Tallahassee Democrat from Tallahassee, Florida on August 13, 1978 · 27
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Tallahassee Democrat from Tallahassee, Florida · 27

Tallahassee, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 13, 1978
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6B Sunday, August 13, 1978 Alive (Continued from page IB) . A little after 3 p.m. one year ago Wednesday, Elvis Presley collapsed from the toilet to the red bathroom carpet in Graceland mansion, shorts still around his ankles, dead at 42 of a heart attack. Memphis coroner Dr. Jerry Francisco reported Elvis' heart had failed "while straining at a stool," the suspected immediate cause of one of three heart attacks. That a man thought god-like by millions would die such an unglamorous death is almost impossible to accept by his devoted legions. Not surprisingly, the resurrection theme fills the year-after commentaries appearing in magazines and papers throughout the country this week. "The fans," they proclaim, "will not let Elvis die." "People still find it hard to believe that a man 42 could have a heart attack. Yet, they just have to believe he can't be brought back," said Presley's long-time friend and body guard Dick Grob after a year of dealing with still-disbelieving fans. Popular tabloids are rife with reports of Elvis clones. Platoons of Presley imitators troop around the country bringing live Presley acts to nightclubs and county fairs. And at the cash register, Presley records and gimmicks have sold better since his death than ever before. But in classic promotional one-upmanship, Gene Arthur has carried resurrection beyond subliminal suggess-tion. "Elvis Presley is alive," Arthur says. "I have no doubt." AFTER ARTHUR'S late-night inspiration a year ago, he pursued his hunch by "reading everything ever written about Elvis." "It all fell together," he said. "Everything supports the fact that Elvis' death was a hoax engineered by Tom Parker to get Elvis out of the miserable life he was living. It was the only way he could have done it." The fruit of all this the book "Orion" was released Saturday by Arthur's Golden Eagle Publishing, an Atlanta firm organized specifically to publish the Presley book. Arthur took his idea and commissioned an Atlanta radio journalist to write a biography of Elvis with the resurrection angle tacked on to the beginning and end. The 2,000 first edition copies were quickly snatched up before publication by Elvis fan club members at $12.95 a copy, and Arthur says all manner of negotiations are in the works for reprinting and paperback production. Arthur and writer Gale Brewer are listed as co-authors of the 365-page book, whose protagonist is tagged Orion Eckley Darnell instead of Elvis. But it is Arthur's research on which all the speculative material is based, he said. A sometimes ungrammatical, sometimes passably written, altogether uninspired rehash of previous Elvis biographies, the parts of "Orion" dealing with the death plot are based on the following scenario, which Arthur maintains he actually believes: ORION-EL VIS FALLS into a hopeless state of depres sion, drug abuse and ill-health. The Col. Tom Parker character conceives a ploy to change Orion's appearance through diet, excercise and growth of a beard. He gets Presley's personal physician to sign a phony death certificate, then presents a wax statue in a coffin to the world as proof that the King is gone. Meanwhile, Orion (Elvis) resumes life under an alias, reunited, of course, with his estranged wife (Priscilla Presley in real life). One of the characters in the book suggests they simply disguise Elvis and whisk him away. "No, Ithoughtof that but it wouldn't work," the Parker character is quoted as saying. "The only way to free Orion totally is to make him a ware tha t he can never return to the stage, or to the world out there. My plan is the only way out." IF ANYONE IS tempted to take this seriously, consider that Memphis Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jerry Francisco, not Presley's personal physician, conducted a detailed autopsy on Elvis' body; and he says he did it in front of a dozen associates. "You want me to prove Elvis is dead?" Francisco asked incredulously in answer to The Democrat's question. "I've had many strange requests in the last year, but this is the strangest." But, for the record, Francisco said he could produce conclusive documentation that Elvis was dead. Arthur absorbed the Francisco information serenely. "They had to be in on it, too. "He had to have been part of the plot," he concluded. And the 12 associates? "The thing that really convinced me," Arthur said with open enthusiasm, "was why would anyone spend $750,000 a year to protect a dead man under 9,000 pounds of concrete?" Arthur was referring to what he said was a 20 man, 24-hour guard of Elvis' tomb inside Graceland and the installation of a super-sensitive alarm system there facts he claimed he turned up in his research. The book says the co-conspirators