Resort taps into its Elvis factor
Singer inspires suite at Gulf Hills
By KAREN NELSON / Klnelson@sunherald.com
OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) - The Gulf Hills Golf Club and Resort had more than a brush with The King, back when it was in its heyday, and he was in his. Elvis Presley would rent out the entire resort, all the villas and several nearby houses in the Gulf Hills subdivision when he came to town, which he did for entire summers in the mid-1950s.
Now, after wrestling with the notion, the resort has decided to embrace the Elvis factor. It took years of preparation, remodeling and redecorating, but it has opened for reservations the "Love Me Tender Love Me Suite," a three-bedroom wing on the second floor that has a mezzanine, a parlor with upholstered bar and a hall of fame that runs the length of the suite.
"The Hard Rock Caf doesn't have anything on us," said General Manager Donna Brown, who gives the glory to part-owner Karen Mavar and interior designer Ray Ebberman for creating the authentic look and feel of the 1950s.
The "Love Me Suite" rents for $1,000 a night. No children please because it is furnished with antiques and irreplaceable memorabilia, like an ashtray from the Pink Pony Lounge where he performed on the grounds.
Elvis was only part of a vast and myriad history for the hotel, built in 1927 with Chicago mob money. So when a massive, painstaking renovation began to bring it back from condemnation at the end of the 1990s, Elvis was the last thing on Brown's mind.
"We heard all the stories about Elvis, and my first reaction was, 'Why don't we just let that go away," Brown said in an interview before she unveiled the new suite.
"But not a day goes by that someone doesn't stop in or call or write or e-mail to inquire about Elvis. Was he here? What room did he stay in?"
"After months of hearing that, I was eating my words," Brown said. "I realized we're missing out on something."
She said that literally, Elvis would not leave the building.
So rather than fight it, the owners decided to embrace it.
In 2001, Mavar began collecting 1950s furniture and decor. They brought in a bar that Elvis was photographed using in one of the villas.
Ebberman, who owns Ray's Interiors and Ray's Collection in Gulfport, entered the picture in 2004 and began putting together the look and the finishing touches.
He called the project a study in 1950s design and Elvis style.
It feels like a step back in time for anyone 50 or older - the patterned gold carpet, the art deco glass vases, the leather framed mirrors and the 6-foot upholstered headboards.
And throughout, there is Elvis - framed records, photo books, decanter busts.
The resort has held cocktail parties in the suite, which met with rave reviews, Brown said. But it rented for the first time on Thursday to the family of a groom to be married on the grounds.
The mezzanine that overlooks the hotel lobby is a living room out of time with the large, white leather and wood couch; the round footstool with a white upholstered top but a clear plastic middle stuffed with artificial roses.
The look borrows from Graceland, Brown said, but you won't find shag carpet on the ceiling.
Elvis learned to water-ski in Old Fort Bayou behind the Gulf Hills resort and in the Biloxi Bay. He rode horses at the Gulf Hills Dude Ranch.
A 1977 article in the North Biloxian Press framed in the suite reprinted pictures of him signing autographs in downtown Biloxi in 1956.
The time Elvis spent on the Coast was well-documented, Brown said, naming the History Channel and A&E that regularly use footage of him during the time he stayed at Gulf Hills.
But the hotel was put on legal notice not to use his name to market the new suite, she said. Elvis Presley Enterprises controls that as a trademark, she said.
"That's why we don't call it the Elvis Suite," she said. And that's OK because the staff gets a little funny about the Elvis issue anyway. They kid about Elvis still hanging around - when there's an odd creak in the wall or someone accidentally leaves the Elvis music on in the suite.
But there's also the odd calls that come into the switchboard from the old pool phone that doesn't exist anymore, extension 601.
The small hotel - 52 rooms and two suites with conference and dining rooms - has the feel of a family resort, and that may have been some of the attraction for Elvis.
So when people stop and ask "Where did Elvis sleep?" Brown said, they tell them "Anywhere he wanted to."
source: sun herald
here the link to the gulf hills golf club's website:
some of the pictures' copyright belongs to Amanda McCoy of the 'Sun Herald'
Last edited by EDOEP; 09-25-2007 at 06:10 AM. Reason: copyright info added
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