Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Demolishing Elvis

People come here looking for Elvis. Not just where he rests, but where he lived, ate, worked, played. They're looking for artifacts of Elvis. They're looking for the things that made Elvis, Elvis. But we keep knocking down these treasures. Listed below are pieces of Elvis' Memphis and their fates:

  • Memphis Funeral Home, Union Avenue, which handled the funerals for Elvis and his mother: demolished.

  • Baptist Hospital, where Lisa Marie was born and Elvis was pronounced DOA: demolished.

  • American Studios, at the corner of Chelsea and Thomas, where Elvis' recorded "Suspicious Minds" and "In the Ghetto": demolished.

  • Stax Studios, on McLemore, where Elvis recorded: demolished, then rebuilt.

  • Graceland, Elvis' home from 1957 until his death, and his final resting place: preserved.

  • Zippin Pippin, Elvis' favorite roller coaster: threatened.

  • 1034 Audubon Drive, Elvis' first home (1956-1957) after becoming famous: preserved.

  • Overton Park Shell, where Elvis first performed in public: threatened.

  • Chisca Hotel, where Elvis' recordings were first broadcast: threatened.

  • Sun Studio, where Elvis' first recorded and hit it big: preserved.

  • Loew's State, a movie palace on Main Street in downtown Memphis, where Elvis worked as a teenager: demolished.

  • Lauderdale Courts, the public housing project where Elvis lived during high school: once-threatened, now preserved (as Uptown Square). Note that this success was not due to Elvis' history, but their prime location downtown, their WPA built architecture and the imagination of the developers. But preserved is preserved, even if their new name is a bit bland.

With the exception of Loew's State, all the demolitions took place after Elvis' death, when there was no question of his importance to Memphis.

Even if you concede that Elvis is Memphis' one-trick pony, which I don't concede, but if you did, you would still have to ask -- why are we poisoning the pony?

UPDATE (9/24/2006): the Shell no longer appears threatened.


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