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. (I had driven 9 1/2 hours the previous day from Maryland.) Originally I had planned to stay in Knoxville and just leave whenever and leisurely drive to Memphis, since the Elvis Week 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. 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 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 (which is included in the video at the end of this post), living at Graceland and her career. I literally took a photo of everything in the exhibit – 86 photos in all. To see all of my photos from this day, please click here.
SATURDAY AUGUST 11th – ELVIS WEEK DAY 2
I toured Graceland, the new Gospel Exhibit, grabbed lunch and was at the Sound Stage by 11:30 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 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 (it is included in the video at the end of this post). After Lisa finally left the stage, John Jackson from Sony joined Andy and Joel on stage. They showed us this great documentary on the making of Where No One Stands Alone and Elvis Gospel in general. We didn’t get out of there until about 3:15.
I went over to Minnie’s to grab a quick ice cream then toured through Marty Stuart’s new Hillbilly Rock exhibit and 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. To see all my photos from this day, please click here.
It was an amazing two days with Lisa Marie Presley before Elvis Week really kicked off.