Posts Tagged ‘Graceland’

I’m going to Graceland
In Memphis,Tennessee
Paul Simon/Graceland

“Elvis loved his John Deere [tractor].”
Elvis’ Aunt


Graceland Wall #1

I’m fascinated that people are fascinated by Elvis. And though touring inside Graceland was never really on my bucket list, I was glad to have the opportunity to explore the famous Memphis home of The King of Rock-n-Roll on Tuesday. Sure it’s gaudy in places (green shag carpet on the floor—and even the ceiling— in the jungle room) but this was Elvis of the ’70s. More Vegas than Memphis.

Elvis pool room

Elvis living room

And while in today’s scope the house and grounds seem modest for a star. Perhaps that’s because last year I did that shoot at NFL great Deion Sanders’ 28,000+ sq. foot Dallas home (on 100 acres).  In one sense touring Graceland is like looking at the first 8-track player in a museum. You think, “I’m sure that was state of the art back in the day, but it doesn’t look that amazing now.”

Then you realize that Elvis bought the house when he was just 22-years-old, and just a few years before that he was living in public housing and boarding houses with his parents—and that can give you a fresh perspective. From his first hit until his death in 1977, Graceland was home. (Even though he lived in Beverly Hills during his moviemaking days, he always called Memphis and Graceland home.)  Now it’s kitsch heaven with a gift store at every turn, with everything you can buy from Elvis mugs and t-shirts to Elvis Christmas ornaments and wallets.

But what I’ll always appreciate about Elvis was his talent, his energy, and his music.  In touring Graceland and getting a sweeping overview of his life I think the real fascination I have with Elvis is that question, “What do you do after you’ve accomplished all your grand dreams?” (Or in Elvis’ case where he said he had realized his dream 100 times over.) Then what happens? After all the money, fame, and women, Elvis headed down a destructive path and didn’t live long enough to reinvent himself.

When Elvis toured in the final year of his life he was overweight and out of shape, no longer the movie star, was playing much smaller musical venues than just a few years earlier, and addicted to prescription drugs. When Elvis died at age 42, if various reports are true, he was not a man at peace with his great accomplishments.

But time has been good to the memory of Elvis. His iconic statue is intact. Thankfully he’s remembered for his music, his generosity, and for being the single best-selling musician of all time.  And more fascinating to me than touring inside Graceland is the wall outside Graceland. And it’s free. In fact, you don’t even have to pay for parking. They have a lane dedicated on Elvis Presley Blvd. where you can park and sign the wall and take a few pictures.

Elvis wall

I did learn one interesting fact on the tour that has a nice Iowa connection. In the section where they have some of Elvis’ cars they have a John Deere tractor. A video said that it was one of his favorite toys. The tractor was used for many years to take care of the beautiful grounds at Graceland. The video also made a point of saying that the John Deere tractor was made at Waterloo Works in Waterloo, Iowa.

I started writing this blog is 2008 about ten miles from that factory. This post is just one more example of embracing your limitations and seeing the unusual places it takes you.

Elvis tractor

What did we do before the internet? Here’s some rare footage of Elvis and what looks like an International Harvester tractor. (Elvis spread the love around and didn’t limit himself to Pink Cadillacs and green tractors.)

P.S. Found out that the Elvis tractor was restored by students at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Mississippi. (Article: Restoring Elvis’ tractor.)

Related post:

“God is the Bigger Elvis”

Scott W. Smith

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“There’s something magical about this place.”
Field of Dreams Visitor

If you’re in the market for a traditional Iowa farmhouse with a white picket fence, 193 acres, a two car garage and one baseball field used in the movie Field of Dreams—you’re in luck. Yesterday, it was announced that the field of dreams is for sale for $5.4 million.

The real estate bust in parts of the country like Las Vegas, Southern California and Arizona is pretty bad. I’ve read that 40% of homeowners in Florida owe more on their homes than they are worth. Foreclosures continue to climb. But Iowa has been spared from much of those problems because they never experienced a bubble in the first place. Growth here is like corn—slow and steady.

I live in Cedar Falls, Iowa about an hour and a half away from the field of dreams so I don’t really know the housing market there, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that $5.4 million is the most well-known and expensive house & property on the market in Dyersville, Iowa.

But while it is listed as a one-of-a kind property, I have to admit the annual 65,000 tourists that are attracted to the field of dreams pales in comparison to Graceland. (And, of course, those visitors do buy t-shirts and artwork which provides a nice income stream to keep your John Deere tractors running.)

Here’s my dream, that some wealthy benefactor (and longtime Screenwriting from Iowa reader) would buy the property and donate the house to serve as the iconic global headquarters for Screenwriting from Iowa. I’m not real interested in maintaining the ball field or farming the land. But I am open to hosting writing and acting workshops with Diablo Cody and Kevin Costner in the machine shed by the corn bib.

(For new readers, the Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter, Diablo Cody, went to college at the University of Iowa. Same school, by the way, that W.P. Kinsella (who wrote the novel that became the movie Field of Dreams) happened to attend. Check out the post The Juno-Iowa Connection. And keep an eye open for a change of address.)

Scott W. Smith

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