"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."
"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."
"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."
(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)
"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"
"Absolute id crashed into absolute superego...as the uptightset man in America shook hands with just about the loosest."
(Mark Feeney on the 'Elvis meets Nixon' meeting)
"Elvis is everywhere"
(Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper)
"...especially in the South, they talk about Elvis and Jesus in the same breath"
(Michael Ventura, LA Weekly)
"The image is one thing and the huiman being is another...it's very hard to live up to an image"
(Elvis Presley, Madison Square Garden press conference, 1972)
"Elvis was a major hero of mine. I was actually stupid enough to believe that having the same birthday as him actually meant something"
"No-one, but no-one, is his equal, or ever will be. He was, and is supreme"
"I wasn't just a fan, I was his brother...there'll never be another like that soul brother"
(Soul legend, James Brown)
The San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, July 17, 2005
How can I explain -- from a fashionably feminist perspective -- the role of Elvis in women's lives? Could I hold up my head in the intellectual community if it were ever learned that I, like Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, once worshipped the blue suede shoes he walked in?
Her new book, "Elvis and Me," will certainly draw a lot of old Elvis fans out of the closet, and not because it debunks Elvis either. Debunking Elvis is nothing new. Elvis is about as easy to debunk as fast food and tract houses.
Lots of Decent People who always knew Elvis was scum will be looking for the King's kinkier antics in the recently published memoirs of his former wife. And right there on page 239 is the Ultimate Shocker. Elvis, whose gyrating pelvis sent countless mothers and fathers to the family liquor cabinet for quick sedation, insisted that Priscilla stay a virgin until their wedding night. In a world of AC/DC, Twisted Sister and Motley Crue, this has got to stand out as some kind of a clean joke.
Cilla, as the King called his No. 1, spent her youth living out the dream many of us cherished as we sat in our rooms with those first bulky transistor radios plastered against our ears. Flashback to 1956. I am a tormented 12-year-old looking for an escape from the Willie Loman-esque pathos of middle-class life. At the same time, I am possessed by biochemical demons that are coursing through my bloodstream and insisting that I can't remain a little girl. Hoping to make sense of this chaos, I turn on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and a voice speaks right to these demons. It says: "You ain't nothin' but a houn' dog."
Now, I have an identity. I am an Elvis fan. He is a kind of big, rockin', good ferry conducting me across the troubled waters from puberty to adolescence. I go to my first concert and stand on my chair with thousands of other girls and scream for two hours straight. I never see Elvis the whole time except for one fleeting second when I rush the police lines and ecstatically touch the trouser leg of his gold lame suit.
I discover mass hysteria is much more fun than solitary hysteria. The fact that grown-ups hate him is icing on the cake. My dream is to succeed in the Win a Date With Elvis contest. I sit in my room with my Hit Parader magazine, studying the rules and imagining what it'll be like if I win.
Me: Love me tender, Elvis.
Him: Someday, little girl, but not now. It's a very sacred thing to me.
Me: Elvis, you're too much.
Him: I just wanna be your teddy bear.
By 1958 it was all over for me. My crush on Elvis was an embarrassment. Uncle Sam could have him. I was in high school and fielding the advances of real boys.
It wasn't just that my taste in music changed. Elvis was lower-class to the core, and I think that's what frightened parents about him. They didn't want their daughter to marry one. Other singers brought black music to white people, but Elvis brought white trash culture to the masses.
The aging of Elvis was a national nightmare. We wanted him to take diet pills rather than torment us with the idea that our fate also might include middle-age spread. Nobody with any pretensions to style would have admitted liking Elvis in the '70s. He wore Vegas suits that made Sammy Davis look Amish. Elvis became an easy target in his last years. His once-shocking sideburns fluffed out, his voice was shot. He was a self-satire. A young rebel is one thing; a washed-out idol quite another.
The slow decline of the King was an embarrassment to the girls who once screamed for him. Elvis lived out our adolescence to its logical conclusion while we went on to more mundane midlife crises.
Dethroned at home, except among the bouffant lifers, Elvis nevertheless continues to be an international symbol of greatness.
When you cross the border at Tijuana, there will always be three faces immortalized in velvet: Jesus, Montezuma and Elvis Presley. The guy's in good company. He did all of us little girls proud.
This story, excerpted here, was first published in The Chronicle on Sept. 29, 1985.
"Elvis Presley is the supreme socio-cultural icon in the history of pop culture"
(Dr. Gary Enders)
" Elvis is the 'glue' which holds our society together....which subconciously gives our world meaning"
"Eventually everybody has to die, except Elvis"
(humorist Dave Barry)
"He is the "Big Bang", and the universe he detonated is still expanding, the pieces are still flying"
(Greil Marcus, "Dead Elvis")
"I think Elvis Presley will never be solved"
"He was the most popular man that ever walked on this planet since Christ himself was here"
"When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew I wasn't going to work for anybody...hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail"
"When we were kids growing up in Liverpool, all we ever wanted was to be Elvis Presley"
(Sir Paul McCartney)