trumped up a widely-reported body-snatching threat as an excuse to move the wax-filled coffin to more secure quarters inside the mansion. ARTHUR WASN'T SPECIFIC about his sources, but a Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter assigned to cover Graceland for years chuckled in typical hardened-reporter fashion and said, "It's basically the same security that was there before Elvis died. They added two extra men in the day to handle the tourists visiting the grave, and there's no fancy electronics systems." Is Arthur worried one of the real-life characters might sue for libel. "Not at all. Let them dig up the concrete they poured over the coffin and see what's really down there." Cashing in- (Continued from page IB) By the time Graceland heaves into view, every available parking space and patch of grass is under cars, vans, pickups and mobile homes. Here many pilgims will sleep tonight. Every hotel and motel in the area is booked solid until September. EVERY SHOP IS hung with framed snapshots, out of focus but "Not for Sale." A favorite item is "The Last Vacation," a $3 book consisting of a dozen fuzzy snapshots, obviously taken within five minutes, of Elvis sitting on a Hawaiian beach in 1977. A few non-Elvis stores persevere, but Bill Tidwell knows that can't last. Tidwell converted the coffee shop of his Beef and Liberty Restaurant to the Cafe Elvis Presley. Then he turned the rear into a souvenir shop. Now the main dining room is to become the Elvis Presley Wax Museum. Like pilgrims paying homage and buying relics, the people pay to touch Elvis' Cadillac Eldorado near his Memphis mansion. Vester Presley, Elvis' 63-year-old uncle, squints at the fans who line up to pass the grave where Elvis is buried beside his mama, Gladys. Despite relentless sun, Elvis' uncle Vester Presley estimates 12,000 pilgrims wait to walk the 200 yards from the "music gate" to the garden where Elvis Aron Presley is buried. "Vester, send us up 50 more," squawks the gatehouse radio, and Vester, Graceland's gatekeeper since 1957, complies with a wave of his hand. His peroxide-blonde hair tops the long oval face and triangular nose characteristic of the clan that migrated from Tupelo when Elvis made it big in the '50s. "Most of the family's worked here at one time or another," drawls Vester. "Course, they didn't always work out Some of 'em drank too much, and some couldn't get along. He must of helped about 80 per cent of us, though. The rest. . .well, you can't blame Elvis, he tried. Some people are no darn good." Despite the crush outside, Vester maintains that the days were tougher before Elvis died. "I used to get a little aggravated. Them women would jump the fence like rabbits, and me runnin' halfway to town to catch 'em. And they'd scream AAAH-EEEE!!! - so loud you couldn't hear yourself to think. "These people are very sentimental about the whole thing. Odd thing is a lot of them don't believe he's gone, even after they see where he's buried. They ask me, 'He's not REALLY dead is he?' " Elvis Presley was very concerned with walls: $40,000 of the $50,000 fee for his 1956 Ed Sullivan appearance was spent on his first house. The rest went for a wall around it. When he moved to Graceland, a six-foot wall appeared immediately around the 14-acre estate. Now, as the afternoon sun beats down, the huge crowd slumps in its tiny shade, extracting ironic shelter from the wall built to keep them out. Since his death, the sandstone has been covered with graffiti: "Elvis We Miss You" and "We All Loved You -Kathy 4-6-78" and a plaintive poem: "If love could build a stairway and memories build a lane, I'd find a way to heaven and bring you back again." The poet, a young New Zealander, is visiting the United States on a six-month visa. In 2Vt months, she has been at Graceland all but two days. THE YEAR-LONG wake has its bizarre aspects: One impersonator in Florida underwent plastic surgery to mimic Elvis' sneering lips. A promoter created a life-size statue that wears the famed "peacock suit" land seems to sweat like Elvis in concert. And for the fan who writes the best 100 words on "What Elvis Presley Means to Me," the reward is Elvis' Madison Square Garden jumpsuit and cape. And it's not just in America. A New -York-based fan club has members Write for more For more information about the 10-day September celebration of Elvis, write to The Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, 3000 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nevada 89109. General admission is $15 and tickets are good for one day only. who live in Holland and Japan. A London fan club claims 20,000 members. Chic Paris women are wearing ELVIS T-shirts with skinny jeans or below-the-calf skirts. "Anything that sells, they're gonna sell it," said Vester. "I don't like it too much, but there's nothing you can do." He has written a book, "A Presley Speaks," that sells for up to $25. Almost 10 million copies of more than a dozen books have been sold since Elvis died. The top seller