- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2002

Elvis lives both in people's hearts and in their wallets.
"People ask if Elvis Presley is alive or dead, and I tell them he's still paying my salary," said Linda Butler, executive director of the Tupelo Visitors and Convention Bureau in Mississippi.
Her job is to sell Elvis in the town where he was born, an industry that will raise its profile this week as the South marks the 25th anniversary of his death.
Up to 75,000 people are expected to descend on Memphis, where Elvis died Aug. 16, 1977, at his home, Graceland.
There will be floats, including a 14-foot inflatable Elvis. Some visitors will shell out $100 for a ticket to attend a University of Memphis seminar on the historical significance of Elvis.
And they will pay $75 a person to see Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley and a host of original bandmates Friday at "Elvis: The 25th Anniversary Concert."
Those who just want the nuts and bolts can plunk down $25 for the grand tour of Graceland. Visitors endure a three-hour wait and, once in, they "ooh" at the white-and-purple color scheme of Elvis' parents room and "aah" in the Jungle Room, which is filled with African artifacts and animal skins. And they weep at Elvis' grave next to the mansion.
People will walk Beale Street, where a teenaged Elvis learned about the blues, until they are sunburned and drunk. They will pack into the pseudo blues joints wearing pins emblazoned with "TCB" Takin' Care of Business, an Elvis credo their Elvis jackets and their 25th anniversary T-shirts.
The tourist onslaught hails from near and abroad, with Japan and Europe particularly still in the throes of Elvis worship, even though the King of Rock 'n' Roll never played outside North America.
Dead at 42, Elvis is his own tourist industry in Memphis, beginning with Graceland, purchased in 1957 for $100,000. Elvis shops are scattered around the area, on Beale Street, in the airport and around Graceland.
Eighty miles to the south, Tupelo, where Elvis lived until he was 13, will get a burst of visitors who are celebrating Elvis week.
"We're having a ceremony for our new Elvis statue. We're having 800 to 1,000 international visitors for that. We have also this year put up six plaques of Elvis at various locations in the town," said Miss Butler, a Tennessee native who saw Elvis five times. "The first time was skinny Elvis wearing a blue jumpsuit in Little Rock," she said.
One of the plaques is at the Tupelo Hardware Store, where Elvis' mother bought him his first guitar. Another is at Milan Middle School where the King attended class.
"Tupelo is really where Elvis' roots are," she said. "This is where he developed his style of music."
But don't call Elvis "the King."
"Elvis didn't like being referred to as 'the King,'" said Joe Esposito, who was the best man at Elvis' wedding and a pallbearer at his funeral. "He was very religious and he said there was only one king and that was God."
Mr. Esposito will be in Memphis all week to talk about all things Presley, as he is most years.
He will also promote his new video and DVD, "Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers," a collection of photos and home movies from his private collection, interspersed with news clips and concert footage as well as interviews with Mr. Esposito.
Elvis Week is homage to a legend that has become larger than life, he said.
"I think he is causing more excitement now than he did the last couple years of his life. And I think he is in heaven looking down on all of this thrilled to death, saying 'Look at that, they still really like me.'"

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