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Enjoy & Learn

Elvis lives
Dead Man Earning

Every year, when Halloween comes, “Forbes” magazine publishes a list of the highest earners among… dead artists. Since this ranking began a dozen or so years ago, Elvis Presley has occupied the top position. Almost three decades after his death, the King still makes 40-50 million dollars a year.

When Presley died, his long-time manager Tom Parker said: “His death was the best thing that could have happened to him–it has assured his immortality.” Cynical? Of course, but how true! Elvis is the richest dead man ever. The obvious beneficiaries of this fact include his wife, Priscilla, and daughter, Lisa Marie, but also for instance one Sam Sillerman, chairman of an American company that invests in dead stars. Two years ago Sillerman bought the rights to 85% of the shares in Graceland, Presley’s famous home in Memphis. So far this investment has brought him 30 million dollars and the profits are expected to double next year.

Actually, anyone can cash in on Presley’s fame. It’s just a question of hitting on the right idea. A certain clever guy took advantage of Presley’s grave being moved to Graceland and bought his original tombstone. He then cut it into 44,000 pieces and sold each for 80 dollars, thus earning 3.5 million. Other marketable memorabilia include thousands of 4x4-centimeter pieces of a sheet that
Elvis allegedly slept on (only 10 dollars each) or a slightly more expensive collection of his sunglasses that fetched 3,000 dollars.

If he had lived, he would have turned seventy in January this year. The anniversary has inspired some new theories concerning the King’s death. One of the latest claims that Presley’s death was a carefully planned marketing trick. The idea behind arranging his demise and funeral was to assure his cult status and never ending stardom without stopping the flow of money. The year 1977 was supposedly the best possible moment for Elvis to go. He was 42 and losing popularity but still a great entertainment figure. According to this conspiracy theory, the King agreed to disappear from public life and secretly settle on a tropical islands in the Pacific, where he lives to this day.

Meanwhile, Sam Sillerman has announced a new, sensational chapter in the Elvis business, coming soon. He says: “Just wait–the world will go crazy when his father’s memoirs are published.” Sillerman may soon face competition, though. The so-called Memphis Mafia (Elvis’ closest friends between 1958 and the day of his death, 16 August 1977) are also planning to reveal some “unknown facts.” They expect to earn a lot too. From memoirs, of course. In the early 1960s, these people accompanied Presley virtually everywhere. The five men got their strange nickname because they wore sunglasses and always dressed in black. Back in the good old days, the Memphis Mafia kept a code of silence, like real mobsters. When their boss was alive, they never broke their word and didn’t leak anything concerning his private life to the press. Now, forty years on, they feel released from the vows and suddenly their King-related revelations are up for sale!

What else is for sale? Well, what isn’t? Anything goes–real and fake biographies, publication rights, film and recording licenses, gadgetry and souvenirs, minor merchandise… The richest collectors can afford authentic memorabilia or rare bootleg editions of Presley’s records, less demanding fans will settle for cheaper stuff like vinyl records and re-mastered CDs. The official Heartbreak Hotel with its 128 rooms features a suite that looks exactly like the King’s original bedroom in Graceland. The hotel’s restaurant serves the Elvis specialties listed in his Uncle Vester’s cookbook. Radio Elvis is on air 24 hours a day and–obviously–only plays Presley’s songs (he recorded as many as 655 of them). You can buy an Elvis mobile phone ringtone for every day of the year. There’s an Elvis Trivia Game to play on the computer. You can even get married in the Elvis Memorial Chapel–Love Me Tender will be played instead of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.

The list of potential things to sell seems to have no end. Considering the fact that there are almost a thousand Presley fan clubs all over the world, the need for an audience is not a problem. Tupelo, where Presley was born, and Memphis, where he lived, are both places where the most famous annual Elvis festivals are held. But Denmark, Canada and Australia also boast regular Elvis events.

Elvis Presley will top the “Forbes” ranking of bestselling dead artists for years to come. Legends never die. If you doubt it, just try one thing. Write his name in any Internet search engine and… enjoy the read.

Ryszard Wolański


translated by Jerzy Chyb

a dozen or so kilkanaście
to assure zapewnić
immortality nieśmiertelność
beneficiary beneficjent, odbiorca
chairman prezes
shares udziały, akcje
to cash in on sth skorzystać finansowo
to hit on an idea wpaść na pomysł
tombstone płyta nagrobna
thus w ten sposób
marketable dający się sprzedać
memorabilia pamiątki po znanej osobie
allegedly rzekomo
to fetch przynieść (ze sprzedaży)
demise śmierć, zgon
stardom gwiazdorstwo
memoirs pamiętniki
strange dziwaczny
code of silence zobowiązanie do milczenia
mobster członek mafii
to leak ujawnić, „przeciekać”
to release zwolnić
vow przysięga
fake fałszywy, podrobiony
minor drobny
merchandise towar na sprzedaż
to settle for zaakceptować, pogodzić się
suite apartament
ringtone sygnał telefonu
annual coroczny
to boast szczycić się
search engine wyszukiwarka
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Top Ten Highest-Earning Dead Artists 2005
1. E. Presley, singer–45 million dollars
2. C. Schultz, cartoonist–35 million dollars
3. J. Lennon, singer–22 million dollars
4. A. Warhol, painter–16 million dollars
5. T. Geisel, writer–10 million dollars
6. M. Brando, actor–9 million dollars
7. M. Monroe, actress–8 million dollars
8. J. Tolkien, writer–8 million dollars
9. G. Harrison, musician–7 million dollars
10. J. Cash, musician–7 million dollars

Elvis Presley’s Top Three Favorite Dishes

3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 slices white bread
1 banana, mashed
2 tablespoons margarine, melted

1 large ham bone
2 quarts water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 cup cold water
salt and pepper

4 large sweet potatoes
3 medium apples
1 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
graham cracker crumbs
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