When Elvis Presley died in 1977 at just 42 years of age, he left an estate of around a million dollars in trust for his daughter Lisa Marie, and millions of devastated fans. As trustee, his ex-wife Priscilla turned their daughter's legacy into a global phenomenon. Since then the Elvis industry has grown in unprecedented proportions, with the legend saturating every part of our lives.
Among the entire collection of animate and inanimate objects to be found on this planet and even perhaps beyond, it's tricky to find anything that hasn't felt the influence of Elvis in some way1. All well and good living on 'planet Elvis' if you are a fan - but what if you hate everything Elvis-related, isn't there any escape? Won't even Death do you part?
The Posthumous Star
Since the death of Elvis, fans have refused to let his legend die. Not only did he have a posthumous number one hit record immediately after his demise, thanks to clever marketing the hits have kept on coming. Every one of his original hit singles, at the rate of about two a year, has been re-released, and all have charted. Then of course, there are the compilation love-song-type albums and collaborations with other stars eager to jump on the tearjerker band wagon.
There are statistics for the highest-earning dead celebrities, would you believe. Since 1977, Elvis has been in the top five, and consistently hit the number one spot (of course). From 2001 to 2005 he was top earner; his estate managed to rake in $42million in 2005, only to be knocked into second spot in 2006 by Kurt Cobain.
Thanks to advancing technology, a 'duet' was performed by Elvis and his adult daughter, who was just nine years old when he died. 'Don't Cry Daddy' with Lisa Marie singing live with papa up on the big screen either tugs at your heartstrings or makes your flesh crawl, depending on your point of view.
While there are perhaps a few who remain unconvinced of his death, it was finally accepted by many when Lisa Marie announced she would marry Michael Jackson and Elvis did not appear in order to stop her, as any father would have!
The non-Elvis fan (nEf)
There are people who don't like Elvis2, who would never dream of booking a holiday to incorporate a tour of Graceland. If you think about it, you have to feel some sympathy, because there really isn't much they can do to escape the continual Elvis bombardment. Interstellar travel is a long way off and even then there's no guarantee there'll be no Elvis fans with shrines dedicated to their hero on some distant world - and how could there not be, given the constant stream of radio waves spinning Elvis out to them from the Earth?
Consider just how many Elvis-experiences the nEf might be exposed to during the course of a normal afternoon, starting with the trip from school. At the appointed hour the driver may well turn on Radio 2 to hear Steve Wright's regular 'Ask Elvis' spot, where anyone, even the person sitting next to the trapped nEf, can phone in and ask 'Elvis' questions they've always wanted to know the answer to, like: 'Why are there no brown cars?'
Family weddings should be happy occasions, and, sometimes, they pass off quite smoothly. However, if a family member decides he or she wants to be married in Las Vegas by Elvis, there really is no escape. From the live feed during the ceremony with its seemingly endless subsequent replays to the eventual (extortionately-priced) photographs put up everywhere you look, the only option for the nEf would be to leave the family home and never visit again.
So, perhaps taking in an evening show will soothe those nerves rubbed raw from Elvis-exposure. Best not buy tickets to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat unless you want to see the amazing Elvis-Pharaoh.
Elvis on the News
Some Elvis fans take their obsession a little too far. One such, a cashier from Lincolnshire, decided to indulge her passion beyond her means, financing it by embezzling between £5,000 and £10,000 a month over ten years from her employer. When an internal audit in July, 2005 flagged up the missing funds, the authorities obtained a search warrant. They found a treasure of Elvis memorabilia in her home comparable to the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in the eyes of dedicated Elvis enthusiasts, including rare items such as an autographed album cover.
A local news item in May, 2007 included an interview with the female auctioneer who had been given the job of evaluating and preparing a catalogue of the collection so it could be sold to compensate the victim of the theft, North Kesteven District Council. She was positively drooling, unable to hide her delight at landing the dream job lot. The background to the news article, meanwhile, was an Elvis track with plenty of Elvis puns interjected by the commentator, followed immediately by the local news presenter expressing his envy, then the weather forecaster doing an impromptu Elvis impersonation. It's enough to make even an Elvis fan feel momentarily sorry for the nEfs (almost).
Dressing as Elvis
Elvis Impersonators, also known as 'Elvis tribute acts', have their own h2g2 Entry so no need to talk about them too much here. However, there are fans who dress as Elvis merely for the reaction they cause. For example, it can be quite amusing to see a television reporter trying to tape something for the evening news, unaware that someone dressed as Elvis is strolling nonchalantly right behind them, perhaps on their way to a fancy dress party or karaoke/open mic night. The temptation to appear on television is too great and the hip-swivelling commences, just out of eyeshot of the long-suffering presenter.
