At the 69th edition of Miss USA contestants from across the USA will compete at the national pageant and will win the opportunity to represent the USA at Miss Universe 2020. At the grand finale to be held later this year Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst of North Carolina will crown her successor, while Miss Teen USA 2019 Kaliegh Garris of Connecticut will crown the newly appointed beauty queen.
On August 30, 2020, Graceland announced on their schedule that the competition would be held on November 9 on their premises in Memphis, Tennessee. The MUO later confirmed that the competition will be hosted at Graceland the following day. This will be the first time the annual competition has been hosted in Tennessee since the Miss USA 1983 pageant was held in Knoxville, Tennessee; and it will be the first time Memphis, Tennessee has hosted a nationally-televised pageant since the Memphis Cook Convention Center staged the 1984 Miss Teen-USA pageant that was held on April 3, 1984.
Graceland Farms was originally owned by Stephen C. Toof, founder of S.C. Toof & Co., the oldest commercial printing firm in Memphis, who was previously the pressroom foreman of the Memphis newspaper, the Memphis Daily Appeal. The grounds was named after Toof’s daughter, Grace. She inherited the farm/grounds from her father in 1894. After her death, the property was passed down to her niece Ruth Moore, a Memphis socialite, who together with her husband, Thomas Moore, built a 10,266-square-foot Colonial Revival style mansion in 1939. The house was designed by architects Furbringer and Ehrman.
In early 1957, Presley gave his parents, Vernon and Gladys Presley, a budget of $100,000 and asked them to find a farmhouse-like property to purchase. At the time, Graceland was located several miles beyond Memphis’ main urban area. In later years, Memphis would expand with housing, resulting in Graceland being surrounded by other properties. Presley purchased Graceland on March 19, 1957 for the amount of $102,500.
Later that year, Presley invited Richard Williams and singer Buzz Cason to the house. Cason said: We proceeded to clown around on the front porch, striking our best rock ‘n’ roll poses and snapping pictures with the little camera. We peeked in the not-yet-curtained windows and got a kick out of the pastel colored walls in the front rooms with shades of bright reds and purples that Elvis most certainly had picked out.
Constructed at the top of a hill, in a grove of oaks, with rolling pastures surrounding, the house designed by Memphis architectural firm, Furbringer and Erhmanis, is a two-story, five bay residence in the Colonial Revival style with a side-facing gabled roof covered in asphalt shingles, a central two-story projecting pedimented portico, and one-story wings on its north and south sides. Attached to the wing is an additional one-story stuccoed wing that originally housed a four-car garage. There are two chimneys; one on the north exterior side wall, and a second chimney that rises through the roof ridge on the south side of house.
Four stone steps, flanked by two large lions, ascend from the driveway to the two-story central projecting portico containing four Corinthian columns with capitals modeled after James Stuart’s conjectural porticos for the Tower of the Winds in Athens. Its pediment has dentils and a central, small, leaded oval window. The columns at the corners of the portico are matched by pilasters on the front facade. The doorway has a broken arched pediment, full entablature, and engaged columns.
Graceland is 17,552 square feet and has a total of 23 rooms, including eight bedrooms and bathrooms. To the right of the Entrance Hall, through an elliptical-arched opening with classical details, is the Living Room, with the adjoining Music Room behind a doorway framed by vivid large peacocks set in stained glass. The Music Room has a black baby grand piano and a 1950s style TV. The Living Room contains a 15-foot-long white sofa against the wall overlooking the front yard. To the left is a white fireplace. The painting that was Elvis’ last Christmas present from his father, Vernon, hangs in this room. Also displayed are photographs of Elvis’ parents Vernon and Gladys, Elvis and Lisa Marie.
To the left of the Entrance Hall, mirroring the Living Room is the Dining Room. The room features rounded curio cabinets in the north end corners of the room, and black marble flooring in the center of the room, with carpet around the perimeter. Connected to the Dining Room is the Kitchen that was not open to the public until 1995, as Elvis’ aunt Delta used it until her death in 1993.
During the mid-1960s expansion of the house, Presley constructed a large wing on the south side of the main house that was a sidewalk, between the music room in the original one-story wing and the swimming pool area, that connected to the house by a small enclosed gallery.
The Entrance Hall contains a white staircase leading to the second floor of the house with a wall of mirrors. The floor features Elvis’ bedroom at the southwest corner that connects to his dressing room and bathroom in the northwest corner. His daughter Lisa Marie’s bedroom is in the northeast corner, and a bedroom in the southeast corner served as Elvis’ private personal office.
Basement: TV and billiard rooms
The TV room in the basement is where Elvis often watched three television sets at once, and was within close reach of a wet bar. The TV room’s west wall is painted with Elvis’ 1970s logo of a lightning bolt and cloud with the initials TCB, for ‘taking care of business in a flash’. The south wall has three built-in television sets, a stereo, and cabinets for Elvis’ record collection. Opposite of the TV room is the billiard room; Elvis, an avid billiards player, bought the pool table in 1960 and had the walls and ceiling covered with 350–400 yards of pleated cotton fabric after the two basement rooms were remodeled in 1974.
After purchasing the property Presley spent in excess of $500,000 carrying out extensive modifications to suit his needs including a pink Alabama fieldstone wall surrounding the grounds that has several years’ worth of graffiti from visitors, who simply refer to it as “the wall, a wrought-iron front gate, designed and built by Abe Sauer, that was shaped like a book of sheet music, with green colored musical notes and a silhouette of Elvis. Presley also installed a kidney shaped swimming pool and a racquetball court.
The racquetball court is reminiscent of an old country club, furnished in dark leather and a functional bar. There is a sunken sitting area with the ever-present stereo system found throughout Graceland, as well as the dark brown upright piano upon which Elvis played for what were to be his last songs, Willie Nelson’s Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain and The Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody. Reports conflict about which one was the last song.
After Elvis Presley’s death in 1977, Vernon Presley served as executor of his estate. Upon his death in 1979, he chose Priscilla to serve as the estate executor for Elvis’ only child, Lisa Marie, who was only 11. Graceland itself cost $500,000 a year in upkeep, and expenses had dwindled Elvis’ and Priscilla’s daughter Lisa Marie’s inheritance to only $1 million. Taxes were due on the property; those and other expenses due came to over $500,000.
An annual procession through the estate and past Elvis’ grave is held on the anniversary of his death. Known as Elvis Week, it includes a full schedule of speakers and events, including the only Elvis Mass at St. Paul’s Church, the highlight for many Elvis fans of all faiths. The 20th Anniversary in 1997 had several hundred media groups from around the world that were present resulting in the event gaining its greatest media publicity.
For many of the hundreds of thousands of people who visit Graceland each year, the visit takes on a quasi-religious perspective. They may plan for years to journey to the home of the ‘King’ of rock and roll. On site, headphones narrate the salient events of Elvis’s life and introduce the relics that adorn the rooms and corridors. The rhetorical mode is hagiographic, celebrating the life of an extraordinary man, emphasizing his generosity, his kindness and good fellowship, how he was at once a poor boy who made good, an extraordinary musical talent, a sinner and substance abuser.
According to Elvis Presley’s Enterprises, and as noted in Graceland’s official page, the tour guide staff did informally keep a list of celebrities, from every walk of life, who had visited in the first years following Elvis death, although this practice only became formal a decade later. One of the first who visited was Muhammad Ali who did so in 1978, and Paul Simon, who toured Graceland in the early 80s and afterwards wrote a song which became the title track of his Grammy winning album Graceland.
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