Monday, January 26, 2009

What I Learned At Graceland

My wife and I just finished our 5th Annual Honeymoon. This year, we headed over to Memphis, Tennessee so we could visit Graceland. I sometimes joke that my wife needs to make a "pilgrimage" there every few years.

When we last visited Graceland a few years ago, we didn't have time to go on the mansion tour. This time, however, we made time to take the VIP tour so we could see everything. It was well worth it.

I learned quite a bit about Elvis during this visit, just as I did during our visit to the Elvis-A-Rama Museum in Vegas (now closed). Here are three tid-bits which I was surprised to learn about Elvis:
  1. Elvis was a voracious reader: Seeing how busy he kept himself, it never struck me that he would have much time to read. Part of the Graceland VIP tour is a "secret" room in the back of the mansion. In that room is a display of what his office looked like when he passed. I was quite surprised to see books on philosophy and business in addition to novels of many types.
  2. Elvis Was A Monty Python Fan: Inside the "Lisa-Marie" airplane, the tour video mentioned that Elvis would often read or watch movies while flying around the country. The narrator specifically mentioned Elvis enjoyed watching Monty Python. That was quite a surprise to me.
  3. Elvis' Reputation for Generosity Is Underrated: Although Elvis has a reputation as being a very generous man, the bounds of his generosity are underrated in my opinion. One of the exhibits in the Graceland mansion details his charitable works. I was quite blown away by the number of charities he helped support as well as the very large number of people he would help just because he heard they were having a hard time. He paid medical bills for numerous people. This was all in addition to his famous giveaways of cars and other items. In the exhibit narration Lisa Marie Presley made a comment something to the effect of: "As much as he spent on his family, he spent far, far more helping others."
Details in the Details
I enjoy seeing the minutia of the lives of famous people. Business documents, for whatever reason, fascinate me. As I mentioned in my post about the Elvis-A-Rama Museum, Elvis' business records also reveal a lot about the man most folks never hear about. For instance:
  1. The pool table he bought for Graceland was a used, refurbished one.
  2. He was paid $50,000 for his first television appearances (quite a princely sum in the 50s).
  3. Elvis' father, Vernon, handled most of the business affairs. Most of the checks on display are actually signed by him and not by Elvis.
Veteran Elvis
Elvis' military service continues to impress me each time I hear a new story. Here's a man who was at the top of the entertainment world when he was drafted. He could have gotten easy duty, and no doubt was offered such. But he chose to go the way of every other young man and do his service with no special favors or favoritism. About the only special privilege he had was permission to live "off post" in a rental home. Even still, he helped his fellow soldiers clean the barracks for Saturday inspections.

I'm not sure what his MOS was, but from the descriptions given in the "GI Elvis" exhibit it sounds like he was a Cavalry Scout. He mentioned in one interview that he spent 6 months of his tour in Germany patrolling the Czech border near Grafenwoehr, Germany. 

All in all, I consider this to have been a class act on Elvis' part.

One of these days I'd like to go visit Germany and check out the Statue of Elvis standing at Ray Barracks in Friedburg, Germany. I've seen it many times, but my wife has not, yet. I think it would be a great treat for her.

Paying Respects
At the end of the mansion tour, one is led past the graves of Elvis, his mother, his father and his grandmother. Although I don't consider myself a huge fan, it was hard not to get choked up about his passing after learning so much about him. He was, truly, a living legend - and the legend doesn't nearly describe who the real "larger than life" man was.

All Elvis All The Time
After our touring, we just happened to catch the weekly Elvis Quiz Show on Sirius radio. Sirius' Elvis Radio broadcasts all "Elvis all the time" live from Graceland 24/7 and each week they have a live trivia contest. The winner this past Friday was a young man from Canada who visits Graceland every year and has won the contest each of the 6 times he's been in it. His prize was to guest DJ on the show. Next time we head out that way, we'll have to email ahead of time and see if we can get in on it.

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