Kevin Kern, director of public relations for Elvis Presley’s Graceland, is standing in the hallway of YES! Weekly’s Greensboro office at 9:30 a.m. with Archives Manager Danielle Forbes at his side. She’s pulling a wheeled luggage case behind her. It’s not exactly the Memphis Mafia, but a tour all the same. They’ve been on the road drumming up tourist interest in Graceland, which has three exhibits going and is preparing to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Elvis’ death.
The highlight comes Aug. 10-18, known as “Elvis Week.”
“It sounds morbid to an extent,” says Kern, whose resemblance to
Elvis includes both the pout of his lips and swoop of his dark brown hair
from his forehead. He goes on to say that the commemoration celebrates
the King’s influence on music, movies and culture.
“It was so much more than a music revolution,” he says.
“It was a sex
revolution and a race revolution, all in one.”
Forbes unpacks some items from the luggage case: Elvis’ wallet, Lisa
Marie’s baby footprints, Elvis’s iconic sunglasses, a pair of Elvis-inspired
gold bejeweled shades on loan from Katy Perry, and the Golden Globe
for Elvis on Tour, the 1972 film that won Best Documentary.
“We brought a little bit of the King’s bling,” Kern says.
I’ve commandeered Editor Brian Clarey’s office for the event, and the
treasures are laid out on his desk.
What’s new (or news) about Elvis, you might ask — and I did. But
what a visceral thrill to behold something tangible from such a giant of
American culture, someone who breathed his last when I was barely out
After pulling on a pair of white gloves, Forbes opens the simple, black
leather wallet to reveal a snapshot of a doting Elvis holding a toddler
Lisa Marie. She thumbs through it, pulling out his American Federation
of Television and Radio Artists union card, his Blue Cross Blue Shield
insurance car, his signed Bank Americard, a homely ticket stub and business
cards, including one from the chief of police of Beverly Hills, Calif.
and a drug abuse control agent with the city of Denver.
“Elvis was into law enforcement,” Forbes observes dryly.
She doesn’t need to mention that Elvis visited Richard Nixon in the
White House and suggested that he be made a federal agent in the Bureau
of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. We don’t discuss the drug abuse that
led up to Elvis’ death. We don’t need to.
What I didn’t know is that Elvis on Tour features some phenomenal
footage from Greensboro Coliseum. As it turns out, that concert took
place exactly 40 years ago on April 14.
Everyone has their favorite Elvis period, and right now I’m celebrating
April 1972. In this celluloid time capsule Elvis brims with fitness and energy.
His manner and look is both Southern gentleman and agent of high
counterculture weirdness. He is both humbly self-deprecating and wildly
flamboyant. That’s why he was the King.
Behold the grand entrance at the coliseum before the concert. Elvis
goofily wears his sunglasses upside down. It’s chaos with frantic female
voices calling his name.
There is laughter and camaraderie among members
of the entourage.
Elvis turns to someone and says, “You know that girl I was with last
night? Oh man, I’m gonna tell you: She could have raised the dead.”
(For what it’s worth, a YouTube commenter says the dialogue was
dubbed over by an actor to conceal the real comment, which was much
“Elvis did visit here quite often,” Kern says. “It goes to show there’s
a base of fans here.
North Carolina was good to Elvis, and I guess you could also say Elvis was good to North Carolina.”