This year marks some big Elvis Presley anniversaries as the movie biopic premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this week. Not only has it almost been 45 years since The King died, but also 40 years since his home of Graceland – where he died upstairs on the toilet – was opened to the public as a museum. To this day, at the request of his daughter Lisa Marie Presley, the upstairs remains off-limits as it was the star’s private space.
When Elvis first moved into Graceland in 1957, he immediately had a privacy wall on the upstairs landing installed with one-way mirrors for security.
The mansion had an open house policy for his Memphis Mafia, however, the inner circle would have to be personally invited upstairs to his safe haven.
Up there in the mysterious space are the likes of his bedroom, office and the bathroom where he died on August 16, 1977.
To this day, the space is meticulously preserved by Graceland archivist Angie Marchese, who admits the bed is made and even a styrofoam cup still sits on a bookshelf. She said: “It’s like he just got up and left.”
Amid the mountains of books on religion and spirituality is a record player which still has the last vinyl Elvis played before his death at 42, a fresh demo of JD Sumner and the Stamps. Two days after he died, they’d be singing at his funeral.
Aside from the few who have special permission to go upstairs at Graceland, there are Memphis Mafia members still alive who spent hours with The King in his bedroom.
One couple is Jo and Billy Smith, the latter being Elvis’ first cousin who knew him even before he became famous.
During a Q&A on their son Danny’s YouTube channel, Memphis Mafia Kid, they were asked if it was true that Elvis liked his bedroom dark and cool.
Billy and Jo spent many nights on the bed with Elvis and his 1970s girlfriend Linda Thompson.
There they would watch TV, tell stories and discuss spirituality and paranormal activity like UFOs.
At the end of their time together, in the early hours of the morning they would all hold hands and say: “Christ love, Christ life, Christ peace.”
To Elvis, this was a special protection chant for his Memphis Mafia inner circle and himself.