Elvis, Clinton: Like 2 Peas In A Rockabilly Pod

By: Michael Lollar
Source: Commercial Appeal
June 24, 2002

The celebrity guest list at Graceland includes more than 430 of the best-known people in the world from Muhammad Ali to ZZ Top, but, so far, it doesn't include the man once known by the U.S. Secret Service as 'Elvis' - Bill Clinton!

Former president Bill Clinton hopes to remedy that in the near future, says the head of the Clinton library project in Little Rock, where the former president will include in his library a large section of Elvis memorabilia collected primarily during his two terms in office.

Clinton, a saxophone player who had a music room in the White House, amassed a collection of 'several hundred' Elvis items, says Skip Rutherford, president of the Clinton library foundation. 'He grew up like many of his generation with Elvis, so we have this collection ranging from a dancing Elvis telephone to CDs to salt and pepper shakers. You name it, we've got it. We've got the clock'.

That's the clock with the Elvis legs dangling from the clock face and swinging, pendulum-like, as if time never stopped for him.

Most of the collection, like other gifts received by sitting presidents, was sent by admirers during Clinton's two terms in office. Like his impeachment and the Gulf War of his era, the Elvis collection was part of the Clinton presidency and will find its way into the library as part of the story of his administration.

Among other items, the Elvis collection could wind up alongside two gifts to Clinton from PLO leader Yasser Arafat - a copy of the Koran with mother-of-pearl covers and a Nativity scene with a basketball-size mother-of-pearl star hovering above.

Other items awaiting a place in the library are sealed in boxes in a Little Rock warehouse with labels categorizing them. There's 'First Lady', 'Investigations of Gulf War Chemical and Biological Incidents', 'Betty Currie' and one with the now-infamous label 'White House Interns'.

There may be no blue dress from Monica Lewinsky. It was seized by the FBI as part of the Kenneth Starr investigation of Clinton and still belongs to Lewinsky.

But Rutherford has said that the impeachment story will be part of the library. 'Our job is not to rewrite history. Our job is to preserve it', he said earlier this year.

Clinton had hoped to visit Graceland during or shortly after his presidency, but did not manage to work it into his schedule, said Rutherford. But, as plans grow for the Clinton library, which will hold its groundbreaking Dec. 5, he said strong connections between Memphis and Little Rock eventually will bring the former Arkansas governor to see the King's things.

'There's this great link between Elvis and Clinton', said Rutherford. Aside from the nickname - a code name used by the Secret Service for Clinton - Rutherford said both men have lived in two of the most visited homes in America, the White House and Graceland.

Other connections are possible joint marketing tools tying the Mid-South cities from a regional tourism standpoint in the coming decade. Rutherford expects the era will be more important for car trips and regional tourism.

At Graceland, Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises, said an Elvis exhibit at the Clinton library is a smart move that would boost tourism. 'At the Nixon library, the most requested photograph in the archives is the Elvis and Nixon photo. So we've licensed a certain number of things that have Elvis and Nixon together on them'.

Clinton wouldn't be the only world leader among Elvis fans. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told an Elvis fan club in Tokyo this year that Elvis is the 'greatest singer of the 20th Century ... I never get tired of listening no matter how many times I hear him over more than 40 years in my life'.

For his part, Elvis would not have let politics be part of his agenda, said Soden. 'Elvis was devotedly apolitical'. His visit to the Nixon White House was not a partisan political visit. Nixon just happened to be a Republican, Soden said.

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