I freely admit to never having had any specific interest in Elvis. He’s been part of the wallpaper of pop culture in my mind ever since I was a kid–always identifiable, sometimes fun, more often than not a subject of ridicule or pity. Now, in light of Baz Luhrmann’s towering movie (which I saw in a theater yesterday the way movies were meant to be seen) I’m in the process of readjusting my thinking. I freely admit to having spent many of the past hours watching Elvis videos with rapt fascination. The above is a famous one–they’re all famous ones I guess–the live performance of ‘Polk Salad Annie’. At 2:45 Elvis pretends to adjust his belt but in fact surreptitiously retrieves a small piece of paper which he calmly studies for a full five seconds before resuming the song. Realizing the awkwardness of retucking it back into his belt he hands it off to a guitar player. Clearly the lyrics. Or is it? Years of Elvis jokes suggest themselves–the phone number of the woman he picked out from the crowd, the name of his new doctor/connection etc. But after Luhrmann’s movie I have little interest in pursuing them. His tremendous humanity–and even Col. Tom Parker’s–are finally at the forefront of his story, and a tired and damaged image has perhaps begun to recede.


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