Category Archives: SEARCHING FOR ELVIS IN …

In Search of Historic Elvis


My son and his fiancé came down from Columbus, Ohio to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.  Because they won’t be coming back again for Christmas, they brought all their presents with them.  When my son set the packages down, he asked, “Do you want to open them now or on Christmas?”  I told him waiting until Christmas was fine.

However, a few minutes later he asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to open one now?”  It was easy to figure out there was a really good present over there, one I was sure to like.  I told him yes, and, boy was that a good move.  He gave me a four-disc DVD set showing every page of every issue of Rolling Stone magazine from 1967 to 2007. 


Because I now own Rolling Stone – Cover to Cover, what would otherwise be a huge pile of back issues in my basement is now 3 discs sitting right next to my computer.  I am going to have so much fun going back through those old issues.

A fourth DVD is a browser you upload so you can search, view and organize the entire archive.  As soon as I got it installed, I went to Search and typed in Elvis.  What else would you expect from the blogmeister at ElvisBlog.  Up popped a list of 1420 Elvis articles.  Wow.  I didn’t think Rolling Stone wrote that much about him.  Then, I discovered that most of the articles merely had a mention of Elvis in the text of a story about another artist. 

Once I zeroed the search in to straight Elvis stories, I needed to decide which one to read first.  I like writing about anniversaries of Elvis events, and I needed a new topic for the next blog.  So, I thought I’d see if they had a story published in December 1969, which would be worthy of a 40th anniversary look back.  Unfortunately, there were no Rolling Stone Elvis articles then, so I just looked for any interesting December story in any year.  I was excited to find, “1981:  A Bad Year for Elvis.”  Hmmm.  How you can have a bad year if you are dead.


Once I read the story, I could see author Dave Marsh’s point.  There were three bummer things that happened in 1981 to tarnish Elvis’ image.  There was Albert Goodman’s hatchet job book titled “Elvis.”  There was the Tennessee trial against Dr Nick for recklessly over-prescribing pills for Elvis.  And there was the report filed by a lawyer for thirteen-year-old Lisa Marie against Col. Parker for taking excessive commissions on Elvis’s income.  I decided to save that article to discuss in a December 2011 blog when it would be the 30th anniversary.

Finally, I found a story from December 1989 titled “In Search of Historic Elvis.”  Author Alan D. Maislen shared his theory that depictions of Elvis showed up throughout history in many different cultures and countries.  He asks, “If Elvis is able to make appearances after his death, shouldn’t he have been able to show up before his birth?”


Before even reading the article, it was apparent that it would be tongue-in-cheek.  After all, we know none of those huge rock heads on Easter Island had sideburns.  Maislen started out by describing Peruvian mountain carvings in the shape of teddy bears, visible only by aircraft.  Then it was Incan priests with rings on chains around their necks.  The next one actually sounded believable until the last line. “… Rouen tapestry that depicts the martyrdom of Saint Joan of Arc.  The figure in the background was assumed to be a Burgundian bishop, chiefly because of his high collared, gold-sequined robe.”  We realize our leg is being pulled when the embroidery along the bottom of the tapestry is translated to “I want a hunk, a hunk of burning love.”

The next mock historical Elvis appearance was my favorite.  It was an Asian culture that once built ornate temples in the jungle and decorated them with an art form they invented — painting on black velvet.

The Rolling Stone article ended with the so-called diary of Walter Reed, the father of the cure for yellow fever.  I love these entries in his journal concerning his first patient:

Hands: Shaking
Knees: Weak.  Can’t seem to stand on own two feet.
Lips:  Like a volcano when it’s hot.
Patient: Delirious, Acts wildly, as if he were a bug.
Question: Why is he all shook up?

Author Maislen continues this section’s Elvis connection with the revelation that Walter Reed discovered the cause of yellow fever to be a mosquito (a bug).  This all supposedly happened in Cuba, the land renowned for its “fuzzy trees.”

I love to find well-written pieces about Elvis Presley, and “The Search for Historical Elvis” is just that.  In addition, it was illustrated by Anita Kunz who created some great historical renderings.


