The first person granted a visa from the Soviet Union just to visit Elvis Presley's Graceland arrived in the United States - wearing blue suede shoes.
"I am ambassador of Russian rock 'n' roll," Kolya Vasin told about 100 well-wishers when he arrived at Memphis International Airport on Sunday night. "For 30 years I love rock 'n' roll. I am happy to be here today."It was the first trip outside the Soviet Union for Vasin, 44, whose visit was arranged by a British fan club. Traveling with 79 Elvis fans, mostly from Britain, he planned to visit Graceland, home of the late King of rock 'n' roll, Monday.
The Leningrad resident, who organizes rock concerts, said official disapproval has left Soviet Elvis fans pretty much on Lonely Street.
"Many many people want more information about Elvis, but in Russia is very little information about Elvis," he said in accented English during a stopover in Boston. "This is great problem. There is a problem with black market and underground information between people: no LPs, no books, no posters or any information."
At a stop in London, Vasin added to his collection of Elvis memorablilia.
"This is my dream on my feet," he said of his brightly colored footgear. "All my life I hear `Blue Suede Shoes' and I dream about them."
He explained his infatuation with the man who might be known in Moscow as The Czar: "I listen to `Jailhouse Rock' for the first time in 1958. After this shocking moment, I love Elvis forever."
The visit, which some have called "Presleynost," is being sponsored by Elvisly Yours, a London Elvis fan club. According to club president Sid Shaw, fans raised the $3,500 for Vasin's trip.
Every year, Elvisly Yours pays for several handicapped children to accompany the group to Graceland. Shaw, who has been to Graceland 36 times, said he decided last year to find a Russian fan to sponsor.
The Soviet Embassy in London refused to help, but he finally found an expert on Soviet rock 'n' roll at the BBC who told him that Vasin was the biggest Elvis fan in the country.
"He's the Colonel Parker of the Soviet Union," proclaimed Shaw, referring to Elvis' manager. "He's a living legend in the Soviet Union. He's the biggest rock 'n' roll fan."