As I sip sweet tea from my Elvis Week cup, I realize it has been almost two weeks since Elvis Week 2018 ended and I am just now writing about it – I still haven’t even unpacked all of my stuff yet. Can you say denial? Yes, those of us who went to Elvis Week are all feeling a bit of withdrawal. When we are in Memphis for Elvis Week, it is like we are in this Elvis Bubble and we do nothing but Elvis – watch Elvis, listen to Elvis, talk about Elvis. We don’t watch the news – have no idea what is going on in the real world for those 7 to 12 days or however long we are there. It is a great break from all the crap going on in the world. This year, apparently, it is taking me a bit longer to get reacclimated back into the real world.
This was one of my favorite Elvis Weeks, and it wasn’t even a big anniversary. There were so many wonderful events (meeting Lisa Marie, meeting Millie Perkins, the 50th Anniversary ’68 Special and the Elvis Live Concert – just to name a few), and everything just worked out perfectly! I think I actually enjoyed this Elvis Week more than last year’s 40th Anniversary (although there was a lot of great Jerry stuff last year). If I had to rank Elvis Week 2018 (the 41st anniversary), it would be second behind the 30 anniversary in 2007 but just barely edging out the 40th anniversary in 2017. I think part of it was this year’s was much more relaxing in that I had the same seat for every event and didn’t have to arrive an hour early to make sure I had a good seat like last year, and also this is the longest I have ever stayed for Elvis Week.
THURSDAY AUGUST 9th
With two suitcases, two coolers, a big bag of food, a chair, a messenger bag, 2 coats and 2 hats, I left my house in Ellicott City, Maryland at 9am est Thursday morning August 9th (and didn’t return until Monday August 20th). I drove 610 miles in just over 9 hours stopping in Cookeville, Tennessee for the night. I stopped only once along the way – at Love’s Travel Stop in Max Meadows, Virginia. There is a Chester’s there, and they have the best chicken biscuit sandwich – better than Chick Fil A. I had a great drive until I got to Knoxville at rush hour and then the rain hit but only for about a half hour. I arrived at the Days Inn in Cookeville at 5:15pm cst. I had never heard of Cookeville before, but then several people commented they knew someone who lived there or had lived there themselves at one point. After checking in and getting organized for the night, I went across the street to Cracker Barrel for dinner. I had the chicken and dumplings with mac n cheese, green beans and biscuits – and brought back leftovers. I watched Big Brother and went to bed as I had an EARLY morning the next day.
FRIDAY AUGUST 10th – ELVIS WEEK DAY 1
I woke up around 3:45am (on purpose) after about 4 or 5 hours of sleep. I left Cookeville just before 4:30am and headed toward Memphis in the dark and the rain. Originally I had planned to stay in Knoxville and just leave whenever and leisurely drive to Memphis, since the events did not start until Saturday. But then it was announced Lisa Marie Presley was doing a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10am Friday at her new exhibit Growing Up Presley at Graceland, well actually Elvis Presley’s Memphis or EPM. So I drove an hour past Knoxville Thursday and left at 4:30 in the morning Friday to get to EPM by 9am to pick up my tickets and get a good spot for the ribbon cutting ceremony. I drove about 300 miles in four hours listening to the the newly released Where No One Stands Alone on repeat. Lisa’s duet with Elvis is absolutely amazing! I also listened to Lisa’s three albums along the way. All to get into preparation for the next two days of Lisa! I love Lisa Marie Presley. Sure it started because she is Elvis’ daughter, but then I got to know her and her music, and I love Lisa for Lisa and still would even if she weren’t Elvis’ daughter. I have seen Lisa 20 times in concert and met her a few times – great lady! So humble and down to earth and sweet.
I pulled into EPM just after 8:30am. After waiting in line for about 45 minutes, I got my tickets for Elvis Week. In addition to tickets to all the Elvis Week Events, my Premiere Plus Package also included an EPM parking pass (now I didn’t have to wait for the shuttle to and from and could come and go as I pleased), a ticket to EPM each day (so I could tour the EPM museums any day I wanted) and a Graceland VIP Tour with Property Pass. Around 9:30am, I then went over to where Lisa’s new exhibit was to wait for her Ribbon Cutting Ceremony even though I had learned the ribbon cutting ceremony was only for Founders’ (of the Guest House) and press – and apparently some other special folks (even those who are just fans of Lisa because she is Elvis’ daughter and not a fan of her’s, but I’m not bitter). I asked several people who worked there if I could please come in and what a big fan I was etc, but no one let me in so I stood outside the glass looking in. I could actually see everything but wouldn’t be able to hear when Lisa spoke. Lucky for me, Lisa didn’t really speak. Lisa didn’t even get there until almost 11am, with her daughter Riley. They were there maybe a minute. Riley cut the ribbon. So I didn’t miss anything at all, but I was dripping wet from being out in the scorching sun for almost an hour and a half – and I hadn’t eaten yet (it was 11am and I had been up since before 4am).
I immediately went over to Vernon’s for lunch. I got my usual 5 veggie plate, which should be called 5 sides plate because there is nary a vegetable in the mix. I got 2 mac n cheeses, BBQ spaghetti, mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley along with banana pudding and sweet tea in my refillable cup. Every year Graceland (or EPM) offers this great plastic cup with a straw and a handle (for about $15 or less I forget), and you get free refills while at EPM. I bought mine in May, so I saved a lot of money on drinks. I stayed at Vernon’s cooling off and resting until about 1pm when I toured Lisa Marie Presley’s new exhibit, which was fantastic! It included memorabilia and photos from her childhood, from her work with Graceland and from her own singing career. It also included many quotes from Lisa and a 16 minute video of her relationship with her dad, living at Graceland and her career. I literally took a photo of everything in the exhibit – 86 photos in all.
Around 1:30ish I went over to the Guest House to check in, but my room was not yet ready. So I just relaxed in the beautiful, comfy lobby uploading my photos. About an hour later, my room was ready. At first they told me they couldn’t give me what I had requested, so the room they had for me was actually an upgrade. Then not 5 minutes later, they came back and said that room wouldn’t be ready for a while so they are giving me what I originally requested and a voucher for a free breakfast (which is $18 in Delta’s) for all the confusion. Well I loved my room! It is the first room I stayed in at the Guest House on that glorious Opening Weekend. I have been trying to get back into that room every time I stay there by requesting the 3rd floor in the South Tower near the elevator. It has a great view of the courtyard and a short walk to the elevator – I like to go quick when it’s time for an event. After three trips unloading the car, I was finally in my room just after 3pm. And luckily none of my drinks spoiled or shampoo melted. All was well! For the next 3 hours I unpacked, organized, posted photos, cooled off and relaxed. I mean this was to be my home for the next 9 nights, so I had to get everything just right.
Just after 6pm, I went down to EPs for dinner and sat at the bar. I had a yummy, cold glass of mascato (the one and only alcoholic drink I had my entire vacation). I ordered the pimento cheese dip with chips (took half back to my room) and the bbq flatbread pizza, which needed way more cheese than what was advertised – the only thing at EPs I will never order again. By 7:45, I was sitting in the lobby journaling. Around 8:30 it started to get a little crowded, so I moved to the back lobby outside the ballroom. I discovered this cool little lending library. Around 9:30 I was back up in my room exhausted since I had been up since 4am and had to be back up at 8am. I ended up not falling asleep until about 1:30am though after watching Girl Happy and falling asleep to Roustabout. To see all of my photos from Day 1, please click here.
