Elvis is alive and well in Belleville collector's living room
Elvis Presley died 31 years ago on Aug. 16, but his memory is alive and well in Gary Simmonds' living room.
Elvis action figures are neatly tucked away in a curio cabinet. Pez dispensers with Elvis heads sit atop the TV and watch Gary, 46, and his wife Marlene, 48, when they watch Elvis in "Blue Hawaii."
Near the Pez dispensers is a teddy bear that sings "Jailhouse Rock" and a collection of matchbox cars including a pink Cadillac like Elvis bought for his mom, Gladys. A bust of Elvis is really a whiskey decanter.
Elvis' early 45 rpms hang in frames on the living room walls interspersed with photos of The King of Rock 'n' Roll.
"This is the way it is everyday. We don't change it," said Gary, who wears a black leather jacket similar to the one Presley wore in "Jailhouse Rock" and will do an Elvis impression if you ask.
"Thank you, thank you very much," said Gary in his best Elvis voice.
Gary, a cashier at Walgreens on North Belt West in Belleville, keeps much of his memorabilia under wraps. None of it has ever been opened.
"It's more valuable that way," he said.
Marlene, a pharmacy technician at Walgreens on Carlyle Avenue, cooks from the Elvis-inspired "Are You Hungry Tonight?" cookbook.
"I love the meatloaf, and she likes the fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches," said Gary, a 1979 graduate of Belleville Township High School West.
"The meatloaf has cheese in it," said Marlene. "He would eat something out it every night if I made it."
When Marlene married Gary in April, she knew she was marrying his collection, too.
Most of the collectibles are birthday, Christmas or "just because" gifts from Marlene, family and friends. One of Gary's favorites is an oil painting of young Elvis that Marlene bought to surprise her husband.
"People ask if I mind all his Elvis stuff in the living room," said Marlene. "I love it. I grew up listening to Elvis' music and watching his movies on TV with my sisters."
Gary's fascination with The King began with the movie, "Jailhouse Rock"
"When I was a kid, you had (channels) 2, 4, 5, 9, 11 and 30. There was always an Elvis movie on, it seemed like once a week."
Gary started collecting and listening to 45s, including gospel and rock 'n' roll favorites. His favorites include "How Great Thou Art," "Jailhouse Rock" and "Welcome To My World."
He still remembers the day he heard the news of Presley's death.
"I saw it on TV, and a couple of my friends were over. I ran out of the house into the yard because I was so upset. I couldn't believe it."
So far, Gary has made three trips to Graceland in Memphis. He went with his parents and niece in 2002 and has visited twice since.
He's impressed by the collection of sequined jumpsuits but especially liked the quiet garden where Presley is said to have meditated.
"You have to go more than once. The first time, you don't see everything," said Gary.
Marlene would like to go someday, but she is content to enjoy the couple's collection at home, she said.
"Elvis lives on in our living room every day."
I say each to there own, they are doing no harm to anyone else.
I agree, most of my collection is never on display...I don't have an "Elvis" room. I do like a couple of framed photos of Elvis, a old fashioned wrought iron stand for my 78 record Love Me Tender and a statue of Nipper - both on shelves above my record player. I would like to set out my life sized cardboard Elvis in his gold suit but I'm afraid the cats would get it.