Excerpts From THE FIELD GUIDE TO ELVIS SHRINES
by Bill Yenne
Copyright © 1999, 2004 and 2013 by William Yenne
by Bill Yenne
“It’s enough to wear out several pairs of blue suede shoes.” - The New Times
200 East Gholson Avenue
Holly Springs, Mississippi 38636
Paul MacLeod is the world’s greatest Elvis Presley fan. There is nobody who comes close. Paul transformed his own home into a replica of Elvis’ home, he named his son Elvis Aron Presley MacLeod, and when his obsession with Elvis and Elvis memorabilia got to be too much for Selena MacLeod, Paul’s wife of 22 years, he told her “Bye.”
Known officially as Graceland Too, Paul MacLeod’s 1857 house is located only 30 miles south of the real — or should we say “other” — Graceland in Memphis. The house is more of an approximation that a replica, but it comes close, with a portico and matched concrete lions that are essentially direct copies. Inside, there are even remnants of the original carpet roll that was used in the legendary jungle den at the other Graceland. Graceland Too displays more Elvis memorabilia per square foot than Graceland, with pictures, posters and publications everywhere. Indeed, Paul MacLeod has an estimated ten million items in his collection, and as many as wall space will allow, are on display. His video and record collection rivals the RCA vaults, and MacLeod continuously monitors numerous television sets for any mention of the King. A special place is set aside for a dried flower, the first flower that was placed on Elvis’ grave.
The most astonishing item in Paul MacLeod’s Graceland Too is Elvis himself — Elvis Aron Presley MacLeod. Paul’s thirtysomething son is a working Elvis impersonator with an uncanny resemblance to the man that he and his father idolize. The two live together at Graceland II, with Paul’s mother living upstairs, out of sight, in the Minnie Mae Presley role.
Graceland Too has been open to the public since 1990, with the admission price being $5.00 at press time. (Three visits will make you a lifetime member, and thereafter, admission is free.) It is conveniently located on US Highway 78, almost exactly half way between Memphis and Tupelo. Both of the MacLeod boys act as tour guides, and sleep in the living room so that they can be ready to give the tour, anytime, day or night. Give them a break though, call ahead and come at a decent hour.
ST. MICHAEL’S HALL
3115 Scranton Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44109
The first filming of Elvis by a major studio was not Love Me Tender, his first feature film, but rather a documentary entitled The Pied Piper of Cleveland that Universal Pictures filmed on October 15, 1955 at the Circle Theater in Cleveland. It was actually not about Elvis, but about a day in the life of the popular Cleveland disc jockey Bill Randle, who then divided his time between Cleveland and New York City. Coincidentally, he had been the first disc jockey outside the South to play an Elvis Presley record.
The film was produced by Randle himself with director Arthur Cohen and cinematographer Jack Barnett. It was Randle who signed the talent that would appear on two shows to be filmed with state-of-the-art 35mm cameras on October 19. The top act was the now-forgotten Four Lads, but Bill Haley and His Comets and Pat Boone also appeared. Elvis was scheduled to be in town playing a concert with Kitty Wells at the Circle Theater, and he too was added to the list of performers. The two shows were at Brooklyn High School and at St. Michael’s Hall. Elvis’ songs included “That’s All Right Mama,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Mystery Train,” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.”
The film was edited, and several weeks later a 48-minute version was screened at Euclid Shore Junior High School. Parts of it were seen on WEWS television (Channel 5) in 1956, but aside from this, no one outside of those involved in the production has ever seen The Pied Piper of Cleveland. The 35mm original is believed to still languish in the vaults at Universal. There has been occasional discussion about releasing the film, but apparently the legal issues involving all the stars included have prevented this.
In 1992, a London businessman named Ray Santilli was in Cleveland trying to locate the print of The Pied Piper of Cleveland that Bill Randle is said to have, when he got the lead that led him to the famous Alien Autopsy Film. This film, which was aired on television worldwide in 1995, allegedly shows US Army doctors conducting an autopsy on one of the occupants of a UFO that crashed near Roswell, New Mexico in July 1947. As the story goes, Jack Barnett, who worked on The Pied Piper of Cleveland, and who died in 1957, was somehow involved in filming the Alien Autopsy Film for the US Army at Roswell. Other versions of the story suggest that Burnett was not involved, and that the name “Jack Barnett” was an alias used to protect the real identity of the Roswell cameraman. Other people believe that the Alien Autopsy Film was a fake.
LAS VEGAS HILTON
(Known as the International Hotel from 1969 to 1971 and as the Hilton International Hotel from 1971 to 1972)
3000 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
Driving north on the Strip from the Frontier, the next major intersection will be Desert Inn Road. Turn right on this street, drive to Paradise Road and turn left. As you continue north on Paradise Road, the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center will be on your right. Next on the right, will be the grounds of the Las Vegas Hilton, with the massive, thirty-story hotel and casino complex rising from a hill.
Originally owned by Kirk Kerkorian, the property opened as the International Hotel in July 1969. In 1970 Kerkorian sold part of the International to Hilton Hotels, and a year later Hilton purchased the remaining share. It became known as the Las Vegas Hilton in 1972.
