As if you didn’t know, Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer, actor and cultural icon. Today is his birthday, so I thought I ought to give him a shout out.
Because we had a tendency to laugh at practically everything when I was growing up, we laughed at Elvis. But my mother (of all people) always defended him and gave him credit for really being able to sing. She was also, truth be told, kind of fond of his movies, as am I. If there was an Elvis movie on TV, you better believe we watched it. My favorite is Viva Las Vegas with Ann-Margret, his perfect (if you ask me) partner.
Over the years I have come to appreciate Elvis as a cultural icon/entertainer and I would never laugh at him now. Back in the 1990s when the boy’s junior choir went to sing in Memphis, our family went along as “chaperones”–mostly so we could go to Graceland, which is really a very nice home (atrociously decorated).
When I worked at a private school in Richmond, Va in 1979, I had an occasion to go to a party at the boarding department secretary’s home. She and her husband were big Elvis fans and had turned one room into something like a shrine to their hero. (Remember–this was just two years after Elvis had died.) They were perfectly serious and the wound was fresh. I would never have laughed at them.
Anyway, some years after that I saw the classic episode about Elvis on Designing Women, where the ladies, talked into going by Charlene, make the trek to Graceland and Julia hears a sad story from a trucker named Vern. It reminded me of the Charlene-like secretary.
I know now that Elvis was just a broken human being like the rest of us, who liked to sing hymns and eat peanut butter sandwiches and who was awfully good-looking and had amazing hair. And, by the way, E.P. phone home!
TCM is showing Elvis movies all day today, including the aforementioned Viva Las Vegas at 1:15. Unfortunately, I will be at work, but maybe I’ll manage to see a little of Love Me Tender when I get home. The schedule is here.
P.S. Roll, Tide, roll!