The King is Dead… It Ain’t Nice To Wake the Dead

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The King in better days…when he was alive!

by Shawn Perry

August 16, 1997 – Twenty years ago, Elvis Aaron Presley stopped breathing and seemingly fell off the throne of his toilet bowl. People from around the world were mortified, devastated and stunned. As an entertainer of international proportions, Elvis’ death seemed to surpass his lifetime achievements, drawing an usually large amount of sympathy from both fans and detractors alike. It was the biggest death since Kennedy.

In death, Elvis has become a myth, a folk hero, a historical figure and a national pastime. You can pay tribute to the King by going to Memphis, shelling out $25 and walking around that soul-sucking fortress known as Graceland. You can also go to Las Vegas — where Elvis made his final splash during the 70’s — and pay to see someone pretending to be Elvis. You might even walk away satisfied from the experience, convinced that Elvis is alive and well…at least in a metaphysical sense.

Tonight, as I watch all the TV tributes spill out over the airwaves, it befuddles me as to why today — the day of his DEATH — we call it an anniversary, a time to look back at Presley and his legacy. I don’t recall such fanfare on January 8, the day of his 62nd birthday. Wouldn’t that have made more sense? It just goes to show how ghoulish our society has become, and how we so often try to squeeze the life out of distant memories because we’re so disgusted with our present situation. But hey, don’t let me spoil the party.

This “anniversary” is a BIG deal to Elvis aficionados and curious onlookers who aspire to the pull of media events of this magnitude. On TV, just about every channel has its own slant. The shopping network, QVC, is selling memorabilia — gold records, watches, food processors, cat liter boxes, and any other prefabricated piece of crap they could plaster Presley’s likeness on. Over on VH1, it’s Elvis week in full bloom, with a procession of videos, interviews, specials and performances. TNT is playing 30 hours of Elvis movies. Right now, I’m watching Elvis and Ann-Margaret water ski in VIVA LAS VEGAS. And there’s Uncle Charlie from MY THREE SONS in the role of Ann’s father. Whenever I think of Ann-Margaret, I see her rolling around in chocolate pudding and baked beans in TOMMY. I wonder if Elvis ever saw that movie, and if so, I wonder if that scene made him horny or hungry…

Earlier, I watched an A & E Biography segment on Elvis. They interviewed people like Joe Esposito, one of his best friends, and various other acquaintances — security guards, back-up singers, retired record executives, cousins, gardeners — people who continue to milk the King even as he lay six feet under in the backyard of his estate. Speaking of Graceland, the masterminds and curators of the revitalized tourist attraction — Priscilla and Lisa Marie — have been laying low during the maelstrom of publicity surrounding the 20th anniversary. Now that’s something to celebrate. The last time Lisa Marie uttered a word to the press, she raved about her sexual escapades with Michael Jackson. And Priscilla hasn’t showed her face since making movies with O.J. Simpson. Oh the shame…

A few years back, I was a little peeved with Priscilla because she chose to milk the King even after she ran off and shacked up with a Karate expert. But after some ponderance on this issue, I realized she probably got sick of the Memphis goon squad camping out in the hallways of her home. That and Elvis himself. Undoubtedly, the day he died was a day of rejuvenation for Priscilla. It somehow gave her validation — especially when everyone found out that Elvis was nothing more than a bacon-chomping, buttermilk-drinking zombie who put more effort into pharmaceutical ingestion than making love or decent rock n’ roll.

So Priscilla, like Yoko Ono, took her husband’s name and turned it into a trademark. She has single-handedly transformed the King’s death into a booming cottage industry. If all bets are on, Lisa Marie’s grandchildren won’t have to work a day in their lives. Good thing too, because reports are in that Lisa and her genes don’t have an ounce of talent to do anything of any usefulness. They’ve been relegated to the beaches of France and the trashy tabloids. Maybe that’s a rumor…

Speaking of rumors, more stories of questionable veracity have circulated about the King during the last twenty years than just about anything this side of alien encounters. Often, the two are interchangeable — from Elvis and E.T. touring midwest convenience stores to the King holding court in some underground bungalow with Jim Morrison, Andy Gibb and other dead rock sex symbols, conspiring to kill off the new crop of mutated malcontents like Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor. Elvis might even have plans for the other “King” who married his daughter and maintains a livery of little leaguers on the side. Well, at least, he’d regain a purpose in life.

Let’s face it folks, the King is dead, and it ain’t nice to wake the dead. Millions do it every year as they parade past his burial ground, where he attempts to rest in peace next to the only woman he ever loved — his mother, Gladys. Others do it by holding vigils and seances, striving to stir up a spirited version of “Don’t Be Cruel” from the netherworlds of disjointed imagination. Tonight, in Memphis, Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana and other former bandmates of Elvis will do it when they try to jam with a ghostly image of the King projected on stage, uh, somewhere within striking range and borderline believability.

All of which leads me to the next pressing issue: can a cyber-Elvis be far behind? Or how about a clone? Someone must have had the good sense to scrape off a petri dish of cells before the old Pelvis gave way. What ever the case, leave me to my Sun records, and the beauty of the man with a voice and a guitar. The rest of you can have the glitz and pageantry that goes along with celebrity death.


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