Thirty-Four years may not seem like an anniversary of any particular note but to thousands of Elvis Presley fans it’s as significant as any other number. They descended in droves upon Graceland, former home now turned shrine to the King; a grotesque money making scam celebrating the life of a man too young to die but too fat to live.
The grounds are filled with lookalikes sporting white jump suits, mirror ball glasses, thick black sideburns and paunches too boot, all with candles for a night time vigil. At least Elvis Presley hasn’t suffered the same ignominy as Jim Morrison with posthumous tributes from ‘fans’ including such fare as bottles of vodka, spliffs and even pissing on his grave. Thankfully the gates of Graceland are not decorated with fried cheese sandwiches and double-decker burgers with all the trimmings.
Quite what the fascination is with Elvis and Americans is hard to understand. The singer who passed away on August 16th, 1977 seemed to ascend to god like proportions after his death and even while alive he drew massive crowds of mainly hysterical women who all hoped they’d be the one in Priscilla’s shoes.
Certainly the current scenes at Graceland display a public with no imagination at all, each dressed in the Presley uniform of flares and bling to match whichever colour they choose. The world is infested with Elvis impersonators and on this day every year they all seem to converge on the place where it all went wrong.
The excess in which he lavished himself, though revered and celebrated by many, is in fact utterly disgusting. It is rumoured that the King would buy his fans cars and other expensive trinkets, all of which almost bankrupted him.
Drink and drugs played their part too in the demise of Presley but it seems that his eating disorder and a lack of decent exercise were the real killer in the end. Elvis, you could say, was the progenitor of obesity.
Today his home is a tomb for all those excesses and yet the world still glorifies the life of a man who captured the imagination of a nation and then threw it all away without a single thought for the people who put him there. Elvis was an early blueprint for celebrities like Justin Bieber, Madonna and Lady Gaga, a map for outfit changes and reinvention on a ridiculous scale.
And yet people like Joe Makowski turn a blind eye to all those negatives and still trail the corpse of a long dead career with as much zeal as a Christian in the pursuit of Jesus; perhaps even believing that the King will one day return and save the world from itself.
Such fanaticism is almost an illness in itself; any fanaticism exposes a void in a person’s life which they look to blindly fill with devotion to a being they never knew, yet still project perfection upon them as if they were a canvas on which to paint all their desires for a better self.
Having seen Elvis perform live 81 times, travelling to Las Vegas twice a year between 1971 and 1976, Makowski is unable to let his idol rest and uses the anniversary vigils to meet new and like-minded people.
“I get to meet new fans and meet new people, so that’s why I line up here early in the day, the biggest thing I get out of it is seeing the young fans that weren’t even born until years after he passed away.”
“He helped me break out of my shell because I was kind of a shy kid,” added Makowski.
[adsense]Throughout the day Joe is likely to be joined by up to 30,000 others who wish to share in the “I was there” ceremony, as if by being present they are to be granted entry to the big Graceland in the sky when those burgers and fried cheese sandwiches finally clog their arteries.
Crowds of wannabes have flocked there since 1982 when the vigil became an organised event and it is estimated that around 75,000 people will attend next year’s 35th anniversary. No coincidence then that following the 35th vigil, the world will supposedly end on December 21st.
Elvis Presley, you have a lot to answer for and your fans should learn to live with the living.
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images: channel4.com, spinoff.comicbookresources.com, telegraph.co.uk, manhattaninfidel.com, mytripsaround.com, cbc.ca