By Sheena Barnett
Don’t let the Elvis curtains, Elvis carpets, Elvis blankets, Elvis cut-outs, Elvis movies, Elvis plates, Elvis dolls, Elvis phones, Elvis records or Elvis posters fool you into thinking Graceland Too is about Elvis Presley.
It seems that way, since the house in Holly Springs is absolutely covered in everything Elvis, from floor to ceiling.
Really, the house is about its owner Paul MacLeod’s fanatical fascination, obsession and devotion to the King of Rock ’n’ Roll. Really, Graceland Too is as much a man’s state of mind as it is a place. Really, Graceland Too is about Paul MacLeod.
Despite being from Pontotoc, graduating from Ole Miss and making my living covering everything Elvis-related, I’d never been to Graceland Too.
I knew the landmark, the legend, the rite-of-passage through reputation only. I heard that it was a must-see, that it was creepy, funny, fascinating.
I made my first trip ever to Graceland Too this week, and the house was everything I’d ever heard it was – and that still doesn’t describe it well.
Elvis is the first thing you see when you step inside MacLeod’s 19th century house.
Pictures and posters cover the entire foyer, just as they do almost everywhere else in the home. MacLeod immediately started talking, and he didn’t let up for the entire 90-minute tour. Most tours, he said, last that long, although he once gave one that took 12 hours.
MacLeod talks fast, so fast I could barely keep up writing down his hilarious quotes and sometimes-incredible facts. It doesn’t help that his dentures slip when he gets excited.
“There have been 446,000 visitors here,” he said. “That’s amazing. Word-of-mouth is amazing.”
So is MacLeod’s massive collection of Elvis stuff.
MacLeod said he’s collected Elvis memorabilia for 57 years. When I asked his age, and he replied – in classic flirty MacLeod humor – “When I dye my hair, I look 21.”
His hair, a dirty gray, is slicked back, and cut in that Elvis Presley style.
MacLeod first took me and photographer Deste Lee into a chilly room full of records. Again, Elvis is absolutely everywhere – pictures covering the ceiling, Elvis curtains on the windows and Elvis carpet on the floor.
He told us that his ex-wife – I remind him of her, he said – gave him an ultimatum once: her or Elvis.
“I gave her a million dollars and told her bye,” he said.
That’s a story I’ve heard before, but I’ve never known anyone to actually ask his ex if the story is true.
“I can’t change what I’ve been doing for 57 years.”
The couple has one son named, naturally, Elvis Aaron Presley MacLeod.
Leading us to another room, MacLeod mentions the last celebrity to tour Graceland Too was Ashton Kutcher. On huge poster boards, he has pictures of everything from other celebrities who’ve visited, like Chris O’Donnell, to Elvis’ family in Tupelo.
Then came a familiar sound at Graceland Too: loud knocking. At the door were three tourists, Cam Rogers, Jennifer McGillan and April Fecca, from New York City, fresh from touring Graceland and Sun Studios.
MacLeod asked how they heard about Graceland Too, and McGillan said, “a combination of friends and the Internet.”
While he greets them, I got the chance to really take in the room, a dizzying array of Elvis memorabilia. Photos, plates, lamps – anything with Elvis’ face on it. Then I noticed all the Christmas trees. Christmas trees – in either blue, black, pink or purple – and garland are in every room as an homage to Elvis’ love for Christmas.
The next room holds several TVs and VCRs, which MacLeod uses to record literally every TV show that mentions Elvis, even if it’s just by name. He has filled 31,000 8.5-hour video cassettes. He has each program written down in folders based by years – the one I read was from 1992 – and it includes the original air date and how it pertains to Elvis.
Opposite the TVs are huge plastic tubs full of these folders and videos. Further back is a case containing almost 700 Elvis-related movies. There are also candles that fans used at a vigil for Elvis after his death. MacLeod said he has thousands of them.
Speaking of death: “If I could die right now – right now – I’d die to bring that guy back,” MacLeod said.
It’s a wonder he hasn’t yet. MacLeod rarely sleeps, happy to give visitors a tour at any hour of the day. He claims he lives on a case of Coca-Cola a day.
Eat, sleep, breathe Elvis
The next room is full of speakers, and MacLeod picked up a microphone to sing a few lines of Elvis songs.
“People ask me what we do around here,” MacLeod said. “We eat, sleep and breathe Elvis.”
From that room we visited his backyard, an homage to “Jailhouse Rock,” complete with a homemade electric chair.
To get visitors’ attention, MacLeod will whistle or yell, “Yo,” and he did just that, asking Rogers to go back and see the chair.
Rogers walked back to us near the door and said, in disbelief, “There is, indeed, an electric chair out there.”
The rest of us walked back there to see it for ourselves, never getting closer than a few feet to it.
Back inside, we wandered a room full of photos of lifetime members, folks who have visited Graceland Too at least three times. Lifetime members get a picture of themselves wearing a black leather Elvis jacket, and never have to pay admission again.
Near the ceiling are pictures containing what MacLeod says are proof of Elvis’ ghost, and near those are plastic bags full of dead flowers, supposedly from the first flowers put on Elvis’ grave.
The tour finished up in the foyer, where I saw a sign that proclaims MacLeod as “the universe’s, galaxy’s, planet’s, world’s ultimate Elvis fan.”
Hard to argue with that.
Nearby – and throughout the house – are comments about Graceland Too from its visitors. MacLeod asks each tourist to leave a few messages, which he promises to print out and paste on the walls. “Some of these comments will bring tears to your eyes,” he said.
Rogers’ comment was a simple one: “Your dedication is staggering.”
MacLeod seemed genuinely concerned that everybody had a good time, repeatedly asking if everyone enjoyed themselves and telling them he’ll waive the entry fee if they aren’t satisfied.
“I want you to come back,” he said. “I want all your family here.”
Graceland Too is certainly a wild ride through MacLeod’s mind, one that’s funny, creepy and oddly sweet all within just a few minutes. As someone who has her own music idols, I can easily understand MacLeod’s devotion; at the same time, his obsession can borderline on just plain scary.
Outside, the three tourists seemed overwhelmed from what they just experienced.
“It lived up to the hype,” Fecca said, and Rogers agreed.
“Graceland didn’t,” he said. “This does.”
Contact Sheena Barnett at (662) 678-1580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.