As Christmas fast approaches each year, my relatives start pressing me. “What do you want for Christmas?” As I get older (I’m in my sixties), I find that question harder and harder to answer. What I need, I buy for myself. I’m not about to ask for underwear for Christmas. “What do you want?” is an entirely different question. Starting with baseball cards at age seven, for much of my life I was a collector of many things, including Elvis “stuff.” Now, though, I’ve entered the down-sizing phase of my life. I’m trying to get rid of the storeroom full of “stuff” I accumulated over the years, not add to it. That’s why it’s so hard to come up with a list of things I want.
That wasn’t always the case, however. At various times through the years, Elvis items appeared on my Christmas list. It started when I first became an Elvis fan in 1963. My paper route provided a moderate income, so I was able to purchase the soundtrack LP for Girls! Girls! Girls!, and, later that year, the “It Happened At the World’s Fair” album as well. As I remember, those LPs in stereo retailed at $3.98 at the time. The mono versions were a buck cheaper.
As Christmas 1963 approached, Elvis albums filled my Christmas list. After all, I had some catching up to do. From 1956 through 1962, Elvis had released 15 LPs, and I wanted them all. My paper route profits allowed me to purchase most of his back 45 singles (98¢ each), but at four bucks a pop, getting those 15 albums on my own would have taken me several years. But along comes Christmas—the perfect opportunity to get those Elvis albums without having to pay for them. In addition to my parents and grandparents, I had a dozen aunts and uncles, so I had great hopes of putting a big dent in my missing Elvis albums.
My first Elvis Christmas presents
That Christmas morning in 1963, I did indeed receive a number of Elvis LPs, although the only one I can remember now was “Fun in Acapulco,” the soundtrack for the Elvis movie then in theaters. However, I vividly remember a trick pulled on me that morning by one of my aunts. It was obvious what her present to me was. It was a flat, 12” X 12” package. What else could it be but a record album? When I opened it, though, there was no Elvis album, just two $1 bills. I can still remember my aunt laughing as I realized how she had deceived me.
Elvis records were never on my Christmas list in future years. Like most fans, whenever an Elvis LP came out, I had to buy it immediately. I wasn’t about to wait until the following Christmas to listen to a new Elvis album!
I have, however, received some Elvis items as Christmas presents through the years. My daughter Beth usually finds some Elvis product to give me. They have included a blanket with a scene from Jailhouse Rock on it, an Elvis light-switch cover, an Elvis snow globe, and a set of Elvis Pez dispensers I’ve also received several Elvis books as Christmas presents.
Several years ago, I noticed an item on ShopElvis.com that intrigued me. It was a foot-and-a-half tall Crosley bubbler juke box replica. It has an etched drawing of Elvis on glass and a list of Elvis songs like they might appear on a real juke box. It doesn’t operate like a juke box, though. It plays CDs and has an AM/FM radio. At $350 it was something I would never have bought for myself. So, I put it on my Christmas list, and my wife and mother went in together and gave it to me. It sits in my office, and although I never use the CD player or the radio, I enjoy turning on its neon lights and bubbler feature while I work at my computer. The only other one I’ve seen was in DJ Red Robinson’s office in Vancouver, B.C., when I interviewed him for my Elvis ’57 book a couple of years ago.
The Elvis “Head” is a Christmas hit
Getting back to this Christmas, I’m finding myself intrigued by another Elvis item that I might put on my Christmas list. I got the idea from an article in an issue of Spokane Living magazine. The editors asked several well-known Spokane citizens to tell about a memorable Christmas past. One of them was Doug Clark, a columnist for the Spokesman-Review newspaper. Clark started his remembrance with the following:
“Call us old fashioned. But when it comes to yuletide traditions, the Clark household is all shook up about The King. And by that I mean our talking/singing ‘animatronic’ head of Elvis—The King of Rock.”
Clark and his wife found the Elvis head at Walmart a week before last Christmas. “Oh, sure,” he admitted, “I had a bad moment or two when I examined the price tag. A little voice that must have been my conscience said: ‘Doug, are you nuts? You can’t spend 250 bucks on an Elvis head. Give your money to the poor. Make the world a better place. Fortunately, I found the inner strength to tell that little voice to shove it.”
They took the rubberized Elvis home, set him on a table near the Christmas tree, and fit a Santa hat over his ink black hair. “Soon we were learning how to use the microphone-shaped remote control,” Clark explained. “We had Elvis curling his lip, singing his hits and saying things like, ‘Don’t criticize what you can’t understand, son?’”
Gotta have that animatronic Elvis head for Xmas this year!
Elvis turned out to be the hit of the Clarks’ annual holiday party. “Our guests marveled at his synthetic skin,” he recalled, “and how the ten hidden precision motors could move his eyes and give his face eerily lifelike expressions. It was just like having the real Elvis in your home.”
OK, I’m sucked in. Right after I finish writing this, I’m heading right over to my local Walmart and see if they still stock the Elvis head. If they do, I’m going to buy it before my conscience can convince me what a frivolous thing it is. Then I’ll give it to my wife, and say, “Here, give this to me for Christmas?” No one can ever say the Elvis spirit doesn’t still live in me at Christmas time.— Alan Hanson (December 2009)