It's hard out there for Elvis statues

Police find no solid leads in Baltimore's latest King-napping outside a Rosedale diner

  • The Elvis Presley statue atop the Happy Day Diner in Rosedale.
The Elvis Presley statue atop the Happy Day Diner in Rosedale. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore…)
July 06, 2010|By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun

When someone, somehow, made off with the giant Elvis that stood — in full pelvis-shaking glory — atop a Pulaski Highway diner, Scunny McCusker felt a pang of sympathy in his gut, where a peanut butter and banana sandwich might ordinarily be.

As owner of the long-Elvis'ed Nacho Mama's in Canton Square, he knows that owning an Elvis statue in this town isn't easy. Consider what his has been through.

Someone ripped off one arm, then someone else the other, leaving it an altogether armless "Elvis de Milo." Zoning inspectors, clearly not fans, called it a "pedestrian impediment" and forced it from its sidewalk perch. Tipsy folks are forever lugging it across the street so that when McCusker looks across Canton Square, he'll see his Elvis peeking plaintively from the second-story window of Looney's Pub.

In a show of solidarity with the owners of the Happy Day Diner in Rosedale, McCusker planned to spend part of Tuesday afternoon making "Please return Elvis" signs.

Police trying to make someone sing a little "Jailhouse Rock" for the heist need all the help they can get. Although the stolen Elvis is 7 feet tall and something less than subtle in a white suit and sideburns, detectives at the White Marsh precinct say they're essentially without a lead. They are not sure when the crime occurred. There were no witnesses. All that's left are Elvis' shoes, still bolted to the roof where the thieves left them. And they aren't even blue suede.

Diner owners Dimitrios and Maria Pigiaditis are shrugging, too. Then again, they aren't big Elvis fans. Though the statue has done well for them, luring in travelers who stay to grab a bite after shooting photos in front of it, they inherited it from the diner's previous owner — who purchased the figure for $1,500 from a Harford Road antique shop. Maria Pigiaditis doesn't even have a favorite Elvis song and couldn't remember whether the statue she's seen every day for years has sideburns.

"I mean, I like Elvis," she says wanly, her voice trailing off.

Not that there's been a ransom note, but Pigiaditis wouldn't pay up if there was. "I'd rather use the money to go buy something else," she says. "I'm not sure if it's a prank, if somebody got dared, if somebody got drunk, or if it's a fanatic who just wanted it for himself in his basement shrine."

Did someone say basement shrine? In a crime of passion, looking first to the most passionate seems a smart bet.

Like to the 100 strong behind Baltimore's famous Night of 100 Elvises. Carole J. Carroll, who organizes the event, acknowledges that it could be anyone — her dozens and then some. People, she says, just cannot get enough Elvis.

"They want more. They have to have more," she says, adding that for an Elvis connoisseur, that diner statue would be the next best thing to a serenade from the King himself. "It could go in the living room, it could go in the backyard or, oh yes, it could go in the bedroom."

Then there's Tom Connelly of Pasadena — he'd prefer that you call him "Thelvis Man." Not The Elvis Man. Thelvis Man.

"I just use one E, 'cause there's never going to be another Elvis," he says.

Connelly, an Elvis tribute artist, says he was performing last weekend in Lickdale, Pa., when the Rosedale theft might have occurred. Moreover, he says, he doesn't think the thief could be an impersonator.

"People love Elvis. He was a good father, a good husband, a fantastic person," Connelly says. "For someone to take something, that's not Elvis-like, you know what I'm saying? That's stepping to the wrong side of the realm."

Joyce Wells, 43, a student as Essex Community College who frequently eats at the diner, suspected a rival diner or someone ticked off at a restaurant employee.

"How mad could they be? Did they get a burned burger?" asks a waitress who would give her name only as Alice, coming over to check on the drinks.

County police spokesman Cpl. Mike Hill isn't exactly calling this the beginning of a King crime wave, but he did warn folks to hold a bit tighter to their rock 'n' roll icons, because merely bolting them to a rooftop along a busy highway clearly isn't enough.

"This is obviously a crime of opportunity, with it being up there," he says.

The owners think the statue might have been snatched Wednesday, though they acknowledge that they didn't notice that Elvis had left the building until customers began calling on Sunday. The diner closes at 10 most nights, but is open 'round the clock Fridays and Saturdays.

Dimitrios Pigiaditis suspects that the thief climbed to the roof and whacked Elvis free with a hammer, since the feet left behind are splintered. Police say the figure is light enough to carry with ease.

So where else would, or should, an Elvis be?

If Maria Pigiaditis gets her statue back, she won't be so careless next time.

She's thinking invisible fencing. Maybe a cage made of steel.

"Maybe lasers," she says. "We're going to protect our King."

Baltimore Sun reporters Liz Kay and Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

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