SATURDAY AUGUST 11th – ELVIS WEEK DAY 2
I woke up around 5:30am, but didn’t get out of bed until about 8am. I think maybe I don’t sleep much during Elvis Week because there is so much going on that I just can’t turn my mind off. I was walking in the front door of Graceland at 9:15am for my VIP tour, skipping the movie and just going straight into the mansion. No head phones or ipad – just me spending time in the happiest place on earth. I waited for the current tour to move along then had a few minutes alone in the foyer / living room before the next tour came in. I quickly made my way through the dining room, kitchen, basement and jungle room trying to take photos of different stuff than I normally do. It was too crowded as it is in the mornings, which I why I come back right before they close. But I still also like to go through in the morning – just like to tour twice since I pay for the VIP tour. I hung out in Vernon’s office for a bit as I love it there – the post army presser. I skipped the trophy room and just went straight to the racquetball court. It is a shame people just blow through here considering this is where Elvis spent the last hours of his life. I spent a little time in the shade of the meditation garden just relaxing before getting on the shuttle and heading back to EPM.
I immediately went through the new Gospel Exhibit, which was great but took the place of my favorite jumpsuit – the black one with green beads. I had originally planned to spend the day just touring Graceland and EPM, but Lisa Marie Presley’s event was moved from the 15th to the 11th. So I grabbed a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich and sweet tea at Glady’s and sat down and cooled off for a bit. Friday and Saturday were probably the hottest days of Elvis Week. At 11:30, I walked over to the Sound Stage for the Lisa Marie Presley autograph session that came with my premiere plus package. I have met Lisa about five or so times before and have my photo with her four times and her autograph a few times, but I wanted to speak with Lisa again since it’s been five years since I last saw her. And I have never met Lisa at an Elvis event before. It has always been before or after her concerts. We were supposed to be there at 11:45am, but Lisa didn’t show up until after 12:00 and first the Elite group (who was supposed to start at 10:30) had to get their photos and autographs with Lisa then our group went through for autographs. While waiting I ran into the guy I sat next to at the bar at EPs the previous night and to my friend Tracy, who had just arrived and was having a bad day already. We hung out and got in line together.
The whole time we were in line waiting to meet Lisa, we were told she would only sign the lithograph we got with our Where No One Stands Alone bundle with record, cd and cassette. We were originally told (when we bought it) that we had to buy this bundle to get Lisa’s autograph and she would sign whichever of the three we wanted and we would also get a signed lithograph. Then when we picked up our bundle, we received an unsigned lithograph and told Lisa would only sign that. I had taken the record out of it’s sleeve and put the lithograph inside so it wouldn’t get bent – and I was hoping maybe Lisa would sign the album cover. Everyone who was managing the line kept saying Lisa will only sign the lithograph. Around 1pm when we were about to meet Lisa, Angie Marchese (Director of Archives and friend of Lisa) was standing there and we asked her why Lisa was only signing the lithograph. She had no idea they had changed the rules, so she told us to just ask Lisa to sign the album, which I was going to do anyway. Right before we were about to meet her, Lisa asked if she could have a break and get a snack, so Angie cut the line off just a few people behind me and Tracy. Lisa looked tired and almost sad. She was looking down and not really making eye contact with anyone. I walked up to her, introduced myself and placed my album cover in front of her (the back of it with the photo of little Lisa with her dad) asked her if she would please sign it. She saw it and exclaimed, “OH!” I thanked her doing the song (“Where No One Stands Alone” duet with Elvis) and told her I cried when I first heard it then really cried when I saw the video. Lisa was still looking down and signing my record. I asked Lisa if she would be writing a new album and touring again? Then she looked up at me, and it was like a switch flipped in her head and she engaged. She said something along the lines of ‘well I’m going through a lot of stuff right now and soon as I get out of this storm.’ I kind of cut her off and tapped my heart and said, “I know. I understand.” Then she said something like, ‘my main concern is making sure I keep my kids.’ I again said, “I understand.” Then Lisa said something like, ‘after that and everything is good yes I hope to do an album and tour.’ To which I replied rather excitedly, “I’M A HUGE FAN! I’VE SEEN YOU ON EVERY TOUR! 20 CONCERTS!” or some such gushing. This made Lisa (and Anthony her security guard) laugh. I don’t know what I was saying, but I remember still talking to Lisa and her smiling and talking back to me as I was walking away backwards. I hope I was thanking her, but I can’t remember. Like I said, I LOVE Lisa! Not just because she’s Elvis’ daughter, but because she’s Lisa – blunt, talented, down to earth and just so darn cool!
I thought I was going to cry as I walked out and told my friends Beth (whose Lisa Marie shirt she designed I was wearing), Stacy and Caroline what had just transpired. Then I saw Vanessa, whom I met the day before while waiting for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Vanessa told me the previous night while I was waiting in the lobby for Lisa to come back to the Guest House, Vanessa met Lisa at Graceland while Lisa was riding through the sprinklers on the golf cart. Around 1:40 (40 minutes late), Lisa’s event the “Where No Stands Alone” listening party finally began. Andy Childs and Joel Weinshanker, both producers of the album along with Lisa Marie Presley, first talked and Joel really talked up Lisa. I loved how he bashed the haters. I have a new respect for Joel now, since he so obviously loves Lisa and is very protective of her. Lisa walked out to a standing ovation. Lisa was crying. I was crying. It was unreal! Someone ran up and handed her a bouquet of flowers. Lisa was speechless, except to mouth thank you continuously to everyone. Finally when everyone calmed down Lisa, Joel and Andy talked about making the album, Lisa’s duet with her dad and Elvis’ love of gospel music. At the end of the talk, Andy said they were going to play the video for “Where No Stands Alone,” which I’ve had on my phone for a few days, and Lisa was leaving. Again, a standing ovation. Lisa was smiling and waving as she was about to walk off stage. Right before she got to back stage Marian Cocke walked up to the stage and Lisa bent down to greet her. Then a woman ran up to the stage to shake her hand and take her photo, and then another woman ran up, and then almost the entire audience was at the stage. And Lisa, like her father, went across the stage shaking hands and talking with everyone she could reach. It occurred to me later as she was shaking hands with everyone, her video of “Where No One Stands Alone” was playing on the big screen with the words “TAKE MY HAND” flashing on the screen. Wow! What a moment! And I videoed Lisa’s entire 16 minutes on stage – from introduction to leaving. After Lisa finally left the stage, John Jackson from Sony joined Andy and Joel on stage. They announced there is going to be some sort of 50th Anniversary ’68 Comeback Special on NBC in December with the family. Then they showed us this great documentary on the making of Where No One Stands Alone and Elvis Gospel in general. And of course when I saw Jerry Schilling on it, I screamed – twice! We didn’t get out of there until about 3:15.
I went over to Minnie’s to grab a quick ice cream (a huge single dip of chocolate peanut butter in a cup) because I was starving. That 4 hours took a huge chunk out of my touring, but it was totally worth it. Besides touring the mansion twice, I just wanted to at least see the new exhibits because I had the rest of the week to tour the rest of EPM. I toured Marty Stuart’s new Hillbilly Rock exhibit, which I wasn’t too excited about but ended up really enjoying because there was a lot about Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Fluke Holland and of course Elvis. I love when you’re not expecting much and then completely enjoy something. Then I saw the set from the new Christmas at Graceland Hallmark movie they just filmed. I went back to Lisa’s new exhibit Growing Up Presley, even though I had seen it all and photographed everything Friday. I went through and read each quote and looked carefully at all the photos. Then I went to my favorite exhibit, the movie exhibit in the Elvis the Entertainer Career Museum to sit for a minute and post some photos.
