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30,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Help Falling in Line

From Associated Press

Loyal fan Pat Armstrong had little use for the hordes of reporters and Elvis Presley impersonators drawn to Graceland for Saturday’s 20th anniversary of the death of the King of rock ‘n’ roll.

“The media pick out all these idiots. They don’t show the genuine Elvis fans,” she said at Presley’s grave. “They pick them out because they’ve got those stupid jumpsuits and ridiculous hairdos.”

Armstrong, 54, was among a group of 950 fans who came to Memphis as members of the Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain.

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Through the day, a capacity crowd of 5,000 was expected to tour Graceland, Presley’s home, while thousands more thronged the city and packed souvenir shops. Presley died at Graceland on Aug. 16, 1977, at 42, of heart disease made worse by prescription drug abuse.

Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla, and daughter, Lisa Marie, made a surprise appearance Saturday night at a concert featuring Elvis video clips.

From Friday night into early Saturday, 30,000 fans joined the annual candlelight vigil and procession past the King’s grave in a small garden at Graceland.

A 4-foot-high mound of roses and other flowers covered the grave, along with teddy bears, small ceramic angels and other offerings.

Dozens of other large flower arrangements surrounded the grave and the winding walkway leading to it.

The United Elvis Presley Society of Belgium left a 5-foot-tall arrangement of blue and yellow flowers in the shape of a guitar, while fans from Sunderland, England, sent a 3-by-4-foot yellow-and-pink arrangement that declared: “Elvis is King.”

Other commemorations took place as far away as Israel, where hundreds of fans gathered near Jerusalem for the unveiling of a 17-foot statue of Presley.

“He was the greatest singer of the 20th century,” said Yossi Rosen, who entertained the Israel crowd with some of Presley’s hits.

Armstrong, of Yorkshire, said she became an Elvis fan as a teenager when his records first started arriving in Europe.

“We didn’t see the face for a long, long time. Then when you saw that gorgeous face, that was a bonus,” she said.

Sheryl Hooge, 41, and Libby Durst, 43, came for the anniversary with their Elvis Krewe of Louisiana from Baton Rouge. They sported purple, green and gold Mardi Gras beads over Elvis T-shirts.

A visit to Graceland, they said, lets them bond with other Elvis fans--and get away from their families awhile.

“It rejuvenates us for the rest of the year,” Durst said.

* REASONABLE FACSIMILE

Fans visit a smaller copy of Graceland in Northridge. B1


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