about 5 million books at $1.95 apiece has been Ballantine's "Elvis: What Happened?" by the star's bodyguards as told to Steve Dunleavy of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. At least five more books are in the works, including Doubleday's $7.95 "The Boy Who Dared to Rock," by Paul Lichter, Elvis' friend, high priest of memorabilia and promoter of a three-day Elvis tribute in New York. Others are getting into the writing act. Ed Parker, Elvis' former karate teacher, has written "Inside Elvis," and there is a reprint of "My Life With Elvis," by Becky Yancey, his personal secretary. FROM THE RECORDING angle, Brookville Marketing, an RCA licensee, advertises Elvis records on television, and vice president Norman Roseman reports 1.2 million records and tapes worth more than $10 million have been sold in the past year. "Almost overnight, there was a phenomenal outpouring of orders," Roseman says. "But I now think that the bloom is off the rose as far as the Elvis bonanza is concerned." Elvis souvenirs both bootleg and legitimate have reaped tremendous profits. Factors Etc. Inc., of Bear, Del., official licensing agent for Elvis memorabilia, won't talk money, but it has 35 products on the market and is mapping strategy for seven years. Next year is the year of Factor's line of Elvis cosmetics for men and women and a line of Elvis jumpsuits. Harry "The Bear" Geissler, president of Factors, says the company, guarding its rights, has filed 200 lawsuits against unlicensed products. "There still is bootlegging," Geissler says. "But junk isn't moving anymore. People want quality." He says one entrepreneur who was paid to haul 10,000 ceramic hotplates to a junk yard pasted photos of Elvis on them and sold them for $5 each to someone who turned around and sold them for $10 apiece. Meanwhile, the entertainment field is congested with Elvis look-alikes and some not-so-alikes, including a woman who gyrates in nightclubs from Tupelo to Las Vegas. AT THE TOP are a dozen or so old-timers, like Jesse King, Alan Meyer and Larry Seth. Seth, who calls himself "The Big L," is a former construction worker who claims a fan club of 40,000. "When Elvis died I wanted to quit, but they begged me not to," said Seth. He spends thousands of dollars to duplicate Elvis' suits and hours on end studying video tapes of Elvis "to get every eyebrow twitch and finger movement right. That's what fans want." After Elvis died, an obscure singer, Ronnie McDowell, was outside a nightclub in Bowling Green, Ky., and dashed off a song called "The King is Dead." It sold 3 million copies and made McDowell a star. Compiled and edited by Mary Marks. Local Elvis tribute on radio Tallahassee radio station WTAI. is offering a special program titled "Elvis Memories" today from 2-9 p.m.; but local stores are doing little extra for the anniversary of Presley's death. The program, at 1450 on the AM radio dial, includes music from 2-3. a special program with host George Michaels and several guests from 3-6, and nfbre Elvis music from 6-9. Store mangers at K-Mart, J.M. Fields and Woolco said their tribute to Elvis mainly would consist of the records they always sell. Posters of Elvis and t-shirts might also be available, the managers said, but they have not stocked up because of the anniversary. Items such as belt buckles and key chains won't be around. . - " . t -t .fist"1 ." i " " - , .', "Mil : AM A tMH- ft'.''' ocWii i r si rv , irws", - f ' - ii I 1 I p -I r 1 ay )., tr 1 r I vvj i i J n Auctioneer William Caruso takes bids recently on Elvis portraits in Glen Burnie, Md. . . .part of the worldwide effort to cash in on the life and death of Elvis Presley AP ears " i f - Hi U II, ,! m " ! ftis ir Zi-Z- 21,000 BTUH Air Conditioner Regular $529.95 Price Reductions in this Ad End OTHER AIR CONDITIONER MODELS ON SALE! 6,000 BTUH. Model No. 78063. Regular S2I9 95 199 95 5.000 BTUH. Model No. 78058. Regular $214.95 199 95 14.000 BTUH. Model No. 78149. Regular $469 95 439.9i 18.000 BTUH. Model No. 78189. Regular $479.95 449.95 25.000 BTUH. Model No. 78258. Regular $559.95 519 95 Each of these advertised items is readily available for sale as advertised. 1? tCJ AT 7TT71 lit I V - ft0mXty -Jin XZ &m&WW m mMrnmm mmtmm mmmmm Sears Where America shops (CAM, ROCSUt K AND t'O Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Hack DOTHAN, ALA. OO w Mam Si Phone 792 3101 Cllo 792-51$ Snap Daily 9 30 AM tl t M PANAMA CITY, FLA. in Panama Ctly Mad Phona 7M-76II Caiaiog 769-S3M AulO Canlar 769 SMI Snap Daily 9 30 AM HI 9 P M Sunday 12 30 5 30 P M TALLAHASSEE. FLA 1233 Apaiacnaa Part, " 2131 Caiaiog Tt 2IS1 Shop Daily t JO AM 4 P M Sunday 13:30 FM S 30M ALBANY. GA. In Tha Albany Mall Retail Phona 96 3 -4 MO Catalog Phone 43J 34 r Shop Oaily ID A M til 9 P M Shop Sunday It I'M VALOOSTA. GA. in Broohwood Plata Retail Phone 242 M 10 Caiaiog Phone 242 1100 ' Shop Twee Wed . Thru Sal til 30 P M Shop Mon Friday 10 A M 9 P M " PH, fl ffn ffr M tffc m 0 Mt Mk law

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