For new Elvis stamp, a letter-perfect day

January 09, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

There was one line for Elvis and another line for everything else.

The postal clerk bellowed: "Is anyone here for anything other than Elvis?"

No one answered.

Everyone was in the Elvis line.

By noon, it numbered more than a hundred, and had snaked out the door and into the parking lot.

This occurred at the United States Post Office in Brooklyn Park, where, at noon on what would have been the 58th birthday of Elvis Presley, postage stamps honoring the King of Rock and Roll were offered to an eager public.

The deal -- one pink, first-class Elvis stamp in exchange for 29 cents -- went down at a record pace yesterday at thousands of post offices across the country.

At the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif., visitors were offered a limited series of first-day Elvis stamps canceled on

king-sized postcards of the fabled photograph of Mr. Nixon and Presley shaking hands at the White House in 1970.

Elvis told Mr. Nixon he wanted to help fight the youth drug problem.

Mr. Nixon hoped Elvis might get him in good with Woodstock-era teen-agers who were making his life miserable.

And Presley wound up getting a stamp before the 37th president did.

About 300 million of the stamps went on sale at noon. They were the first of 500 million to be printed in the biggest sale of a single commemorative stamp in history -- three times the amount printed for typical American heroes such as author William Saroyan.

Before the advent of the Elvis stamp, the biggest-selling U.S. stamp was one commemorating man's landing on the moon in 1969.

In Maryland, many post offices sold out in a few hours. The pace appeared to depend on Elvis demographics, an inexact science that dictates that Elvis stamps will sell out in working-class Highlandtown and Hampden, but perhaps not in Roland Park.

Yet even in the upper-class neighborhood of tree-lined streets and big Victorian houses, they came forward by the hundreds to buy Elvis stamps.

"We sold 6,000, and a lot of them to ladies I would never have guessed would want Elvis," said a clerk at the Roland Park post office. "A lot of people surprised me today."

Just as David Holmes wowed them at the 16th Avenue post office in Brooklyn Park.

A disc jockey when he's not selling stamps behind the counter, Mr. Holmes, 40, donned a whitejump suit, had his girlfriend spray his blond hair black, and jumped out in front of the throng with a guitar.

He lip-synced his heart out to "All Shook Up" at one minute past noon.Mr. Holmes wiggled and the crowd screamed.

"First time I've been Elvis in all my life," said Mr. Holmes, a good-hearted soul who rented the suit, sideburns included, for $55.

But he had to ditch the wig that came with it because it made him look more like a Beatle than the King. That sent Helen Mattatall, his girlfriend, running out at the last minute for a can of Colorama hair-color spray.

Relying on pictures of Elvis from books she borrowed from the library, Ms. Mattatall pushed Mr. Holmes' hair back from his forehead while laying the black hair spray on heavy in a back room.

"Careful not to get that stuff on the suit," Mr. Holmes said. "It's rented."

Observed station manager John Wojcik: "This thing has blowed way out of proportion. We wanted to promote it, then we thought: 'Hey, maybe we can talk Dave into being Elvis.' "

Why?

"Because he'll do anything," said Ms. Mattatall.

Said Mr. Holmes: "Elvis is the biggest thing to hit the post office since Express Mail."

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