Elvis Presley remains front and center in the hearts and minds of millions of fans from around the world.
Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee consistently receives between 600,000 to 750,000 visitors a year over the last decade. In the four years prior to pandemic 2020, attendance was up roughly 35,000 visitors annually. A couple of years ago, Elvis Presley Enterprises opened 200,000 square feet of new exhibits, museums and performance space across the street at Graceland Plaza.
The redevelopment was part of a $137 million master-planned overhaul of the Graceland campus, which began in the fall of 2016 with the opening of 450-room resort hotel The Guest House at Graceland. The economic impact of Graceland’s expansion has been estimated at more than $1.1 billion.
“My view is that Elvis, along with a few other people, started pop culture as we know it,” Joel Weinshanker, Graceland’s managing partner said before the pandemic hit hard. “We will have more visitors this year than we did in the first year Graceland was opened…It will be his best year.”
“Our largest specific demographic is 20-something women,” Weinshanker said. “That’s who’s interested in Elvis. Also, with the expansion, we’ve seen the number of children and families doubling. Young couples in their 20s and 30s, that’s a demographic we’ve had forever, but now with the hotel, they’re bringing their kids. And in the process, they’re fostering a new generation of Elvis fans.”
NEW MOVIE, COLONEL PARKER
A new biopic movie about Elvis and his controversial manager, Colonel Tom Parker is currently filming and is due to be released November 5, 2021.
To play the role of Elvis’ manager, Tom Hanks has shaved his head bald and admitted he doesn’t look anything like The Colonel.
The 64-year-old said: “Let’s just say the people who played gorillas in Planet of the Apes spent less time in the make-up chair than I did on this movie.”
According to the official synopsis, Elvis is “seen through the prism of [Presley’s] complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The film delves into the complex dynamic between Presley and Parker spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America. Central to that journey is one of the most significant and influential people in Elvis’s life, Priscilla Presley.”
Colonel Tom Parker was born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk on June 26, 1909, in Breda, Netherlands.
At age 20, he came to America by ship and kept his identity secret. He worked for circus carnivals and joined the U.S. Army. Later, he launched a career as a country music promoter.
About 160 miles northeast of Breda, is Veendam, Netherlands where one of the most remarkable Elvis Presley fans of all time, Lida Keijzer lives.
LIDA KEIJZER, SUPER FAN
Lida Keijzer was born in March 1968, just three months before Elvis began filming and recording at the Burbank Studios in California for what is now known as his “’68 Comeback” television special.
Lida has been a lifelong and devoted Presley fan. Little did her family realize the talented Lida would grow up to become one of the most loyal and steadfast fans in Elvis Presley history.
Beginning in May 2015, Lida began a meticulous project that has earned her worldwide recognition and the opportunity to meet Priscilla Presley and many others who were a part of the Elvis’ life before his death on August 16, 1977.
Her goal was to build a miniature dollhouse-like version of Graceland, the Memphis, Tennessee mansion of Elvis that he bought for his family in 1957.
Virtually every day for years–based on photographs and any printed material she could find–Lida began sawing, cutting, sculpting, sewing and painting an elaborate, detailed mini-Graceland.
When I first wrote about her in 2016, the articles took off like Elvis’ first release out of the army: “It’s Now or Never,” a bullet racing up the Top Ten charts of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and Billboard. One of the articles was read by over a million people around the world in a matter of days.
In January 2017, through a GoFundMe account set up by Kathy Savelio, other Elvis fans and a friend, Lida was able to travel to the United States and visit Graceland, Sun Studio in Memphis and the Elvis Presley Birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi.
She met Elvis Presley Enterprise officials, musicians, singers, people in Elvis’ life and many fans she had been corresponding with through social media.
In Europe, she met Priscilla Presley during a concert tour with a live band and orchestra performing to a backdrop of Elvis singing on giant screens.
Lida didn’t stop with just the Graceland mansion. She expanded it to include the famous gates, guard house, and stone wall, landscaping, the drive, the swimming pool, Meditation Gardens and the burial site of the Presley family.
She sculpted the “Lisa Marie,” Elvis’s personal jet he named after his daughter.
Then, out of popsicle sticks, she built a replica of the Tupelo birth house.
More recently, Lida has built her detailed replica of Sun Studio and Vernon Presley’s (his father) office building, Lisa Marie’s swing set and the smokehouse-target practice room.