Angie Marchese started working at Elvis Presley's Graceland over 23 years ago while still in high school, as a tour guide. Today, she is the archival director for the museum and Presley household. The Memphis native travels the country showing items off from the Presley estate, and Rocks Off was lucky enough to snag a visit.
Tuesday, morning Marchese and Graceland public relations coordinator Alicia Dean arrived at the Houston Press offices to show us some of the King's personal effects, including his wallet, a pair of his trademark gold sunglasses, his Golden Globe award for the concert film Elvis On Tour, and his daughter Lisa Marie Presley's baby footprints from the day she was born.
Also included in the haul was a pair of Elvis-style shades worn onstage by Katy Perry herself .
All of these items are included in new exhibits at the Memphis homestead, "Icon: The Influence Of Elvis Presley", "Elvis On Tour", and "Elvis...Through His Daughter's Eyes." The exhibits opened just a weeks back. This year also marks the 35 years since Presley passed away, in August 1977, so Graceland will be extremely busy this summer.
I didn't get to touch the items, only Marchese did with a pair of white gloves, but I did get in plenty of gawking time. Believe me, folks, I tried to wear the King's shades. That would have been an epic Facebook moment for sure.
Marchese has seen the goals of Graceland change and vary since she joined the staff. The storyline has changed somewhat. In the beginning, the tour guides were preaching to the choir, fans and teary-eyed devotees who knew every facet of Presley's life were pouring into the house.
As time has gone by, though, Graceland is having to transition into educating younger people about Presley's pop-culture significance and explain his influence on modern music, which is mind-boggling. The groups of fans who grew up on Elvis from his beginnings in the pop world are dwindling year by year, and Graceland is having to keep up.
We do live in a world where the younger set didn't know that Titanic was based on a true story, so it makes sense that the Graceland folks are trying to be proactive. Marchese says that the future of the museum and home site is bright, with anniversaries and milestones coming every few years to reignite interest.
On Tuesday Marchese let us peruse his monogrammed wallet, full of gas cards, credit cards, various membership credentials, his SAG card, a gun permit and even a clipping from a Memphis paper. He also still had his White House contact info from his Nixon visit years before. Like most guys, Elvis seemed to rarely clean out his wallet.
His sunglasses, the gold ones emblazoned with the "TCB" logo on the side, were made by Dennis Roberts in Los Angeles. Presley traveled with a briefcase full of them. Later in his life he had a few prescription pairs made since he had early-onset glaucoma.
There is no shortage of original Presley artifacts either, seeing that he had at least two other homes besides Graceland. There are endless ways to reintroduce the King for decades to come. For instance, Marchese says that there 4,000 vinyl albums in storage that were owned by the man. Maybe one day we could see a "Elvis: The Record Geek" exhibit at Graceland.
Presley would be 77 years old now, and Rocks Off has done plenty of blogging on what he could be up to these days. Marchese thinks he would have retired from the road long ago by now.
"He would have gone behind the scenes, maybe mentored younger artists. The onstage persona was wearing on him obviously. The level of stamina he needed was straining him. He probably would have gotten back into acting too," she says.
When I bring up the recent Tupac Shakur "hologram" at Coachella and ask if Graceland has ever thought about going this route, she explains it's not so easy as one would think.
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"We have been approached for a Pepper's Ghost-type thing but we declined. In order to make one of these things work, you need a lot of film footage, which we don't have too terribly much of. We have some concert films, but still a lot of the stuff is shaky stuff from fans in the audience."
So don't hold your breath for some magical Elvis hologram tour any time in the near future, sadly. Besides as Marchese says, we had the real thing, and that beats anything and everything else.