Elvis Fans Mark Death Anniversary
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ The newest wave of Elvis-is-alive rumors found an unreceptive audience among many of the Presley faithful gathered for the 11th anniversary of the singer’s death.
″The fans don’t believe it,″ said Karen Loper, an Elvis fan club leader from Houston. ″In the fan club newsletters I’ve read, everybody is putting it down and laughing about it.″
The Elvis-lives stories, which crop up from time to time, have been revived by a newly published book - ″Is Elvis Alive?″ by Gail Brewer Giorgia. The book says the singer faked his death as the only way to get a little privacy.
He would not have found much privacy this week at his former Memphis residence, Graceland.
While crowds for the pilgrimage were noticeably smaller than those at last year’s 10th anniversary, more than 3,000 fans attended a candlelight procession Monday night past Presley’s grave and a capacity crowd of 4,000 tourists and fans toured Graceland on Tuesday.
The single-day record for Graceland attendance is 4,700, which was set over the Fourth of July weekend.
Presley was 42 when he died of heart disease at the two-story, white- columned house on Aug. 16, 1977.
″This is the next best thing we’re going to get to seeing Elvis,″ said Graham Knowles, an Elvis fan from Leeds, England, and a first-time visitor to Graceland.
Graceland managers, who organize an annual nine-day celebration called ″Elvis International Tribute Week,″ said fans are upset over the Elvis- lives book.
″It’s a sad and cruel exploitation,″ said Jack Soden, general manager of the Graceland Division of Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc.
Soden’s company runs 600,000 tourists a year through the Presley residence and brings in $9 million annually at the 32-acre Graceland complex which includes a 36,000-square-foot souvenir shopping center.
Up to 35,000 visitors were expected at Graceland during tribute week, about the same number that tour the house weekly during the tourist season. The Elvis tribute week, which includes a variety of events, is highlighted by a late-night procession past Presley’s grave. The candlelight vigil begins each year on the night of the 15th and runs into the early hours of the 16th.
Monday night’s procession attracted a crowd estimated by police at 3,000; Graceland estimates for previous vigils have run from 5,000 to 10,000.
In Tupelo, Miss., more than 2,000 fans visited Presley’s birthplace between Saturday and Tuesday in memory of their idol, caretakers of the home said. The small, two-room house where Presley was born Jan. 8, 1935, is about 120 miles southeast of Memphis.
Elsewhere, a Beverly Hills, Calif., radio station marked the 11th anniversary of Presley’s death by offering a $1 million reward for proof that the king of rock music is still alive, but only an impersonator and about 150 fans showed.
″How many believe Elvis is still alive?″ KRLA radio disc jockey Charlie Tuna asked Tuesday as the crowd gathered outside a diner which serves burgers and malts in ’50s tradition.
He was greeted by applause and cheers from the late entertainer’s fans, but the only Elvis present was impersonator Paul Boland, 27, wearing a white pantsuit with red and gold spangles.