Graceland has new paint on the fences, freshly trimmed bushes and a cleaning job worthy of heads of state.
"Every little detail will be pristine," said Graceland chief executive officer Jack Soden. "There's the joke that you ought to have a big party at your house at least once a year, because if you've got really important guests coming you go the extra step to make sure everything is perfect."
For Soden, who has greeted 15 million guests in 24 years, "the fact is nobody can remember a day like this one."
President George Bush and first lady Laura Bush are accompanying Japan's No. 1 Elvis fan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, on a tour of Graceland.
It is the first Graceland tour by a sitting U.S. president. Former president Jimmy Carter, who had left office, visited during his daughter's graduation from Memphis College of Art in 1991. That was on a winter day, a Tuesday, when the mansion was closed, said Graceland spokesman Todd Morgan.
Morgan said Koizumi's visit will include eight rooms in the 15-room mansion with Koizumi seeing what other Elvis fans see. The distinction is that the mansion will be closed to other guests until about 12:30 p.m. while Priscilla Presley and daughter Lisa Marie Presley conduct the tour with Soden and Morgan -- all under the scrutiny of security teams from the White House and the Japanese Embassy.
Morgan could not discuss security, but he said advance teams have been busy for several weeks "doing all of the things you would expect. It feels like we're living in an episode of 'The West Wing.' "
He said Koizumi is not fluent in English and will use a translator regularly used by the White House for meetings with the prime minister. Graceland's pre-recorded audio tour is offered in Japanese, but Morgan said, "It was determined by all parties it would be a much more enjoyable experience to be a conversational tour with no headsets."
Morgan said he is unsure who else might accompany Koizumi, but Soden said the prime minister's brother, Masaya Koizumi, is a likely guest. He said the brother helped organize installation of an Elvis statue in a Tokyo park.
One Japanese newspaper correspondent offered to coach Soden on appropriate Japanese phrases to use in greeting Koizumi, but Soden declined the offer. "With my luck, I would think I had it down, then screw it up," he said.
Morgan said it is traditional to offer gifts to visiting dignitaries. Graceland, one of the nation's busiest licensing agents, has hundreds of options from key chains and Teddy bears to leather jackets and a jukebox. Morgan said Graceland staff members were still debating Thursday what to present the Bushes and Koizumi. "If we told ahead of time it wouldn't be a surprise," he said, declining to be more specific about gifts being considered.
As for the tour itself, Morgan said it will include the living room, music room, dining room, the Vernon and Gladys Presley bedroom, the kitchen, the pool room, the TV room, and the infamous Jungle Room. It will not include the upstairs which has the Elvis bedroom, a study, a "wardrobe room" and Lisa Marie Presley's nursery.
Beyond the house, the tour includes trophy and racquetball buildings, Vernon Presley's office and smaller exhibit areas. Those exterior buildings include Elvis' gold records and jumpsuits.
Regular tourists will be delayed by the prime minister's tour with tours of Graceland resuming at 12:30 p.m. The Elvis car museum in the Graceland Plaza shopping complex is being used as a national media center with public tours resuming there at 2 p.m. All other attractions will be open all day as usual.
Morgan said the visit is "a very big day for us, not just professionally but personally. It's really special. Elvis has such universal appeal. These people go everywhere and meet everybody.
"They lead fascinating lives, but it doesn't matter where they're from or what walk of life they're from, they still appreciate Elvis."
By Michael Lollar / The Commercial Appeal