I was back up at Graceland walking through the front door by 4:40pm. It was nice and empty, not completely, but I had every room to myself for a little bit. I didn’t really take photos. Just enjoyed being present in the happiest place on earth. Peaceful, that is what I feel at Graceland – completely at peace. Around 5:15 or so I hopped on the shuttle to go back to EPM and at this point there were no more VIP shuttles so I had to take the regular shuttle. I heard someone say hey there is someone riding around on a golf cart? I looked and sure enough it was Lisa! I jumped off that shuttle and quickly walked to the front yard and just watched. Lisa was driving with one of her girls next her and the other girl in the back with Angie holding her and hanging on for dear life. And Anthony was following them in another gold cart. They drove around the front yard and then went around back. A few minutes later they came back driving around the front yard with the girls laughing and screaming. By this time, the mansion was empty but people were still on the grounds and taking photos of themselves in front of the mansion. So they were all facing the mansion, and I was the only standing with my back to the mansion facing the front yard and watching Lisa. I didn’t video or take photos – I just watched. Lisa waved to me as she drove by, and I waved back and then one of the twins waved to me and I waved back. Not to be a dork, but I thought it was very cool Lisa waved to me first. Then they drove around back. I waited for a bit, but they didn’t come back. They probably went inside for one last visit before they left Memphis.
I finally went back to EPM, and decided I would tour the planes since I never do that and I was wearing my Lisa Marie shirt. I didn’t realize they were such a long walk from where I was. I went to the gift shop there first, since I have never been in that gift shop before. I bought a Graceland Air hat with Lisa Marie printed on the side, Graceland Air wings and a Lisa Marie (plane) postcard. Just thought it was appropriate for the day. It was after 6pm, and I was hot and tired – I had been there since 8:45am. I never did tour those planes. Instead I went over to Marlowe’s for dinner, but I walked in and it was nuts inside. Not a big fan of crowds, I decided to get mine to go. I saw Charles Stone and his wife in front of me waiting for a table – I was going to see him the next day at Elvis Con, so I didn’t say anything to him. I ordered my sausage and cheese plate and fried gouda sticks and went into the gift shop to wait and look around. I always like to check out Marlowe’s book selection. I bought one because it had a forward by Sandy Martindale. I also like to talk with JoCathy in the gift shop. She told me this great story about when she was dating Elvis. She told Elvis she would love for him to sing her favorite song. Elvis told her to think real hard – imagine her favorite song. Then Elvis started singing “You’re so Young and Beautiful” JoCathy’s favorite song – and she had never told him! Tish Henley came in, but I was also going to see her at Elvis Con, so I didn’t talk with her. I talked with my friends Caroline, Stacy and Beth for a bit and also saw Randy and Laurie. I think I was back in my room by 7 or so and ate my dinner looking out my window at my beautiful view of the courtyard. It was 1am before I finished posting photos and videos and journaling while watching Tickle Me then put on Paradise Hawaiian Style to fall asleep to. It was only Day 2, but I thought this would be my favorite day of Elvis Week 2018. To see all of my photos from Day 2, please click here.
SUNDAY AUGUST 12th – ELVIS WEEK DAY 3
Today was a much calmer day. It supposed to busier, but sometimes the schedule changes. I didn’t fall asleep until after 1:30am and woke up around 6:30am. I stayed in bed and finished Paradise Hawaiian Style from the night before. I was down at Delta’s for my comp breakfast buffet before 9:00am. The breakfast buffet is $18, and it’s very good, but I would never pay that much for it. I am just as happy eating a few donut holes or a poptart in my room to start the day. I again saw Charles Stone, sitting a few tables away. After breakfast, I went over to EPM for the Elvis Presley Fan Club Presidents’ Event at 10am in the Sound Stage. I felt like this was the true start of Elvis Week, and the last two days were all about Lisa Marie Presley, which I loved but didn’t really seem like Elvis Week to me as I see Lisa Marie separate from Elvis. Anyway, I ran into my friend Tracy on the way in, so she sat with me as my seat for every event was the same (2nd row aisle) and half the time the seats next to me were empty. I wasn’t expecting much from this event, but ended up really enjoying myself – it seemed like that happened a lot during this Elvis Week.
Argo hosted the Fan Club Presidents’ Event, and the first guest was Angie Marchese, Director of Archives. They did an #AskArchives session with questions fans had tweeted. Angie told us they were placing Gladys’ headstone from Forest Hills in the Meditation Garden Tuesday August 14th, the 60th anniversary of her death. Tom Brown was the next guest, and a surprise guest. I enjoyed him most of all. For the first time at Elvis Week, he was the one being interviewed rather than the one doing the interviewing. I really enjoyed hearing about his life and could relate to his being an Elvis fan just as we all are. I especially enjoyed Tom’s impersonation of Jerry Schilling as well as his photo of himself with Jerry and Priscilla, as Tom is good friends with Jerry (more on that later). The final guests were Rex and Elisabeth Mansfield whom I had met in 2009 during Elvis Birthday when they both signed their book for me. Rex and Elisabeth knew Elvis in Germany while he was in the army. Elisabeth actually dated Elvis first, then worked for him, then dated and married Rex. They have been together since then – about 60 years. They were so funny and cute together and obviously still very much in love. (Sadly two weeks to the day after we saw them, Rex passed away on Sunday August 26, 2018.)
Around noon, I headed over to Elvis Con down the street at the new Holiday Inn Express. This is the great Elvis Convention created and run by Jon Daly, owner of the Elvis Pawn Shop. Jon started it last year, and it was fantastic – and it’s free! He gets great guests from the Elvis world for book signings and meet and greets and also has a great selection of Elvis books, records and memorabilia. Before I left for Memphis, Jon posted a schedule of who would be at Elvis Con on which day so I was able to plan which days I would go. I was just going to stop by Sunday to meet a couple of people who were only going to be there Sunday, and then come back on Wednesday to meet the rest. I walked into the new Holiday Inn and it had a very Heartbreak Hotel feel to it, but also a Guest House feel to it – a nice combination of both hotels (at least in the lobby). Elvis Con had tables set up in both the lobby and the conference room.
I immediately went over to Charles Stone’s table as he was the reason I was there. Charles helped Colonel Tom Parker with managing Elvis’ tours in the 1970s. I have seen Charles speak, but have never met him. I had just been emailing with Charles because I ordered his first book My Years with Elvis and the Colonel, and he signed it and sent it to me. Charles was sitting on the couch across from his table talking with someone, so I started talking with his wife who couldn’t have been nicer. We were talking about hot incredibly hot it was and how that was going to make the event at the Circle G Ranch a bit unbearable. I told her I wanted to buy Charles’ new book and would love to have him sign it for me. She called Charles over and told him I was going to the Circle G. I told Charles I had just been emailing with him and he sent me his first book, autographed. He sort of remembered. I told him I enjoyed his first book, and he thanked me. Then he autographed his new book for me – Life in the Elvis World on tour. I asked Charles if I could please have a photo with him. He said yes, and his wife took the photo. I always forget my phone case is Elvis. Charles said, “I’m looking at the phone and she’s looking at Elvis.” In the photo, there is a photo of Elvis on the wall behind Charles’ shoulder and both Charles and I are wearing our TCB necklaces (of course his is real and was given to him by Elvis). I told Charles I saw him last night at Marlowe’s and again this morning at breakfast and I hoped he didn’t think I was stalking him. He laughed and said, “No. Oh you should say Hi,” and his wife said, “Yes come over and sit with us.” To that I said, “Ok I will if I you see at the Guest House tonight or tomorrow. Then Charles informed me he was leaving in the morning. Oh well, maybe next year. Charles Stone and his wife are so very nice.
