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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs