Goofing on Elvis — Greensboro, 1972
Kevin Kern, director of public relations for Elvis Presley’sGraceland, is standing in the hallway of YES! Weekly’sGreensboro office at 9:30 a.m. with Archives ManagerDanielle Forbes at his side. She’s pulling a wheeled luggagecase behind her.It’s not exactly the Memphis Mafia, but a tour all the same. They’ve beenon the road drumming up tourist interest in Graceland, which has threeexhibits 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 toElvis includes both the pout of his lips and swoop of his dark brown hairfrom his forehead. He goes on to say that the commemoration celebratesthe King’s influence on music, movies and culture.“It was so much more than a music revolution,” he says.
“It was a sexrevolution and a race revolution, all in one.”Forbes unpacks some items from the luggage case: Elvis’ wallet, LisaMarie’s baby footprints, Elvis’s iconic sunglasses, a pair of Elvis-inspiredgold bejeweled shades on loan from Katy Perry, and the Golden Globefor 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 thetreasures are laid out on his desk.What’s new (or news) about Elvis, you might ask — and I did. Butwhat a visceral thrill to behold something tangible from such a giant ofAmerican culture, someone who breathed his last when I was barely outof diapers.
After pulling on a pair of white gloves, Forbes opens the simple, blackleather wallet to reveal a snapshot of a doting Elvis holding a toddlerLisa Marie. She thumbs through it, pulling out his American Federationof Television and Radio Artists union card, his Blue Cross Blue Shieldinsurance car, his signed Bank Americard, a homely ticket stub and businesscards, 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 theWhite House and suggested that he be made a federal agent in the Bureauof Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. We don’t discuss the drug abuse thatled up to Elvis’ death. We don’t need to.What I didn’t know is that Elvis on Tour features some phenomenalfootage from Greensboro Coliseum. As it turns out, that concert tookplace exactly 40 years ago on April 14.Everyone has their favorite Elvis period, and right now I’m celebratingApril 1972. In this celluloid time capsule Elvis brims with fitness and energy.
His manner and look is both Southern gentleman and agent of highcounterculture weirdness. He is both humbly self-deprecating and wildlyflamboyant. That’s why he was the King.Behold the grand entrance at the coliseum before the concert. Elvisgoofily wears his sunglasses upside down. It’s chaos with frantic femalevoices calling his name.
There is laughter and camaraderie among membersof the entourage.Elvis turns to someone and says, “You know that girl I was with lastnight? Oh man, I’m gonna tell you: She could have raised the dead.”(For what it’s worth, a YouTube commenter says the dialogue wasdubbed over by an actor to conceal the real comment, which was muchmore explicit.)“Elvis did visit here quite often,” Kern says. “It goes to show there’sa base of fans here.
North Carolina was good to Elvis, and I guess youcould also say Elvis was good to North Carolina.”