The Ryan Report -- Episode 408 "Heartbreak Hotel"
Alright, stop whatever it is you’re doing. Well, okay, keep reading this, but stop everything else you’re doing. Shoot, I hope I didn’t lose anybody. Anyway, go to your computer and – okay, if you’re reading this you’re already on your computer -but whatever, just search online, and find the video of Elvis singing Jailhouse Rock. Got it? Okay, watch that and then come back.
Pretty great, right? Especially the part with the elephant. HA! I knew you didn’t watch it. There is no elephant. Now seriously, go back and watch it and meet me back here in five minutes.
Wow. Just wow. To me, that is Elvis. Not that I don’t love the rhinestones and the jumpsuits and the blue suede shoes, but I just don’t think it gets any better than this. Those signature moves and that swagger just seem so natural. It’s like in later years he danced this way because everyone expected him to dance this way, but here he is just doing it because that is how he feels like dancing. Don’t get me wrong, the king still had some fire in his later years - If I Can Dream may be his greatest song – but he is just so cool here, it is tough to beat.
I think everyone should see that video, see Elvis that way. Too often we remember him as a joke. I’ll admit, he did a lot of it to himself with his peanut butter and banana sandwiches and his drug addled, obese stage performances, but it’s not all him. As fun as Elvis Impersonators are (and let me tell you they are fun, I dressed as one just last week and I wish I could say it was the first time) they don’t always help put Elvis’s best foot forward. So, I prefer to think of him like he was in this video, and I do what I can to spread that around.
My Elvis appreciation started early – my Mom was a diehard fan. Now I know there are some serious Elvis fans, and it isn’t like we had the King on our throw pillows or anything, but she definitely lost her voice screaming at more than one concert of his and was regularly brought to tears when she thought about his death. So, when my mom’s third cousin had a wedding in Memphis, she thought it would be a good time to reconnect with that side of the family, and she decided to bring me along. Of course, we didn’t actually make it to the wedding. We went to Graceland.
Ah, Graceland. I’ll go ahead and say it, it’s tacky as all get out, but I loved it. Our first stop was to purchase tickets. Yes, you need tickets to go to the house. Excuse me, mansion, as the employees will quickly point out. But really it is more like a theme park. On one side of the street there is the mansion and the King’s burial plot, with its flowers and wreaths and baked casseroles (we brought some homemade clam chowder, but ate it somewhere over Virginia). On the other side there are gift shops, museums, record stores, restaurants and a movie theater all dedicated to the King. Basically, my mom was in heaven.
They have enough stuff over there to theme your entire life after Elvis. Get out of your Elvis bed, in your Elvis pajamas and drink coffee from your Elvis mug; put on your Elvis undergarments and your Love Me Tender heart-shaped pendant (Mom got one of those to wear close to her heart – don’t tell my Dad), drive to work in your Pink Cadillac and just keep on going.
But that’s not Elvis. Not to me anyway. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love me some rhinestones, jumpsuits and blue suede shoes. And I love Pink Cadillacs and Love Me Tender pendants and Elvis breakfast cereals, but that isn’t really Elvis. Not the Elvis I love. So that’s why I go back and watch that video – to see Elvis, before he was Elvis, back when he was just a kid from Mississippi who loved to dance and who loved to sing and who used his gift to teach us what it means to feel, to need and to fall in love.
Oh, and just so you know, my mom still wears that necklace – but seriously, don’t tell my dad!