Fun Facts About Elvis
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Elvis' Pet Chimp Wasn't the Only Unusual Thing About Graceland

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Fun Facts About Elvis
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Long Live the King

Elvis Presley, who died on Aug. 16, 1977, would have been 87 years old this year, and whether you're a devoted fan of Elvis or simply fascinated by the mystique surrounding the King of Rock 'n' Roll, when it comes to legendary musical destinations, there are few places as iconic as Graceland, Elvis' former home-turned museum outside of Memphis. But how much do you really know about this tourist attraction that was named a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and has since taken a massive revenue-related blow thanks to COVID-19? Read on for the facts about the half-paradise, half-theme park that Elvis created for himself. 

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COVID-19 All But Destroyed Its Revenue

Once upon a time, Graceland was one of the most-visited homes in America, surpassed only by the White House. And then COVID came along. Apparently, the pandemic impacted Graceland to such a degree that the Tennessee state-issued bonds linked to tourist revenue are now in default, causing some serious blame game between the state, the city of Memphis, and Elvis Presley Enterprises. In 2017, The economic development agency, EDGE issued $104.3 million in Graceland Project bonds, and some of them were unrated or considered high risk. Now, nearly $20 million worth of those bonds are in default. Previous bond proceeds funded a huge expansion at Graceland, including a 450-room hotel, which generated a lot of traffic and subsequent revenue. But the hospitality industry took one serious gut-punch when COVID reared its ugly head, halting visits to the estate and stalling income, creating this hard-to-bounce-back-from state. 

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Graceland Living Room
Graceland Living Room by Cybjorg (CC BY-SA)

Graceland Recreated for 'Elvis' Movie

The newly released "Elvis" biopic covers 42-years worth of ground, from "The King's" birth all the way to his death in 1977. Director Baz Luhrmann researched the singer's roots in both Tupelo where he was born and Memphis, where he resided at the iconic Graceland. To make things all the more accurate, award-winning designer Catherine Martin was brought in to meticulously replicate the famous estate. Filmed in Queensland, Australia, the set of "Elvis" was just a bit more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from Tennessee. To re-create Graceland in the Land Down Under, the production team visited the actual estate several times, scoured over photographs, and even reviewed the actual plans in the Graceland archives. No detail was too small during the recreation — the team even took a paint chip from a closet and was able to match the blue paint from it. 

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His Parents Helped Choose It
The Name Wasn't His Idea
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The Name Wasn't His Idea

When Elvis bought the house, it was already called Graceland. It was named after the original owner's daughter, Grace, who inherited the property after her parents died and later passed it on to her niece, who sold it to Elvis.

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Mia P./Yelp

It's a Big House

Graceland is 17,552 square feet, with a total of 23 rooms, including eight bedrooms and bathrooms, plus a basement game room that was modeled after painting of an 18th century billboards room. Graceland has five sets of stairs and three fireplaces: two gas burning and one wood burning. There is also a kidney-shaped pool, installed at Elvis' request. 

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Only The White House Has More Visitors
Elisha P./Yelp

Only the White House Has More Visitors

Graceland is the second-most recognized house in the U.S., after the White House, with over 650,000 visitors per year. In May 2016, Graceland had its 20 millionth visitor. 

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Elvis Kept Some Snacks on Hand
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Elvis Kept Plenty of Snacks on Hand

Having a stocked fridge was very important to Elvis — some of the "necessities" that had to be stocked "at all times" were shredded coconut, gum (Spearmint, Doublemint, and Juicy Fruit, three packs each), Fresh, lean unfrozen ground round steak, cans of sauerkraut and wieners, and banana pudding (made nightly), and at least six cans of biscuits. His grocery bill was around $500 a week. 

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It Was Plugged In
Charita A./Yelp

Watching Just One TV Wasn't Enough for the King

There is a TV room in the basement where Elvis liked to watch three different television sets at once, right next to his wet bar. He reportedly got the idea from President Lyndon Johnson, who liked to watch all three major network news channels at once.

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Trained Chimpanzee
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Elvis Kept an Unusual Pet There

Yes, Elvis had a chimpanzee named Scatter, who was known for pulling down women's skirts. Elvis liked to dress him up in costumes, and would drive around Memphis with Scatter in the front seat. Eventually, Scatter's misbehavior became too much for Elvis to handle and Scatter was sent to live in a climate-controlled room in Graceland. "Scatter wasn't the only animal friend who called Graceland home," says Christian Ross, marketing specialist at Graceland. "Elvis also had pet donkeys, peacocks, turkeys, just to name a few." These days, Ross says there are still horses at Graceland Stables. 

