Elvis Presley died 30 years ago today, sitting on a throne. He was no longer the star he once was and still not the mythic figure he'd become. Elvis had jumped the shark years before. Now he was just a dead guy laying on the bathroom floor with his pajamas around his ankles.
Ah, but Death does marvelous things for some people. It changes them, you know. In Elvis' case, it turned him into something more than a man and something (slightly) less than Jesus ... it gave him immortality. Death made Elvis bigger than life, even if life could never make Elvis bigger than Death.
A few years ago, I rented a cottage in rural Ireland to research a novel I was writing. On St. Patrick's Day, I visited a little pub in the tiny village of Kiltyclogher, where a guitar man from County Leitrim was playing American country songs -- they play only traditional Irish or American country music in most of those little pubs outside Dublin. St. Paddy's Day in Ireland isn't quite the Bacchanal it is in America, but it's slightly more festive than the day before and the day after.
After a few Guinnesses, I was warming up to the Irish spring night ... and to a dark-haired lassie ... when the guitar man started playing Elvis songs. The whole pub came awake and began to dance. I took my lassie out to the postage stamp-sized area where we jostled with everyone else and I began my best hip-swiveling, knee-cracking imitation of The King. The younger King.
The song ended and we went back to our snug where a little old Irish lady -- perhaps 90 -- reached her gnarled hand out to me. I took it and she smiled.
"That was brilliant," she said. "Just brilliant."
No, it wasn't really. It was merely evidence that Elvis' spirit is everywhere. Even the tiny village of Kiltyclogher.
(Maybe on the 40th anniversary of Elvis' death, I'll tell you how my Elvis-obsessed sister once got chased out of Graceland by security guards.)