'All the King's things'
By EILEEN SCHULTE
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 24, 2000
DUNEDIN -- It's not all right, mama -- the King got all splattered up.
Elvis stands there with his knees bent, in his white blazer and black slacks, his lip curled in a snarl as he sings into a microphone.
For a while, a sign around his neck proclaimed: "You should have voted for me."
He meant business. For the Memphis Gold store, anyway.
People have been stopping and taking pictures of the life-size Elvis mannequin, store owner Jerry Theriault said.
But Theriault had to take the sign down, because other people were throwing full cups of coffee and soda at the King.
"He was all splattered up," Theriault said. "You can't be too political. People get upset."
Theriault scrubbed the mannequin, which now looks clean.
Inside his Memphis Gold shop, which sells Elvis collectibles, Theriault, 52, stands behind the counter, behind the blue suede shoes lamp, the Elvis dolls and commemorative plates and in front of a line of wall clocks with long Elvis legs that swing back and forth like pendulums dancing to Jailhouse Rock.
He has a slick black haircut in an Elvis 'do circa the mid-1970s. He wears a black shirt, black pants, gold rings, bracelets and a thick gold watch.
He would look just like the real Elvis, except that he also wears a cell phone on his hip.
The phone rings, and Theriault answers it in a deep, soft, King-like voice. It's no wonder people regularly ask him if he is an Elvis impersonator. He isn't, although there have been times when he's walked into a Kmart wearing his blue velvet blazer, and an announcement will come over the P.A. system, "Elvis has entered the building."
Not everyone appreciates his look. Once, he said, he was beaten up while at a bar because a couple of guys didn't like his long sideburns.
At the store at 1143 Main St., It's All Right, Mama plays on the stereo while customers browse the merchandise. They pick through the pop-up greeting cards, Elvis bust musical box, snow globes, playing cards and salt water taffy.
An original 1960 Teenville magazine, which promise Elvis will answer all your questions, sits in a counter top magazine rack, along with Elvis, We Love You Tender and Priscilla, Elvis and Me books, cheap Elvis sunglasses, watches, earrings, necklaces, T-shirts (a lot of them black) Elvis shampoo and conditioning rinse, cologne and gold records for Viva Las Vegas and Rock-A-Hula-Baby among others.
There are 3,700 Elvis-inspired items in Memphis Gold ranging in price from 69 cents for stickers to $900 for a decantor.
"Last week we had a run on (Elvis) socks," said Theriault's son, Jerry Theriault Jr. "I was like, what's up with the socks this week?"
Theriault Jr., 32, who does not dress like Elvis, runs the store when his father is away. He said people walk in every day and say, "Don't think I'm strange, but I have an Elvis room in my house."
"I hear that 20 times a day," he said.
When he was growing up, Theriault Jr.'s family didn't have an Elvis room; they had an Elvis house. It was so filled with collectibles that when he would invite friends over, they couldn't touch anything.
Serious collectors visit the store on a regular basis with pencil and notebook in hand, jotting down items they see. When they get home, they compare the list to their collections and note the things they need to buy.
Although the store's ad boasts "All the King's Things," there's nothing in Memphis Gold Elvis actually owned.
Some of those items -- one of the King's guitars, two suits, a sweater, an engraved watch given to Elvis on his 21st birthday by Col. Tom Parker and thousands of vinal records -- are safe in storage.
"I'll never let them go," Theriault said.
Theriault, a native of York, Maine, became an Elvis fan in the 1950s, and first saw him on the Ed Sullivan Show.
"Before Elvis came along there was nothing," he said. "We had Perry Como, Mel Torme, and here comes this guy with a guitar. He started the juvenile revolution."
In 1963, Theriault met his idol at the gates of Graceland.
"Just as he was coming out he stopped and greeted fans and signed autographs," he said. "I was standing there in awe. He was driving a Lincoln Continental and was with three other people."
Theriault has visited Graceland many times since then, and even had second-row seats for a concert Elvis was scheduled to give in 1977 in Portland, Maine.
But "he died the day before the concert," Theriault said.
Theriault has been kicking around the idea of someday using the second story on his building as a restaurant with an Elvis theme.
"I want to serve all the greasy things that killed him," Theriault said, chuckling.
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