Besides the Elvis-print T-shirts which are readily available from most clothing shops, there's also Elvis material that you can utilise as you wish when customising old clothes. For more bling, you can't fail to spot the crystal-encrusted handbags and shopping bags in the shape of Elvis's silhouette.
Your Favourite Comedian's Elvis Routine
The 'King' has had many jesters, and some comedians routinely have Elvis in their repertoire. One such jester was Andy Kaufman3 who wore a sequinned, rhinestone jumpsuit to recreate the Elvis effect in his stage act. Kaufman's practically perfect impersonation of Elvis was reverential, and done by 'Foreign Man' (the forerunner to 'Latka Gravis', the character in Taxi), which added dimension to the more classic straight imitation. To Kaufman Elvis was a hero-god, he even wrote a book about him. Elvis liked Kaufman too; after being waylaid by the comedian following a concert (Elvis obviously didn't leave the building fast enough that night) Kaufman introduced himself, showed Elvis his book, and received his blessing. On a later tour around Graceland after Elvis's death, Kaufman was astonished to discover video tapes of himself among the King's private collection.
Another comedian who dressed as Elvis in his act was Bill Hicks4, whose tribute performance was strikingly different from Kaufman's. Although Hicks was fond of Elvis, his act was cynical to the point of being disturbing. The rhinestone jumpsuit was in a deliberately bad state of repair, and the scruffy 'Elvis' would shuffle around the stage tossing cheeseburgers at members of the audience.
In a Father Ted episode called 'Competition Time', Ted decides to dress as Elvis for the 'All Priests Stars in Their Eyes Lookalike Competition', only to find his fellow-Craggy Island priests have had the same idea, so he decides they should all go as Elvis. Dougal plays the young Elvis, then Ted plays him in his late 1960s comeback, and finally Jack plays Elvis at the end, appearing from behind the curtains on a moving toilet with an enormous hamburger in his hand. They win the competition, beating their rivals from Rugged Island by a single point.
Pop Art - and the birth of our interest in celebrities - is celebrated in the National Portrait Gallery's new blockbuster exhibition in 2007. Although the dominant theme is Marilyn Monroe, special tributes are also paid to the 1960s-era Beatles, JFK, and Elvis.
It is of note that for one night Elvis was a dominant theme in Marilyn's life, or vice-versa, according to the New York Post.
Songs About Elvis
- 'Angels Song: Dear Elvis Presley' - Kaleidoscope
- 'Calling Elvis' - Dire Straits
- 'Chocolate Elvis' - Tosca
- 'Elvis Has Just Left The Building' - Frank Zappa (a declared nEf)
- 'Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier' - The Manic Street Preachers
- 'Elvis Is Everywhere' - Mojo Nixon
- 'Elvis, Marilyn and James Dean' - Bellamy Brothers
- 'Flying Elvis' - Leilani
- 'Graceland' - Paul Simon
- 'Hallucinating Elvis' - Duran Duran
- I Remember Elvis - a 2007 album by an ex-girlfriend of Elvis, Wanda Jackson, who toured Australia to promote it.
- 'I saw Elvis in a UFO' - Ray Stevens
- 'Life Without Elvis' - Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
- 'Pretend I'm Elvis (For Just One Night)' - Terry Taylor
- 'There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis' - Kirsty MacColl
- 'Too Tired to be Elvis' - Heather Eatman
- 'Velvet Elvis' - Weird Al Yankovic
Singer-songwriter Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus is much more widely known by the first name he borrowed from The King - Elvis Costello.
The lead singer in the band Dread Zeppelin dresses as Elvis.
Elvis is Nowhere
Elvis is famous for having 'left the building' and now we say someone has 'Elvised' after we blink and then don't see them around anymore - as, for example, when an h2g2 Researcher's smiley is noticed missing here at this very website.
Elvis is Everywhere
Is Elvis in your garden? Besides the rather tacky garden ornament makes-a-change-from-gnomes Elvis statuettes, there's a new variant Iris, introduced in 2005 by Kevin Vaughn, aptly named 'Red Velvet Elvis'.
Is Elvis on your snailmail envelope? He's one of the few non-Heads of State who has been honoured by being featured on a country's postage stamps. In 1992 US citizens were asked to vote between two specially-commissioned portraits (1950s Elvis and 1970s Elvis), which had been whittled down from eight original artistic representations. Members of Congress were undecided as to whether Elvis should be immortalised in such an unprecedented way by the Postal Service, but when presidential candidate Bill Clinton expressed his preference for the younger Elvis portrait, it won with 75% of the public vote.
