Monthly Archives: March 2008

A Voyage of Suffering … To the Land of Promise

Recently, a lot of folks have been coming to this blog to read about Elvis’ grandchildren.  If you think they are interesting, wait until you hear about his ancestors.


The more recent Elvis genealogy charts reveal that his surname changed from the Germanic Pressler to the anglicized Presley several centuries ago.  In fact, if you go back through nine generations of Elvis’ family, you can pinpoint his Pressler ancestor who crossed the Atlantic in 1710 to start the whole bloodline here in America.  His name was Johann Valentine Pressler.


Elvis Presley Bloodline
Johann Valentine Pressler                              1669 — About 1742

      Andreas Pressler (Andrew Presley)           1701 — About 1759


          Andrew Presley Jr.                                1733 — ?


              John Presley                                      About 1748 — ?


                  Dunnen Presley                             About 1780 — ?


                      Dunnen Presley Jr.                    1827 — 1900


                          Rosella Presley                     1862 — 1924


                              Jesse Dee Presley             1896 — 1973


                                  Vernon Elvis Presley     1916 — 1979


                                      Elvis Aron Presley     1935 — 1977


Valentine Pressler was Elvis’ Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather.  He was a vineyard worker in the Palatinate region of the Rhineland in southern Germany.  With his wife Anna and five children, he left the vineyards and sailed off to America with hopes of new freedom and opportunities. 
What he found was not what he hoped, but it was far better than the situation he was fleeing from back in Germany.  Life in The Rhineland was abysmal in 1709.  For the previous three generations, the countryside had endured the passage of marching armies and the destruction they left behind.  There had been decades of warfare between France and Germany for the control of nearby Alsace.  Troops from one side or the other were always moving toward battle through the area where Valentine lived, trampling, looting, and burning everything as they went.  Famine, pain, pestilence, and death were left in their place.
That wasn’t all.  The German rulers subjected their subjects to extremely heavy taxation.  The Black Plague was so bad that the population was decreasing.  And starting in October of 1709, the area experienced the most severe winter cold in more than a century.  With the destruction of the precious grapevines, Valentine Pressler began to consider making a change so his family could survive.  He was forty years old.
Meanwhile, the English governors in America needed workers to make their lands profitable, so pamphlets and small books were produced to entice the Germans to escape their wretched existence and find a new life in America.  Free land and no taxes were promised.  Valentine and thousands of other Germans made the decision to go to America and see what opportunities might open up for them there. 
Unfortunately, just getting there turned into a horrible ordeal … truly a voyage of suffering.  The title above comes from the third chapter of a wonderful report about Elvis’ family history:  The Rhineland to Graceland, by Donald W. Presley and Edwin C. Dunn.  It reveals a fascinating story.  Hopefully, this short version on ElvisBlog will encourage you to click here and read the whole thing (73 pages).  It’s worth your time.
On December 21, 1709, Valentine Pressler agreed to a covenant with the British Crown.  In exchange for passage to America, plus settlement and support, the Germans would be, in effect, indentured servants to the British government – for an unspecified time.  They would be assigned to the Governor of New York and would be employed in the manufacture of naval stores (tar, pitch, resin).  When the Governor judged their obligations met, each German man was to receive a grant of forty acres of land.
By December 29, 1709, the Pressler family started their trek down the Rhine River on a flat-bottomed boat.  Each night, it would dock on the shore, where the Presslers would cook their food and sleep on the ground.  They had to contend with rapids in the 38-mile long Rhine Gorge.  There were delays due to adverse weather, and they were repeatedly stopped and required to pay tolls charged by a never-ending succession of feudal lords along the river.  The trip down the Rhine to Rotterdam in The Netherlands lasted approximately four-to-six weeks.
The next part of the trip, a voyage from Rotterdam to London, was short and uneventful.
Within a week after arriving in London, Valentine and his family boarded their last ship – the one that would take them to America.  They had no way of knowing they would be imprisoned in it for the next six months.   They were part of a ten-ship convoy that was supposed to be escorted by Royal Navy ships.  When the Navy refused, confusion reigned.  The ships couldn’t stay tied up in the harbor on the Thames and block other traffic, so they slowly sailed along the southern coast of England for three months, occasionally docking at Portsmouth and Plymouth.  It took until April 10, 1710, to get things settled and finally set sail to America.
All the Germans were jammed into cargo holds only 5 feet high.  There were no provisions for light or fresh air.  Food served to them was cold, and the drinking water was dirty.  Typhus broke out and slowly decimated the passengers.  Fortunately, Valentine and his family were spared the disease, and around July 1, 1710, they landed in New York Harbor.  Happy times, but there were more frustrations for the Presslers to endure.
The city government did not want all these sick immigrants to come into their city.  They decided to send the Germans to Nutten Island (now Governor’s Island).  Huts and tents were quickly constructed, and sufficient foodstuffs were provided.   As the Germans came back to good health, they were moved upstate to settlements along the Hudson River to begin their required work in naval stores production.  For some reason, Valentine stayed in New York City.  Authors Presley and Dunn speculate that he found work in the Governor’s gardens or the gardens of some of the wealthier citizens.
Over the next two decades, Valentine and his family moved several times.  His final place of residence was in Prince George's Parish (County), Maryland, where he lived with, or near, his oldest son Andrew.  Valentine’s name last surfaced in an election petition in 1742.  He was 73-years-old, an advanced age for this time.  Although he did not achieve his dream of land ownership, he may have lived long enough to see his son Andrew purchase 100 acres in 1745.
Authors Presley and Dunn, ended their chapters on Valentine Pressler as follows: “If his goal in America was land ownership, then he was perhaps less than successful, but if freedom and opportunity for his children was his goal, then he was indeed a great success.  He had established the family bloodline in the New World.”
Nine generations later, that lineage led to Elvis Presley.
©  2008   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved 


