I once attended a wedding officiated by “Elvis.” In a Vegas chapel, naturally.

    • Kim Holloway March 7, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

      Tiffany, I bet you’re one of the very few people who can truthfully say “I’ve been an Elvis fan since BIRTH!” Or most likely before, because I’m guessing your mom introduced you to Elvis in the womb. Love that she made y’all matching outfits for your annual Graceland pilgrimages! Memphis is a fun city. I’ll bet you love it there!

      p.s. “toothpick pushing out a prize-winning watermelon” HA! No ordinary watermelon, you. 🙂

  4. Hope March 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    Of course I’ve been to Graceland! Lordy, what a trip it was! I was there when the rumors were flying that he was still alive and hiding upstairs somewhere. I looked and looked, and although I didn’t see him, I could feel his presence. Or maybe it was my big barbecue dinner from the night before. Can’t remember, but it was a feeling.

    • Kim Holloway March 7, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

      Hope, you crack me up! I gave some serious thought to sneaking upstairs, but figured I’d already pushed my luck with touching the pool table…

      Reminds me of a line from Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis.” “Saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue, followed him up to the gates of Graceland and watched him walk right through.”

  5. Anonymous March 8, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    With you on how normal it looked. I mean, in a tacky 70”s kinda way. But lets face it, Elvis wasn’t really from high society and its hard to rise above your raising. He really was just a simple man and I left kinda feeling sorry for him.

    • Kim Holloway March 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      Thanks, you nailed it: a tacky 70s sort of normal!

  6. Al Underwood March 11, 2013 at 5:14 am #

    Being at the Gates of Graceland, if you think about the impact Elvis had on our music, is truly a religious experience. Here’s a man that meshed white and black music, and brought on a wave of wannabes, many of which made their own great impact on popular music.

    • Kim Holloway March 27, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      True. Thanks for that reminder, Al.

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