- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2007

Elvis has not left the building. He has not left the neighborhood, the back fence or the block. Americans would like to live next door to Elvis Presley. Really. They would like to live next door to Elvis Presley more than anyone else on the entire planet save Oprah Winfrey.

This is according to the Celebrity Neighbor Survey, which recently polled almost 3,000 people on their taste in, well, celebrity neighbors. So, what famous person would we like living next door to us?

Oprah won the domestic derby because the respondents admired her “inspirational and humanitarian qualities,” the survey noted. Elvis, however, came in second because folks felt he was talented, certainly, but also hardworking and “generally a great guy.”

Let us pause for a moment and ponder what it would be like — in theory, of course — to live next door to Elvis.

We could breeze over and borrow a cup of sugar or a socket wrench. Perhaps he would glide by on a riding mower or offer us half of his peanut butter and ‘nana sandwich out on the patio. We might rescue his pet cockatiel, complain about his Christmas lights or help with the fall pruning. Maybe we’d catch Elvis in his underwear or throwing his glass bottles into the trash rather than the recycling bin. That’s what happens when you live next door to somebody.

And forever ‘n’ ever, we’d tell people, “Yeah, I live next door to Elvis.”

That would make us famous, too. Look. See those people over there? Well, they live next door to Elvis. Yeah, that Elvis. There would be interviews on “Entertainment Tonight” and NBC’s “Today” show that would bill us as “Elvis Presley’s neighbors,” and we could talk about the time we rescued the cockatiel, borrowed some sugar and witnessed the recycling crime.

“We found it very interesting that people assigned such personal qualities to a celebrity like Elvis. He’s so talented. He’s such a hardworking, good guy, they said, even though he’s no longer with us. These are attributes you really would want in a neighbor,” said Gabrielle Sertich Chavers, who coordinated the survey for Homes & Land, a Florida-based publisher of real estate guides.

“People just feel like they know Elvis,” she added.

This is not surprising. Though he has been dead for three decades, Elvis still made $45 million last year from licensing, merchandising and recording deals connected with his name, and he remains No. 2 on Forbes magazine’s list of top-earning dead celebrities. One can still procure Elvis costumes from B&K Enterprises, which made the singer’s original stage apparel and offers 57 items, including a $3,300 “aloha” jumpsuit.

Oh, and there are an estimated 85,000 Elvis impersonators in our midst. They have a trade group, of course, the Association of Professional Elvis Presley Tribute Artists, which is based in Britain and maintains a strict code of conduct. More recently, Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson was linked to Elvis because of his Elvis-like qualities and the fact that the pair actually are eighth cousins once removed, according to local Washington genealogist William Addams Reitwiesner.

No wonder, then, that people feel close to Elvis or imagine that he would make a good neighbor.

But the Celebrity Neighbor Survey had other revelations. Donald Trump was No. 3 on the list, followed by John Wayne, Tiger Woods, George Clooney, Dolly Parton, Paris Hilton, John Travolta, Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, Bill Gates, Pamela Anderson and Brangelina — otherwise known as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Among a flock of famous also-rans: Martha Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Princess Diana, Muhammad Ali, Hugh Hefner and Jack Nicholson.

The survey, incidentally, was open-ended, not multiple choice. The findings were based on telephone interviews that simply asked, “What celebrity living or dead would you want to live next door to?”

Age mattered. Among the 20- and 30-year-olds, the leading choices included Johnny Depp, Rachael Ray, Queen Latifah and Ozzy Osbourne. The fortysomethings voted for Dr. Phil and Dale Earnhardt Jr., while the boomer set preferred Sean Connery and even Ernest Hemingway.

Up around age 60, the top contenders were Barbra Streisand and Winston Churchill; at 70, Roy Rogers and Mickey Mantle. Among 80-year-olds, Roy shared the limelight with — amazingly enough — MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. The survey had four 90-year-old respondents who opted for megachurch pastor Joel Osteen and Rush Limbaugh.

“Amazing, isn’t it? It’s not all fame. Americans simply feel close to their celebrities. That’s unique, and also kind of nice,” noted pollster Mrs. Chavers.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and aloha jumpsuits for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at jharper@washington times.com or 202/636-3085.

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