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The King's Legacy, All Shook Up MARCH 7th 2006 WINTER is the off-season at Graceland, Elvis Presley's home from 1957 until his death there, at 42, in 1977. On a recent weekday, only a few visitors wandered through the home and its 13.8-acre grounds, wearing headphones and listening to a recorded tour guide. In the colonnaded "Meditation Garden," a middle-aged man in an Elvis T-shirt perched on a bench next to Elvis's grave. Not much has changed at Graceland, a reverentially preserved 21-room Colonial Revival-style mansion, since Elvis's former wife, Priscilla Presley, opened it to the public 24 years ago. Video projectors beam low-tech videos of a sweaty, singing, hip-swiveling Elvis onto walls. In a racquetball court behind the house, dozens of his gold records, along with various sequined jumpsuits and trophies, are on display. And, of course, there is the Jungle Room — the wood-paneled den famously decorated in skins and skulls and green shag carpeting. Revenue at Elvis Presley Enterprises, which operates Graceland, has barely changed in recent years, either. It has been stuck at about $40 million annually since 2000, and money for improving the property has been scarce. That is all about to change. And when the change is over, Graceland may look a lot like Disneyland. Starting this month, Robert F. X. Sillerman, the billionaire media entrepreneur who paid more than $100 million in 2005 for control of Elvis's name and likeness — but not his music — plans to overhaul Graceland from a run-down tourist attraction into a sparkling destination resort. The 128-room Heartbreak Hotel, which stands across Elvis Presley Boulevard from Graceland, will be demolished, along with the visitors center. In their place, Mr. Sillerman plans two 400-room hotels, convention space, an entertainment complex, restaurants, shops, an outdoor amphitheater and a spa. Moreover, if Mr. Sillerman has his way, Elvis will become a big presence again in Las Vegas, in an interactive museum exhibit and Elvis theme show that Mr. Sillerman hopes will attract millions of visitors a year. Tapping Elvis's international popularity is next: Mr. Sillerman envisions a 15,000-square-foot exhibit that will travel around the world. And you thought Elvis was dead. "He has sort of been in a holding pattern," said Mr. Sillerman, 57. "He has maintained the status as the icon that he is without any thought about his legacy, his legend and how we could take advantage of that." With all the enthusiasm of a new homeowner, Mr. Sillerman, wearing cufflinks stamped with an image of Elvis, zipped through Graceland on a mission of his own last month, rapidly pointing out the things he wants to do once the renovations begin. He wants to expand the museum space, which is cramped. He is irritated by small details, like the jumbled layout of the house tour, which can lead visitors to a dead end. But most important, Mr. Sillerman, who made his fortune by building and selling a chain of radio stations and then a concert-promotion business, wants to make Graceland a "multiday experience," not the two-hour walk-through it is now. He wants people to "stay as long as possible" — and, of course, to spend as much as they can. Mr. Sillerman says he believes that Elvis Presley Enterprises has not used Elvis to his full potential, by a long shot. And now that Mr. Sillerman controls 85 percent of the company — Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis's daughter and sole heir, retains the remaining 15 percent — he now has power over Elvis's name and likeness as well as his house, its grounds and about 65 adjoining acres. What Mr. Sillerman does not have are the rights to Elvis's music, which Elvis's manager, Col. Tom Parker, sold back to Elvis's record label, RCA, which was later acquired by Sony BMG. Colonel Parker and Mr. Presley split $5.4 million from the sale but gave up all future royalties — a mistake that Mr. Sillerman called "colossal." If the plans materialize, the new Graceland compound will be very different from the one already visited by millions of fans. The small gift shop may be expanded into a retail complex full of Elvis memorabilia. CKX, Mr. Sillerman's entertainment company (the letters stand for "content is king"), says it has warehouses groaning with 600,000 pieces of Elvisiana, including a barber chair from Graceland, a jukebox from his home in Palm Springs, Calif., and movie contracts he signed. Because Mr. Sillerman's company, which is publicly traded, also owns the "American Idol" franchise, it has a ready supply of musicians who could perform at the planned amphitheater. A CKX spokesman, Edmund Tagliaferri, said that Mr. Sillerman was prepared to spend "whatever it takes" to improve the compound. *************************************** We’d like to express our sincere condolences to his family, who stood with him in the last months of his life. Despite his medical battle, and despite the fact that he couldn’t perform on stage anymore, Charlie stayed optimistic until the very end. Letters of condolences may be sent to: The Family of Charles Hodge c/o Memories Theater 2141 Parkway Pigeon Forge TN 37863 Atchley Funeral Home 118 E Main Street Sevierville, TN 37862 Sunday, March 5th 5:00 - 8:00 PM Alabama viewing: Roselawn Funeral Home 741 Danville Road Decatur, AL 35601 Monday, March 6 5:00 - 8:00 PM Tuesday, March 7 12:00 - 2:00 PM Charlie Hodge Funeral Services Tuesday, March 7th, 2006 2:00 pm Roselawn Funeral Home 741 Danville Road Decatur Alabama 35601 (256) 353 2996 ************************* More updates coming soon.


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