Tag Archives: Graceland

The Elvis Sandwich @ Peanut Butter & Co., NYC

Last Saturday would have been Elvis Presley’s 76th birthday, and though we didn’t get to celebrate his big day like we usually do, we did ring in Elvis’ 75th birthday in high style last year. So, let’s just consider this post my 2011 birthday tribute to the King. Happy birthday, dude!

Last January 8th, Christine, Greta and I had just arrived in New York City for a friend’s wedding. There was snow on the ground and a definite chill in the air, but, it was Elvis’ birthday and we were determined to try the Elvis sandwich at Greenwich Village’s legendary Peanut Butter & Co..

I mean, sure, we’d had peanut butter and banana sandwiches before (at Graceland no less!) but the fine folks at Peanut Butter and Co. add two key ingredients which really set that freaking sandwich on fire: honey and bacon. It sounds kinda weird, I know, but, trust me when I tell you that this tasty-ass sandwich is a thing of rare beauty, amigos. Incredible!

Washing the whole thing down with a truly decadent Fluffernutter Shake — which consisted of peanut butter, milk and Marshmallow Fluff! — we scooped up a few jars of dark chocolate and honey-infused peanut butter to go, wished the King a happy birthday and set about touring Manhattan.

And when it came time for our last meal in NYC a few days later, guess where we headed? You guessed it, right back down the street to Peanut Butter & Co. for more of their savory/sweet Elvis-y goodness.

Now, if book-ending your first big family trip to New York City with Elvis sandwiches doesn’t spell true fan devotion, well, I don’t know what does.

Happy birthday, EP. We love you!

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Strawberry Fields, NYC

Had he not been so suddenly and violently taken from us at the age of 40, the late, great John Lennon would have turned seventy years old last month. That’s right, seven-zero. Crazy, huh?

In honor of John’s 70th, Christine and I wanted to post some pics we took last summer during our visit to Strawberry Fields, the Lennon memorial in New York City’s Central Park. Located on 2.5 acres of sprawling parkland just across the street from the legendary Dakota apartment building where Lennon lived, and died, Strawberry Fields can only be described as peaceful.

I’m not saying the rest of the park isn’t peaceful, because…wow…Central Park in August is all kinds of breathtakingly peaceful, but, Strawberry Fields just felt almost magical in its stillness.

A designated quiet zone — Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono still lives in the Dakota and apparently grew weary of the singing of the fans in the park — Strawberry Fields has a serenity that truly sets it apart from the rest of the park.

Sure, there were tons of fans milling about, and the crowd taking pictures around the stunning “Imagine” mosaic that serves as the areas centerpiece was pretty intense, but, despite the sheer volume of people there, Strawberry Fields was a very chill place to spend the afternoon.

And though I was a bit disappointed to discover that there were no actual strawberry plants in Strawberry Fields (I know, I’m lame, but, it would have been nice) I gotta tell ya, I haven’t been that moved by a memorial since our 2007 visit to Graceland.

It’s like John’s aura was all around you, and though there was none of his actual music playing anywhere (designated quiet zone, remember?) you didn’t need to hear it to know that it was there, in our hearts. I know that sounds hopelessly cheesy, but, it’s how we felt.

So, happy birthday, John. Seventy years on, you continue to rock the world…

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Mr. Potato Head Elvis

Whoa…could this summer get any cooler? I just got an email from my friends at Elvis.com announcing the upcoming launch of a super cute Mr. Potato Head Elvis! Yay, now my Darth Tater won’t be so lonely.

Introduced to the world by a rocking Elvis tribute artist in a sparkly Elvis jumpsuit, Mr. Potato Head Elvis’ debut is timed to coincide with Elvis Week 2010 and will be followed at Christmas time by a ’68 Comeback Special version in black leather! Whew, now I finally know what to ask Santa for!

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Our summer vacation!

August is usually kind of an insane month for us as we always seem to be traveling somewhere, but this past month was, as the saying goes, off da hook.

Seriously, family, friends, high school reunions, wax museums, soda tasting parties, road trips all up and down the state, you name it, we did it last month. And now, at long last, we’re home. So, while I eagerly prepare to fill you in on the many strange and wonderful adventures we had this past August, please enjoy this picture of a road-weary Greta in her very well-used car seat.

If there was any doubt as to how crazy busy we’ve been, I think the look on her face says it all. Yikes. Thank God she still digs road trips

Greta holding on for dear life!

