Home Away From Graceland

By The OregonianMay 15, 2000
There is always something special to items once owned by Elvis. The auction in Las Vegas is a great example. This article from The Oregonian shows that the same goes for a bus, owned by Elvis in 1976 and 1977. A Gardiner man senses something extra special about his bus that Elvis once owned. The Oregonian Wednesday, May 10, 2000 GARDINER -- The back of the old bus sticks out next to the little white house along U.S. 101 on the central Oregon coast. The black-and-silver exterior sets off the brightly colored "Elvis 3" license plate. Believe everything the plate says. This bus was the rolling home of the King of Rock 'n' Roll in the last 20 months before he died in 1977. It carried Elvis Presley and his entourage throughout the country. Presley hated flying. If he could, he took the bus. Those who traveled with him said he liked to unwind after concerts driving the plush 1976 MCI bus custom-built to his specifications for $160,000. "Elvis loved this bus," 59-year-old Bruce Buseman says. "He really did." And what was once Elvis' pride and joy is now Buseman's. He's a pre-boomer who grew up in the '50s loving Elvis' music but was more than a little resentful of the way girls threw themselves at the hip-shaking rocker. Now Buseman, who looks a little like the farmer with the pitchfork in the "American Gothic" painting, travels the highways in the bus with the private bedroom in back that Elvis and his girlfriends occupied. Women have come on to him, he says, hoping for a ride even with his wife, Lily, nearby. It's a little disconcerting, he says, for a strict Catholic and faithful husband. Buseman got the bus in a trade nearly four years ago coincidentally on the anniversary of when Elvis was found dead at age 42. At the time, Buseman was running a roadside sports museum near Bandon. A former ballplayer in the Dodgers' farm team system, he had collected sports memorabilia for 35 years. The items he sold were the real deal jerseys, helmets and baseball gloves actually used and autographed by sports greats such as Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams and Jim Brown. But such collectibles were losing value because former stars were flooding the market with items. When another museum owner offered to trade Buseman the Elvis bus and a small fleet of other collector vehicles for his sports collection, Buseman agreed. Buseman got a pink and black Elvis Cadillac, one of the surviving "Bluesmobiles" from "The Blues Brothers" movie, an AMC Pacer from "Wayne's World" and a car and motorcycle from "Megaforce," a death-and-destruction thriller. But the Elvis bus was the jewel. It still had the red carpet with the initials "EP." And it still had nine sleeping berths in the middle of the bus, including the upper right berth used by Presley when the bus was in motion. Buseman says Elvis slept in the back bedroom only when the vehicle was parked. The 40-foot bus came with a gold mine of Elvis memorabilia, such as the monogrammed pillows from a couch at Graceland, his "Blue Suede Shoes" gold record, the wine glasses from his limousine, a spangled jumpsuit, even a nightgown that belonged to Priscilla Presley, from whom Elvis was divorced by the time he bought the bus. Buseman has shown the bus in 30 states. It will be at the Florence Rhododendron Festival on May 19 and 20. The public can see the bus and the Cadillac at the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville from July 8 through 10. "For some, it's as close to Graceland as they will ever get," he says. He says he's met musicians and girlfriends and others who rode with Elvis and has heard their stories about life on the bus. Although he's made money with the bus, Buseman says he's probably spent more than he's made, because of things such as $200 oil changes and the $450 tires. But when you're rolling down the road, with the original "Elvis on Tour" sign on the front, watching all the double-takes and head turns, "It's all worth it," Buseman says. When they take the bus on the road, Elvis will be with them: on the stereo and in spirit, Buseman believes. He didn't used to believe in spirits, but he says strange things have happened on the bus. Such as its propensity to break down when an Elvis impersonator is around. Or the time in Springfield, Mo., when a young woman with no money to buy a ticket talked her way aboard while tours had been halted because the interior lights had stopped working. "She came on board and the lights came on," Buseman remembers. "The whole time she was there, the lights were on. The moment she stepped off the lights went off." He's sure Elvis wanted that woman to see his bus.
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