I stopped by Estela’s Memphis tee shirt table. I met Estela on facebook a while a back and then finally talked with her in person at Marlowe’s in May. I bought this cool royal blue Memphis, Tennessee Elvis Presley Blvd Route 51 shirt. (The only shirt I bought all Elvis Week – so proud of myself!) I talked with Estela and her husband for a bit about how great it was living in Memphis, then chatted with JoCathy for a minute before going into the conference room.
I immediately saw Diana Goodman sitting at a table right inside the door. I had just read Diana and Victoria Hallman’s book Hollywood Lights Nashville Nights. Both Diana and Victoria worked on Hee Haw, which I watched with my Grandmother when she watched me on Saturday nights when I was little. The book was half about Diana’s life and half about Victoria’s, but Victoria actually wrote the entire book. Diana briefly dated Elvis in 1975, which is obviously why I read the book. To my surprise, Diana’s story had some non Elvis things I was also quite interested in, which I asked her about. I first introduced myself to Diana and told her I just read her book, and I really enjoyed it. She thanked me. I asked Diana if the Fred in the beginning of her book was Fred Dryer, and she confirmed it was. I told her I had the biggest crush on him when he was on Hunter. She seemed surprised. Diana said he was really nice and quiet and reserved unlike Lance, the other NFL player she was out with that night. I asked her why she did not include Fred’s last name – was it because Fred did not sign off on it? She said she did include his last name, but the editor took it out for whatever reason. Then I told Diana I am a HUGE As the World Turns fan, so I thought it was crazy she actually stayed with James Stenbeck when she first moved to Hollywood. She said, “Oh Anthony. I know. Isn’t that wild?!” Diana was such a sweetheart and gladly signed her book for me, but I don’t know why I didn’t take a photo of her signing my book. Sometimes I just get so wound up I forget everything I want to do.
I looked around the room for Buzz Cason, who was only there that day (and the previous which I could not attend). Buzz knew Elvis in 1957, wrote “Everlasting Love” and recorded with all the greats including one of my faves Olivia Newton-John. I had just read Buzz’s book Living the Rock ‘n Roll Dream and wanted him to autograph it. Unfortunately, Buzz was not feeling well the previous day and left early and was not going to be at Elvis Con Sunday – or any other day. But Jon Daly, being the great guy he is, said he would get my book to Buzz, have him sign it and send it back to me. I spoke with Jon’s wife for a bit – she is SO nice! She remembered me from Elvis Con and the Book Sale last year and apparently they call me ‘The Book Lady’ because I bought SO many books (30).
I quickly left, knowing I would be back on Wednesday, and headed to Mississippi pulling onto the grounds of the Circle G Ranch just after 1pm. For the first time, they were having an open house. For the first time, we were legally allowed on the grounds of the ranch Elvis owned and spent time at between 1967 and 1969. I have driven by the ranch several times, but never walked onto it – it’s over 160 acres. New developers are turning it into some sort of entertainment complex and invited everyone for a free ‘Day at the Ranch.’ It was cool to be there and walk the ranch and see the cross and bridge up close, but it was so darn hot! Plus I had to walk through tall, itchy grass, and I don’t do grass (or nature much for that matter). I took my obligatory Circle G selfies and left within a half hour. On the way out, I drove right by (and I mean within feet of) the ranch house where Elvis and Priscilla stayed during part of their honeymoon. It was all boarded up and run down.
I was starving since I hadn’t eaten since my 9am breakfast, so I stopped at Dodge’s and took chicken back to my room at the Guest House. I ate my lunch, cooled off, uploaded photos, and was falling asleep by 3:30ish while watching Loving You. Next thing I knew, it was after 4:30 and I was supposed to be at Alfred’s for the Memphis Mafia Reunion at 4:15. It took me a while to get myself together and see if I could get down to Beale Street, but I was too tired and a bit headachey. The Mafia Reunion wasn’t that great this year anyway, so I didn’t miss anything. And our Pub Crawl was cancelled, so I really didn’t miss anything. Around 6:15 or so, I was feeling better so I went down to the lobby to hang out and then at 7pm I was going to watch Jailhouse Rock in the theater, but it was cancelled because the auction ran late and they weren’t able to turn it in time. So instead I had dinner at EPs – a yummy fried chicken wedge salad with blue cheese, tomatoes and honey mustard dressing. Then I went out on the back porch and read until the bugs got to me. I went up to my room and was actually asleep before 11pm. To see all of my photos from Day 3, please click here.
MONDAY AUGUST 13th – ELVIS WEEK DAY 4
I finally got some real sleep – about eight hours! And then stayed in bed for three more hours, not getting up until after 10:30am. I was recharged, refreshed and ready for the rest of Elvis Week! I went back down to EPs for lunch, and had my new favorite item there. A fried green tomato sandwich with pimento cheese and of course I had the yummy sweet potato fries and sweet tea with it. While eating my yummy lunch, I noticed that Lisa Marie Presley had retweeted my video clip of her walking on stage Saturday with a comment thanking everyone for their support – and I didn’t even tag her in it. I am just glad she is actually seeing our love and support for her on social media. After lunch, I hung out in the lobby for about a half hour.
Around 12:50pm, I went to the ballroom for the Elvis Fan Reunion. (I love when Elvis Week events are in the Guest House!) Of course I was the first one of my friends to arrive for the event that started at 1pm, so I saved us a table. Luckily, it started late. Marr, Delia and Caroline sat with me as well as two guys who I have seen at previous Elvis Weeks. Like the Elvis Fan Club Presidents’ Event, I had much more fun at the Elvis Fan Reunion than I expected. Dean Z, Joey Sulipeck, Argo and Tom Brown started off the event with a Q & A. Then we had Elvis Team Trivia, which we had to ask the two gentlemen who sat with us if they minded being a part of Jerry’s Girls for E.P. After they looked at each other and paused, I offered the name Jerry’s Girls (and guys) for E.P. They seemed happy with that. We did not win, but we did tell Tom Brown about our Jerry’s Girls group and the shirts we made (more about that later, keep reading). Drake Milligan, who played Elvis on the tv series Sun Records was on stage next. Norbert Putnam, Elvis’ bassist from 1970 to 1977, was the final guest – and the main reason we were all there. Putnam played on 120 Elvis songs. He told stories of his times with Elvis, and he is the only person I have ever heard call him Presley instead of Elvis or E. Norbert played bass live on stage while they played a video of Elvis singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Then there was a ceremony for Norbert Putnam receiving a Brass Note on the Beale Street Walk of Fame. Very cool I got to meet Norbert the same day he was bestowed this honor. (This great timing seemed to happen a lot throughout Elvis Week.) I was fourth in line to meet Norbert, and I had never met him before (although I have heard him speak before). He autographed his new book Music Lesson vol. 1 for me, and was very excited I had gotten it on Amazon. I thanked him and congratulated him on his Brass Note. Norbert responded, “My friends have wanted to walk on me for years.” Great guy! So nice!
