MARION NEWSPAPER FLORIDA

By STEVEN RAY HABERLIN
Staff Writer

The charismatic country boy continues to music awards.   His video concerts
still smash attendance records even though he's not actually there.  More
than half a million people each year flock to the mansion he called home.

Some 625 fan clubs around the world still pay tribute to him. New fans are
born every year as his music continues to air on radio or play during
movies, including a recently released Disney film. He even has a number-one
hit overseas (thank you, thank you very much).

A quarter of a century has passed, and Elvis Presley is still The King.
Friday will mark the 25th Anniversary of Presley's death. Elvis, who died
on August 16, 1977, would have been 67. To commemorate his passing, an
estimated 100,000 people are expected to pay homage to his Graceland
mansion in Memphis and glimpse the rock and roll legends' pad, pink
Cadillacs, private jets and other memorabilia.

They will also visit his grave. But fans say the hip-shaking singer and his
music will never fade.

"His music, his voice ?he's a phenomenon," says Summerfield resident Rose
Lee, an Elvis fan since the 1950s, who's been to nine concerts and has two
of The King's scarves to prove it.

The anniversary has certainly given an added push to the Elvis phenomena as
CDs with previously unreleased tracks make their way to stores as do
commemorative books about his life. But the velvety-voiced singer hasn't
drifted far from people's minds.

More than 600,000 people each year visit Graceland, making it the second
most-visited home in America besides the White House. What's interesting is
half of the visitors are under 35 years old.

"First and foremost it's his music," said 18-year-old Martin Clancy, who
heads the Ireland-based Elvis is the King Fan Club, which caters to older
teens. He plans to visit Memphis this week. "I think a lot of people in
Europe think he embodies the American Dream, the rages to riches story. He
was proof that a poor boy in the 1950s could become the greatest recording
artist that ever lived."






America continues to honor Elvis, as was the case last year when he was
inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, making him the only person to
be elected to the three halls of music. The pompadour-sporting rebel turned
glitzy Vegas performer still breaks attendance records even though he's not
actually performing.

In 1997, Elvis, via video, starred in a concert at the Mid-South Coliseum
in Memphis, accompanied on stage by 30 of his former bandmates and the
Memphis Symphony Orchestra. The concert broke the coliseum's all-time
record for box office sales.

Presley, who sold an estimated billion records, is still dominating the pop
charts as well. A digitally remixed version of his song, A Little Less
Conversation, has become a number-one selling hit across Europe.

Thanks to a recent Disney animation, Lilo & Stitch, which featured a
handful of Elvis tracks including Can't Help Falling in Love and Hound Dog,
kids are also singing along with the man who was once edited from the waist
up for his "provocative" hip shaking on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

"(Kids) like him because he's like a idol to them," said Kelsie Krein,
12-year-old president of The King's Kids, a New York-based fan club for
children.  "For his first record, he was just making it for his mother's
birthday and I just think that's very sweet of him He was very close to his
family."

Stars come and go. Notable singers such as Ol' Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra and
Dean Martin are still heard at an occasional wedding and remembered by
many.  But no one seems to have the staying power of Presley. What's with
this guy?

"I myself even thought he would die out," admits Kelsie's father, Joe
Krein, a longtime fan who collects Presley memorabilia and maintains
www.elvis2001.net. "I guess it was just his charm, his music. I think 100
years from now people will still be listening to him.

"Twenty-five years later, he still has a number one hit. It's just magical.
He's just an American icon. It's incredible."

In simplest terms, Elvis was the flashpoint, the centerpiece, of a musical
and cultural revolution called rock and roll, a phenomenon that
significantly affected style, art, film, language and values during the
20th century.

Sure there were others, including Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry. But it
was Elvis ?with his handsome looks, sex appeal and raw yet soothing voice
?that captured the hearts and minds of America, writes Frank Coffey, author
of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Elvis.





THE KING LIVES ?LITERALLY?

Some fans believe Elvis lives in the literal sense. Internet sites claim
that Presley faked his death because he was in trouble with mobsters,
wanted to escape the pressures of stardom or needed to regain his health.

The death hoax theorists point to several discrepancies, including the
spelling of his name on his tombstone. Presley's middle name, which is
spelled with one 'a" on his birth certificate and other documents, appears
"Aaron" on his stone.

 Elvis Presley Enterprises on its Web site explains that "Aron was the
spelling the Presleys chose, apparently to make it similar to the middle
name of Elvis' stillborn identical twin, Jesse Garon Presley?

"Toward the end of his life, Elvis sought to change the spelling of his
middle name to the traditional and biblical Aaron?Knowing Elvis' plan for
his middle name, Aaron is the spelling his father chose for Elvis's
tombstone, and it's the spelling his estate his designated as the official
spelling when the middle name is used today."

In a book called The Truth About Elvis Aron Presley, In His Own Words,
Missouri-based psychiatrist Donald Hinton claims that Elvis faked his death
due to ailing health and the pressures of stardom and has been living in
hiding (for a time in Apopka, near Orlando) sine 1977. He uses the name of
his stillborn twin brother, Jesse, and has had surgery to change his
appearance but is sometimes still recognizes because of his voice. And he
plans to go public this year.

Hinton writes that he met Elvis through a woman that contacted him, saying
Presley needed pain medication.

Those with ties to Presley's family have dismissed the books as simply a
distasteful moneymaking scheme. A Graceland spokesman told the St.
Petersburg Times that the book was "just typical stuff for a big
anniversary year.  We believe Elvis passed away on Aug. 16, 1977. His body
is buried in the meditation garden."

Hinton's claims also infuriate die-hard fans, including Clancy who runs the
Ireland-based fan club. "This guy's book is a bunch of lies. As for as I'm
concerned it's a book of trash. It's completely unbelievable. I think this
guy needs to see a shrink."

Though disagreeing whether Presley still walks the earth, fans generally
agree on this: The King will never entirely disappear.

"There's just no end to Elvis. Elvis was Elvis that's it. There's no words.
Elvis will never die ?as far as his music,"  Lee, the Summerfield fan,
said.