Sci-fi used to be a specific genre aimed at a certain audience dedicated to all things alien-related, and certainly Elvis-free. However, Elvis has begun to turn up in alternate universes and timelines. In the very first episode of Sliders, pioneer 'Quinn Mallory' (Jerry O'Connell) only realised he'd slid into another dimension when he saw a 70-year-old Elvis video advertising his show at Vegas. This was after Quinn had been verbally abused by other motorists when he stopped at red lights!
In the final Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book Mostly Harmless, Elvis aka 'The King' is discovered playing in a diner by Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent.
While somewhere on a kind of Earth that is maybe not this one, exactly:
...in the Burger Lord, behind the counter, the stout man with the cowlick slid another half-dozen burgers on to the grill. He was the happiest man in the whole world and he was singing, very softly:
...y'ain't never caught a rabbit, he hummed to himself, and y'ain't no friend of mine...5
Finally, there was this conversation between the two MIB agents Jay and Kay in the 1997 film Men In Black which went along the lines of:
Jay: You do know Elvis is dead, right?
Kay: No, Elvis is not dead. He just went home.
Ever optimistic, fans on rooftops were seen in the film Independence Day holding up 'Hi Elvis' banners.
Outer SpaceCarl 'Elvis' Walz - Astronaut:
Hundreds of schoolteachers in Houston reported the latest Elvis sighting in January 2002. Circling 240 miles (384km) above Earth, International Space Station (ISS) flight engineer Carl 'Elvis' Walz treated the teachers to the first-ever Elvis impression from outer space, sung to the tune of 'Heartbreak Hotel':
Well since I left my baby; I found a new place to dwell. It's 400 kilometers in the air. It's called space station Alpha. But baby it's lonely. Oh it's so lonely. But I'll be back in May. Ohhhhhhh, yeah.
Walz's adoration of Elvis knows no bounds and his impersonation earned him a huge ovation back home on terra firma.
Featured in the film Honeymoon in Las Vegas Flying Elvises continue their pyrotechnic descents from heights of one to two miles in the air without losing, or even igniting, their quifs, so far as we know.
The Middle East
Elvis fans are well catered for in Jerusalem: the Elvis Diner even has a life-size statue of him seated at one of the tables.
The Far East
Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is such a fan of Elvis that he released his own CD of Elvis tribute tunes. It subsequently sold more than two hundred thousand copies, helped no doubt by an impromptu duet with Tom Cruise when the Hollywood star was in Tokyo in 2003 to promote his film The Last Samurai. When President Koizumi (who shares his birthday with Elvis) went on an official visit to the USA, President George W Bush escorted his guest around Graceland, Elvis's home.
Among the kangaroos, cane toads and billabongs is a thriving Elvis industry. The Aussies not only have a dedicated Elvis & You website which is constantly updated with a newsfeeder, but the Australian Elvis Fan Club is the largest in the world, with several million members. There's a link to GracelandCam where you can watch the preserved old home of The King to your heart's content.
How Low Can You Go?
You'd think all you'd find in the Antarctic would be ice, penguins, McMurdo, more penguins and even more ice, but you'd be wrong. Yes, Elvis has even permeated the permafrost. In late 1990 Ohio State University geologist (and Elvis fan) David Elliot found the bones of an early Jurassic dinosaur, an ancestor of tyrannosaurus rex, on Mount Kirkpatrick (approx 400 miles from the South Pole). The skull of the 22-foot-long creature has a bony crest which earned it the nickname 'Elvis' (of course) due to the similarity with the Elvis quiff of the 1950s. Until it was given its official scientific name of Cryolophosaurus6 ellioti, it was referred to as Elvisaurus. After more than seven years of painstaking reconstruction, 'Elvis' is the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in Antarctica.
Elvis famously never set foot in England in his lifetime, but his impersonators are more than making up for it. For the 25th anniversary of the death of Elvis, Dave Moss from the Grimsby Telegraph took local Elvis tribute artist Andy Rich along Cleethorpes seafront for a special photograph in front of Hotel 77. The resulting poignant picture so encapsulated the enduring appeal of the hyperstar a quarter of a century after he left the planet that it won a regional press award for the photographer.
The residents of the New Mexico town Roswell are used to all things little-green-men related, thanks to the most famous conspiracy theory of all, the enduring story of the infamous 'weather balloon' incident in July 1947. The alien-crash-landing tale is perpetuated to garner more visitors as tourism is a healthy industry in this little western cowtown. Elvis has been sighted here too, and reported (anonymously) on the Dead Elvis website. On 12 November, 1997, this unnamed person claims that not only is Elvis alive7 and well, he is actually Elvis' best friend, and they go out disguised in false beards so he isn't recognised. They are apparently only ever mobbed by ZZ Top fans, which suits this Elvis just fine.
Let's face it, if Elvis Presley were still alive, where would he hide?