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Digging Up Elvis Leaves Some Fans Shook Up

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s no April Fool’s joke: After 38 years, Elvis has left the Boulevard.

Tourists visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame today will be surprised to find an empty star where Elvis Presley’s familiar brass name and record insignia were attracting crowds as recently as noon Tuesday.

Presley’s star was jackhammered out of the sidewalk Tuesday afternoon at 6777 Hollywood Blvd. by officials hoping to learn why the rock ‘n’ roll legend’s pink terrazzo keeps cracking.

The star’s steady deterioration is no joking matter to Walk of Fame administrators, who 16 months ago replaced the terrazzo base in hopes of stopping the cracks.

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Until they figure out the cause, leaders of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce plan to relocate Elvis a few blocks to the west near the boulevard’s intersection with La Brea Avenue--next to the stylized gazebo featuring actresses Dolores Del Rio, Anna Mae Wong, Dorothy Dandridge, Mae West and Marilyn Monroe

“I thought about moving Elvis in front of a fast-food restaurant,” cracked Johnny Grant, who presided over the unveiling Tuesday of comedian Buddy Hackett’s new star before overseeing Presley’s disinterment. “But he’ll like being over there with the women.”

The jackhammering left Presley fans all shook up, though.

Gary Dingillo--an Elvis aficionado from Orange who says he visits Presley’s hometown of Memphis four times a year--was surprised to find workers pouring concrete into Presley’s empty star at its normal spot between those of Ray Charles and TV personality Bill Burrud.

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“I’m looking for Elvis. I brought Nicole here to show it to her,” said a puzzled Dingillo, pointing to Nicole Hatcliff, a visitor from Australia. “I’m very disappointed.”

Said Hatcliff gloomily: “I’d have liked a photo.”

Grant obliged by letting Dingillo photograph Hatcliff holding the brass “Elvis Presley” that had been jackhammered from the terrazzo. Then Hatcliff photographed Dingillo holding it.

Tourist Marsha Kitterman of Little Rock, Ark., snapped pictures of her husband and two girls posing over the empty Elvis star.

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“Oh no,” Kitterman had shrugged when she saw Presley was missing. “Why did he leave us?”

Others joked about Elvis’ whereabouts.

“I see him all the time at Cubs and Bulls games,” visitor Toni Schulte of Chicago explained. “Elvis is always with us.”

Actress Meredith Leigh, who takes theater classes in a building next to Presley’s star, joked that Elvis was sighted recently in a McDonald’s restaurant in her hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich.

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Officials said they hope to eventually return the Presley star to its original location since that’s where fans and tourist maps expect it to be. But until the cause of the cracking can be determined, it will stay at the western end of the Walk of Fame.

Sidewalk contractor David Paternostro, whose Top End Constructors Co. installs all the Walk of Fame stars, said his workers jackhammered deep into the sidewalk searching for tree roots that might have caused Elvis’ cracking.

But none were found, leading Paternostro to speculate that the usual villain, Metro Rail subway tunneling, is to blame.

Nearby businessman Jan Lucas said he is praying for Presley’s return. Lucas sells souvenirs at the Hollywood Wax Museum, including Elvis coffee mugs, Elvis ceramic bells, Elvis magnets and Elvis key chains.

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Elvis remains everything he’s always been cracked up to be, Lucas explained. “Elvis was a great singer, a great performer,” he said. “And he sells well, too.”


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