The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Graceland... going to Graceland...
It seems to be a universal human trait not to appreciate certain people until they are no longer in our lives. Not only does this include family and friends, but can extend to celebrities long gone. You know the ones - they were popular during your parents' generation and you thought they were old fogies and not cool enough for you? Such is the case with Elvis Presley and me. Elvis was 40 years old by the time I hit my teens, and I was deeply into ELO, ABBA, and wishing every day for a Beatles reunion. Elvis was for my parents' generation. His portrait could be found in department stores, painted on black velvet. He performed in Las Vegas in jumpsuits for goodness' sake. How uncool was that? Never mind that the Osmonds did the same thing and were a huge hit with my generation.

But a strange thing happened about six years ago. I discovered Elvis. I had always liked his movies. They were a kind of strange guilty pleasure that I kept to myself and only recently shared with my husband. Thank goodness he likes them, too. They're formulaic, fun, and kind of mindless - a good way to get your mind off your troubles. In my early teens, the local TV station would occasionally show an Elvis movie on a Sunday afternoon - they'd alternate with Beach Blanket Bingo and other teen films of the early 1960s -  and I'd watch until I got distracted by something else.

I was recently talking to someone about Elvis, and realised that I wanted to know a little more about this man. I mean, millions of fans can't be wrong, can they? And it finally hit me - once I saw past the Vegas schmaltz, that Elvis was truly a handsome guy. Even with a bit of weight on him. And he could sing like an angel even if the lyrics to his songs made little sense sometimes. Well, he wasn't the only singer guilty of performing songs that were either unintelligible or made little sense even when you could understand the lyrics.

So, as an adult, it became a dream of mine to be able to visit Graceland. I wanted to learn more about Elvis' roots. I wanted to pay my respects at his grave. I wanted to soak in the hysteria that surrounded Elvis in the late 50's and 60's.

We got lost looking for Elvis Presley Drive in Memphis. There was a lot of construction and the exit wasn't marked, which I thought was odd, but strangely respectful. After some consternation and doubling back, we eventually found it.

Graceland was purchased in 1958 for about $100,000 - an exorbitant amount in those days. Elvis was 22 and Graceland was his pride and joy. His parents moved in with him, and later, Priscilla, and Elvis's stepbrother. Elvis was a strong believer in family ties. As the decades rolled on, the area around Graceland went downhill with a couple of recessions, but Elvis never thought about selling up. When he died, at the age of 42, he was still living at Graceland.

Graceland is at once tasteful and tacky, opulent, but small and cozy. It's small by today's standards, but very Elvis. The decor hasn't changed since 1977, so walking through it is like a walk back in time. When we visited, it was October, and we were drenched by a deluge from the heavens, but that didn't stop diehard fans from queuing up and taking the tour. We toured the house and grounds, and walked through several exhibits that highlighted his music and film career, admired his automobile collection, walked through his two private jets, and mused over the many celebrity portraits in the café. Plenty of celebrities paid their respects at Graceland. Now that I am older than Elvis was when he died, I am finally a fan. A real fan of the man and his music. I'm thinking that next year, we might go to the Elvis festival in Parkes, NSW. I may even look for a jumpsuit for Dan to wear.

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posted by Melanie O. at 11:53 AM -
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About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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