The first act that Kerkorian booked into his showroom at the International was Barbra Streisand. The second was Elvis Presley. Fresh from the great success of Elvis, his “Comeback Special” that had aired on NBC television in December 1968, Elvis was one of the hottest acts in show business, and, as it turned out, he was about to become the hottest act in the history of the Las Vegas stage. His opening night at the International, July 29, 1969, was by invitation only, but the remainder of his twenty-eight-night stand was a sell-out. It was his first sustained series of concerts since 1957, and there was a great deal of pent-up demand. Elvis set a Las Vegas attendance record with 101,509 paying customers through August 28, and a gross of $1.5 million.
After his triumphant return to the stage in the summer of 1969, Elvis made the property his home base, and he was to appear on stage at 3000 Paradise Road more times than at any other venue in the world.
When Elvis returned to the International in January 1971, his anxiously-awaited stand was an even hotter ticket than it had been in the summer of 1969. Elvis made Las Vegas a routine part of his tour schedule. By the time he came back again in January 1972, the International was the Las Vegas Hilton, but Elvis was still the King. He continued to return to Las Vegas through the middle years of the 1970s.
He set a pattern of two to four week appearances in the summer and fall, each year through 1975, with a single stand at the end of 1976. He returned to the International Hotel between January 26 and February 23, and from August 10 to September 7 in 1970. It was still the International Hotel when he appeared from January 26 to February 23, 1971, but the name had been changed to Hilton International Hotel when he returned from August 9 to September 6, 1971, and between January 26 and February 23, 1972.
After the property officially became the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, Elvis’ appearances were from August 4 to September 4, 1972; from January 26 to February 23, 1973; from August 6 to September 3, 1973; from January 26 to February 9, 1974; from August 19 to September 2, 1974; from March 18 to April 1, 1975; from August 18 to 20, 1975; from December 2 to December 15, 1975 and from December 2 through December 12, 1976. His return each year was the most anxiously-awaited event in Las Vegas, and every seat was booked well in advance. As he strode on stage in his brilliant white jumpsuit to the strains of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” and launched into “See See Rider,” he transformed himself into one of Las Vegas’ most lasting legends. Indeed, he came to symbolize the glamour and the vital energy that was, and would continue to be, Las Vegas.
While he was in residence at the Las Vegas Hilton, Elvis stayed in a suite that he helped to decorate, and one that naturally came to be known as the Elvis Presley Suite. Today it is known as the Imperial Suite as it was when Elvis arrived there. Reportedly Suites 446-447 were reserved for Colonel Parker.
Today, Elvis fans visiting the Las Vegas Hilton usually make a stop at the plaque commemorating his unprecedented eight years of appearances at the property. An inscription penned by Barron Hilton reads: “Elvis Aaron Presley: Memories of Elvis will always be with us. None of us really, totally, know how great a performer he was. All of us at the Las Vegas Hilton were proud to present Elvis in our showroom. The decorations in the hotel, the banners, the streamers. . . Elvis always created great excitement with his loyal fans and friends. The Las Vegas Hilton was Elvis’ home away from home. His attendance records are a legend. We will miss him. Thanks, Elvis, from all of us.”
The Elvis 1960-1961 and 1963-1965 Home
525 (Sometimes listed as 565) Perugia Way
Los Angeles, California 90077
Located in Bel Air (a district within the City of Los Angeles), this home was rented by Elvis for most of the early sixties, although for just over a year, he lived in the nearby house at 10539 Bellagio Road. His two sojourns on Perugia Way were from September 9, 1960 to October 22, 1961 and from January 18, 1963 through the end of 1965. Perugia Way is located on a heavily-wooded hillside overlooking the grounds of the Bel Air Country Club.
Now entirely rebuilt, the original structure on the site that Elvis knew was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The story is told that Iran’s last shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, owned the house before Elvis.
It was while he was living on Perugia Way that Elvis had his legendary "Summit Conference" with the Beatles. The meeting, the only time that Elvis and the Beatles would ever meet, was arranged between Colonel Parker and Beatles manager Brian Epstein. The Fab Four were at the end of their third United States tour, and were staying in a rented house at 2850 Benedict Canyon Road, about two miles away.
The Summit Conference occurred on the evening (some sources say the afternoon) of August 27, 1965, when the Beatles — out of deference to the respect they held for the King of rock and roll — came to his home. Both Elvis and the Beatles were quite nervous before the meeting, but they got along quite well and spent about three hours together. Reportedly, they played music together and a tape recorder was turned on. However, if such an historically important tape still exists, its whereabouts are unknown. The Beatles made their famous appearances at the Hollywood Bowl on August 28-30, but Elvis did not attend. These concerts were recorded, but their release was delayed for a decade.
To reach Perugia Way from Sunset Boulevard, turn north on Stone Canyon Road for about a quarter of a mile. Turn left on Bellagio Road at the end of the Bel Air Country Club Golf Course and drive for about half a mile. Perugia Way is a two-block street bisected by the 10500 section of Bellagio Road. Perugia Way is intersected by no other street than Bellagio Road. Have your Los Angeles street map handy. Please note that this is a private home and not open to the public. Do not disturb the occupants. Crossing the end of the driveway constitutes trespassing. As with nearly all of the homes in Bel Air, it is protected by a private security company.