Elvis once had the kind of good looks that made women scream. But today, immortalized in bronze down on Beale Street, Elvis is no looker.
The city's Elvis statue, standing on Beale next to the Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division building, is blemished by graffiti, corrosion and faded coloring. Decorative fringe on his famous nightclub shirt routinely is torn away by fans.And once again people are screaming.
An irate letter from an Elvis fan in California has prompted Mayor Dick Hackett to order repairs for the statue. Problem is, city officials can't determine who owns the statue and who is responsible for repairs.
"It's going to cost several thousand dollars," said Ray Pohlman, Hackett's director of communications. "I'm trying to get it taken care of, (but) I haven't been able to find out who owns it."
Representatives of LG&W and the Park Commission each said they are unsure who is responsible.
Even Jim Wallace, whose organization was paid $1,800 by the city in July for repairs on the statue, said he doesn't know.
"The whole idea of who owns the public sculpture of Elvis in Memphis is a good question," said Wallace, director of the National Ornamental Metal Museum. Wallace said his organization replaced guitar strings and fringes and cut drain holes to help ease a corrosion problem that is eating away at the statue.
Pat Halloran, president of the Memphis Development Foundation, which commisssioned the statue in 1980, said it was originally donated to the city. But because it stands on LG&W property, he said, confusion has arisen over who should maintain the statue.
Meanwhile, Elvis fans are getting antsy.
"It is in heart-breaking condition," said Evelyn Slayman of Cerritos, Calif., in a Sept. 27 letter to Hackett after visiting Memphis. "Whether this is from natural causes, abuse or neglect is beside the point. The condition is appalling and is no longer a tribute to Elvis but a slap in the face."
Pohlman said he now is trying to get millionaire Sidney Shlenker or Graceland to assume control of the statue and make the repairs. In so doing, Pohlman raises the eternal question:
"Why should government take care of it?" he said.