After the Fan Reunion around 4:30, I went back to my room to post photos and journal. Then I drove over to the Magnuson Grand Hotel for the Elvis Fan & Collector Show. It has been going on for 40some years I believe, but I have never been. It is bigger than Elvis Con, but I didn’t get the same friendly feel as Elvis Con and it’s just Elvis memorabilia not any VIP meet and greets and book signings like Elvis Con has. But of course I did manage to find a few items to my liking. I bought a button and three books: a little paperback because it was cheap, Jerry Lee Lewis’ sister Linda Gail’s memoir and Charlie Hodge’s memoir. I already have Charlie’s book, but this one was signed by Charlie and Keith Alverson included a photo he took of Elvis and Charlie on stage at Elvis’ second to last show in Cincinnati in 1977. I was so excited to have Charlie’s autograph in this book as I met Charlie back in 2003 in Pigeon Forge, but for some reason did not get an autograph or photo with him. Not sure what I was thinking, but at least I was able to meet him and talk with him as he was always one of my favorites of Elvis’ friends. I was only at the Collector Show for about 25 minutes, but I saw everything. After, I went to the Rock n Roll Cafe for dinner. I hadn’t been there since it moved from the old shopping center, and that was the place I always ate while touring Graceland. The food is still fantastic! I had the fried catfish with mac n cheese, green beans and sweet tea. It was the best mac n cheese, green beans and sweet tea I had in Memphis – and the fried catfish was good too. I went to the gift shop after because I wanted to see what goodies they had and I also wanted to meet Donna Lewis and tell her how much I loved her books, but she wasn’t working. I bought a couple of Elvis pens and a Memphis keychain. Marlowe’s gift shop is much better.
After dinner, I went over to EPM for the Darlene Love Concert in the Sound Stage at 7pm. I ran into Tracy and Delia before the show, and we chatted for a bit. The concert was so fantastic, so much better than I anticipated. Only thing I knew about Darlene Love was that she was in Change of Habit and on the ’68 Comeback Special, but I did recognize one of her songs and of course knew all the Elvis and Gospel songs she sang. Darlene was amazing, such a powerful voice. Hard to believe she’s 77! I remember looking over at Delia when Darlene said that, and Delia’s jaw was on the floor. She performed for over an hour and a half, and now Darlene Love has a fan in me. After the concert, I went back to my room and watched Wild in the Country until I fell alseep. To see all of my photos from Day 4, please click here.
TUESDAY AUGUST 14th – ELVIS WEEK DAY 5
Day 5 was tied with Day 2 as my favorite day of Elvis Week 2018. This was the day we debuted our Jerry’s Girls shirts, I bought lots of signed books and met lots of folks from the Elvis World. After about only five or six hours of sleep, I was up by 7am for the 2nd Annual Elvis Week Book Sale – one of the events I was most looking forward to.
I was at Marlowe’s just before 8am, but stayed in my car until 8am. I walked in and literally cleaned off the first table of books. Jon Daly said, “what happened to my books?” I said, “I have them!” Within a couple of minutes, I bought nine books (seven of them were signed): . I went into the next room to see who was there for the meet and greet and book signings. I saw Janice Fadal, Eddie’s daughter, and walked over to her table. Elvis stayed at their house in Waco, Texas on weekends when Elvis was stationed at Ft. Hood. I have been waiting years for a book about Eddie’s relationship with Elvis. I introduced myself to Janice and told her I wanted to buy her book Elvis Days and how excited I was to finally have a book about her dad and Elvis. Janice recognized my name from facebook because I had been sharing her posts. Then the woman sitting next to her, Elizabeth Clark, looked up and asked me my name again and said she was literally just messaging me as I had won their giveaway contest! I was so excited! Not only did I win the book Elvis Days, but I also won the three 8 x 10 photos and a postcard of the Elvis House in Waco. Janice signed her book for me as well as one of the photos – the one of her and her brother and Elvis. (Her brother had pre signed the photo since he couldn’t be there.) I was SO excited, and Janice was so sweet! She told me to look for her the next day at Elvis Con. Tish Henley was at a table next to Janice and saw my ring (I bought from her last year) and told me she had a new Lowell Hayes ring this year. (Lowell Hayes creates reproductions of Elvis’ rings in the same mold he used to make Elvis’.) I told Tish I would see her the next day at Elvis Con to check out the new ring. This all happened within 25 minutes, so I went back to my room in the Guest since the next event did not start until 10am.
I put away my books and posted my photos and an hour later went over to EPM for Conversations on Elvis: Co-Stars at the Sound Stage at 10am. This is always my favorite of the Conversations on Elvis panels as I am a HUGE fan of the Elvis movies. This year’s panel was much better than last year’s. Tom Brown of course hosted. The first guest was Michael Dante from Kid Galahad, one of my top 10 favorite Elvis movies. The next guest was Millie Perkins, who I was most excited about. Millie was in Wild in the Country, my second (a very close second) favorite Elvis movie. Millie also played Elvis’ mother Gladys in the 1990 tv series Elvis, which is also a favorite of mine. Millie was very funny and candid during her interview. She looks amazing for 82! The next guest was Ginny Tiu, who was one of the little girls in Girls Girls Girls – another one of my top 10 favorite Elvis movies. She is an amazing pianist and played a tribute to Elvis for us. The final guest was Darlene Love, who was in Change of Habit and the ’68 Comeback Special. Steve Binder, who produced the ’68 Comeback Special came on stage and surprised Darlene. They hugged. They hadn’t seen each other in over 40 years. It was so sweet. Unfortunately, Darlene was leaving for Germany the next day for the Elvis Festival and wouldn’t be on the ’68 Special panel, so she was really happy Steve came out for a minute to talk with her.
After Conversations, we got in line to meet everyone who was on the panel and get autographs. I met Darlene Love, got her autograph and told her she made a fan out of me last night at her concert and how amazing she was. She said we almost killed her she preformed so long. Luckily, Tracy was nice enough to give me a little flier for the Darlene Love concert, so I had something for her to sign. Next I met Millie Perkins. I was so excited! I mean how cool was it I was meeting Millie Perkins who played Elvis’ mother Gladys (as well as co-starred with Elvis) on the 60th anniversary of Glady’s death?! I introduced myself, and I told her Wild in the Country was my favorite Elvis movie and she was the reason I was at the event. She seemed really appreciative. Millie signed the cover of my Wild in the Country book I had brought (and least I remember that book as I forgot other books and records I could have brought to have autographed). I really wanted a photograph with Millie, but no one else was getting photos and the security guard was ushering me away. As I was walking away, Millie said, “Thanks Deena.” It’s always nice when they remember your name and call you by it. Then I met Michael Dante from Kid Galahad. I bought his book From Hollywood to Michael Dante Way, and he autographed it for me.
As I was waiting for my change from my Micheal Dante book, Tom Brown walked up and I showed him my Jerry’s Girls shirt I was wearing – knowing that Tom is such a good friend of Jerry’s and we mentioned it to him the previous day at the Fan Reunion. Tom liked my shirt and asked me if he could interview me on camera. I don’t know why, but I agreed. (Ok, I know why – because I was thinking at some point Jerry might see it.) I don’t remember exactly what I said because I am not a fan of being on camera. I do remember Tom asking me what it is about Jerry that I liked and about our shirts and my name and where I was from. I do remember telling Tom I liked Jerry so much because he is so nice and was always good to Elvis while he was alive and since his passing. And I told him how Jerry walks and stands just like Elvis, but I can’t remember if I said how good looking Jerry is or how amazing his voice is. I told Tom we have a facebook chat group called Jerry’s Girls for E.P., and my friend Delia designed our shirts. Tom asked if we were friends on Facebook and told me to send him a photo of us in our Jerry’s Girls shirts and he would see that Jerry saw it, so I sent him six photos. Tom also told me he has been trying to get Jerry on Facebook, but Jerry did just join Twitter and Tom thinks he’s his only follower.
It was around 12:30, and Steve Binder’s book signing was to begin at 1pm in the Gift Shop, and even though I was starving with no breakfast and now no lunch I went over and bought the 50th Anniversary ’68 Comeback – Elvis, The Story of the Elvis Special and got in line. Luckily, Steve started signing early at 12:45pm. I introduced myself to Steve and thanked him for taking the time to come to Elvis Week and for doing the ’68 Comeback Special the way he wanted to do it. I finally got to Vernon’s around 1:15 and got my usual five veggie plate with mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, BBQ spaghetti, greens and this new yummy hot pasta salad and corn bread and sweet tea. After, I came back to my room at the Guest House for about an hour to drop off my books and post photos.
