News / USA

Elvis Rocks Washington

Two exhibits mark the king's 75th birthday

The exhibit at the Newseum features clothing worn by Elvis, which is on loan from Graceland.
The exhibit at the Newseum features clothing worn by Elvis, which is on loan from Graceland.

Multimedia

Audio

It has been more than 30 summers since Elvis Presley died. The singer would have been 75 in January and Washington is honoring him with, not one, but two different exhibits.   

Well-known face

Like his name and his music, his face - decades later - is still familiar.

"It is perhaps possible that Elvis is one of the most recognized human beings in all of history," says Warren Perry, curator of the exhibit "Echoes of Elvis" at the National Portrait Gallery.

The singer's face has appeared on everything from lunch boxes to postage stamps. Both are included in the exhibit.

The 1993 U.S. stamp featuring Elvis "is the greatest selling stamp in the history of the U.S. Postal Service," Perry says.  It sold 500 million copies. The original portrait by Mark Stutzman is among the works on display.  

Lasting legacy

All but one of the works were created after Elvis' death on August 16, 1977.  

"He is a constant source of inspiration, not only in visual art, but in cinema. We see Elvis referenced in movie after movie." Perry says. "Elvis is practically his own genre in fiction now, and there is a limitless supply of Elvis biographies available on the market."

Elvis at Three by Howard Finster, 1990
Elvis at Three by Howard Finster, 1990

But the focus here is on visual art. There are painted wooden cut-outs of Elvis as a soldier and a three-year-old boy with angel's wings by visionary artist Howard Finster.  

"After Elvis' death, Finster viewed Elvis as an emissary of God if you will," Perry says. "Since Elvis's death, people have taken Elvis and put him into a lot of motifs:  Elvis as a soldier, Elvis as a patriot, Elvis as a boy who loved his mom."

A lithograph by Tennessee artist Red Grooms shows Elvis in a gold lame suit, playing guitar with Graceland and one of his Cadillac automobiles behind him.

And a golden ceramic bust by Robert Arneson compares Elvis to Caesar. There is a small, brown "rock" on Elvis' shoulder stamped with the word "king."

This ceramic bust by Robert Arneson features a rock on Elvis' shoulder, a reference to the entertainer's status as the ''King of Rock'.
This ceramic bust by Robert Arneson features a rock on Elvis' shoulder, a reference to the entertainer's status as the ''King of Rock'.

"'King of Rock' is the implication," Perry says.   

There have certainly been mean-spirited portraits of Elvis since his death, but there are none in "Echoes of Elvis."  

"'What we have tried to do here at the National Portrait Gallery is pay tribute to Elvis on the occasion of his 75th birthday, with the more fun spirited, the encomium, like works of art."

Through a news lens

At the Newseum, TV broadcasts and newspaper headlines are at the core of the exhibit called, "Elvis! His Groundbreaking, Hip-Shaking, Newsmaking Story."  

"We look at this exhibit through how the news media played a role in Elvis's career," says Patty Ruhl, a writer who worked on the exhibit.

There are news headlines and reviews of performances. Rhul says the critics didn't always rave. Following his 1956 appearance on American television, "They called Elvis talent-free.  The New York Times said that he was vulgar. They said his movements belonged in a bordello."

And they weren't big fans of his movies, either she says. Elvis made 30 feature films. The exhibit includes some of the costumes he wore, and the famous, caped and bejeweled white suit he wore for his 1972 "Aloha from Hawaii" concert.

It "was the first concert broadcast live to more than 40 countries," Ruhl says. She notes that 1.5 billion people watched it on television. "That is more people than watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon."

Many of the objects are on loan from Graceland, Elvis's mansion. They document both his personal and professional life.  There is the uniform he wore as a soldier. Elvis was drafted into the army in 1957 and served for two years. During that time, he met his wife Priscilla.

The exhibit includes an empty champagne bottle from their Las Vegas wedding signed "Mr. and Mrs. Elvis Presley" and baby clothes worn by Lisa Marie, their only child.

This photo, of Elvis meeting with President Nixon, is the most requested photo in the Library of Congress archives.
This photo, of Elvis meeting with President Nixon, is the most requested photo in the Library of Congress archives.

Presidential meeting

A velvet jacket worn by Elvis in 1970 is on display. He wore it in a photo taken with President Richard Nixon. It is the most requested photo from the National Archives.

"He walked up to the Nixon White House and said he wanted to meet with the president and a stunned guard actually got him in to meet with President Nixon," Ruhl says. "He wanted to be enlisted in the war on drugs."

Following the visit, Elvis received a badge from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotics with his name on it. Ironically, Elvis died of an overdose of prescription drugs.

And more than 30 years after his death, people of all ages are still interested in the King of Rock.  

"We were afraid that perhaps he would only appeal to a certain generation, the baby boomers who grew up with Elvis and loved his music so," says Ruhl. "But we are seeing young people come to the exhibit."

Some, she says, even listen to his music on their iPods.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs