The magic of Elvis

Visiting the palace of her King.....Visiting an old friend

By Patricia Bunin, Correspondent

"Which guitar?" I kept wondering as I wended my way through Graceland Mansion in Memphis. Large, reddish mahogany-colored lacquered wood. Breathless to the touch. That was the guitar Elvis used when he serenaded me privately as I sat star-struck next to him on that fateful day in 1956.

The day I wangled my way into his hotel room in Charlotte, N.C. The day I climbed 20 flights of stairs to his suite. The day I waited three hours in the stairwell until he appeared. Bobby Davis, my delightful personal guide for the Graceland tour, listened carefully and politely refrained from laughing as I described the guitar. There were easily dozens of guitars on display that fit that description.

Even if Elvis hadn't picked up his guitar all those years ago and asked me gently, "Would you like me to sing something for you, young lady?" I would have wanted to visit Graceland. Even if he hadn't kissed me goodbye. But he did. And it changed my life forever. The first boy I ever kissed went on to become the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Though generations of young women screamed and fainted at his concerts, overcome by his charisma, I only saw him perform in person that one time. Just for me.

Over the years when I went to see Elvis movies -- and I saw them all, multiple times --during a love scene I would whisper loudly to my girlfriends, "He kissed me first!" No one could ever top that. And I would smile secretly to myself recalling the somewhat chaste kiss that the handsome young man from Tupelo, Miss., had bestowed on the somewhat shy 13-year-old girl from Virginia. Visiting Graceland wasn't merely a desire for me. It was a quest.

Forty-eight years to the summer after I met Elvis, I finally made it. And suddenly here I was, checking into Heartbreak Hotel (yes, the desk clerk's dressed in black, just like the song says) with my husband George Roegler snapping photos of me as I draped myself over the purple and zebra chaise lounge in the lobby.

Here I was rushing across the street at midnight because I couldn't wait until the morning to get my first glimpse of the mansion. After a sleepless night of anticipation as I looked up at the picture of The King in our room --at the exact age he was when I met him -- the big day arrived.

Finally I was standing between Courage and Strength, the two lions that flank the entrance to Graceland. On an average day, 2,000 to 3,000 people tour Graceland, the second most visited and recognized private residence, next to The White House, in the United States.

Yet I felt strangely at home in the 17,552-square-foot house where Elvis winks at you from every wall. It was just like I had popped in to visit an old friend. At his grave site in the Meditation Garden, where thousands of fans will soon gather for a candlelight vigil on Monday, the 27th anniversary of his death, I was taken by the tiny memorial to his twin brother, Jessie Garon, who was stillborn.

What would have happened if he had lived? Would the brothers Presley have teamed up musically? But there was to be only one King of rock 'n' roll and he has since reigned for 50 years. We went to the Sun Records studio where Elvis recorded his first song, "That's All Right," on July 5, 1954. It recently became a gold record, joining 148 other Elvis gold and platinum singles and albums. It was magic to touch the spot where Elvis stood when he recorded the song.

So much about Elvis is magic. Right down to the staff of overwhelmingly dedicated people who help to carry on his legend. You might say the Graceland staff is in Elvis' image: courteous and gracious to the core, just like the gentleman who charmed me with his good southern manners so long ago. --


Seeking a King-sized donation.......Taking the fight for the cure to Memphis and home again

By Patricia Bunin, Correspondent

When I was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts six years ago, a friend said, "Look for the opportunity." Last month I found it at Graceland. A chance for me to partner with Elvis, and all of you who are reading this, to make a big difference in funding the fight to find a cure for breast cancer.

During the chemotherapy treatments that followed my double mastectomy, I made a list of all the things I had always wanted to do. Visiting Graceland was right near the top of that list.


Even now, I can hear Elvis's enchanting voice as he sang to me when, 48 years ago, at age 13, I was lucky enough to meet him. I can still feel the gentle touch of his goodbye kiss, my first ever.To celebrate my six-year survivor anniversary, my husband, George Roegler, took me on a trip from our home in Altadena to Memphis, Tenn. to fulfill my long time dream.

In honor of this significant event in my life, The Elvis Foundation has generously donated $600, in my name, to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. I invite all Elvis fans reading this to contribute to a challenge grant to boost this donation. Just think, if a million people gave $6 each, we would boost the Elvis donation to more than $6 million. But everyone cannot donate. So please, if you can, help celebrate my anniversary by making a donation of any amount with a "6" in it.

Checks should be made payable to the Susan G. Komen Foundation with "Elvis/Patricia Donation" written on the check.

The Komen Foundation will keep records of the contributions and I will report back to you in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and let you know how high the Elvis donation grew with your help.

Mail your checks to:

ATTN: Sandra House

Susan G. Komen Foundation

6141 Walnut Grove Road,

Suite 211

Memphis, TN 38120

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