I went down to the theater for Inside the Archives at 3pm, and for once I wasn’t the first one of my friends there and didn’t have to save seats for everyone – in fact they saved me a seat in the front row. This was the first time Caroline, Delia, Hannah and myself were together wearing our Jerry’s Girls shirts. The event was hosted by Tom Brown and Angies Marchese, sort of like a live Gates of Graceland. Since it was the 60th anniversary of Glady’s death this Inside the Archives revolved around Gladys. We saw photos, items from her funeral, her dress from Elvis’ induction ceremony and many, many other items. We learned Elvis sent flowers to her grave every week until he died. Tom and Angie took questions from the audience. It was over at 4pm. It was a great, free, event and even better for me since it was in the Guest House where I was staying. After, Jerry’s Girls took photos (to send to Tom Brown) and hung out in the lobby. We saw Dr. Cissy Houston (as in Whitney Houston’s mother) checking in, and Delia was very excited and wanted her photo with her. So I took it for her and then got in on one too. Cissy was so sweet. She told us how much she loved and missed Elvis – Cissy sang with Elvis as part of the Sweet Inspirations.
At 5pm, we walked down the hallway to Delta’s for dinner. We got the early bird special (20% off between 5-6pm). I wasn’t overly hungry after my huge late lunch at Vernon’s, so I ordered two small plates. I got the bacon wrapped shrimp and the fried green tomatoes – and of course sweet tea. The bacon wrapped shrimp were ok (there were three large ones), but the fried green tomatoes with cheese and some sort of sweet sauce were amazing! I’m definitely ordering those again. As our food was being served, I saw Millie Perkins walk across the restaurant heading toward the door, so I assumed she had finished eating and was on her way out. She sat on the bench next to the door, so I thought it was a good time to approach her for a photo (with the encouragement from my friends). I reminded Millie we had met earlier that day, but I would really like a photo with her. She said yes but she was trying to find someone, so I took a quick selfie and thanked her. Millie thanked ME for asking to take a photo with her. Again, she seemed so appreciative. Millie Perkins is the sweetest lady! She might have even edged out Shelley Fabares as my favorite Elvis co-star, maybe. A few minutes later, she walked back into the restaurant with Michael Dante (from Kid Galahad) and his wife. It was at that moment I realized she hadn’t eaten yet and she was looking for Michael when I interrupted her. They sat at a table across from us – Wild in the Country meets Kid Galahad. We tried not to stare. As we were leaving, I waved goodbye to Millie, and she waved and said goodbye back.
By this time it was after 6:30, and we had to head over to the Gospel Concert at EPM at 7pm in the Sound Stage. It was a good show, but the same as every year. But still it’s always fun to see the same groups who were on stage and sang with Elvis. First The Imperials, then The Stamps, then both together. I enjoy The Stamps, but could do without The Imperials. I was back in my room before 9pm. I posted my photos and videos on all three of my sites and journaled. Three and a half hours later, I was finished. (This vacation was like a job, except I didn’t get paid.) I put on Frankie and Johnny to fall asleep to. I always forget Jerry Schilling has a small part in it. To see all of my photos from Day 5, please click here.
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 15th – ELVIS WEEK DAY 6
After a decent night’s sleep, what was going to be a long day (the Candlelight Vigil was that night) started with Conversations on Elvis: Gospel at 10am at the Sound Stage. The event was hosted by Andy Childs and the first guest was Dr. Cissy Houston. Before she left, Cissy told Andy how good looking he is to which is blushed. Next were Terry Blackwood and Jimmy Murray from The Imperials, then Bill Baize, Ed Hill, Donnie Sumner and Larry Strickland from The Stamps. Donnie Sumner was as hysterical as ever. I did not stick around and wait in the long line for autographs as I stupidly forgot my Donnie Sumner book – and I thought I had thought of everything this time. After, I went back to the Guest House and had lunch at EPs. I had the Delta Burger (a double cheeseburger) with sweet potato fries and sweet tea. Then I relaxed up in my room for about an hour.
Around 1:45pm, I headed down EP Blvd to Elvis Con at the new Holiday Inn & Express. I specifically went at this time on this day to finally meet Billy and Jo Smith, who were only going to be there from 2-4pm on Aug 15th. Billy is Elvis’ first cousin, and they were very close almost like brothers. Billy and Jo were with Elvis playing racquetball with him on August 15th the night before he died (technically it was around midnight 1am on the 16th the morning before he died). And I was about to meet them on August 15th 41 years later. Since it was before 2pm, I went to Cynthia Pepper’s table first. (Cynthia co-starred with Elvis in Kissin Cousins.) I have met Cynthia before, but never had her book Pigtails, Presley and Pepper A Hollywood Memoir with me for her to sign. I introduced myself to Cynthia, told her how much I enjoyed her book and asked her to please sign her book for me. Cynthia is so sweet. She kept repeating how glad she was I liked her book. I then went over to what I thought was going to be the Girl Happy table. Since Girl Happy is my favorite movie, I was little disappointed there were only two photographs from the movie. I thought there might be lobby cards and other memorabilia. Dan Haggerty was famous as Grizzly Adams, but had a bit part in Girl Happy. Sadly, Dan is no longer with us so his manager and friend Terry Bomar was there representing him. Terry is a really nice guy. I bought his book Dan Haggerty The Man I Knew, which is about his friendship with Dan during his last year. I am a sucker for a memoir especially if I meet the person and/or they even the slightest connection to Elvis. Terry signed his book for me and also signed an 8×10 black and white Girl Happy photo I bought with Dan in it. He told me Dan always signed his name with a paw print. I was still kind of talking with Dan when this man at the other end of the table called me over. He gave me a plastic sleeve for my photo because he said Terry was too cheap to give me one. I looked at the items in front of him and realized he was Don Collier from Paradise Hawaiian Style, and I blurted out, “You’re Dan Collier from Paradise Hawaiian Style! I love that movie.” Don said, “Yeah that was a good one.” I bought Don’s 8×10 color photo of his scene from Paradise Hawaiian Style, and he signed it for me. I really enjoyed talking with Don Collier. He was nice, funny and sarcastic. I am kicking myself for not getting a photo with him.
I got in line to meet Billy and Jo Smith. While in line, I met Sandy Clark. She told me she friended me on Facebook because she saw I won Janice Fadal’s giveaway contest and wanted to congratulate me. Her daughters are Elizabeth and Mary Clark. Elizabeth was the one with Janice the previous day at the Book Sale, and Mary is a photographer for EPE I keep seeing and chatting with at all the events. Sandy and Elizabeth helped with Janice’s book. Janice Fadal came up to me while I was in line to show me the ring she got from Tish Henley and thanked me for inspiring her when she saw my rings the previous day at the Book Sale. When I made it up to the front of the line, I introduced myself to Billy and Jo Smith and told Billy how excited I was to finally meet him after all these years. He was really touched. I thanked him for taking the time to greet the fans, and he said he was going to go to more events like this. I asked both Billy and Jo to sign their book Elvis Aaron Presley Revelations from the Memphis Mafia for me, since both of them contributed to it. I asked for a photo with them, and they graciously obliged. Billy is very short and I am very tall, so we made a joke how maybe he should stand on the bench behind us. (I ended up squatting down.) Their sons were there talking with Angie Lacker, Marty’s daughter. It was sweet to see the gang all back together again.