In the ElvisBlog column two weeks ago, I mentioned the DVD of Jailhouse Rock I bought in Rome while on vacation.  For some reason, the Italians changed the title to Il Delinquente del Rock & Roll.  I can’t figure out why they chose to do this, because Jailhouse Rock has a direct translation – Casa Carere Rock.


The back of the DVD packaging listed all 22 of Elvis’ films in the Italian series, and only three had the American titles we all know:  Blue Hawaii, Viva Las Vegas, and Frankie and Johnny.  This established that the names of people and places would stay the same in English and Italian, so the word Acapulco gave an easy clue to one other title.  Café Europa confused me for a while, until I remembered that was the name of the nightclub where Juliet Prowse performed in G.I. Blues.  Beyond that, the original American title that matched up with each Italian one was a complete mystery to me.


Back of DVD packaging.  22 Italian Titles at bottom right.

Fortunately, Giuseppe, our friendly vacation tour director, accommodated me and translated the Italian titles into English.  For example, Fratelli Rivali translated to Rival Brothers, so I knew they were talking about Love Me Tender (Remember the Reno brothers who both loved the same woman?).   I have no idea why they didn’t just use the direct translation, which is Amami Teneramente.


In fact, there were only three Italian titles in the series that translated to the same words as the original title.  Stella Vi Fuoco means Flaming Star.  Guai Con Le Ragazze means The Trouble With Girls.  Paese Selveggio means Wild In The Country.


Some of Giuseppe’s other translations at least gave a clue to the American title.  For example, I was pretty sure The Barefoot Sheriff was Follow That Dream (Elvis was barefoot on the beach a lot and he was elected Sheriff by the homesteaders).  Crazy For Women was close enough to Girl Happy for me.  Multimillionaire Lifeguard had to be Clambake where rich Elvis traded identities with lifeguard Will Hutchins.  The Forbidden Punch invoked a boxing theme, so that had to be Kid Gallahad.


I could narrow down the options on some translations to two possible Elvis movies.  Elvis played a racecar driver in three films, so Drive Real Fast had to be Spinout or Speedway (Since Viva Las Vegas had been identified).  Singer at the Amusement Park could have been Roustabout or It Happened at the World’s Fair.


To answer the various title mysteries, I walked to a little shop in Rome with computer access rentals and paid 5 Euros for an hour on the Internet.  I typed Il Delinquente del Rock & Roll in Google and soon had ten sites that covered Elvis’ Italian movie DVDs.   Although this gave me the original titles for each Italian one, some questions still persisted.  For example, La Via Del Male was used for King Creole, but Giuseppe said that translated to The Way to the Sea, and that didn’t sound right.  So, I asked Anna, one of our vacationers who was an Italian native that married an American G.I. and has lived in the USA for the last 49 years.  I thought her command of English might be a little better than Giuseppe’s.


Sure enough, she corrected Giuseppe’s translation to The Bad Way, which certainly fit King Creole’s plot.  She also corrected Il Monte Di Venere from Mount Venus to The Mountain of Love (Venus was the Goddess of Love).  This worked much better for Kissin’ Cousins, because the action took place on a mountain owned by Pappy Tatum, and Elvis had two Tatum daughters and all those Kitty Hawk girls to choose from.  However, Anna suggested she had a little trivia about another Italian meaning for The Mountain of Love.  “What is that?” I responded.  I don’t remember her full answer, but when I heard the words “female pubic hair,” I nearly dropped my pen.