I wish I could give you a link to this wonderful content, but it’s not on the internet.  If your spouse spends close to $100 on you each Christmas, you might tell him/her you would like Rolling Stone – Cover to Cover.  You will love it.  That reminds me.  I need to call my son and thank him for such a really cool present.

©  2009    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved


While we were flying to Rome for our recent vacation, my wife said, “You’re not going to hunt for Elvis stuff again, are you?”  She went on to tell me how stupid that was, considering all the art, architecture and history the city offered. 


Well, I knew in advance that question would be coming, and I had my answer ready.  “I will only search for Elvis goodies while you are shopping.”  That shut her up.  Shopping is a key element of any vacation for her.


One thing she always does is search out the local Hard Rock Café, so she can buy another T-shirt and guitar pin for her collections.  The Rome Hard Rock was conveniently located within reasonable walking distance from the famous Trevi Fountain, so we trekked on over.  It was situated in a very nice section of town, just a block from the American Embassy. 

While my wife was in the Hard Rock gift shop, I asked the hostess where the Elvis memorabilia was located.  I was impressed that she had a three-page list of singers/groups and where all their stuff was displayed.  Most were clustered together in one section, but Elvis was spread around in four spots.  There were seven items in all, but due to their locations, I could photograph only three.  That was enough for me to consider my search for Elvis in Rome off to a good start.

image       image

Elvis Memorabilia at the Rome Hard Rock Cafe

Two days later, we were on a walking tour that included the Roman Forum, the Pantheon and several other sites.  As we walked along the Tiber River, the Castello San Angelo loomed ahead.  This huge stone structure was started in the second century and had been added to several times in later centuries. It has served as a tomb, Papal residence, fortress and castle.  What better place to find dozens of small vendor stands, right?  They sold sunglasses, pocket books, food, tourist knick-knacks, and flea-market junk.  I thought the latter might hold some promise, but I found no trace of Elvis.


However, in a display of books, postcards, posters, etc, I found a 9” x 12” picture of Elvis on tin.  I’ve seen several types of these for sale in the USA, and you probably have, too.  The price in Rome was 15 Euros, (about $23 – the exchange rate over there was terrible), so I didn’t buy it.  Just the same, I was pleased with the discovery and took a picture of it.




Elvis Picture on Tin


Our last day in Rome included a tour of the Vatican Museum, St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, starting at 1:30.  I decided to use my morning free time to walk four blocks from our hotel to a long street market.  We had passed it several times earlier on foot or bus, but couldn’t stop.  It was at least 50% food: fresh produce, meat, cheese and bakery goods.  There were also a few stands selling what I wanted to check out – magazines, CDs and DVDs.
Sure enough, my second stop was a winner.  On a shelf above head height, partially obscured by other items, there sat an Elvis DVD shrink-wrapped to a large placard.  From the illustrations, it was obviously Jailhouse Rock, but the title had been changed to IL Delinquente de Rock & Roll.  It cost 10 Euros (about $16), and I bought it on the spot.
Later, I had our Tour Director translate the title (The Rock and Roll Bad Boy) and several other phrases on the packaging.  About half-way down on the placard, it says, “Action, fun, and lots of music.”  At the bottom, it says, “Elvis has come back.”  That said it all for me.  I was in Rome, and Elvis had come through and satisfied my quest.
The Rock & Roll Bad Boy
After four days in Rome, our vacation took us to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy, and I did not make any serious effort there to find more Elvis goodies.  However, they kept showing up in the most unlikely places during our last week in beautiful Tuscany in northern Italy.
The first was the ancient city of Lucca, completely surrounded by a thirty-foot wide stonewall built 700 years ago.  In a quaint little souvenir shop, I noticed a panel displaying dozens of one-inch wide metal pins.  They depicted everything from Pinocchio to flowers – and, to my surprise, a face-shot of Elvis.  It was priced at only one Euro, so I snapped it up.
Later that day, we went to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower and yet another huge ornate church (you can get churched-out pretty quick in Italy).  As we waited for our bus outside the ancient stone arch entrance to the city, I killed some time at a souvenir stand.  They had a big bin of DVDs, all shrink-wrapped to large cardboard placards.  I flipped through them, and near the end I found another Elvis movie, Frankie & Johnny.  I guess two people’s names don’t get translated into something different in Italian.  Because this movie was never a big favorite of mine, I passed on purchasing it for 10 Euros, but I did snap a picture.
Frankie and Johnny
Three days later, our trip took us to what surely was the most unlikely place to find any Elvis treasures.  Out in the middle of the gorgeous Tuscan countryside, the tiny city of San Gimignano sits isolated on top of a small mountain.  Many ancient Italian cities built protective walls, but San Gimignano had three of them (remnants of the first built by the Roman Empire still exist).  The town also boasted fourteen tall stone towers built many centuries ago by prosperous families as a show of their wealth.
When we first spotted San Gimignano from miles away, I actually said to myself, “This is one place you will never find anything Elvis.”  Wrong.  In a tiny, dungeon-like souvenir shop, I found another Elvis pin.  It had a different photo on it, and it was only one Euro, so of course I bought it.

What Are the Odds of Finding Elvis Stuff in San Gimignano?
My next Elvis discoveries took place in Montecatini, the delightful Tuscan city that served as the base for our day trips throughout the region.  One afternoon, we walked to a local food market to buy some Coke, wine, crackers, cheese and peanut butter (we ate supper in the room that night).  As we wandered through the narrow isles, my ears picked up a familiar sound.  It was the PA system playing “Hound Dog” by Elvis.  I was tickled.  The song ended as we got to the cash register, but “Promised Land” followed it.  An Elvis double play.  Too cool.  After we paid, I wanted to wait and see if a third Elvis song came on, but my wife would have none of that.
My last Elvis fix came one night while we ate pizza in a casual restaurant in Montecatini.  They had a couple of flat-screen TVs on the walls, and music videos entertained us while we ate.  Most were familiar American or English tunes with strange new Italian videos that had no relationship to the lyrics or the singer.  Then something came on that I had previously seen only on the Internet.  It was the remix of Elvis’ old Sun record “Baby, Let’s Play House,” and the video was definitely ‘R’ rated.  I’m pretty sure it never got the Graceland seal-of-approval, but I loved it.
My search for Elvis In Rome had expanded to include Tuscany, and it was a big success.  As I have written in this column many times before, ELVIS IS EVERYWHERE!
©  2008   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved



“Elvis is everywhere.”  That statement has been repeated numerous times here in Elvisblog, and it’s been fun to report the never-ending ways in which the sentiment has been validated.  Some corroborating examples come from news reports, and my web surfing has uncovered Elvis’ presence in plenty of places and on many products, some pretty obscure.  I have also enjoyed the challenge of searching for Elvis stuff in unlikely places like Egypt while on vacation.


So, it is a pleasure to report great Elvis-hunting success during our recent 2700-mile trip through six states to visit four National Parks.  My wife would never put up with Elvis searches in the Parks, so I didn’t even try.  However, the cities in between offered promise, some more than others.  Reno, Nevada was the first stop, and it seemed to have the best chances for success.


Sure enough, the shops In Reno were loaded with Elvis goodies to buy.  The strangest thing I found with Elvis’ name and image on it was a ceramic cookie jar in the shape of an old 50s record player.  The original machines were self-contained units with everything you needed to get music — a turntable, an amp, and a single mono speaker, all inside a 14” X 14” X 8” box.  You could close and latch the lid and use the built-in handle to carry it to a party.


I had one of these old portable record players, and I loved it.  But, making a cookie jar look like one was a mistake.  To get the cookies out, you have to open the lid and lift off the simulated turntable and album record.  Very cumbersome.  If you don’t want to lift the lid each time, it can be propped up.  Of course, then it takes up a lot of space and is just asking to be banged into.


I wish Elvis’ name and image had not been put on this disaster.  I forgot to see if it had an official EPE hologram tag attached, but if it did, it is one of the worst products Graceland has licensed.  If it was a bootleg, EPE needn’t bother with suing the manufacturer.  At the prohibitive price of $89, the stupid thing can’t have enough sales to produce any profit.