Elvis Really Liked the Furniture
Shannah H./Yelp

Elvis Took Graceland With Him When He Traveled

When Elvis toured, the rooms he stayed in would be rearranged — and sometimes even remodeled — to resemble Graceland. Furniture would even be shipped so he could relax in a more familiar setting.

It Was Almost Sold
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It Was Nearly Sold to the Highest Bidder

After the death of Elvis, the care of Graceland went to his father, Vernon. After Vernon died in 1979, Priscilla Presley, Elvis' ex-wife served as an executor to the estate, along with National Bank of Commerce in Memphis and Joseph Hanks, Elvis' longtime accountant. Due to the $500,000 it required per year in upkeep and the hefty property taxes, they were worried about having to sell it. Instead, Priscilla hired a CEO to turn Graceland into a museum, and once it opened to the public on June 7, 1982, it took only a month to make back the investment Priscilla put into it. 

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Elvis Memorabilia

It Was Home to an Auction of Elvis Memorabilia

In early 2019, on what would have been Elvis' 84th birthday, Graceland held its annual action. Don't worry that Graceland is selling off Elvis' valuables: All of the items in the auctions are offered from third-party collectors and none come from the treasured Graceland Archives. A red velvet shirt worn on stage by Presley at a 1956 show in Tupelo, Mississippi, sold for $37,500. A gold and diamond ring that Presley wore on stage (and later gave to his father Vernon) sold for $30,000. Overall, the auction made $600,000. As for the mansion and its contents, they all continue to be owned by Lisa Marie Presley and are not for sale. 

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You Can Tour Elvis' Private Customized Airplanes There

You Can Tour Elvis' Private Customized Airplanes There

Should you decide to visit Graceland, you can explore via an interactive iPad tour, hosted by John Stamos and featuring commentary and stories by Elvis and his daughter, Lisa Marie. You can also take a tour of the customized planes that Elvis traveled in — the Hound Dog II and the Lisa Marie, named for his daughter — complete with a living room, conference room, and a private bedroom, plus gold-plated seatbelts, leather-covered tables, and 24-karat gold-flecked sinks. "It's possible to immerse yourself in Elvis' life and career at the Elvis Presley's Memphis exhibit and entertainment complex (opened in 2017) and experience Elvis' roots, his influences, and his artistry," says Christian Ross.

Elvis is Buried in the Meditation Garden

Elvis Is Buried in the Meditation Garden

One of the additions Elvis made to Graceland was a secluded meditation garden, featuring plants and fountains, where he liked to reflect on life. The meditation garden also became his final resting place, after thieves tried to steal his remains for ransom shortly after his death. 

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It Invites Impersonators to Visit
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Elvis Impersonators Are Invited to Graceland Every Year

In 2007, Graceland launched an Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest for Elvis impersonators looking to shine. The semifinal round usually happens every year at Graceland's Elvis Week, typically in mid-August. Elvis was apparently fine with his impersonators and, in a complimentary letter to one such artist, wrote that "mimicry is a sincere form of being a fan."

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There Can Visit Elvis' Pink Cadillac

Many of the King's Favorite Cars Are on Display

Presley Motors, located inside the Elvis Presley's Memphis exhibit complex, is home to some of Elvis' favorite rides. Christian Ross says, "While no one knows exactly how many cars Elvis purchased or owned during his life, Presley Motors is home to some Elvis' favorite automobiles, including his iconic Pink Cadillac, Stutz Blackhawk, 1956 Cadillac Eldorado, Dino Ferrari, Mercedes Benz limousine, Rolls Royce sedans and more." 

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It's the Place to Be for Christmas

"Christmas is one of the most festive times to visit Graceland," says Christian Ross. Christmas was one of Elvis' favorite times of the year, which Graceland celebrates with special Christmas-time tours. The property sparkles with the same original lights and decorations Elvis used to display at the Graceland mansion, including hundreds of blue lights along the driveway, a life-size Nativity scene, and Santa and his sleigh. 

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It's Possible to Sleep Nearby