The King is Dead


In 1977 I drove from Nashville down to Memphis with no particular plans regarding Memphis. It was just a place to stop on the way to Hot Springs, Arkansas. I had the name of a cheap motel and a vague idea of where it was. But I kept getting lost. Every time I came to about where this major street was supposed to be, there was a different street there. What the hell was going on?

About the fifth time I came to the right/wrong location, it dawned on me ... "Elvis Presley Boulevard" must have just recently been named as such ...

That, I realized, could also explain another strange thing I was seeing....

Down on one particular part of Presley Boulevard was a large mansion-like house with a giant .... and I do mean GIANT creche in front of it. Life size. Bigger than life size. And as gaudy as they come. This was the christmas season ... I had just spent christmas in Louisville ... so the creche made sense. But it was so big!

I have to admit my curiosity got the better of me, and at one point when I knew I needed to turn around (oriented finally to the correct direction to find my cheap hotel) I turned into the gated driveway of this mansion. When my old VW Type 4 square back pulled up into the driveway, I saw a man standing there waving at me like he new me. So I paused for a moment. And he waved me over.

Well, that was a bit strange, but what can I say. I got out of the car and walked over the the big iron gates, drawn by curiosity and drawn in by the strange man who seemed to be holding a few slips of paper. As I approached, he thrust out his hand to shake mine ... through a gap in the partly opened iron gage ... and introduced himself.

"Vesper Presley. ...." Then quiely, somberly, ".... I was his uncle...."

And with that he pressed his business card in to my hand. And closed the gate. And I drove away.

Elvis Presley died on this day, August 16th, 1977.

Although Graceland was the sight of thousands of mourners at the time of Presley's death, and later (to this day, I believe) became a major tourist attraction, I think I arrived on the scene during a lull in the action: Winter, months after the funeral, before the honky tonk shops selling plastic Elvis dolls with clocks in them set up all over the neighborhood, before the 10 anniversary, the 20th anniversary, the 30th anniversary, and so on. But Vesper was still there like a trooper greeting the faithful.

And I'm not even a fan, really.


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