One other note on Reno.  A motorcycle rally was going on when we arrived.  Several streets were blocked off, and dozens of vendors sold their wares in tents, kiosks, and even mobile stores in tractor/trailers.  There was lots of Harley-Davidson stuff, but I was unable to find any merchandise featuring the famous 1956 picture of Elvis on his Harley.  I think photographer Al Wertheimer has missed a good marketing opportunity here.


Next up was Salt Lake City.  Our stop here was brief, but we did eat lunch at the Hard Rock Café.  It had dozens of Elvis memorabilia items, but much of it was placed too high on the wall to really see.  They did have a set of stained-glass windows – Elvis in the center, flanked by Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.  All three were very cool.


The toughest challenge to find anything Elvis was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  This gorgeous rustic town of less than 10,000 permanent residents is a Mecca for tourists.  It is just one hour south of Yellowstone National Park and right at the doorstep of Grand Teton National Park.  The median price of a house in Jackson Hole is $1.2 million, and the ones on the high side of this all have absolutely stunning views of the Teton Mountain Range.  Rich folks from all over the country come to their ‘second’ homes in Jackson Hole during the summer.  The temperatures are mild, and there is no humidity.  A lot of these folks come back in January for a few months of skiing.


So the challenge to finding anything Elvis in Jackson was twofold.  The town still has much of its rugged cowboy charm, and that doesn’t tie-in well with Elvis.  The other problem was that every store is so high end — expensive clothing, art, jewelry, etc.  I had nearly given up my quest for Elvis, when I saw the sign for a shop called HERO’S – Books, Toys, Collectibles.  I knew I had found the end of the rainbow and that wonderful things awaited me inside.


Good call.  HERO’S had five Elvis items for sale.  There were two McFarlane figurines, 50s Elvis, and ’68 Comeback Elvis.  I think McFarlane could sell a lot more of these things if the faces looked more like Elvis.  I guess it’s hard to get the nuances of all his features on ¾ inch of molded plastic.  HERO’S also had the All About Elvis Trivia Game, The Elvis Puzzle, and Elvis Yahtzee.  My favorite was the trivia game, but I can’t decide whether to save it as a collectible, or to open it up and play.


On the flight back from Denver, I came across Elvis in the strangest place.  Delta’s in-flight magazine, Sky, had a full-page color ad for the Robot Elvis Talking Head we discussed here back in January.  The product was a featured item at the Elvis Expo at Elvis Week, so they are serious about selling these things.  The price is now $300, down $50 from the original announced price. 


After all the money my wife spent during this vacation (most of it in Jackson Hole, of course), I think I could tell her I was buying a talking Elvis head — and get away with it.  The trouble is that this head doesn’t look like Elvis, either.  It is full sized, but they still can’t get his face right.  Anyway, it was nice to finish the trip with one last surprise to again validate “Elvis is everywhere.”


©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved


Searching for Elvis in Cairo

For my wife and I, every vacation consists of two main pursuits: seeing interesting sights – and shopping.  Our just completed trip to Egypt was loaded with both.


Early in the schedule, we saw the awesome Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the priceless array of artifacts from King Tut’s Tomb.  Then came the thing that really turned my wife on – a trip to Cairo’s immense Khan El Khalili Bazaar that dates back to 1382.




I got bored while she bartered with vendors over Egyptian jewelry, clothing, and trinkets, but I spotted a music kiosk and decided to amuse myself.  I went to the counter and asked the man if he had any Elvis Presley music.  He gave me a look easily interpreted as “Are you kidding me?”  Then, he briskly replied, “No Elvis.  Only Arabic music.”  I found small comfort in the fact that he at least seemed to know who Elvis was.


So, I wandered a bit farther into the market looking for another booth with CDs and tapes, but I couldn’t find one.  I didn’t get into the deeper recesses of the maze of narrow streets, and I never found anything like an American flea market. Every tiny store had new Egyptian souvenir stuff – and my wife bought tons of it.


On the cab ride from the Bazaar to the hotel, I recognized an interesting challenge and decided to accept it.  If my wife could bring home all her Egyptian stuff, I was determined to bring home some Elvis stuff.


