Fans head to Vegas for auction of Elvis memorabilia

Event to raise money for Tenn. public housing

October 10, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LAS VEGAS -- The impulse that carried Andrea Bauer to the MGM Grand Hotel this weekend started in her family's living room when she was a girl in the 1950s. Sometimes when her father, a Perry Como fan, left the house, her mother would quickly switch to a record by that new singer, the twitchy kid from Tupelo.

"Elvis Presley would sing, and my mother and I would dance and dance and dance," Bauer said.

So, four decades later, she came to Las Vegas to get a little piece of Graceland.

Elvis Presley Enterprises, the group that manages Graceland -- Presley's former home -- and other Elvis-related properties, including the trove of archives from a man who seems to have thrown away nothing (he had kept his 1960 Texaco credit card?), decided it was time to put some of its treasures on the auction block.

For three days this weekend, each one devoted to memorabilia from a decade of Elvis' performing life -- beginning with the 1950s on Friday and ending with the 1970s today -- collectors, obsessives and ordinary fans could walk away with a piece of Elvis.

For decades most of this Elvis arcana was out of sight and in the care of archivists. Then, said Jack Soden, the chief executive officer of Elvis Presley Enterprises, the idea of the auction came up.

An arm of the group, the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation, had been working for decades on various projects in Memphis, Tenn., and had gradually become more and more impressed with the work being done by the Memphis Inter-Faith Alliance to get homeless families off the streets.

"We were drawn to the program because of the role public housing played in Elvis' life," Soden said. "When his family moved to Memphis from Tupelo, they had to live in public housing, and he never forgot that period of poverty in his childhood."

The alliance has built "villages" of transitional housing for homeless families that particularly impressed Soden and the others. So they came up with the idea of auctioning the memorabilia to pay for the construction and maintenance of Presley Village, a new housing development near downtown Memphis, to be managed by the Inter-Faith Alliance.

They asked Lisa Marie Presley, the singer's daughter and heir, if she liked the plan, and she said yes.

No matter how much the three-day auction brings -- sales have been projected to reach $2 million -- the Presley Foundation will give $1.5 million for Presley Village, which will have 12 units. That is enough to break ground in about a month, have the first homeless family move in next year and maintain the place for many years.

If the auction makes more than $1.5 million, the excess will be pumped into the Presley Foundation until it has what its managers believe is a sufficient cash reserve. If there is any money left, it will go into expanding and upgrading the Presley archives and exhibits at Graceland, Soden said.

He was keen to assure people that none of the items put up for auction had been on exhibit at Graceland. "This auction does not diminish the Graceland experience," he said.

Pub Date: 10/10/99

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