WASHINGTON -- Another Elvis birthday came and went yesterday. His 56th.
And, still, no Elvis Presley stamp is forthcoming from the U.S. Postal Service. "Not in the near future," said spokesman Jim Murphy.
To the people at the U.S. Postal Service, it seems, the King of Rock and Roll ain't nothin' but a hound dog, and it's enough to make Pat Geiger all shook up. She's the leader and founder of the campaign to put Elvis on his own postage stamp, an effort that has often had its hopes raised in recent years only to be --ed by some new indignity.
The latest such affront came from Congress, where more than 300 lawmakers have signed a petition calling for a stamp to honor one of their own fallen heroes -- the late Representative Claude Pepper, D-Fla. -- even though Mr. Pepper, who died in May 1989, is more than eight years short of an old Postal Service rule on commemorative stamps: No one is engraved before 10 years in the grave.
It's not that Elvis backers see a Pepper stamp as a threat to their own cause, Mrs. Geiger says. Nor does she, as a 71-year-old retiree, begrudge Mr. Pepper recognition for his role as a champion for the elderly.
It's simply a matter of rules and fairness, she says. Elvis has been dead for 13 years (unless one believes scurrilous sightings reported from fast-food restaurants in the Midwest, which Mrs. Geiger certainly does not). That means the King has waited the required time and then some. Mr. Pepper and everyone else should do likewise, she says.
Mr. Murphy says it's not likely the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Commission would break the rule. And Postmaster General Anthony M. Frank has the final word.
But Mr. Frank has already disappointed Mrs. Geiger before, she says. "When he came in in 1988, he said he was in favor of an Elvis stamp. Then other people started talking to him and he started waffling."
The best chance for an Elvis stamp seems to be as part of a series of stamps honoring American Music, an idea Mr. Murphy says the Stamp Advisory Commission is considering. But being part of a series means Elvis would share billing with other musicians. Mrs. Geiger says that idea goes over with Elvis fans "like a lead balloon." She also disparages talk of putting Elvis on stamps for second-class postage.
Not helping matters has been an outbreak of negative publicity over a new book that says Elvis died of a drug overdose. "I just hope nobody on the committee reads it," she said.
If the day ever comes, Mrs. Geiger knows just how she wants Elvis portrayed. She favors a likeness from "an absolutely gorgeous portrait" hanging at the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center in Memphis. "I have a reproduction of it hanging in my living room." Now all she wants is a couple thousand more, in miniature, to hang on her mail.