"And she remembers the day that Elvis died" --"She's Happy" by The Gear Daddies
Last week, August 16th to be exact, marked the 30th anniversary of Elvis A(a)ron Presley's death. I'm not one of those people who has one room of their house devoted to being an Elvis shrine. I happened to read about the date in the news, otherwise the day would have come and gone without any notice. I happen to like most of Elvis' music, and think that the way his life ended was a little sad. But I feel a little sorry for the people who still get weepy about it.
I grew up with Elvis. Not literally, mind you. Though I'm sure I would have been happy growing up in Tupelo in the 1940s. But instead I grew up in a world where Elvis had already overcome his beginnings as a shy, stuttering "mama's boy" and left his mark on the world. His career had gone through most of it's productive arc. I was 8 years old when Elvis died. I didn't grow up with Elvis the Pelvis, or Elvis the Corrupter of Youth. I grew up with Elvis the Product. By the time I started to become conscious of popular music Elvis was pretty much working full time in Vegas paying the bills and, from what I've read, spending most of his time hopped up on one drug or another.
On Thursday,Turner Classic Movies Filled their entire program day with Elvis movies. Did you know that Elvis played a race car driver in three different movies (Speedway, Viva Las Vegas, Spinout)? And between 1956 and 1968 Elvis starred in a staggering 31 movies. More than two per year, even including the period from 1958-1960 where he was wasn't making films due to being drafted (take that, Michael Caine)! After we finished watching High School Musical, I flipped over to TCM and started watching Viva Las Vegas. Elvis plays a race car driver named Lucky who courts a young Ann-Margaret. Lucky, indeed. I then followed this up with Clambake, where a decidedly more jowly Elvis plays a rich oil tycoon's son who switches places with a waterskiing instructor and courts a young Shelly Fabares. By that time it was getting late and I couldn't find it in me to stay up and watch Wild in the Country (Elvis at his untamed bad boy best!). I thought that I had done enough to honor Elvis' memory at this point.
I sort of forgot about Elvis for a few days after that. I had a three day weekend and didn't spend a lot of it in front of the TV. However, I did find myself watching something forgettable one evening. So forgettable that I've forgotten what it was. But that's really not the point. As I was watching whatever it happened to be (and I do wonder what it was) a commercial came on. It was 5 or 6 guys sitting around in what looked like a bar that had closed for the evening. They all had guitars or other musical instruments. They were doing the TV commercial version of jamming. And the tune was strikingly familiar. The guys were all middle aged. And happy. Extremely happy. Erectile-disfunction commercial happy. It was a cover of Viva Las Vegas, but the chorus was now "Viva Viagra". You can watch it on youtube if you really feel it's required. I was a bit stunned, but not completely surprised. Elvis has been a product for as long as I can remember. Viagra is a product that apparently has an unlimited advertising budget. A match made in heaven. Hell, if Elvis were still alive he'd probably be the company's spokesman.
Tuesday night I decided to eschew broadcast TV and settled in with an old friend, The Big Lebowski. I was off following the story that was being unfolded, when it hit again. As Bunny Lebowski and her green painted toenails drive up the highway in a flashy red convertible, what song is she blasting through the stereo and singing along with? Viva Las Vegas, naturally. Perhaps Mojo Nixon said it best: Elvis is a perfect being. We are all moving in perfect peace and harmony towards Elvis-ness. Soon all will become Elvis. Everything everywhere will be Elvis.