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| Culture |

The King in Miami: Graceland Brings Elvis Presley Artifacts to New Times (Photos)

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Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner, and you know what that means: three days of trying to sleep as tourists cruise past your apartment blasting music loud enough to shake your walls; putting up with cops on every corner of South Beach; and the biggest traffic nightmares of the year. Oh, and you might get shot. Kinda makes you want to get the hell outta Dodge, doesn't it?

Please allow us to humbly suggest a better Memorial Day locale: Graceland.

The folks at Elvis' former home are commemorating the 35th anniversary of The King's death with a trio of exhibits showing off some of the most iconic -- and most intimate -- artifacts from his life. This is no glorified Hard Rock Cafe showcase; this is rock and roll history before your very eyes. So we couldn't believe it when Graceland's director of archives, Angie Marchese, brought some of the most impressive pieces to our offices yesterday afternoon.

One of the exhibits, titled "Elvis... Through His Daughter's Eyes," features items picked by Lisa Marie Presley herself, showing that Elvis, deep down, was essentially a big ol' softie. Among the 200 artifacts in the collection are Lisa Marie's baby footprints (above), and The King's wallet, left in exactly the condition it was in when he died, which opens to a photo of himself and his baby girl:

Awww. 'Scuse us for a moment, we've gotta give our pops a call.

Next, Marchese brought out a few gems from the "Elvis on Tour" exhibit -- and we do literally mean gems. These are items related to Elvis' 1972 tour and the documentary about it. "Martin Scorcese did some montage editing on it," Marchese pointed out, noting that the documentary won a Golden Globe award that year. This Golden Globe, in fact:

But we had a hard time focusing on the Golden Globe when she brought out the next piece.

It's Elvis' belt. The belt. The golden belt he wore on tour, and to see Nixon at the White House, and, Marchese says, just for fun and insane rock star style when he was off stage. And the thing isn't just a fashion statement; it's a badge of honor. Elvis received the belt as a gift after breaking Las Vegas records by performing 57 sold-out shows over the course of 28 days.

A heavyweight-sized belt studded with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, and emblazoned with the heads of various prairie animals. Just your run-of-the-mill thank-you gift.

(Sadly, we were not allowed to try on the belt.)

The third exhibit in the 35th anniversary series is "Icon: The Influence of Elvis Presley," for which Graceland reached out to rock stars like Billy Joel, Ringo Starr, and President Bill Clinton (just go with it) for items showing the influence of The King in their own lives and work. Above, Marchese shows off Katy Perry's Elvis-inspired sunglasses (left) alongside the trendsetting originals (right).

You might remember seeing those sparkly shades on American Idol, if you're into that sort of thing.

We also got a look at Elvis' white shoes, and the Elvis-inspired white footwear of Justin Timberlake, who could probably raid Shaq's shoe closet anytime. Seriously, dude's shoe size is enormous. Hey-oh, ladies.

Finally, we got to check out Bruce Springsteen's leather jacket, which appeared to have seen some serious use. The thing was as worn as New Jersey is foul and orange. Also, it was awesome to see in person. Naturally, The Boss was inspired by The King; in fact, Marchese pointed out, he gave a talk at SXSW on the subject.

After some funny stories about getting through airport security with all this stuff (short version: Marchese has made the day of more than a few TSA agents) and a few half-joking-but-not-really threats to steal those golden glasses, Elvis had left the New Times' building. All the goodies above will be back in their exhibits at Graceland this weekend, where they'll stay until the exhibits close. "Icons" and "Elvis on Tour" will close at the beginning of 2013, while "Elvis... Through His Daughter's Eyes" will run into 2014.

But why wait to see them? Hoardes of drunk, loud tourists are booking their Memorial Day attack vacation to Miami as you read these words. If you don't get outta the 305, you'll be singing "Stranger in My Own Hometown." (Look it up, young'uns.) So you might as well sing it at Graceland.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

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