The Kansas City native spearheaded the preservation and opening to the public of the King�s Memphis mansion Graceland in 1982. And while mum�s the word on exactly what may soon go down in the way of improvements, there�s plenty to see right now, as evidenced by the more than half-million visitors a year to Elvis� former home.
�We�ve been buying property in our neighbourhood for the last 18 years, and now we have a 120-acre campus,� Soden says.
Don�t look for a Disneyland-like theme park intruding on nearby neighbourhoods, Soden says of the coming changes.
�It conjures up rides and Ferris wheels, and nobody wants that around this famous place,� Soden says. �If anything, we will build all new visitor centres, museum and parking facilities. We�re going to build everything over while carefully preserving the integrity of Graceland, because it�s a national landmark.
�People still place a great deal of value on authenticity. So it�s extremely important that Graceland be preserved the same as it was when Elvis lived here. And I think it�s important to note that just because you have 120 acres doesn�t mean you have to develop it all. A lot of it could remain green space.�
Return visitors can check out two new exhibits: Private Presley, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Elvis� induction into the Army, and the 68 Special exhibit, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of Elvis� television �comeback� where he performed the song �If I Can Dream.�
�We change an awful lot of our exhibits,� Soden says. �If you haven�t been here in several years, you�ll see a lot of things that are new.�
One thing people won�t see: Graceland�s upstairs, which will remain closed. Even President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi weren�t allowed up there when they jetted in for a schmooze two years ago.
�We were prepared that even if the White House had asked for that, we would have said no,� Soden says. �We were going to say if Koizumi was a real Elvis fan, he wouldn�t want to go upstairs. Elvis fans would consider it in poor taste to go upstairs and look at the bathroom floor where Elvis was found dead. But they never asked.�
Speaking of Bush�s visit, �The Secret Service loved being here,� Soden says. �We gave them all Elvis sunglasses.�
Countless celebs have flocked to Graceland over the years.
�Jeff Bridges is touring right now,� Soden says. �There�s always somebody. They�re making two movies in Memphis right now, one with Justin Timberlake, who is from Memphis. And Samuel L. Jackson is here. This is the third movie he�s made in Memphis.�
Incredibly, only two stars were kicked out for misbehaviour, Soden says: Boy George and Courtney Love. George was acting up like he was vying for tabloid coverage, and Love wanted to engage in an unmentionable activity.
�We�re tolerant up to a point,� Soden says.
Posted: 1st. April 2008