Laura Levin is co-author of the successful book "Elvis and You". Together with John O'Hara she wrote this "guide to the pleasure of being an Elvis-fan". Since the book is just released Laura is very busy promoting it and we are glad she took the time to start answering our questions. It took a little while and it is not complete yet. Since we thought it is a nice item for our anniversary-edition, we give you the first part of the interview right now, and hopefully we are able to present the rest of it very soon!
Can you share a little about yourself with us?
Well as far as being an Elvis fan goes, I have always been. There was always Elvis music playing when I was growing up because of my mother and two aunts and two uncles were big fans. Went to his movies and all that. I don't remember a time before then. I do however remember being catapulted into puberty when I first discovered Elvis in a new way for myself -- became aware of Elvis as a man, you might say. That thrill has never gone away.
I have always been a pain-in-the-butt crusader for E's reputation and image as well as that of fellow fans. I am deeply offended by how Elvis - and his fans - are perceived. People who are interested in classical music are intellectual and sophisticated; people who are interested in Elvis music are cranks and crackpots. I don't accept this. I might consider that other people had the right to judge him and us if I believed that they had one iota of accuracy, charity, or true perception when they judge us. It seems to me that they don't. So screw 'em.
As far as otherwise personally is concerned, I have lived in New York City all my life, I love it here and you probably could describe me as a real New Yorker, for better or worse. I have a little female pit bull who is a real creampuff. And I try, along with Megan Murphy and some other New York/New Jersey locals, to get together with other Elvis fans as often as possible.
How did you become an Elvis fan?
Have never not been. I think it's more applicable to mention how I have evolved as an Elvis fan.
Elvis music and all his movies while I was a kid. I didn't buy the records myself because there was always an aunt, uncle, or my mother getting them as they came out. I didn't collect any Elvis thing - yes, I must've been a moron - I can't think of any other explanation.
In school, I didn't go completely underground, everyone probably knew I was an Elvis fan - but he did become my "secret garden" so to speak. I listened to his songs. . . alone. I whiled away many hours dreaming (ahem) about Elvis. I know a lot of people say they couldn't admit they were Elvis fans while they were in school and the other kids were listening to whatever dross was in fashion.
It may not have been hip to love Elvis' music but it shouldn't have been considered ludicrous either, when you think about the load of crap people were listening to in the 70s and 80s. I know people who said that it almost came to blows when their musical tastes were discovered. That is appalling.
Do you really collect Elvis? Only music, or also collectibles and/or books?
"Please, please, please keep it all in one room!" "Sorry, Mom, that's just not possible!" Books, CDs, records, record covers, bootlegs, videos, a couple of old plates, a couple of music-box figurines, postcards, various gew-gaws like playing cards, fly swatters, and nail files. I have a couple of hundred Elvis books. I try to buy two of every Elvis photo book so I can cut one up without feeling guilty.
Also I do some marginal stuff like I buy cans of Crowder peas at the Piggly Wiggly near Graceland. I have these stacked on the back of my stove - it's a sort of "insider" nod to Elvis.
The two things I am devoted to collecting more of in the future, other than music: Elvis art and video boots.
What in general is your favourite Elvis stuff?
Outside of my CDs and videos - and may I commit sacrilege by admitting that virtually on a par with them - photos of Elvis are my favorite things. Photos of him and art about him. My apartment is covered; from where I am sitting here writing this I can see images of Elvis everywhere - framed album covers, cards, posters, clocks, paintings (by Kata Billups and Johnny Ace), Elvis Christmas ornaments that stay up year round. I'm really lucky to know a few people who have fabulous photo collections; in addition to them I scour the vendor's stuff fan conventions for photos. My two tippy favorite things are a piece of a sheet that Elvis had in one of his California houses and a bullet that he fired out back at Graceland that was made into a necklace by Mike McGregor. That is, as they say, my prized possession.
Name your favourite Elvis song, movie and album.
Eeeesh. Well, I'm sorry but I must say what virtually all fans say when asked this: my favorites change all the time. I do love the pastime of declaring current faves that fans are always doing online. Someone throws out that question: favorite three songs? favorite year of touring? favorite period? No one ever sticks to the confines of the number asked, they always give more. Some periennial loves of mine so I can say I answered the question are "Steamroller," "Rags to Riches," "Make the World Go Away," "Mystery Train," "One Night," on and on. My favorite things are boot vids of his concerts - they are fatal to my sense of composure. Ummmm, not that I have any. . . .
What's your favourite Elvis site
There are about a dozen places that have become faves because there's so much of Elvis left in them. Plenty of people have said that, in person, you could sense Elvis' presence before he entered a room and I've even heard tell that you could sense when he was in town. I have to say that I think wherever he went, his presence was so potent, that there's still a residual effect to this day. I have felt this at several of his homes quite powerfully.
****All around Tupelo. When I walk around there, the whole time I'm thinking This is where he became who he was, started to form those dreams that (lucky for me) came true.
****The Audubon Drive home. Cindy Hazen and Mike Freeman (the authors of Memphis Elvis-Style and The Best of Elvis: Stories of a Great Humanitarian) now own and live in Audubon. The care and affection with which they are not only preserving but restoring the house is incredibly special. A must-visit when in Memphis.
****The Chino Canyon house. I haven't been to most of the California houses but I understand they cast a real spell. At the Circle of Memories event this June, I found out for myself about Chino and have to admit that I was in a bit of a state for the first hour or so I was there. Then I had to be dragged from the pool when it was time to leave.
****Graceland. For two really powerful reasons - because he loved it so much and for the other Elvis fans I meet up with there. To call Graceland tacky or whatever is to be taking it all wrong. It's comfortable, it's humorous, and it's got stones. For sheer power of emotion: the Meditation Garden at GL.
In my future plans I'd like to see the Elvis statue that was erected by fans in New Zealand. This is the sort of thing that I consider part of the magic of being an Elvis fan: the club there (Memories) raised money and went through all the rigmarole involved in having a statue erected in a public place. So on the other side of the Earth from where he lived his whole life, decades after he's gone, people are still so effected by him that they are motivated to do such a thing. I am touched by this beyond words.
(Ed.: This is not exactly the type of site we were having in mind, but the answer is great!)
What were you doing or where were you when you heard the news of Elvis' death?
The summer of 1977 was crap all the way around for me. New York City was horrible - I was at loose ends in my life. Elvis' death put all that foolishness into perspective right