Elvis Faithful Celebrate Dead Singer's Birthday
Jan. 09, 1988
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Devoted Elvis Presley fans who braved a winter storm to attend the late singer's 53rd birthday party got an unexpected treat: a videotaped greeting from his daughter and former wife.
The short tape of Lisa Marie Presley, 19, and her mother, actress Priscilla Presley, drew a chorus of oohs and ahhs Friday night from the 400 Elvis fans gathered at a Memphis hotel.
''Your loyalty has always been very appreciated and some of his happier moments were during his times performing for you,'' said Miss Presley, the singer's only child and heiress to his estate.
''We wish we were with you,'' said Presley's former wife. She and the singer divorced in 1972.
The birthday banquet was attended by several of Presley's former associates, including Tom Parker, his longtime manager.
''He did it his way. Nobody told Elvis what to do and nobody told me what to do,'' Parker said, ''and we got along fine.''
Presley was born Jan. 8., 1935, and died of heart disease Aug. 16, 1977, his body racked by drug abuse. He is buried beside his white-columned Memphis residence, Graceland.
About 1,000 tourists and fans toured the residence Friday, managers of Graceland said.
''His work gave me so much happiness my whole life, all I can do now is come here and bring flowers and show my respect,'' Diana Perlin of New York City said after visiting the singer's grave.
Steve Binder, who produced a 1968 television special credited as kicking off Presley's comeback as a stage performer, also toured the house while waiting for the banquet.
The TV special, which followed Presley's attempts to become a movie star, let the singer know he still had what it took to perform before a live audience, Binder said.
''He realized he wasn't just a fading star, that he was really as original as the day he came out with 'Hound Dog,''' Binder said. '' I think he proved to himself he wasn't a figment of a public relations machine, that he really did have that charisma everyone expected.''
At the banquet, Binder showed a short film compiled from outtakes of the TV show.
A winter storm dumped 8 inches of snow on Memphis earlier in the week, and Graceland opened three hours later than usual on Presley's birthday because of the weather.
Graceland draws more than 500,000 tourists annually, and hundreds of the singer's fans return each year on the anniversaries of his birth and death.
Mrs. Perlin, 38, said she tries to return to Memphis each year in August and January.
''It's a sacrifice, but it's worth it,'' she said. ''I've been a fan since 1956. I knew he was a good person and I still know it.''