Thanks to my company’s annual trade show in Las Vegas, I finally got to see ELVIS-A-RAMA. None too soon, either. The museum will shut down for good on August 15 this year. Do you think there’s any significance that the death of ELVIS-A-RAMA will come one day before the anniversary of Elvis’ death? The good news is that the memorabilia will not be permanently lost to us fans. It will be sent to Memphis, added to the extensive EPE collection, and ultimately will be part of Elvis-themed attractions in Las Vegas and other major cities.
I’m glad I took in ELVIS-A-RAMA, and I got my money’s worth for the $13 admission cost. Visitors with only a casual interest in Elvis could probably blow through the exhibits in 30 minutes, but I stayed there for over two hours. The 4 cars, 3 rings, 9 pendants, 4 guitars, 9 layman badges, 4 guns, 2 jumpsuits, and dozens of other clothes items catch every visitor’s eyes. Plus, there were brass plaques that gave the history of nearly every significant item.
Some folks barely noticed the wall covered with every Elvis 45 and album released during his lifetime. Not me. I loved the year-by-year approach, each with a plaque telling that year’s highlights in record rankings and sales figures. Below the plaques were the releases. I learned that Elvis’ five Sun Records singles came with printed picture sleeves. I had never seen them before.
I spent a lot of time with all the paper documents contained in eleven, tall, freestanding, two-sided display panels. There were tickets, contracts, letters, receipts, photos and all kinds of other stuff. I took time to read all the descriptive plaques and really studied the items on display. Now I know that Elvis’ phone bill for the entire month of May 1963 was only $6.84, for example. I do have one complaint. Each side of the displays had three framed sections. The top one was a little high for comfortable reading. The middle one was perfect, but the bottom one was only 6 inches off the ground. My knees were so sore after squatting up-and-down to read everything. Several times I wished I had a flashlight, because it was tough to read the plaques when they were at the very bottom.
The sources for much of the museum’s collection were revealed in the various plaques. As mentioned in a previous Elvisbog article, some key items came form Jimmy Velvet. Norman Taurog, who directed eight Elvis movies, provided much of the movie memorabilia. A lot of Elvis’ personal items were purchased from Trish Henley, who was his nurse for eleven years and lived behind Graceland with husband, a guard for the mansion.
Of course, there is a gift shop as part of the ELVIS-A-RAMA experience, but it’s pretty cool. In addition to the usual coffee mugs, pocketbooks, and T-shirts, there is actual memorabilia for sale. One of the most expensive was a shirt owned by Elvis going for $4,000. The price includes two 1973 photos of him wearing the shirt. I was impressed with the presentation of a ticket from Elvis’ 1956 concert in Tupelo ($1.50 face value). For $99 you can buy it in a large framed and matted collection of photos and other mementos of the event. A similar framed presentation was used to offer a set of five Sun Records colored-vinyl 45’s. It is an impressive sight, but the price was $875. That seems pretty steep for bootlegs.
All in all, I’m glad I finally got to visit ELVIS-A-RAMA. If you travel to Las Vegas in the next seven months, be sure to see it.
© 2006 Philip R Arnold www.elvisblog.net