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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
When Graceland isn't Graceland
Elvis fans hold candle lit vigil outside of Graceland
Elvis fans hold candle lit vigil outside of the 'real ' Graceland

Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee is the focus of all Elvis fans at the 25th anniversary of his death, and where they flocked for a candlelit vigil to commemorate the King of Rock'n'Roll.

But plans to build a huge rival Elvis theme park a short distance away have infuriated Elvis Presley Enterprises, the company that oversees the star's estate.

For more than 20 years the King reigned at Graceland, throwing parties in the Jungle Room and driving his pink Cadillac around the grounds.

Soon after he died there in 1977, the home was opened to the public and around 70,000 people visit every year.

Meditation garden

Most find it a moving experience.

"Elvis was such a generous person and his talent was unequalled," said one visitor.

Elvis fans begin their candle light vigil at Graceland in Memphis
Fans are congregating outside Graceland's gates

"There's never been another person like him and there'll never be another one," another added.

At the end of the tour, Graceland visitors enter the meditation garden.

There's a small fountain and the grave of Elvis and his parents.

Most people take photographs, some say prayers.

Replica White House

Fifteen minutes drive from Graceland, near the small town of Hornlake in Tennessee, lies the Circle G Ranch, which was owned by Elvis in the 1960s.


They can't name it after Elvis or advertise it and merchandise it and do business under that name, our trademark name, without our permission

Todd Morgan, Elvis Presley Enterprises

Local entrepreneur JD Stacy has grand plans for the site.

"Here is a bridge which was built by Elvis 30 years ago and at the end of the bridge will be a duplication of the [Elvis] White House, two storeys, 35 thousand square feet," he said.

"And straight behind will be a 35-storey hotel."

Elvis himself wanted a replica of the White House on the ranch, although he never got around to building it during his lifetime.

His cousin Donna Presley says Circle G was a great place to spend time.

"The first year that we moved there, there was a big snow, which is not something that happens around here very often, and Elvis loved snow," she said.

"He took a tractor and hooked up aluminium boats from the pond there and dragged everyone on the ranch around until he tore the bottom out of the boats.

"So it was just a fun-loving place. A place where we could all gather together as family and have friends there and just have a wonderful time."

"The Elvis Presley Ranch"

The developers want to call the site the Elvis Presley Ranch - but the name Elvis Presley is a trademark, strenuously protected by Elvis Presley Enterprises.

An Impersonate Elvis contest in Kuala Lumpur
Not the real thing either...

But that doesn't worry JD Stacy.

"Elvis owned this ranch and on the deed it said the Elvis Presley ranch," he said.

"When he sold the ranch it said the former Elvis Presley ranch on the deed and we have intellectual property attorneys who have assured us that we do not have a problem with the name."

Trademark

However, Todd Morgan of Elvis Presley Enterprises says Mr Stacy will run into trouble if he uses the Elvis brand name.

"They can't name it after Elvis or advertise it and merchandise it and do business under that name, our trademark name, without our permission," Mr Morgan said.

"We don't own the land, Elvis got rid of it and we're not interested in developing anything there ourselves or re-acquiring the land and if somebody wants to do a good project down there that benefits the surrounding community then that's great," he said.

Of course, getting the grand plan off the ground requires lots of money, and a good deal of building skill.

"I don't have any track record in doing this and neither does anybody else because this will be the one and only Elvis Presley theme park in the world," said Mr Stacy.

"Mickey Mouse didn't have 500,000 fans when Walt Disney built Disney World nor he did have a track record in building."

The developers are hoping to start work on the new theme park later this month.

And progress will be watched carefully not only by the fans, but by Elvis Presley Enterprises and their lawyers.

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The BBC's Duncan Bartlett
"For more than twenty years the King reigned at Graceland"


Features

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The Elvis years

The Elvis years


See also:

16 Aug 02 | Entertainment
14 Aug 02 | Entertainment
15 Aug 02 | Entertainment
13 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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