The next day I walked a short distance from the Ramses Hilton to a gift shop called “My Love.”  Posted on the open front door was a panel showing two-dozen window decals.  Sure enough, there was an Elvis profile.  Flushed with success, I went in and showed the cashier what I wanted.  She got out a book with decals protected in clear plastic sleeves on each page. However, most sleeves were empty, and I had the sinking feeling I was going to get so close – but not score.  Then, near the end of the book, after five or six consecutive empty pages, she came to the Elvis decals.


There were even two versions of the Elvis pose: one in black and one in white.  They cost six Egyptians Pounds (about $1.15), so I bought one of each.  Later, I showed them to my wife and told her I was going to put one on our good car.  She snapped back, “No Way.”  Actually, her answer had one more word in it that you can figure out.


The following day I checked out the Ramses Hilton Center adjacent to our hotel.  This is a seven-story vertical mall with a movie theater, a video arcade, and a McDonald’s on the top floor.  I thought my chances of finding Elvis stuff might be pretty good.


One promising-looking shop had only an Arabic name on the sign, but it turned out to be a winner in my quest.  I found a four-inch square metal box, about one inch deep.  The lid had a clear plastic insert revealing a picture of Elvis glued inside.  The price was fifteen Pounds (about $2.65), so I bought it on the spot.  The store’s name translated into “The Good Face” or “The Face of Luck.”  The little box had no uniquely Egyptian use, so I will just call it my “Good Luck Elvis Box,” and store a deck of Elvis playing cards in it.


My last success was at a kiosk with the clever name of “Music” (in both English and Arabic).  When I asked the guy what he had by Elvis, he knelt down and shuffled through six-deep stacks of cassettes on the very bottom shelf.  There must have been a hundred tapes of American music, and he found three by Elvis.  They were a set of compilations with the titles “Rock,” “Country,” and “Inspirational.”  I chose the latter, paid my fifteen Pounds, and walked away a happy man.


My quest to find Elvis goodies in Egypt had been successfully achieved in just two days.  The quest to find the artifacts of another King, Tutankhamun, took eight years.


©  2006   Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister   All Rights Reserved



Have you folks been to an Elvis festival yet?  You should try one sometime; they’re a lot of fun.  I haven’t visited any of the others, but it’s hard to imagine them being better than the festival at Collingwood, Ontario, two hours north of Toronto, on the banks of the Georgian Bay and ten minutes from the Blue Mountain resort area.


I like the Friday night street concert where over 130 “Elvises” go up on stage and sing one song each.  The various competitions are great (those 7 and 8 year old kids are a hoot), and the special shows put on by the really good professional tribute artists give you a first class Elvis experience.  I marvel at the ladies going up to the stage to get a scarf and a kiss, and coming back to their seats absolutely thrilled.


But the best thing about the Collingwood Elvis festival for me is the vendor area with those tables of Elvis goodies.  This year I asked some vendors to show me their most unusual Elvis items, and here are a few:


A 1962 “Elvis Coloring Contest” sponsored by the movie, “Girls, Girls, Girls.”  You colored in the picture based on the film, and mailed it in, and if you won, the prize was free tickets to the movie.  Only $5


A 16-inch high cookie-jar shaped like a jukebox.  Every time you lift off the top, it plays “All Shook Up.”  Very cool.  $35, probably negotiable.


A 36” wide bead curtain.  This would be perfect for the folks with a whole room devoted to Elvis.  The medium was actually not beads, but thin 2”long straw-like tubes.  Printed on the tube curtain was a sharp picture of Elvis in the “68 Comeback” black-leather outfit over a background of deep red.  Very impressive.  A steal at $45.


One last story about the Friday Night Street Concert.  The Casino Brothers Band backs everybody for the whole seven hours, so they need breaks every once in a while.  However, the show continues with singers performing to Karaoke back-up. One young fellow was getting wound up pretty good when he got to the instrumental bridge, and he yelled out “Play it, James,” although the stage was empty except for him.  I love the goofy stuff in Elvis world.


© 2005  Philip R Arnold