King inspires some royal good times
Elvis Week is over but not the memories of some of the week’s Elvis-themed parties, both serious and fun. Here, coverage of four of them.
Elvis may have eaten his first jelly doughnut at Delicious Foods Bakery.
“Probably,” said Pat Booth, whose family owned the bakery that was across McLean from Snowden Junior High School. “He liked our knot bread. He liked everything. At that time he was still living at Lauderdale Courts.”
Pat was among the guests at a brunch Wednesday at Mary and Bud Stonebraker’s home near Graceland. Mary is president of Elvis’s Hometown Fans fan club.
The Presley family bought their bakery goods, including Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding reception items and Lisa Marie’s birthday cakes, at Delicious Foods. The bakery closed in 1981.
When he first started out, Presley and his band used to practice in a big room above University Park Cleaners next to Delicious Foods. The wife of Scotty Moore, Elvis’s guitar player, worked for the cleaners.
Pat’s favorite Elvis story was when he performed at two shows in Tupelo in 1956. She said he had a blue and a red velvet shirt that Natalie Wood’s dress designer made for him. He wanted to wear one during one show and the other at the next show, but one of them was left behind in Memphis.
Elvis said, “Get in touch with George Klein and see if he can get someone to get it there.”
Pat doesn’t know how Klein did it, but about an hour before the second show started, “Here it comes in a Veterans Cab.”
Bernard Lansky, who used to sell clothes to Elvis, was one of the special guests. Bud got Bernard to sign a tan Lansky suit. Bud bought the suit but only wore it once. He said he’s never going to wear it again.
Sara Erwin, whose parents’ property backs up to Graceland, also attended. Sara, author of Over the Fence, A Neighbor’s Memories of Elvis, said Elvis used to visit them. She always thought he came over to get away from the crowds.
“None of us ever took a picture of him,” she said. “We respected him.”
Elvis Memphis Style, another fan club, also held a brunch Wednesday at the Shoney’s restaurant on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Proceeds, minus the cost of the food, went to the Memphis Humane Society. Shelley Goforth, executive director of the society, and Nina Wingfield, who is with the society, were there.
“Elvis loved animals, and we’re animal lovers,” said Cyndi Sylvia, fan club president.
A bottle of Graceland wine was among the auction items. “Priscilla designed the label,” said Jean Donovan, the club’s secretary and newsletter editor. “You can see Elvis in the clouds.”
Ira Jones, author of Soldier Boy Elvis, was a special guest. Ira was Elvis’s platoon sergeant when he was stationed in Germany. Elvis also drove Ira’s jeep.
“The first four days he was there, the press could be with him all they wanted,” Ira said. “They were driving him nuts. Every time he’d put on an ill-fitting garment or something, they made a picture.”
Elvis was polite, but he also “knew how to get around a touchy subject better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Ira said. “When somebody called him ‘Elvis the Pelvis’ he just looked at them. I don’t remember what he said. At least the guy knew he wasn’t supposed to do that, and he didn’t do it anymore.”
Elvis would good-naturedly compete with the other soldiers. “They would see who could shine their shoes the brightest. They’d even put a little mud on each other’s shoes and things like that so they’d win.”
Havin’ a ball
You didn’t have to be a hard-core Elvis fan at the 10th annual Dead Elvis Ball at the P&H Cafe Saturday night. You just had to be ready to celebrate the King with dance music by the band Jungle Room.
There was no room to dance, though. By the time the band began playing at 10 p.m. - they did Elvis classics like Burning Love and non-Elvis hits like Love Shack by B-52’s - people were crowding the aisles.
“It’s pretty bizarre,” said Stacy Hesson, a singer and harmonica player for Jungle Room. “The place is huge and full of Elvis.”
Mike Triplett, an alderman for the city of Arlington who was wearing a pair of Elvis-framed sunglasses with sideburns attached, said he dresses up for the Dead Elvis Ball every year.
“Last year I dyed my hair, and it went all over my shirt when I started to sweat,” he said. “Elvis Death Week means a lot to me because when you think of Memphis, Tennessee, you think of Elvis Presley.”
Suzanne Pierce wore a wig to the party because she thought it was “definitely in the spirit of Priscilla,” but she said she was disappointed that more people hadn’t dressed up.
“Memphis is still a pretty small, conservative town,” she said. “Even on nights like this.”
George and Karen Parr brought their pet plastic lobster, Red, in an Elvis wig to the party. They got Red from a group of people in Gulf Shores, Ala., who are helping Red see the country by each one taking him for a year. They have scrapbooks full of pictures of Red in places across the South.
“Last year, he pitched for the Atlanta Braves,” Karen said. “This year we took him to the vigil at Graceland. He had his own candle and everything. His wig looked a little better then. It’s the humidity, you know?”
Nancy Heaton, who was tending bar at the P&H on Saturday night, said she didn’t know if they would be able to do the Hunka-Hunka Burnin’ Love Dance Contest later because of the crowd.
“We want a packed house,” she said, “but we still want people to move and have fun. Usually people can dance in the aisles.” That’s what happened when the contest finally took place.
“I love it when this happens,” said owner Wanda Wilson, referring to the crowd. “Of course, it’s fun and exciting, but these are not the people who keep my business going. It’s the people who are here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday who keep me in business.”
Two shrines to the King were the centerpiece of the annual Elvis Anniversary Celebration in the parking lot of Greenstar Sales and Leasing on Poplar on Saturday night. One was a collage of photographs and copies of Elvis paintings hung on the side of an RV and the other a ceremonial toilet flickering under the glow of a strobe light.
“I can’t say we’re big Elvis fans,” said Greg Smithers, one of the 10 hosts. “But it’s a great excuse to get together and to meet new people.”
Smithers and his wife, Elizabeth, met at the Elvis party four years ago.
“Some friends introduced us,” Elizabeth said. “We were the two out-of-towners at the party then. I’m originally from Clarksville (Tenn.), and I was invited by a co-worker that year who was a host.”
“The King brings people together,” Greg added. “If he hadn’t died, we never would’ve met.”
Matt Crow, a first-year guest at the celebration, said he and his wife, Alice, were both Elvis fans but were still having a great time.
“The spirit of Elvis lives within me,” he said. “The question of whether he’s dead or alive is moot, because Elvis transcends all conventional forms of matter. He’s just there.”
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