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Last Call Doritos for the King of Pop…

On the eve of what I expect will be a pretty rocking memorial to Michael Jackson, Christine, Greta, Ryan, Laura and I climbed into the Vue to do a little MJ memorial tour of our own. First Laura, Greta and I drove to the Staples Center to see the crowds and sign the massive placards they had set up for fans.

But that line was crazy-long, it was hotter than hell, and, well, we did have a baby with us, so, we opted for pictures and a quick drive-by instead.

MJ #1

MJ #2

Later in the day, Christine and Ryan  joined us for a jaunt past the ever-expanding crowds outside the main gates of Forest Lawn, where Jackson is to be buried. That was cool too and we got some nice action shots from the car, but the highlight of our MJ memorial tour was our trip to the Jackson family compound in nearby Encino. Located just a couple of blocks off of Ventura Blvd., this is the house where Michael and the rest of the kids were raised when the family moved to California from Indiana.

Michael mania being what it has been the past couple of days, we weren’t expecting to get very close to the house or the sea of flowers out front, but, just in case, we came bearing a card for the family and a baggie of “Last Call” Jalapeno Popper-flavored Doritos for the Man in the Mirror to enjoy in the afterlife.

Yes, I said Doritos. See, earlier in the day, Laura and I had seen a friend of Michael’s joking on TV about Jackson’s bizarre eating habits. She said something about him being a hard core vegetarian since he was younger, but joked that that didn’t stop him from loving junk food like Doritos, which he enjoyed regularly.

MJ #3

MJ #4

MJ #5

So, when we were mulling over what gift to bring the King of Pop, the half-eaten bag of “Last Call” Doritos seemed like the perfect fit. Christine, of course, was mortified by the idea, but Ryan and I stuck to our guns, labeled the plastic baggie with a message for the King of Pop and headed off to Encino.

But what came next took us all by surprise. I mean, sure, we thought it would be cool to see all the fans and the messages and artwork they created for Jackson, but I don’t think any of us realized how emotional it would be.

Seriously, amigos, it was like Graceland West. For the first time since all this insanity began, we actually realized the true depth of feeling that the world had for this dude. And I know it sounds corny, but there was a real sense of magic outside the family home.

MJ #6

MJ #7

MJ #8

MJ #9

I don’t know if it was the crowd — who were very quiet, friendly and respectful — or the fact that the setting sun cast a dreamy glow over the place, but the whole aura outside the Jackson family compound was really amazing.

I’m sure there will be many memorable moments from the official funeral and memorial service today, but for us, this was it…a truly moving send-off to the once and future King of Pop.

To see more of the scads of Michael Jackson-themed pics I took over the past couple of days, click here. And in the meantime, here’s hoping MJ digs the Doritos as much as we did…

MJ #10

MJ #12

MJ #11

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Graceland pic on “Ribs Paradise”

A couple months back we got a Flickr e-mail from a producer at the Travel Channel asking if he could use one of our Graceland pics on an upcoming special on the best ribs in America. Thinking nothing would come of it, I said yes and signed the release he forwarded me a few days later.

Well, guess what? Last week the picture I took of the bright blue sign in the Graceland parking lot (below) was featured front and center on the Travel Channel special “Ribs Paradise”! Cool, huh?

Graceland pic used on "Ribs Paradise"

My picture appears about 19 minutes into the show, just before the segment on Memphis’ rocking Rendezvous dry-rub ribs. If you’re a huge nerd, like me, and wanna see the pic onscreen for yourself, check your local listings and set your Tivo’s accordingly.

The Travel Channel has been playing “Ribs Paradise” pretty much non-stop since last week’s original airing, so it shouldn’t be hard to find, but make sure you eat something before you watch, because that crazy-ass show will definitely leave you jonesing for some sweet, spicy ribs!

Que viva la Travel Channel!

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Elvis movies: “Viva Las Vegas”

Nerdy as it sounds, ever since our memorable trip to Graceland last year, Christine and I have been trying to see all 31 of Elvis Presley’s movies. Now, if you’ve seen even one of them for yourself, you know how truly difficult this task really is. Because, well…most of them kinda suck.

But with the lone exception of the King’s first movie “Love Me Tender” (1956), which I think was an outright bomb, everything else we’ve seen has at least one or two elements or songs that make them fun and totally worth watching. And despite some awkward turns in a few of the clunkier pictures, Elvis is still freaking Elvis, baby, so…he still totally rules!