Anyway, here in list form, are the other movies that took some detective work to figure out.


            Translation from Italian                   Actual Title


100 Girls and One Sailor                    Girls, Girls, Girls

Blonde, Redhead, Brunet                    It Happened at the World’s Fair

Oriental Adventure                             Harum Scarum

I Want To Mary Them All                    Spinout

Stop Everything, Let’s Start Again       Double Trouble

Drive Real Fast                                  Speedway

Singer At The Amusement Park          Roustabout

3 Hunks, 2 Baby Dolls, 1 Treasure      Easy Come, Easy Go


I have been told that Italian DVDs will not work in our American players.  That’s too bad, because I would like to hear Elvis’ dialog in Jailhouse Rock dubbed in Italian.  To my ear, the language sounds like everybody has just consumed three cans of Red Bull.  It would probably be a hoot to hear Elvis say in Italian, “That ain’t tactics, honey.  That’s just the beast in me.”


©  2008   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved


If you Google Lisa Marie Presley Sues Daily Mail, you will get hundreds of choices to read.  It seems that every news source and entertainment website in the world has covered Lisa’s fat story.  So, I thought it would be easy to find the full text of the Daily Mail story that started the whole thing. I was wrong.


Now that Lisa Marie has sued the UK tabloid, links to promising sites take you nowhere.  Even the title of the Daily Mail story was hard to pin down, as two different ones were mentioned in web articles.  One headline was, “Like Father Like Daughter?  Bloated Lisa Marie Is Now The Double Of Dad Elvis.”  The other was “Elvis Presley’s King-Sized Daughter Lisa Marie.”


I did find snippets of the offending text woven into various web commentaries.  Excerpts included:


            “Her father fought – and lost – a long and very public battle of

             the bulge.”


“Now Elvis Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie appears to have developed a similarly unhealthy appetite.”


“The once-svelte 40-year-old was seen devouring her lunch at Hollywood food market The Grove at the weekend.”


If that’s as bad as it got, Lisa Marie might have a tough time winning her case, especially against a company in another country.  There has to be more.  I wish I knew what her publicist, Cindy Guagenti, was talking about when she said, “…awful.  It’s like, ‘she’s gonna die like her father,’ ‘her and her mom are in a fight because of her weight’ – that’s not true at all.”


So, what’s going on?  I guess we’ll never know exactly what prompted Lisa Marie to write on her MySpace page, “Once they got a glimpse of my expanding physique a few days ago, they have been like a pack of coyotes circling their prey whilst eerily howling with delight.”  Wow!  Give ‘em hell, Lisa.  I like the line, “A pack of coyotes circling their prey,” but where did you come up with ‘whilst?’


Lisa Marie also said, “I could just be pregnant and therefore have a legitimate reason for weight gain, at which point they should probably wipe the saliva off their fangs and put them back in their mouths or they may expose the black little souls that they are.”  Well said!  An even better line: ”wipe the saliva off their fangs.”

What amuses me the most about this whole deal is what the Daily Mail now shows on its website.  There are only two Lisa Marie articles for all of 2008, and both are dated March 10, the day the suit was announced.  Apparently, anything preceding that has been removed.  Both articles are now friendly in tone.  One headline is “Lisa Marie Presley Confirms: Yes I’m Pregnant.”  The story contains two fat pictures, but now the captions make reference to her “Baby Bump.”  They also show the following picture of Lisa Marie and husband Michael Lockwood looking thin and trim back in 2006.  (Hmm… What’s up here?)


The other archive article is titled, “Pregnant and Proud: Lisa Marie Presley Shows Off Her Baby Bump.”  They got one thing wrong when they referred to Michael as her third husband, but it was another completely positive article.  The story contained two very similar pictures, and here’s one.


They described Lisa Marie: “Dressed in a fashionable print maxi dress, chunky platform sandals, and large hoop earrings, Lisa Marie looked radiant and every inch the happy mother-to-be.”  (Isn’t that sweet?)  Fortunately, they chose not to describe Michael’s …aahh… wardrobe.
So, it all sounds like an attempt by the Daily Mail to make nice with the Presley family.  The paper has the 12th largest circulation in the world among English-language dailies, and presumably has a lot of clout.  But, if Lisa Marie has the same lawyers that the Presley Estate utilizes, my bets are on her.  Those attorneys have a great track record winning lawsuits.
It’s probably a good move for the Daily Mail to sink their fangs into some humble pie.

©  2008   Philip R Arnold   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