As the 29th anniversary of Elvis' passing draws near, I can't help but reflect back to that hot summer day almost 30 years ago when we heard the news that Elvis Presley had died. Utter shock and disbelief are terms often used to describe what we, his dedicated fans felt, and the overwhelming sense of loss, anxiety and desperate sadness was far greater than mere words could ever convey.
Who could have known for sure that 30 years later he would still be so highly acclaimed,honored and most amazingly, still SELLING! That his legacy would survive the most horrendous outpouring of vile criticism, gossip,rumors and character assaults ever leveled at a public figure in the aftermath of his death?
The preposterousness of some of the stories is etched in our memory forever... sleazequeen Gail " Sewer " ( uh,Brewer ) Giorgio assembled a labyrinth of ridiculous and easily explained "clues " that Elvis faked his own death and was still alive.Yeah, sure.Dee Stanley claimed he was intimate with his Mother. Nice one, Dee.David Stanley maintained he comitted suicide. Dr.Nick' s contention was Elvis was murdered, perhaps by a lethal karate chop. Charlie Hodge insisted bone cancer. Author Albert Goldman wrote that 5lb. book full of the most hateful, demeaning garrrrrbage.
Could the reputation of any human being on the face of the earth have withstood such malevolent persecution and remain virtually unscathed, continuing to set world records thirty years posthumously?
Certainly Elvis never would have thought so. Toward the end of his life, he expressed concern that he had not created anything memorable enough to stand the test of time.In her book, " ELVIS AND KATHY ",singer Kathy Westmoreland quotes Elvis as saying to her in 1977," How will they remember me? They're not going to remember me. I've never done anything lasting. I've never done a classic film like I wanted to do ".Boy, was he way off base.
We have had " Elvis ", thankfully, for about fifty years now. If any legend has stood the test of time, it is that of Elvis Presley.
The question now is, what does the FUTURE hold for Graceland, the Elvis Presley Archives, his music catalog and most importantly, his millions of devoted fans?
I stress " the fans " because, as Elvis admitted many, many times." without my fans, I wouldn't be where I am ". So it is important to realize that we, the fans, are actually in control of EPE's destiny. As anyone knows, the worth of any commodity is determined by it's demand in the marketplace.The most intense and loyal members of the Elvis fanbase are arguably the ones that have a personal attachment to his memory, i.e, the fans who " grew up " with Elvis, saw his movies, went to his concerts, bought his records, joined fan clubs, etc. during his lifetime. Are we not the primary supporters of Elvis product? This is not to suggest that fans who discovered Elvis post-1977 cannot be as diehard and dedicated, but you know what I mean.
Will the upcoming youth generation be as interested, influenced or fascinated with Elvis as we have been, or will his relevance eventually fade away? Will the internet-savvy kids of today playing videogames, programming ipods and being weaned on hip-hop culture become the future Ernst Jorgensen's of the world? I doubt it!
Realisticly, as the " original " fans pass on, the passion level for " all things Elvis " will most likely diminish to a fraction of what it has been in the past. I personally have seen a noticeable drop -off since, say 1992.
The harsh reality of demographics dictates that this " original " legion of fans are basicly between 40 and 60 years of age or older. You know what that means...that we are slowly becoming an extinct species. So my theory is, whatever Elvis material is " in the vaults " should all be released within the next 5-15 years if it is to reach it's maximum audience. Let's face it, there will ALWAYS be Elvis fans, but what KIND of Elvis fan?
Of course, with technology advancing in leaps and bounds, who knows what amazing reincarnations of Elvis can manifest themselves in the future. Could anyone have predicted in 1973 that the " Aloha " concert would serve as the video genesis for the " virtually live " ELVIS THE CONCERT shows?
" Before Elvis,there was nothing "- John Lennon
" AFTER Elvis ,there was nothing! " -Steve Barile
Many times I have heard fans lament " I hope ( this or that Elvis performance ) is released before I die ". How true. As fellow " Elvis Squad " writer Steve Barile passionatly conveyed in a recent " Barile's Alternate Take " column titled " Greed, Lies and Videotape ", stating basicly, " you can't take it with you,folks ". Some good advice might be to share and enjoy what Elvis material you have with fellow EP collectors while we are still around to care!
Precisely why I am such an advocate of the FTD/Follow That Dream collector's label. Although many fans complain they cannot keep up financially with the release schedule, FTD is " getting stuff out there " while we are still alive to enjoy it. Isn't that better than having it languish in the vaults? Are any of us getting any younger?
In fact, if I had my way, there would be additional releases, especially in the realm of video. Wouldn't it be fantastic to have a dvd release of the unseen footage originally slated for the THAT'S THE WAY IT IS Special Edition video? Who else was at the theatrical premiere at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis-August, 2001 when editor Rick Schmidlin announced to a packed house that this unreleased 60 minutes of bonus material would be included on the dvd release of TTWII-SE? I remember, I was there. I can also remember the grave disspointment when it never materialized!
What does the future hold for EPE and the Elvis fans now that Mr.Sillerman has taken over? Does it mean the grass-roots level Elvis-world entrepenuers will be keelhauled en masse? I hope not. Part of the charm and excitement of being an Elvis fan/collector has always been never knowing what new Elvis discovery might lie ahead. I think it would take alot of fun out of the hobby if EVERYTHING was sanctioned, authorized, zoned, licensed and officialized. Don't you?
I am not suggesting EPE surrender the fort to pirates, hustlers and bootleggers, but little things, like closing the two independant Elvis souvenir shops at Graceland crossing-has caused great concern for many fans, myself included. Does this mean anyone not " officially authorized " will be shut down? The individual, personalized touch that a " fan " brings to an Elvis convention, charity event, fanclub or business enterprise is incalculable. Hopefully the outcome of all this Elvis-world reshuffling will settle comfortably somewhere between the two factions.
I have chosen to remain hopeful that many positive changes are in store under the new regime...but only time will tell.
In the meantime, know that nothing lasts forever and that for everything " Elvis " you give, something else is likely to come back. So if you have some interesting Elvis material, such as rare photos you'd like to share, feel free to contact fellow Elvis fans like myself (email@example.com) and make someone's day!
As for Memphis this August...see you there!
Thanks for listening--any fellow Elvis fans with comments or rare-Elvis tips, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Russo © 2006