For example, “Kissin’ Cousins” (1964) has the King playing a military man and his blond hillbilly cousin, and better yet has not one, but several scenes with a fleet of hooting, hollering mountain gals called the “Kittyhawks” descending upon the homestead to steal single men. I kid you not, that happens at least two or three times in the movie. Crazy!

“It Happened at the World’s Fair” (1963) has a funny cameo by a pint-sized Kurt Russell and some gorgeous shots of Seattle and it’s then brand-spanking-new Space Needle. “The Trouble With Girls” (1969) is a period piece set in and around a traveling roadshow type of deal called a Chautauqua — don’t feel bad, we’d never heard of a freaking Chautaqua either! — and features some of the strangest camera angles you’ve ever seen in a Hollywood movie. It’s downright groovy, man. Gotta love those late-60’s filmmakers…wow!

“Girl Happy” (1965) and “Clambake” (1967) both feature a super-cute Shelley Fabares playing basically the same role in basically the same movie, but “Clambake” has a way better theme song!

“Blue Hawaii” (1961) has Elvis surfing with a bunch of adoring Hawaiian kids and a strangely-sinister Angela Lansbury playing his mom. Yes, his mom. I don’t know if Lansbury was gearing up for her iconic role in “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) or what, but she is crazy weird in this movie…yikes!

And of course, the best of bunch we’d seen to date was “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) which is not just a great Elvis movie, but is also a really great movie in its own right. Cinematic, funny, dark, and beautifully shot in a brooding black and white, there is a reason Elvis fans love this movie. For not only is this probably the King’s best role — playing essentially, a twisted version of himself — this movie is just plain awesome! Seriously, if you were ever gonna buy an Elvis movie on DVD, this is the one to get!

Which brings me, finally, to the most recent Elvis movie on our list…“Viva Las Vegas” (1964). Christine had already watched — and insanely raved about! — this movie without me when I was in Santa Fe, and now we finally caught it again on TCM…and let me tell ya, this is the only other Elvis movie that you simply must have on DVD!

I think Elvis is usually better in his comedies, and here again, he shines playing a gambling race car driver/waiter at the Flamingo Hilton. But this time, the King is joined onscreen by the spectacularly gorgeous Ann-Margret. I don’t know exactly when the term “knockout” came into favor, but I can guarantee you it had something to do with Margret. Seriously, that face, that hair, those legs, that um…posterior…wow, this chick has it all.

And not only can she hold her own with Elvis in the singing and dancing department — actually, I think she’s a way better dancer, but that’s just me — but Ms. Margret can act too. And as written by Sally Benson — who also co-wrote my favorite Hitchcock film, “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943), yay! — her character is no throw-away girlfriend role, but rather a living, breathing firecracker-of-a-swimming-instructior to be reckoned with.

And the chemistry between her and Elvis…wow, I kid you not, you can almost see the sparks crackling off these two onscreen. They are incredible together, and though the first five minutes of so of the movie kinda dragged a bit, the minute Ann-Margret showed up in those skimpy white hot pants…it was on, baby!

Yes the movie has some crazy shit in it — their first date includes a dance class, skeet shooting, water skiiing, a helicopter ride over Hoover Dam and ends on a houseboat, where Margret lives with her father! — but the chemistry between these two keep everything rolling at such a crackerjack pace that you hardly care.

And the extended race car sequence at the end of the movie is really something to behold, especially when you consider the fact that they didn’t have CGI back then! Those are real cars, driven by real stunt men, yo!

I know that George Lucas has said that the chariot race sequence from “Ben Hur” (1959) inspired little Anakin’s pod race scene in “The Phanton Menace” (1999), but I swear to you, there are more than a few similarities between the race in “Viva” and the one in “Menace”. Don’t believe me? Read a hilariously geeky break down of the similarities here.

Anyway, another thing we both loved about “Viva Las Vegas” are the songs! This is one of the first Elvis movies I’ve seen that featured so many rocking duets, and though the title track is still the star, the rest of songs seriously kick ass. And when you factor in two (!) smoking solo songs for Ann-Margret, well, how can you go wrong?

So, if you like your movies loud, fun and loaded to the gills with out-of-control star wattage, check out “Viva Las Vegas”. And if you have a favorite Elvis movie you’d recommend we check out, by all means, let us know.

We’re still dying to see Presley’s last movie — “Change of Habit” (1969), with Mary Tyler Moore as a nun! — but they never play it on TV and the old-ass versions on DVD look pretty crappy. Here’s hoping a deluxe edition is in the works! And in the meantime, we’ll busy ourselves with some of the other movies on our list…next stop, “Harum Scarum” (1965)!

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