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Elvis Presley — a musical legend, a gyrating superstar and the only man who could pull off a white rhinestone jumpsuit.
For diehard Elvis fans and just about anyone else who dug his music, a visit to Graceland is a real slice of Americana.
Located just outside downtown Memphis, the 14-acre estate and white-columned mansion, offers an insider’s glimpse into The King’s private life.
A visit to the Graceland grounds begins with an audio-guided tour though the mansion’s many rooms: a plush living area, stylish TV room and cozy basement with a billiard table.
The most elaborate of Elvis’ rooms is the Jungle Den. As the name suggests, it comes complete with wood paneling, tree trunk furniture, tons of tropical plants and funky green shag carpeting lining both the floor and ceiling. The decor is kitsch but, back in the day, I’m sure Elvis’ pad was pimp.
Though tourists get to see most of the mansion, the top floor is completely off limits. No glimpses of that infamous bathroom where, on the morning of August 16th, 1977, Elvis’ body was found. A cocktail of drugs in his bloodstream, he died on the toilet from a heart attack.
It’s ironic that the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, one of history’s most famous men, died in the most humbling ways possible — on the floor of his bathroom, slumped beside his porcelain throne.
The audio-guide glosses over the dirty details of Elvis’ death, scrapping all negatives about his life, his personal hardships and his drug abuse. This is Graceland, after all, a place that commemorates his life, celebrates his career and promotes his iconic image.
In death, as in life, the Elvis brand is big business. With over 650,000 visitors a year, at a minimum of $25 US entrance fee per person, Elvis Presley Enterprises is raking it in.
Graceland and the Elvis image are merchandised to the max. Souvenir shops sell all those must-have Elvis items: Jail House Rock slippers, Suspicious Minds singing bottle opener, even an Elvis-inspired mini gold tuxedo for your pooch.
But fear not, Elvis lovers, beyond the tourist crap, there is purity at the heart of the Graceland experience. I’m not a fanatic, but the 40-minute mansion tour did leave me with a deep respect for the guy. From his grainy home videos to the hundreds of platinum and gold records that decorated the walls, I left Graceland with a new love for Elvis.
He was a great man, a tragic hero, a larger-than-life music legend who looked great in a rhinestone jumpsuit. For more information on Graceland, visit www.elvis.com.
Julia Dimon is editor of The Travel Junkie, an online magazine for independent travellers. She can be reached at www.thetraveljunkie.ca.