John Lamb, Published April 09 2014
Lamb: Nothing can prepare visitors for Graceland Too adventure
That’s easy for Fleming, who created James Bond, a character modeled a bit after Fleming’s playboy lifestyle.
It’s fine for 007 to never decline an invitation to a risky undertaking – he’s used to getting out of scrapes.
I could’ve used someone like Bond a couple of weeks ago. Some friends and I were on vacation in Memphis, Tenn., visiting Sun Studios, the Stax Museum, the Museum of Rock and Soul, the Gibson Guitar factory and of course, Graceland.
All of these were great stops, but I wanted adventure, so we drove an hour south to Holly Springs, Miss. The town of around 8,000 is home of bluesmen R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith and Paul McLeod.
If you’ve never heard of the latter, you’ve either never visited Graceland Too, or you’ve successfully suppressed that memory. Not affiliated with the actual former home of Elvis or his estate, Graceland Too is McLeod’s shrine to The King – and hoarding.
I’d read write-ups about the spot, but wasn’t prepared for what we got into.
McLeod’s colonial house is over 150 years old and the only maintenance that seems to have gone into it was some painting – some, apparently, by spray paint – with the exterior being sections of white, tan, navy blue and Mediterranean blue. Even the pine trees and windows were painted. The only things that weren’t painted were the various American flags on or bent over the house.
If the paint job wasn’t enough of a warning sign, the lion sentry statues out front should have been. Of course, you weren’t able to see that they were wrapped in barbed wire until you got up close because the wire was also painted white.
The door – black and jerry-rigged – held two open signs, but was locked. It stayed that way for five minutes as we knocked.
You’re probably asking, why didn’t we leave. Partly because I’d once read, “Never say ‘no’ to an adventure” and partly because I’d also read that Graceland Too was open 24 hours a day, and it was only 3 p.m.
Again, both of these points should have been red flags, but McLeod opened the door before my friends thought better of the situation, and soon we’d stepped inside.
It was a step I immediately regretted.
What at one time was a foyer was now covered floor to ceiling and across the ceiling in Elvis pictures. It was like a teenage girl’s bedroom, if that teenage girl had been obsessively collecting for 50 years.
The only similarity to Graceland proper is that the second floors in both homes are off limits. The stairs at Graceland Too were fenced off with a ceiling-high chain-link fence, though items like dolls and records were set on the steps.
Before we could start taking pictures, Paul started his spiel, a breathless ramble that was hard to understand. He stopped only to ask questions that led to another chatter, or to get your attention by barking, “Hey! Yo!” then hitting you. Hard. At 71, McLeod is crazy strong.
What I caught was that every number he cited – the amount of records fastened to the walls and ceiling, how much different items were worth, the number of paperclips he has marking TV Guides with Elvis appearances – was in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands. That and something about Barbara Streisand having sex (which I didn’t believe) and that he drinks a case of Coca-Cola a day (which I do believe) and that gives him the virility to “repopulate China.”
I don’t think China needs his Coke Diplomacy, but I wasn’t going to correct McLeod, as he was also fond of saying he had enough guns to “fix” Iraq.
This I also believe, because he pulled a gun on me. Actually, he did it twice.
This was the first time I ever had a gun pointed at me, and the scary thing wasn’t that there was a gun pointed at me, but that my reaction, staring down the barrel of a gun, was, “Let’s see what’s in the next room of this tourist death trap.”
Again, another misstep as the next room was just as cluttered and his speech was just as confusing. The only thing that was bigger and better was the second gun he pulled on me, a Colt he said was once owned by Elvis. I don’t know if I believe that, but when he showed me that the gun was loaded, I knew it was time to go.
James Bond may be used to having guns pulled on him, but it’s an experience that leaves me shaken and stirred.
Oh, and that Fleming quote, “Never say ‘no’ to an adventure,” oddly wasn’t from one of his James Bond books. It was from Fleming’s other success, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” It’s easier to say ‘yes’ to an adventure when there are no guns involved.
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533