Spectacular Tourist Traps #1: Graceland

Ahh, Elvis.  Gloriously excessive, fabulously rich, enormously talented.  If you’re going to do Memphis, you have to totally surrender yourself to the Elvis phenomenon.  You can’t escape it, so you might as well go the whole hog.  As a bonus,  you get to hum that Paul Simon song about Graceland A LOT.

Hey, Elvis.  Nice shack!

Hey, Elvis. Nice shack!

And that’s what we did.  To cap it off, we also stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel, with its guitar shaped pool and its 24 hour Elvis movies on the telly.  I know.  The full catastrophe.

Conveniently (but not so glamorously), the Heartbreak Hotel is located across the carpark from the Graceland entrance (the downside is that this means it’s a long way from the centre of town, but what the heck. We’re here for Elvis).  You (and a whole bunch of elderly Americans) buy your Graceland tickets at the ticket pavilion across the road from the big house itself.  Then, with your audio tour equipment dangling around your neck, you board a bus that literally drives you across the road and up the driveway to Graceland.  And then you all start shuffling around this homage to excess.

Elvis sat at that piano. Seriously.

This is one of the more tasteful rooms. Also, I think we can assume Elvis played that piano.

It’s worth noting that for a lot of Americans, a trip to Graceland is a dying wish.  As such, there are a lot of rather infirmed and elderly being helped along, oxygen tanks in tow.  Good on them for realising their dream, I say.  But it can mean that progress through the house is a little slow at first.  But don’t worry.  You can spend as long as you like wandering around, snapping pics and laughing at what passed for wealthy excess in the ’70s.  The upstairs bedrooms are out of bounds (although I once heard a story about a guy who fainted and found himself in repose on a bed in this forbidden territory), but there’s still plenty to see, including my favourite room:  the hilariously over the top jungle room.  Check it out:

Subtle, isn't it?

Subtle, isn’t it?

And yes, that really is some sort of astroturfy carpet on the ceiling.  I guess when you’ve got that much money and it’s the ’70s, OF COURSE you’d have green astroturf on the ceiling.  There are heaps of costumes and other memorabilia, and a whole squash court full of gold records (I think we can safely assume Elvis didn’t play a lot of squash there).

But the most important spot is obviously the grave of the big man himself (unless you believe he’s alive and well and running a B&B in Argentina, or whatever the current theory is).  Teary grey haired ladies file past, occasionally placing little keepsakes or flowers on the grave.  It’s quaintly touching, to be honest.

The final resting place. Or is it?

The final resting place. Or is it?

Once you’ve seen it all (and there is a lot to see), a shuttle bus takes you back across the road where you can continue your Elvis experience by dining on deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches and other heart attack inducing fare.  Then you get the great pleasure of offloading some of that pesky cash clogging up your wallet by going nuts in the souvenir shop.  Basically, if you can imagine an object that you would like to see Elvis’ face on, then you can buy it.  T-shirts? Of course.  Tights?  Breath mints? Playing cards?  Knitting needles? Sure! (I might have lied about the knitting needles)  With our vast amounts of merch and safe in the knowledge that Priscilla and Lisa Marie are not going to die in poverty any time soon, we scuttled back to the Heartbreak Hotel where we pondered the lack of astroturf on the ceilings in our lives.

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4 responses to “Spectacular Tourist Traps #1: Graceland

  1. I bought some of those Elvis tights. Creepy or sexy thought that Elvis has been on my thighs? They laddered after five wears. Shonky.

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