I left the lobby and went into the conference room to look for Tish Henley and see what new Lowell Hayes ring she was telling me about at the Book Sale. It is an owl ring. Tish told me Elvis designed it some time after 1972. She gave me a postcard photo with Elvis wearing the ring while holding Lisa Marie. The ring isn’t real gold or diamonds, but it is made in the same mold used to make Elvis’ ring. I turned around and there was Patsy Lacker, Marty’s wife. I bought Marty’s book Elvis Portrait of a Friend last year at the Elvis Week Book Sale and it was signed my Marty, so I wanted to get Patsy to sign it as well since she wrote a section in the book. I introduced myself and asked her to sign my book and showed her that Marty had already signed it and she said, “Yeah that’s Marty’s handwriting.” I told Patsy hers was my favorite part of the book and it was cool to get the wife’s perspective for once rather than just the guys’ side. Patsy was genuinely touched and really appreciative I wanted her to sign the book. Stupidly, I did not get a photo of Patsy signing it. I was too busy talking with her.
I came back to my room at the Guest House to rest before the Candlelight Vigil. Around 4:45pm, I went over to EPM and somehow got a front row parking space on the busiest night of the year. I walked through my favorite Elvis the Entertainer Career Museum. I hung out in the movie exhibit as I do each time I visit. I closely looked at everything then sat down to watch the movie compilation. Then I walked through the Gospel exhibit again, paying more attention this time. I noticed a book about the Blackwood Brothers, Elvis’ favorite gospel group. I immediately got on Amazon to look it up. I went to the collectibles and ordered a first edition signed by Terry Blackwood, James Blackwood and Cecil Blackwood – for only $22! (Then a week later when the book arrived at my house, I was flipping through it and saw it was also signed by JD Sumner!) Before leaving, I of course stopped to watch Elvis’ 10 Outstanding Young Men acceptance speech, which is my favorite. I walked over to Lisa’s new exhibit again and quickly walked through it before going to Gladys’ to rest before the Vigil. I talked with Tracy and Sherry for a bit then settled into a booth and started watching Girls Girls Girls on my kindle fire, which I brought for the long night.
Around 6:30pm, Caroline joined me. We got our pizzas just like last year, but this year they only took about 10 minutes not an hour and a half. The whole place was empty, unlike last year when it was insanely crowded (for the 40th Anniversary). Around 7:30, we went over to talk with Elvis artist Joe Petruccio. I reminded him I was the one who bought his last You’ll Never Walk Alone Jerry Schilling and Elvis painting and asked if it would ever be made into a shirt like his other paintings. Joe said Graceland wouldn’t allow it because Jerry was on it – or something like that. Just before 8pm, Caroline and I walked down to the Gates of Graceland to get our spot for the Opening Ceremony of the Candlelight Vigil. We saw Marr and Delia, and Delia told us she was lighting the candle this year. We made sure we got a spot close enough so we could see her. After the ceremony, we met up with Cissy and the three of us went back to Glady’s to cool off and rest before we got in line for the Vigil. I don’t like to get in line until after midnight, so it’s actually August 16th. Around 10:15 or so Randy and Shantay came in and said there was no line. Afraid they were going to shut it down, we decided to go down. There was no line on the street and we were walking through the gates at 11pm and back down through the gates at 12:30am. I wasn’t emotional like last year. I did see Glady’s headstone from Forest Hills that was placed there on Tuesday. I realized we were in the Meditation Garden around 12:15am and looked over at the Racquetball Building and realized it was about this time 41 years ago Elvis was in there playing racquetball with Billy Smith. I jokingly asked one of the employees (who I kept seeing everywhere) if I could just run into the Racquetball Building real quick. He laughed. Even though it was probably the earliest I had ever finished the Candlelight Vigil, I still didn’t go to sleep until after 3am after posting photos and journaling. To see all of my photos from Day 6, please click here.
THURSDAY AUGUST 16th – ELVIS WEEK DAY 7 – 41st ANNIVERSARY OF ELVIS’ DEATH
After only about five hours sleep (if that), I woke up around 8am but stayed in bed and finished watching This Is Elvis from the night before. I got up and got ready for Conversations on Elvis: ’68 Comeback Special 50th Anniversary at the Sound Stage at 10am. Tom Brown hosted and the first guest was Tanya Lemani George, who was the belly dancer to “Little Egypt” on one of the produced segments of the ’68 Special. She had a real love and appreciation for Elvis. Next up was Billy Goldenberg, the music director of the ’68 Special, who became the star of Elvis Week because he was so funny and entertaining. Tom Brown didn’t even have to ask one question. Billy was just telling stories, the funniest of which were about how he was scared Joe Esposito was going to kill him if he messed up. Next up was Allan Blye, who wrote the production numbers for the ’68 Special – my least favorite parts. The final guest was Steve Binder who created, produced and directed the ’68 Comeback Special. After Conversations, I got in line to get Tanya’s book Have Belly Will Travel and of course she signed it for me. She was very nice. Again kicking myself I did not bring my ’68 Comeback Special album for everyone to sign. Oh well!
For the first time ever, I toured Graceland on August 16th. I walked through the front door at 1:10pm around the same time Elvis passed away 41 years ago. Of course I spent time in my favorite living room and foyer. I just stared at the foyer ceiling (because above there is where Elvis died) and looking upstairs just imagining what it was like 41 years ago. I spent time in the racquetball building where Elvis spent his last night and of course in the Meditation Garden at Elvis’ grave.
I finally ate my first meal of the day at 2pm at Vernon’s, but this time I had the chicken tenders with mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, banana pudding and sweet tea. After, I ran into Tracy and Sherry as I was walking to my car. We went over to the Open House at the New Graceland Chapel, which is in between the Guest House and Graceland. It is really nice in the beautiful wooded setting. There are photos of Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding in the back of the chapel and more photos of them in both the Bride’s and Groom’s rooms. While there I met Savannah Fairchild (now Burkholder), who is the Special Events Facilitator for Graceland. She recognized me from Facebook – always good to actually meet people in person you’ve chatted with online. After, I went up to my room to cool off, upload my photos and rest for a bit – I actually took a little nap.
I went over to the Sound Stage for the ’68 Comeback Special 50th Anniversary event at 7pm. It was great! The ’68 Special was shown on the big screen. Everyone from Conversations that morning were there – Steve, Billy, Allan and Tanya. Each one of them introduced a segment. Elvis’ suits were on stage during each segment – they brought them out of the museums and were on stage right in front of me! The best part was the Gospel choir on stage singing live during the Gospel segment and “If I Can Dream.” After the show, I was hungry since I missed dinner so I got a sausage and pepperoni flatbread from EPs at 9pm and took it up to my room to eat while watching the ’68 Special on loop and uploading my photos and videos. Then around 11pm I put on Blue Hawaii to go to sleep. To see all of my photos from Day 7, please click here.
FRIDAY AUGUST 17th – ELVIS WEEK DAY 8
For whatever reason, I woke up at 6am and journaled and then got ready for the last Conversations – Conversations on Elvis: Elvis Connections at 10am in the Sound Stage. This was definitely the least exciting of the Conversations this week, but I went mostly because I wanted to meet Ann Moses whose book I read last year. First up though was Donna Rhodes Morris, who is part of the Rhodes family who had a band and tv show in Memphis. Early on, Elvis appeared on their show. Elvis held Donna when she was a baby, then she met him when she was 19 and sang on his 1969 American Studios album. Next up was Mark Kogan, who was a concert promoter on tour with Elvis in the 1970s. On August 16, 1977 Mark told Frank Sinatra right before he went on stage that Elvis had died and Frank toasted the audience in Elvis’ honor. Ann Moses, the reason I was there, was next on stage. Ann was the editor of Tiger Beat, so I really enjoyed her book – lots of great stories. Ann was also in the audience for the ’68 Comeback Special, met Elvis on the set of Change of Habit, was at the press conference on opening night of Elvis’ return to Vegas in 1969 and was interviewed for Elvis That’s the Way It Is. Billy Blackwood (James Blackwood’s son) of the legendary Gospel family the Blackwoods, and his cousin is Imperials’ Terry Blackwood. Billy played drums for The Voice, Donnie Sumner’s group. The final guest was TG Sheppard, a country singer and friend of Elvis. After Conversations, I got in line so I could meet Ann Moses. I introduced myself and told her I read her book last year on kindle, but since she is here I was buying her book so she could sign it. I told Ann I really enjoyed her book. She was very appreciative I had already read her book and liked it.
