Special for Postmedia Network/Sun Media newspapers
MEMPHIS, TENN. – Graceland is a mansion fit for a king – the king of rock ‘n’ roll, that is.
For the first time, Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis is offering virtual live VIP tours that go deeper than the escorted walking visits.
The usual on-site tours are now limited due to the pandemic.
An early photo showing Elvis outside Graceland.
These new virtual ventures dig deep into the Elvis fascination to reveal many of his eclectic tastes through his choice of furnishings and style.
Even though he “left the building” for good with his death in 1977, the Elvis passion continues unabated around the world.
“In a typical year, Graceland hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors from more than 125 countries including Canada and all 50 states,” said Debbie Miller of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
These tours are for virtual tourists to enjoy from the comfort of their home and those who have always wanted to visit Graceland but never had the chance, she added.
The personally escorted two-hour tours offer a “behind-the-ropes look” at the mansion and include the far-out jungle room where Elvis and his musician friends recorded most of the songs for his last two albums.
There’s also an onboard tour of the Lisa Marie airplane, named after his daughter, and a walk through Elvis’ entertainment complex.
The Convair 880 jet, nicknamed the “Flying Graceland” by Elvis, has two half-baths, a lounge, conference and sitting rooms and a master bedroom.
The 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood Elvis gave to his mother.
Virtual visitors from around the world can see various artifacts, including Elvis’ cars, jumpsuits, gold records and movie memorabilia.
So popular are the virtual tours that additional dates continue to be added due to demand, including three new customized visits, said publicist David Beckwith.
The manicured grounds of Elvis’ mansion in Memphis.
Tours are hosted by Angie Marchese, called “one of the world’s foremost experts on all-things Elvis Presley.”
As vice-president of Graceland Archives and Exhibits, she highlights artifacts and tells stories that vary from tour to tour, making each experience different.
“Virtual Live Tours provide guests a VIP experience with an in-depth look into Elvis’ life,” she said.
“The artifacts spotlighted and stories told will vary from tour to tour making each experience unique,” she added.
Viewers also have the opportunity to ask questions and watch their tour over and over again as they are archived for a week and presented live through a private, closed Facebook group.
Highlights of the four tours are:
- The Graceland Experience is recommended for first-time guests and gives a thorough overall look at the mansion and attractions. It is offered next on a new date, March 13 (with Feb 25 and March 25 tours sold out).
- The Mansion, on April 5, is new for a “deep dive” into Graceland and the grounds.
It explores the “personal side of Elvis” and his family and includes a visit to the trophy building and the recently restored racquetball building.
Starting at the front door, it winds up with a quiet moment in the Meditation Garden grave site.
Meditation Garden is the grave site of Elvis and family members. (Jim Fox photo)
Other photo credits: Elvis Presley’s Graceland.
- Elvis’ Life and Career looks at the museum with stories about artifacts on display including his cars, motorcycles, wardrobe jump suits and concert set pieces. It’s offered on April 19.
- The Archives Vault is the third new addition that goes into the “top-secret facility” where Elvis’ personal items not on display are stored.
Viewing some of the thousands of artifacts “can only be seen through this virtual experience.” Available on April12.
Thank you, thank you very much
Joining a virtual tour costs $98.50 US
Details: Graceland.com; or call 1-800-238-2000 or (901)332-3322
Elvis had the ultimate man cave in the Jungle Room
(ELVIS - Sidebar
It’s just as the “king” left it.
Upon walking up the stairs past the two lion statues at the front door, you can feel the aura of Elvis.
As the doors swing open for your tour – whether virtual or in person – you almost expect to see Elvis welcoming you to the party.
Tour guide Angie makes a left turn and we follow along the cavernous hallways.
Soon come upon a wood-panelled kitchen with harvest gold and avocado appliances where Mary Jenkins Langston toiled as the Graceland cook before and after his death.
You can almost smell the aroma of fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches – Elvis’ snack favourite.
There’s the office where dad Vernon handled the star’s business and Graceland staff.
His ultimate cave, the Jungle Room, will again rock for Elvis Week in August with some of his old band mates.
Check out his jukebox loaded with Elvis and his friend’s 45s as well as a pinball machine and piano.
The newly updated Trophy Room is jammed full as is the Archives building never before open to the public.
The stories just keep on coming as Angie gives us insights we’re told “cannot be heard or seen anywhere else” during this unscripted two-hour visit delving into the personal story of Elvis and his family.
One oddity is found as we take a virtual ride over to Elvis’ $45-million entertainment complex.
That’s the television set with a bullet hole in the picture tube.
Elvis admitted pulling out his .45-calibre pistol and let the TV have it.
That was because he was unhappy with the singing of the U.S. national anthem by friend and Canadian singer Robert Goulet, he said.
There are also numerous show outfits including those tight-fitting jumpsuits as well as the sweaty scarves he put around the necks of adoring female fans at concerts.
The only thing we don’t see is upstairs in Elvis’ bedroom and bathroom where he died at age 42 in 1977, out of respect for the family.
-- Jim Fox
An earlier story about the tours can be found at:
Jim Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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