Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi does an Elvis Presley impression.
With Priscilla Presley & Lisa Marie Presley and George Bush - Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
It is the first Graceland tour by a sitting U.S. president. Former president Jimmy Carter, who had left office, visited during his daughter's graduation from Memphis College of Art in 1991. That was on a winter day, a Tuesday, when the mansion was closed, said Graceland spokesman Todd Morgan.
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President George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi are greeted at Graceland by Priscilla and Lisa Mare Presley and enjoy their tour.
President George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the Jungle Room at Graceland.
(From White House source)
President George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi comments after touring Graceland. (Press play to view video part 2.) (From White House source)
Bush, Koizumi pay their respects to The King
President Bush's going-away present to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was some kind of Good Luck Charm. Amid the ceramic monkeys, floor-and-ceiling green shag carpet and animal-head armrests of Graceland's Jungle Room, the delighted prime minister just couldn't hold back the Elvis lines.
Priscilla Presley, George Bush, Junichiro Koizumi, Lisa Marie Presley and Laura Bush
All it took was a simple invitation from Bush.
You're a pretty good Elvis singer', the president said, in an obvious prompt to his guest. Bush knew what was coming, having previously experienced Koizumi's tendency to burst into song when it comes to the late rock 'n' roll legend who is the Japanese leader's undisputed musical hero.
Koizumi quickly complied. Love me tender, he sang. 'Wise men say, 'Only fools rush in'.
Enter the special tour guides for the two leaders' private tour of Graceland: Presley's only child and heir, Lisa Marie, and her mother, Priscilla. 'I want you, I love you', remarked Koizumi, spouting more Elvis tunes. Draping his arm around Lisa Marie, he went on. 'Hold me close, hold me tight', the prime minister crooned.
It was the kind of Friday Graceland hasn't seen.
The Bush-Koizumi tour through the Memphis manse wrapped up two days of consultations between the staunch allies. Koizumi's visit saw military pomp, the tinkling of crystal at a black-tie dinner and two hours of discussions on Iraq, North Korea, U.S. beef exports and other weighty matters in the Oval Office.
But their outing to Graceland, with its oddity quotient and celebrity patina, was the most-anticipated portion.
Swiveling hips, spangled jumpsuits and over-the-top decor aren't Bush's usual style. And this is a president who routinely skips even the most awe-inspiring destinations on his speed-travels -- such as India's Taj Mahal.
President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi walk past Elvis' pink Cadillac after their tour of Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, in Memphis, Tennessee
So it's a sign of his fondness for the Japanese leader that Bush took Koizumi to a tourist hotspot, and by plane, no less, five years to the day after they first met. Aides said the president decided a Graceland tour was the perfect way, along with a gift of a jukebox loaded with Elvis hits, to bid adieu to a leader who is departing office in September after being one of his most ardent defenders on the world stage.
'It is such a joy to be here at Graceland', Bush said during the middle of their tour of the white-columned, two-story colonial recently designated a National Historic Landmark. 'The visit here is an indication of how well-known Elvis was around the world.The visit is also a way of reminding us of the close friendship of our people'.
'It's a dream', said Koizumi.
Bush had revealed his excitement about the day's travels as he drew the formal dinner he threw for Koizumi at the White House to a close at 10:10 p.m. Thursday night. 'Off to Graceland', the president said.
On Friday, things got campy right off.
The public address system on Air Force One played 'Love Me Tender' and 'Don't Be Cruel' and other Elvis songs as the leaders boarded the plane in Washington. DVDs of Elvis movies were available for viewing. And stewards brought out that Elvis culinary favorite -- grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches, each with 36 grams of fat. The two leaders passed on the sandwiches. Bush drank coffee and Koizumi drank green tea.
'I'm feeling a little heavy', groaned White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten, one of the few presidential aides who braved the breakfast treat. 'I so rarely fry my peanut butter sandwiches'.
White House press secretary Tony Snow -- wearing gold-rimmed plastic sunglasses -- did his best, meanwhile, to fuel lingering conspiracy theories that the singer never died, saying that Bush and Koizumi were likely to go to Elvis' 'alleged grave site'. In fact, Graceland spokesman David Beckwith said the 'meditation garden' near the swimming pool where Elvis is buried was the chosen place for the two allies to have some 'private time'.
The pair saw what most visitors see: the Jungle Room, famously furnished with a 30-minute shopping spree, and the glossy black baby-grand piano near the living room's white, 15-foot sofa, and hundreds of gold records, outfits and guitars in the home's museums.
Also like others, they weren't allowed a peek at the private upstairs quarters, including the bedroom and bath where Elvis died of heart disease and drug abuse in 1977.
The trip to an outside-the-Beltway locale recalls state visits earlier in Bush's presidency.
In 2001, Bush took Mexican President Vicente Fox to Toledo, Ohio, where the two addressed Hispanic voters the day after their state visit at the White House.
The next year, then-Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski also saw his state visit capped with an out-of-town journey. He accompanied Bush to a Polish cultural center in the Detroit suburbs for traditional fare and an audience with the area's large Polish-American -- and heavily Roman Catholic -- community.
The trips with Fox and Kwasniewski served Bush's domestic politics as well as global concerns. They were aimed at helping the president with key U.S. voting constituencies in battleground states even while the ride on Air Force One and close-up look at American life wowed his guests.
Bush has always favored a more casual brand of diplomacy, holding fewer lavish state dinners than his predecessors and looking for personal touches whenever he can.
For instance, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, like Bush an avid bike rider, was treated to a two-wheel jaunt around the Camp David presidential retreat earlier this month.
Koizumi's treatment goes several steps further, making a visit to the president's Texas ranch no longer the premier reward for a foreign friend.
From The White House
Here is a release from the official White House website on the visit of President Bush with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to Graceland:
President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi Participate in Photo-Op with Mrs. Bush, Priscilla Presley, and Lisa Marie Presley
President Bush: First of all, the Prime Minister and I would like to thank Priscilla and Lisa for their gracious hospitality. And we thank the Graceland staff, as well, for arranging this unusual experience. First of all, my presence here shows it's never too late to come to Graceland. Laura and I are -- we've known Elvis Presley since we were growing up. He's obviously a major part of our music history. He had an international reputation. His reputation was so strong that he attracted the attention of the now Prime Minister of Japan.
I was hoping the Prime Minister would want to come to Graceland. I knew he loved Elvis -- I didn't realize how much he loved Elvis. He not only knows Elvis' history, he can sing a pretty good Elvis song. This visit here shows that not only am I personally fond of the Prime Minister, but the ties between our peoples are very strong, as well.
And so, again, to the Presleys, thank you all. And Mr. Prime Minister, glad you joined us. Want to say a few comments?
Prime Minister Koizumi: It's like a dream. I never expected President come with me to visit Graceland. There's Elvis song: To Dream Impossible. (Singing Elvis song.) (Laughter.) My dream came true. Thank you very much for -- thank you. Thank you very much for treating me nice, the Elvis song. (Singing Elvis song.) Thank you.
President Bush: We're going to go have some barbeque, thank you.
Elvis Presley's Pink Cadillac at Graceland
During the preparations for the visit even the Graceland web cams were turned off, but during the visit a classic shot was captured of a Pink Cadillac on the Graceland driveway.
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