August 2002

Elvis fans love him tender, love him true

By Kim Adelman
By Villard Villard
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Those hips, those lips, that baby face: of course, we're talking about Elvis. August 16 marks the 25th anniversary of his much-mythologized demise. Since that unforgettable day in 1977, the King has continued to cause a sensation, generating as much attention in death as he did in life. And that's saying a lot for the hillbilly hipster who once kissed so many girls he got calluses on his mouth. A good boy and a bad man, a gentleman and a lady-killer, Elvis pouted and snarled, sang like an angel and danced like a demon. By the end of his brief life, he'd been enthroned on the top tier of rock-n-roll royalty and permanently absorbed into the national consciousness. As with all things connected to the King, a frenzy of activity has occurred in the publishing world to commemorate his purported passing. Unless you're one of the rare few who've spotted Elvis in a Burger King, check out the following titles to make sure his legend lives on.

If Elvis was an industry, then his target market was, of course, teenaged girls. Who else could be persuaded to purchase Hound Dog Orange non-smear lipstick? In The Girls' Guide to Elvis, Kim Adelman compiles all the juiciest, need-to-know info about the Hunk O' Burning Love. The creator of, the popular Web site, Adelman has produced a kitschy handbook filled with gossip, timelines and delicious trivia. Illustrated with retro graphics and rare photos, this fast, fun read covers the following Elvis-oriented categories:

Hair: Those sensational sideburns, that glorious pompadour . . . Believe it or not, his locks were brown, not black. According to Girls' Guide, in the early years, Elvis used a pomade that darkened his crown, which was later dyed black on a regular basis. (Compare his coif to Priscilla's: though it may have been challenged by her formidable bouffant, his was undoubtedly the dominant do. What hair, what a pair!) Girls' Guide checks in with Elvis' stylist, Larry Geller, who did his hair for 13 years and fixed it for the last time when the King was lying in his coffin. See Geller's account of the postmortem primping for proof that Elvis really is dead. Really.

Girls: A hobby. Elvis dated notables and nobodies, and had a special place in his heart for chorus babes. Natalie Wood and Ann-Margret were two of the dolls who appeared on his arm before he met Priscilla in Germany in 1959. She was 14; he was 24. Two years later she was living in Memphis.

Food: Naughty, naughty. Elvis's love for peach pie and fried okra resulted in split pants onstage. It also led him to experiment with freaky fad diets, one of which believe it or not required him to be injected with the urine of a pregnant woman. Girls' Guide includes the Teddy Bear's favorite recipes and examines the health problems that resulted, in part, from his hearty appetite.

Sex: That little three-letter word . . . Sorry, we can't divulge details here!

And finally, the Girls' Guide quotes from fans ("Tom Jones is Jesus Christ, but Elvis is God Almighty") are also fab.

An outstanding visual memorial, Elvis: A Celebration traces the arc of the King's career, depicting the bright beginning, the dark ending and all the drama that came between. With more than 600 photographs, as well as material from the official Elvis archive in Memphis, this weighty volume is a one-of-a-kind testament to the appeal of the rocker who gyrated his way to superstardom. Classic pictures of the 1950s Sun Records sessions feature bandmates Scotty Moore and Bill Black, while film stills of the '60s illustrate the movies we love to hate. All the incarnations of the star are represented here: cowboy Elvis, G.I. Elvis, Hawaiian Elvis, Elvis as wholesome country boy and sophisticated city slicker, as father, husband and son.

Close-ups of his costumes from the '70s show the shades and capes, sequins and fringe that made the singer such a model of sartorial splendor. Many of his ensembles from the Aloha "eagle" outfit to the famous sundial suit, a gold and white creation emblazoned with an Aztec calendar design that was the last he would wear onstage weighed at least 25 pounds.

Here's a new way to get your hands on Elvis: Villard's interactive title The Elvis Treasures is full of souvenirs and unique memorabilia that can be removed and perused by the reader. The singer's story is told through reproductions of documents and collectible items like letters, press releases and film scripts, along with illustrations from the Graceland archives. Pull-out posters for Jailhouse Rock and King Creole, a steamy love note sent to Miss Anita Wood, Elvis' gal in Memphis during his time in the Army ("I can't explain to you how I crave you and desire your lips," wrote the Hound Dog), as well as reproductions of tickets, telegrams and postcards, make this a mini-museum dedicated to the ultimate heartthrob.

With text by music journalist Robert Gordon, an Elvis expert and author of The King on the Road, the volume offers a comprehensive look at the life and music of the man who put Mississippi on the map for reasons that had nothing to do with race. Combining a fascinating narrative with clever visuals, this ingenious book is accompanied by Elvis Speaks, a 60-minute audio CD of interviews with the King. It all comes in a sturdy, handsome gift box. Perfect for fans who prefer to experience Elvis in 3-D.

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