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A bit of what's behind the Elvis auction

Anne McDermott

By Anne McDermott
CNN Correspondent

October 7, 1999
Web posted at: 12:17 p.m. EDT (1617 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

Auction items
Some of the Presley paraphernalia on the auction block  

In this story:

About Elvis...

...and his family

Some personal favorites

LAS VEGAS (CNN) -- Elvis Presley was born in the middle of the Great Depression and knew some hard times growing up.

And that may be partly why he liked to acquire things -- lots of things -- that filled his mansion, Graceland, to overflowing.

Now his family is going to auction off some of those things, and this will be the first time items direct from Graceland have been put up for bid. And this has to do with those hard times Presley endured growing up.

For a time, he and his family lived in subsidized housing. Now a Presley foundation is planning to use the proceeds from this auction for housing for the homeless -- temporary shelter until they get back on their feet again.

About Elvis...

The items being auctioned tell a lot about Elvis. For example, he liked trendy things and had the money to indulge himself thoroughly.

That explains the garish green-and-orange couch, the jumpsuit with the impossibly big bell-bottoms, and the faux-fur chair that once graced his private lair, the Jungle Room.

Today, it's easy to scoff at his taste, but you have to remember that it was considered cool by some back then. And you also have to remember that Graceland's decor was forever frozen in time back in 1977, the year Elvis Presley died.

...and his family

The auction is in Las Vegas, where at Madame Tussaud's they keep the King's image intact  

Now a lot of this stuff up for auction also tells us something about Presley's father, Vernon. According to a Graceland spokesman, the elder Presley never threw so much as a scrap of paper away.

That explains why the auction is able to offer such items as a Smith's Food King grocery store credit card, in Priscilla Presley's name (misspelled), complete with the envelope it came in. And, a pay stub from the Precision Tool Company, one of the last places Elvis Presley worked before he started to sing for a living.

Most of the items were selected for the auction because Graceland already has duplicates of the items, or there are similar things there already on display.

Report card
Elvis excelled at music, according to his school report card  

The estate already has plenty of Presley's concert get-ups, so they can afford to let a few go.

And they have many of his grade school report cards, so they can auction off one from sixth grade that shows Elvis got Ds in geography but excelled in music, and in spelling (though his teacher, it seems, did not: Presley is spelled with a double "s").

Some personal favorites

My favorites in the collection may strike some as bizarre, but to me, they are poignant in their way: the gold-tone telephone lamp, the velvet-and-gilt chair, the glistening chandelier-like fixture dripping with colored crystals.

The sort of things, perhaps, that a young boy yearning to strike it rich might covet.

And whether or not some of the items may be bizarre, the people behind the auction say they believe there is a buyer for every item up for sale at the MGM Grand.

If only because these things were once Elvis'.


y archives: More CNN correspondent analysis
CNN Views -- News analysis from around the site
CNN Interactive: Entertainment
CNN In-depth: Viva Elvis!

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  • Elvis Presley auction
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MGM Grand Hotel and Casino
Elvis Presley's Graceland

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