Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Story of How My Mom Got Banned from Graceland

Thirty-four years ago today, Elvis Presley died at the age of 42 in Memphis. And on that day, my mother's and my grandmother's hearts shattered. Completely. They've never gotten over it. So let me give you a little background...

My Grandma had my mom at 16. (She and Grandaddy were actually married at 15 and 19, per the normal pre-leaving-for-the-Air Force trend of days past... no shotgun wedding for the Pitts family.) So as you can imagine, she and my mom were pretty tight, being just one generation apart. But they shared more than clothes and hairstyles... they had that quintessential icon with baby blue eyes and shaking hips: Elvis Presley. The King was only a few years older than Gma. They collected his records (most of which I have lovingly "borrowed" throughout the years and added to my collection). They saw his movies. They had dolls, tshirts, posters. They were weak in the knees. All that.

Mom and Grandma, sometime in the 70s.
And Mom and Grandma this past December.

In fact, in 1974, during Mom's senior year at Auburn, Grandma and Grandaddy ventured up to meet Mom and see Elvis perform live at the Coliseum. He was on the verge of "Fat Elvis"... and their lives were forever changed.

So here's the good part. Many of you reading this may know my mother. She may be a lot of things, and I imagine there are a lot of things I don't know about her as a college student, teenager, and young adult, but the Donna Sue I know is pretty straight-laced. Plays it safe. Seems always to have been this way. Never partied. Never did much experimenting. Classic good girl child of the 50s who had a strict father that wouldn't let her date boys with long hair. Right? You can imagine my surprise (and delight) when I was told this story several years ago:

Sometime after the show, Mom got the chance to go to Graceland with a fancy friend from Auburn who lived in Memphis. I think there was a private jet involved, but I get the story confused. Lo and behold, they make it to the Motherland. They were yards away from where Elvis slept, ate, and enjoyed whatever it was he was doing that eventually led to his demise. But get this: the Presleys, including King Elvis, are at home. No tours today. Sorry, ladies, go back to the drawing board.

But ohhhh no, Donna Sue Pitts would not have that. She had not made it to Memphis, thisclose to the love of her 22-year-old life, just to be told to move along. No way. So what did she do? She jumped the fence. Made a run for it. Ran as fast as she could with only one goal in sight: Reach That Front Door. This was her moment. And then she gets tackled by a security guard. Asked to leave. Do Not Return. I imagine there was kicking and screaming involved. Epic FAIL.

So if you ever wonder where I come from, there you have it. My mom was a crazy fan who got banned from Graceland. I've asked her a million times, "What exactly were you going to do when you reached the front door?" She just says, "I don't know... I guess I would have just said hey." Yeah right. Mom was going to take out Priscilla. I know it. (Because that's exactly what I would have done.)

Elvis playing Auburn University, March 5, 1974.

RIP, Elvis. I assure you that you are missed.


MattL said...

Shush your mouth!
I love this story!
Thank you, Ms. Arieux!

Jessa said...

Classic! Oh Donna Sue...

Christen Price said...

Love it! I can't imagine sweet Donna Sue getting tackled by a security guard!