Forget Beijing. For Elvis Presley fans, Memphis is the only place to be this week.
The King, who died Aug. 16, 1977, has never left his adopted hometown. And that means cash for the local economy, including retail merchants, and never more so than during the annual Elvis Week that began last Saturday.
Among the activities, which range from kitschy to solemn, are the finals of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. It's the culmination of 22 preliminary competitions held around the world -- you get the picture.
There's even a trade show, Elvis Expo 2008, at the Memphis Cook Convention Center downtown, with 65 booths and merchandise from vendors such as shopelvis.com, the Hard Rock CafÃ© and The Elvis Cruise. Guest "celebrities" include anybody and everybody with an Elvis connection -- from D.J. Fontana, Elvis' original drummer, to Nancy Rooks, Elvis' maid and author of "Inside Graceland: Elvis' Maid Remembers."
As for the myth that Elvis is alive and well (he'd be 73 years old), eating fried banana sandwiches in a private jungle room somewhere, Bernard J. Lansky, the co-founder of the Lansky Bros. store in Memphis, who sometimes opened up at 2 a.m. to satisfy his mercurial customer, put that firmly to rest.
Lansky made the King's final costume, a white suit, conveniently backless for the coffin. He also was a pallbearer.
"He swears it was definitely Elvis, no doubt about it," said Lansky's granddaughter Julie Lansky, a buyer for the retailer.
No matter. The King lives on at Elvis Week.