Burning Love Affair With Elvis 75 Years After His Birth

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If the greatest
love affair celebrities have is with their fans, Elvis Presley was
our Don Juan.

Though entertainers
inspired adulation long before, and indeed long after The King’s
arrival, it was the feral attraction to Presley – who on Jan.
8 would have turned 75 – that forever changed the way we consume

"He wasn’t
just a famous musician. He ultimately became a commodity: a brand,
a symbol and a vehicle, not only for selling products but also for
selling fantasies," says sociologist Patricia Leavy, an associate
professor at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. "Elvis was
really the beginning of consumer culture as we experience it now."

A sequin-swaddled
star, Presley set the course for an entire industry. Even now, 32
years after his death, the entertainer’s influence is evident in
everything from the border-crossing music of Eminem to the gyroscopic
invitation of Britney Spears’ hips.

Forbes consistently
ranks the singer among the top-earning dead celebrities, with his
2009 income swelling to $55 million U.S.. That fortune is only expected
to grow with this year’s 75th birthday exhibits and a new "Viva
Elvis!" Cirque du Soleil show opening in Las Vegas.

probably the most important, influential figure in all of popular
music," says biographer Alanna Nash, author of the new book
Let’s Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him

was prepared for the level of fame to which he ascended. He literally
couldn’t go out without being mobbed . . . I think the only time
he was ever truly happy was when he was on stage and felt that unconditional

The initial
romance between the artist and his fans, however, devolved into
a fatal attraction for a self-destructive star in decline –
a seemingly different man altogether, who history would mockingly
remember as "Fat Elvis."

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8, 2010

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