Suspicious Minds

30 years gone, Elvis is still king of commercial tie-ins

Thursday marks 30 years since the King of Rock and Roll — Elvis Aron Presley to his mama and daddy — keeled over on his Graceland throne, dead at the love-me-tender age of 42. But he's still with us in myriad, mysterious ways. The billion-plus albums sold worldwide, for starters.

And from now until New Year's Eve, courtesy of the Hershey Company, you can pay homage to the King by paying about a dollar for a "collector's edition" Reese's Peanut Butter & Banana Creme Cup, the confectionery conglomerate's tribute to Elvis's famous taste in sandwiches. Furthermore, some wrappers double as entry forms for Hershey's "Live Like the King" contest. Prizes include, in case you're curious, trips to Graceland, a scarf signed by Elvis, one of his canceled checks, and about 10,000 other tchotchkes that somehow haven't wound up on eBay (yet). The big winner gets to drive off in a custom 1957 Cadillac — pink, of course — tricked out with GPS, DVD, satellite radio (to tune in to Sirius's all-Elvis station), and a 500-horsepower, 454-cubic-inch Chevy big-block engine.

It's beside the point to wonder whether Elvis would have approved. Of course he would have: Elvis Presley Enterprises' mint-making merchandise operation was already in full flower when he passed away. And if Elvis peanut butter cups sound egregious, bear in mind that Shopelvis.com, the merchandising arm of his official Web site, hawks Elvis coffee, Elvis wines, Elvis credit cards, an Elvis Pez gift set, and Elvis iPod cases. At this point, Elvis as a brand has long since eclipsed Elvis as a performer. Or has he?

Shopelvis also offers several items that should placate those pesky purists. How about a CD single of "That's All Right" or a remastered copy of Elvis Presley, his 1956 RCA debut whose cover the Clash ripped off for London Calling? DVDs of the '68 comeback show or all of his Ed Sullivan appearances? As the world celebrates Elvis week, which ends Sunday, don't forget that his current status somewhere between cultural icon and lesser deity — not to mention a considerable portion of Elvis Presley Enterprises' revenue — stems from a wealth of great music. Besides, no one's forcing you to buy those new peanut butter and banana cups, unless you're really, really stoned.

 
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