After, Caroline and I went to the Cupboard for lunch. Caroline had never been there, so I had to take her to my favorite lunch spot. I got my usual – the four veggie plate. This time I got two eggplant casseroles, mac n cheese and corn pudding. We got mini corn breads with it and of course sweet tea. And I got banana pudding to go. Then we drove by my old house and the crosstown theater before heading over to Flashback. Caroline had never been there either, so I had to take her to my favorite store. She loved all the retro stuff they have. They were selling this big ceramic owl cookie jar that I have that was my grandmother’s. Next, we went to Memorial Park Cemetery and Crystal Shrine Grotto that I had never been to. The grotto was really pretty, but I did not venture too far inside the cave. If I can’t see an exit, I’m not going too far past the entrance. We visited the graves of Red West (Elvis’ friend since high school), Marshall Grant (Johnny Cash’s bassist whom I met the year before he died), Isaac Hayes and Sam Phillips (who started Sun Records). I was disappointed how unassuming Sam’s grave was – actually it was in the mausoleum. Marshall’s grave was gorgeous with a beautiful bench right across from the Crystal Shrine Grotto, but I was kind of freaked out the grass above his grave looked a lot different. We left there and headed back toward Graceland and Caroline showed me where Linda Thompson’s old house was on Old Hickory that Elvis bought her. We also drove by Vernon’s old house on Hermitage where Priscilla stayed when she first moved from Germany.
I was back in my room at the Guest House by 4pm. I posted my photos and wrote in my journal and then went to the Party at EPs Memphis just before 7:30pm when it started. After they let us in, I went straight for the buffet line and grabbed a stand up table. Delia and Caroline joined me shortly after and then Sherri joined us. After we ate, we all went our separate ways. I went directly to the Elvis Entertainer Career Museum to have the movie exhibit all to myself. Before I knew it, it was almost 9:30 and the party was about to end. Caroline and Delia found me and told me there was a great sale in the gift shop, so I bought some mugs and magnets and pens since they were so cheap. Then we went back to the Guest House so they could swim, and I finally got to take advantage of the free peanut butter and jelly bar. I made a really yummy peanut butter and banana sandwich. The pool was closing so they came up and we hung out in the lobby with Sherri. Also in the lobby was the hysterically funny Billy Goldenberg from the ’68 Special. Delia and I talked with him and his wife for a bit – they were so nice! I was back in my room by 11pm, put on Kissin Cousins and went to bed. To see all of my photos from Day 8, please click here.
SATURDAY AUGUST 18th – ELVIS WEEK DAY 9
After a good solid seven hours of sleep, I woke up after 8am, got ready and headed downstairs to the Ballroom for the Elvis Week Brunch at 9:30am. I actually got there at 9:15 and there was already a long line to get in. When we finally got in, I got a table directly across from the stage and saved seats for Delia and Caroline. I got in the buffet line, but it was more breakfast than lunch. Ronnie Tutt, Elvis’ studio and stage drummer from 1969-1977, came out around 10:15. Tom Brown interviewed him and Ronnie told stories about his time with Elvis. I don’t think I have ever heard Ronnie speak by himself. Ronnie is from the Dallas area and was a tap dancing prodigy. The drums were not Ronnie’s first instrument. He played the violin and the trumpet. Around 11am, Ronnie met with the fans. I met Ronnie back in 2009 or 2010 and he signed his drum stick for me, but I did not get a photo with him so this was my chance. I was about fifth in line to meet Ronnie. Again I should have brought my Aloha from Hawaii concert album for him to sign, but I didn’t think of it. I introduced myself to Ronnie and told him we have a saying “It’s All About Drums” because we love drums. He laughed. Ronnie had 8×10 color photos he was autographing and giving away for free commenting “you people pay enough already.” I asked Ronnie if I could get a photo with him, and he said yes. His wife liked my Elvis phone case. Mary Clark, an EPE photographer, got some great shots of me with Ronnie and generously sent them to me.
I went up to my room to organize everything collected throughout the week and pack. About an hour and a half later, I was back at EPs for lunch. I again got that yummy friend green tomato sandwich with pimento cheese, sweet potato fries and sweet tea. I was relaxing in the lobby by 2pm reading, trying to soak up all the Guest House loveliness on my last day. I went out on the back porch for a bit, but it got too hot and the kids got too loud, so I went up to my room and sat by the window with that beautiful view and read. I took a little nap then went over to EPM to meet everyone for dinner at Vernon’s at 6pm. It was Delia, Caroline, Erin, Celeste, Laurie and myself. For my last meal in Memphis, I got my five veggie plate with two mashed potatoes, mac n cheese, BBQ spaghetti, broccoli, corn bread and sweet tea.
We walked over to the Sound Stage for the Elvis Live in Concert at 7pm. Olivia Newton-John’s band played live on stage with The Stamps quartet singing while Elvis was singing on the big screen. Ronnie Tutt joined on drums for the last three songs. I liked this show even better than the 50th Anniversary ’68 Comeback Special event, and I definitely liked it better than the concert with the symphony last year during Elvis Week. I always love these Elvis concerts. Oddly enough, it is like a real concert, like a real Elvis concert. The energy is fantastic! How great it was to watch Donnie Sumner sing while watching Elvis on the screen as if he was watching Elvis on stage. I didn’t cry during the Candlelight Vigil, but I cried twice during this show. I cried when they dedicated “I’ll Remember You” to all the folks who played with Elvis who had passed away – and showed them on the screen. Then I cried again during “American Trilogy” – I always cry during “American Trilogy.” The best part was obviously Ronnie Tutt playing drums live on stage for the last three songs. Brought down the house!
I was back at the Guest House by 8:30pm. I was in the lobby talking with Sherri, Delia and Caroline. Ronnie Tutt walked in, but went straight up to his room. Larry Strickland and his wife Naomi Judd walked in and were immediately mobbed. I went up to my room around 9:30, uploaded my photos, took something for my headache and was in bed by midnight watching Elvis on Tour. To see all of my photos from Day 9, please click here.
SUNDAY AUGUST 19th – MONDAY AUGUST 20th
I woke up around 6am and was pulling out of the Guest House at 7:30am cst to head home. On the way, I stopped at the Patsy Cline crash site in Camden, Tennessee. The memorial was beautiful, like a little park, but it was also a little eerie. I stopped in Dickinson, TN at Love’s for lunch and gas for Big Orange. I pulled into the Days Inn in Bristol, Virginia at 5pm est. I went across the street to Cheddar’s for dinner. It was ok, but I prefer Cracker Barrel, but at least I tried somewhere new. I had the fried cheese and four veggie plate with broccoli and cheese, mac n cheese, green beans and mashed potatoes with sweet tea. I went to sleep early, got up early and was on the road by 5:30am for the final leg of my trip. Six hours later, I was greeted at my door by my excited dogs Elvis and Priscilla. Now to wait 353 days for Elvis Week 2019 – I already made my reservations at the Guest House.