Opinion » The Rant

Elvis at 82

Forty years after his “death,” the rumors still abound.

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An auspicious date on the musical calendar arrives January 8th. That's when we celebrate Elvis' 82nd birthday, otherwise known as Winter Elvis Week. In case you haven't been paying attention, the Elvis business is bigger than ever. Forbes magazine said that Elvis earned $27 million in 2016, second only to his son-in-law, Michael Jackson, among deceased entertainers. His estate is estimated to be close to $400 million.

Graceland is gearing up for an influx of visitors with a menu of movies, concerts, and receptions, including one for fan club presidents at the new, posh resort/hotel, the Guest House at Graceland. I have yet to visit, but the photographs make it look luxurious and my musician friends are raving about the 464-seat theater and concert hall. Among other activities, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra plays the Cannon Center with celebrated Elvis impressionist Terry Mike Jeffrey. Also, there is an auction of Elvis stuff acquired from third-party collectors. Listen, if I can't make it by, will somebody pick me up an authentic "TCB" necklace? I'm starting to think that Elvis is never going to give me one. But, then again, you never know.

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It still amazes me that 40 years after Elvis' death, the crowds just keep growing. Of course, there are still scores of fans who are convinced that Elvis faked his death for a multitude of reasons and that he is still with us today. In fact, he's about to come out of the closet, or coffin, as the case may be.

According to the Portly Gazelle, it began with a mysterious fax sent from Graceland to Time magazine saying only, "It's time." But I suspect that's one of those fake news sites we've been hearing so much about lately. A more credible source called Empire News reported that a homeless 80-year old man with a white beard was found deceased under an overpass in San Diego. The only thing anyone knew about him was his friends called him "Jesse." So a curious coroner ran his DNA through a national data bank and came up with an exact match to the King. The episode received so much press attention that experts were quick to deem it a hoax, which only proves that Elvis is still out there somewhere.

He's been sighted so many times in Ottawa, Canada, that a street has been renamed "Elvis Lives Lane." He's been spotted in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in a grocery store in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and fishing on the Salmon River in Idaho. He also made a quick cameo appearance in a Home Alone movie. The most probable explanation comes from the FBI, only it's still classified. An unnamed agent claimed that Elvis lost $10 million in a property deal connected to the Mafia. Fearing for his life, Elvis gave secret grand-jury testimony against the mob and went into the Witness Protection Program in 1977, and now lives in South America on a farm.

Go ahead and scoff but there's even an "Elvis Presley Is Alive" Facebook page with 14,000 followers. The administrator, who prefers anonymity, says they promise "one post per day" leading up to the proof that Elvis staged his own demise, and any person asserting otherwise will be banned from the page.

The most recent online frenzy was caused when someone posted a YouTube video of a groundskeeper at Graceland with long, white hair and a beard that was surreptitiously filmed and supposedly of Elvis at 80. The problem was he looked like a middle-aged man with a pony-tail and a beer gut, wearing a red "Elvis Week" T-Shirt, a crumpled, blue baseball cap, and baggy jeans with a wallet sagging from the back pocket. That was the dead giveaway. When was the last time Elvis needed to carry a wallet?  He was also doing groundskeeper-like things such as pulling weeds and watering. At one point, a bald man appeared in the scene. Maybe it was Carl Perkins. The Daily Express U.K. newspaper sent investigators to Memphis and discovered the man's name is Bill Barmer, an employee of Elvis Presley Enterprises and current internet sensation.

The most bizarre YouTube video is called "Elvis Presley — I'm Alive," posted by the Knights of the King's Realm, in which they assert that recordings have emerged with Elvis singing songs from the '90s. When the tapes were unearthed, a "Las Vegas TV special investigative unit" rushed out to run the new tunes through a computer voice-print analysis and found an "exact match" to one Elvis A. Presley. Naturally, the songs have been collected in an album you can purchase titled KINGTINUING, featuring the title tune, "I'm Alive." The track list includes: "Tears in Heaven," "La Vida Loca," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Have I Told You Lately," (which I guess is a remake of his classic 1957 version, unless the King is covering Van Morrison), and "Candle in the Wind," with both the original Marilyn Monroe version and the "Goodbye England's Rose" version.

"E" had a thing for Princess Di in the 1990s, I guess. The singer sounds vaguely like the '70s' Elvis, backed by revolting, 1990s techno music. Possibly the worst of both worlds, but the video has 2 million views. You think this is going away? I'm not an Elvis impersonator, but I am an Elvis channeler, and being a conduit, the King has asked me to deliver a message regarding the "I'm Alive" phenomenon. Elvis sayeth thus, "Y'all cut that mess out before I have to come down there from sitting at the left-hand of the Lord and karate-kick some ass Kang Rhee-style."

Randy Haspel writes the "Recycled Hippies" blog, where a version of this column first appeared.

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