Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day 51

They Say That Every King Has A Palace But This One Had A Home.

Graceland is on what is now known as Elvis Presley Boulevard - number 3734 to be exact. It was built by a wealthy Memphis newspaper publisher called SE Toof. He named the estate after his daughter, Grace. When he passed away, she inherited it and eventually gave it to her niece Ruth Moore in 1939. Elvis bought the estate from Ruth in 1957 at the tender age of 24. He lived there until his death in August of 1977 and gave it large the entire time. There were always people visiting - 24 hours a day and Elvis was constantly surrounded by his loved ones. It was the only place that he truly felt comfortable, so when he was touring extensively he would have his hotel rooms remodeled like his favourite rooms in Graceland before his arrival to make it feel like home.

The tour of his house only includes the downstairs in order to preserve the privacy of his life but it is incredible. And very fascinating because the King had really quirky taste.

It begins with the sitting room that is just inside the front door to the right of the entrance. Apparently, he spent a lot of time with his parents in this room and loved the big white couch that you can see reflected in the second photo.

Next is the dining room where he would entertain guests and serve huuuge meals.

Walking through the dining room leads into the kitchen, which was very low lit but contained all of the essential mod cons of the day.

After the kitchen, you walk downstairs to one of the rooms that Elvis would hang out in and watch TV. Actually, he would watch three TVs - at once. There is also a bar and some sort of strange white monkey on the table. It also has a turntable and some of his record collection. The whole room is done in yellow and white and the back wall has the trademark lightning bolt that he used with the TCB moniker (Takin' Care of Business).

The next room is the pool room

The next room was one of his quirkiest (and favourites) - the 'jungle' room. It's basically another sitting room with furry furniture and a huge green shag carpet the whole way around. But it also has a waterfall that he used to sit and listen to. And more monkeys. Apparently the room also acted as a studio and when friends came over they would jam and record songs together.

That was the end of the rooms that the public can see. The next section was a room that contained some of his and the family's things. There were clothes, furniture, office equipment and some of his sports equipment from his teenage years. My favourite thing was his 'mobile' telephone.

The view of the house from the back garden. Well, part of the back garden.

Walking across the garden, brought us into a shed (of sorts) that contained an enormous amount of pictures, posters, memorabilia and of course gold records. The first room had exhibits from the beginning of his career when he was referred to as the young man with the big beat.

That room led into a long, long, long hallway that contained some (but nowhere near all) of his gold and platinum records.

The next room was dedicated to his movie career. It contained every poster from his 31 films as well as many records, props and costumes as well.

By this time my head was spinning from trying to take everything in. But the most amazing thing was yet to come. We had a short walk into the building that was his racquetball court. He was interested in the game, so he had his own court built that also contained a sitting room with leather couches. The piano that he supposedly played only hours before his death is also contained in the room. But when you walk through to what used to be the court you see this:

Every bit of wall space around the entire room is covered in gold, silver and platinum records. As well as awards and special recognitions. There is also a big screen TV that plays excerpts from concerts and there are cases that contain some of his more famous jumpsuits. It is totally unbelievable.

The tour finishes in the meditation garden where you can walk past the grave sites of him, his parents and his grandmother. It is very well done and very touching, especially the inscriptions on all of the tombstones.

After all that we were tired and hungry. But there was more to see. We started with some of his car and motorcycle collection. In this section, you can see some of his bikes, his Ferrari Dino, MG, Stutz Blackhawk, pink Cadillac Fleetwood, Lincoln Continental, Rolls Royce and numerous carts, buggies and sleds.

We then legged it into a special exhibition - his jumpsuits. There were hundreds of them. It was interesting to read how they started very simple and were modelled on karate gis, evolved into suits with belts and intricate stitching and eventually became the famous suits full of thousands of beads, studs and sequins. All of the suits were made by hand and had to be personally approved by the King himself. And in his own words:

Our last stop was to look at his two planes. He had is own Boeing 737, named after Lisa Marie and a smaller plane that was used for short distance traveling.

It was a fabulous day but we probably didn't give it as much time as we could have. You really need to spend an entire day there or even go back for a second day to properly see and take in everything. But we had to move on - next stop Colleyville, Texas.

We took 55N, then 40W to Little Rock and then 30W to Texarkana. We stopped for a quick bite before continuing to Dallas. We hit some really heavy thunderstorms along 30 just before Hope, where Bill Clinton was born.

After 11pm, we arrived at my aunt's house in Colleyville totally knackered from sightseeing and driving. Still, we had enough energy for a beer and a chat with my aunt to begin telling her all about our exploits. Then it was time to hit the scratcher (or couch in my case). And I hit it hard.

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