My first introduction to Elvis Presley was a boy in our high school, who had a glass eye, dressed in leather and must have imitated the King or maybe it was just the high neck of his leather jacket that conjured this image, but in any case I associated him with Elvis and the connection was not good.
Then somewhere around my junior year I saw Elvis’s 1969 Comeback Special and I fell in love. I made my friend Sheila watch (I don’t think she cared much for him before this) and the attraction spread. She had introduced me to Neil Diamond and Stephen King, so this was only fair. We watched that special over and over until we knew it by heart and it created a mild obsession with Elvis’ ever since.
In college we had a book named Orion, complete with a cassette recording that claimed Elvis was alive, living under the name Orion and the recording was of him singing. I visited Graceland while on a trip to the National Pug Specialty amidst Hurricane Rita. My friend Joan, who was driving, let us do a flyby tour, taking pictures at the gates, and allowing us a quick walk thru so I at least got to see Elvis’ grave.
I admit I first became obsessed with Lisa Marie Presley because of whom her father was, the fact that she was married to Michael Jackson, and that she was only a year younger than me making us peers of sorts. But as the years passed, I began to love her for who she was – she struck me as a survivor, someone striving for her own identity and staking her claim to it despite all the hype around her. My Mom was a fan of both Priscilla and Lisa Marie so it was something we shared as well. When her first album came out I bought it and then the subsequent ones. I loved watching her on Oprah, always finding her somewhat angry, somewhat nervous, but always honest and direct. I liked that.
All this is my way of introducing where Sheila and I were tonight – in White River Junction at Tupelo Musical Hall for the last night of Lisa Marie Presley’s Storm and Grace tour. I have to admit it was a surreal experience. I think perhaps because I wasn’t there so much for her music as to see her. It wasn’t just about her Dad although that was a big part of it, it was also because, like I said, I kind of identify with her and did I mention it’s really cool to see how much she looks like her dad.
I was even a little nervous to go. Would I be cool enough to be in the audience of music royalty? Honestly, this worried me, although it needn’t have. The audience consisted of your average Vermonters, many, if their age was any indication, were there because they were Elvis’ fans. Because we had never been to Tupelo before Sheila and I left early to check out the venue first before dinner. We got there around 5:30 and the town was dark. Not just the Freight House where Tupelo is, but also the whole town. “Must be because it’s a Sunday,” Sheila concluded, but the street lights weren’t even on.
We had dinner and headed back to Tupelo to find any icy driveway, limited parking and a long, long line. Someone eventually came out and told us to go wait in our cars. There had been a power outage earlier (That explained the dark town) and they were doing a sound check. We skated our way back to the car, waited for 10 minutes and returned back to the line. I needn’t have worried about looking cool. As the above pictures indicate, all that mattered was staying warm. Sheila and I huddled in our long black L.L. Bean coats looking like penguins waddling in the crowd. They eventually let us into the lobby and eventually the concert.
Lisa Marie was fascinating, skinny, tense, and entertaining all at once. Some people paid extra for a meet and greet. I settled for a t-shirt, a CD and a wonderful memory and I’m glad my best friend was there to share it.