Graceland Too: Better Than the Original?
For a brief period, I worked as a horse carriage driver in downtown Memphis. It was an interesting job. The most fascinating part was that nearly every day, I met someone who had come to Memphis from another state or country for one thing: Graceland. In case you don’t know, Graceland is where Elvis lived. All its rooms are preserved just the way they were when Elvis died. You can go take a tour and see the King’s impressive estate, replete with tacky 1960s decor.
I will confess; like many Memphians, I’ve never been to Graceland. I like Elvis. I like his songs. He was a talented musician, and I respect the importance of his impact on music. Maybe it’s because Elvis is everywhere in Memphis, or maybe the height of the Elvis craze was just before my time, but I’ve just never had a strong enough pull toward him to cough up thirty bucks ($25 for students) to see his house. I’m just not that crazy about Elvis.
‘Fan’ doesn’t begin to describe him
Paul MacLeod, on the other hand, is way more into Elvis than you can possibly imagine. Anyone else who claims to be Elvis’ number-one fan is lying to you. MacLeod is the curator and sole resident of Graceland Too. That’s right—his house at 200 East Gholson Ave in Holly Springs, MS is a 24-hour shrine/museum/financial and historical endeavor dedicated to his idol, Elvis Presley. You can show up any time of the day or night, and Paul will give you the tour of a lifetime.
Admission is only $5, and there’s a money-back guarantee if you’re not totally satisfied. You will be more than satisfied. He claims no one has ever asked for a refund, and I believe him. Even if you wanted to ask for your money back, you would be too stunned to get the words out.
Sixty-six years old and a bit out of shape, you wonder how Paul McLeod has the energy to give these tours all day every day. The case of Coca-Colas he claims to drink each day might have something to do with it. More likely, his fanatic obsession with Elvis keeps him going. I can hardly remember ever seeing anyone more passionate about anything. Ask him any question about Elvis, and you’re sure to get the best answer anyone on the planet could give. He says that his ex-wife gave him a choice: her or Elvis. He told her to hit the road and gave up a million-dollar settlement. His son’s name is Elvis Aaron Presley MacLeod, and Paul swears he looks just like Elvis. When I saw the pictures, I couldn’t see the resemblance, but there’s no way I’d tell him that.
Paul MacLeod by himself, with his intense fixation on and intimidating knowledge of everything Elvis, would be impressive. Paul MacLeod’s house can never be adequately described in words. The phrase, “You have to see it to believe it,” was created for Graceland Too.
When you drive down Gholson Ave, you hardly notice that any other building is on the block. Your eyes will only focus on the white two-story house (it used to be pink) surrounded like a fortress by a stone barrier, the entrance flanked by blue Christmas trees and two menacing plaster lions wrapped in festive holiday lights year-round.
No matter how anxious you feel, ring the doorbell. Paul will peek out and invite you into the foyer. This is where the madness begins. Already, you see floor-to-ceiling pictures, cardboard cutouts, t-shirts, newspaper clippings, and other assorted evidences of Elvis mania. This is only the beginning.
The idea that this phenomenon could be man-made is so incredible that it almost feels organic—as if the power of Elvis created a natural wellspring of knick-knacks and this edifice arose to house it all. One room is covered in vinyl records and has a shrine-like construction that’s perfect for photo-ops. Next, Paul will show you countless pictures of himself, his son, and, of course, the King.
The most awing part of seeing everything is that Paul can tell you a story about any one of them. Go ahead ask about anything: the Elvis wine bottles, the calendars, the clocks, the signs. He loves to regale his guests with tales of Elvis encounters or celebrity endorsements. Many of the items are worth hundreds, even thousands of dollars, he says. You have to question how much is true and what’s been embellished over the years, but you can’t doubt how entertaining the show is.
It doesn’t stop there
Another room holds a dozen televisions and several chests full of VHS tapes he uses to record any Elvis-related event. There are also notebooks bursting with pages, each documenting a single mention of the King. Go ahead, Paul will dare you, open one. My page was the passing use of Elvis’ name by a local TV station in 1994.
The back yard is, in part, a tribute to Jailhouse Rock. There’s bunches of gnarled barbed wire on the fence and bars to hold in the non-existent inmates. It’s poorly lit and difficult to see at night. In the dark I could have sworn that his electric chair was real, but I later discovered that it was constructed of two-by-fours and a reading lamp. This yard is also where Paul is going to host a party with 250,000 people, and three-time visitors to Graceland Too are invited. I didn’t have the nerve to ask where everyone would stand.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the tour is the final hallway. Here, MacLeod has plastered Polaroids of all his visitors. There are so many pictures that you might start to believe his claims of having thousands of visitors a year. He can certainly back up his claims of celebrity drop-ins. He might be the only fan of a celebrity who has his own following. Paul won’t ever be Elvis like he is in his dreams, but he’s elbowed out his own part of the King’s legacy.
Paul MacLeod is an interesting man. Visiting him in his unofficially official Elvis museum is a jaw-dropping and, at times, a creepy experience. Even though I’ve never been to Graceland, I can’t imagine another Elvis-related attraction being more impressive. It may not be the real Graceland, but you have to admit that you’ve never seen anything like it.
By Jarrod Taylor