I took a tour of Graceland a few weeks ago to do some research and background for my latest novel. For some reason (that has nothing to do with being a jeweler), the thing that stuck in my head the most was the part about Elvis and his jewelry. The audio at the foot of the stairwell was Lisa Marie saying that Elvis never came downstairs if he wasn’t “dressed for company.” “You could hear him coming down the stairs because all of his jewelry would rattle.”
For as far back as anyone can remember, we’ve had a love affair with fire, the wheel, and gold. Gold used to be a gift that you gave someone you loved on important occasions, like Christmas. Now it’s something you sell to pay the rent. In the four different decades I’ve been in this industry, I’ve never seen it like this. Maybe once in the early ‘80s for about 6 months, but this trend has been going on for years now.
In the days of old, people would come into a store with money and leave with jewelry. Now they come in with jewelry and leave with money. There was an old saying that said you made your money by buying, not selling, referring to making shrewd business deals with your vendors. Now we still make our money by buying, not selling, only now we’re not buying jewelry, we’re buying scrap. As I stood at the foot of the staircase in Graceland, I thought about Elvis coming down the stairs, all decked out in scrap. It’s still hard for me to get used to. I’m a jeweler, not a scrap dealer. I’ll be thrilled when this trend passes.
So as we head into our third Christmas season since the recession began, I’m curious if the trend will start to revert to normal where customers once again come in with money and leave with jewelry. I have plenty of unused black velvet boxes just waiting. I can’t wait to hear how everyone’s season turns out and I’m hoping your customers leave lots of money in your registers.
And, since it’s the holiday season, we all need a gift for the person that has everything. Well, I know what they don’t have - my latest novel titled, “The Day Elvis Didn’t Die.” It’s a fictional take on what would have happened had Elvis survived on August 16th, 1977 and what his life would have been. It’s hot off the presses and ready to enjoy. To order a copy, go to www.lulu.com and search my name and they’ll send one right out to you. It takes about two weeks for printing and shipping so don’t dawdle if you want it delivered in time for Christmas. Lulu.com also has my first novel “Fourth Time Unlucky” and “It’s Supposed to be Funny” which is a collection of all of my columns through the years, starting with the very first one all the way up till this month.
Good luck this holiday season. I hope everyone sells a bunch and has a great month.
Below is an excerpt of my new book to give everyone an idea of what it’s about. Enjoy.
“Jesus Christ Elvis, you look terrible,” someone said as he struggled down the staircase into the living room.
“Man, are you okay?” someone else asked. Then everyone in the room, all 13 of them knew something was very wrong when Elvis fell the final 4 steps and landed facedown and began to vomit.
“Somebody call an ambulance,” was all anyone could say.
“Memphis fire and emergency, what is the address of your emergency,” the dispatcher said into her phone just like she’d done thousands of times over the last 10 years.
“Elvis Presley is having a heart attack I think. We’re at Graceland,” the man screamed into the phone. “Get us an ambulance, I think he’s going to die.”
The dispatcher quickly wrote ‘Elvis’, ‘heart attack’, and ‘Graceland’, on the piece of paper in front of her and handed it to the man in the booth beside her while still talking to the man on the phone.
“Did you say Elvis Presley? As in the Elvis Presley?”
“Yes, he’s dying, we don’t know what to do. He just came down the stairs and he looked really bad. He fell on the floor and he threw up. Hurry please,”
“Sir, an ambulance is on the way,” she said as her supervisor came up behind her and plugged his headset into the second jack so he could join the conversation if needed.
“Hurry, Oh God, I think he’s already dead, he doesn’t look like he’s breathing and he’s turning blue.”
By now, news that Elvis Presley was having a heart attack had everyone in the emergency dispatch center’s attention. A radio call went out to the city’s ambulance fleet and now every ambulance that heard the call was racing towards Graceland. The dispatcher could hear the commotion and confusion in the background. It sounded like a dozen or so people yelling and screaming, basically chaos. Then a few minutes later, in the background she could hear the faint sounds of the first ambulance getting close. While trying to calm the man on the phone, the siren grew louder and louder, until the familiar ‘wind down’ of the siren could be heard as the driver pulled up to the house and turned it off.
“Okay sir, the ambulance is there. Could you please go open the door for them?”
“Ellen, are you getting this?” someone said to WMEM news reporter Ellen Montgomery.
Ellen was sitting in the editing room with one of the day shift editors finishing up a story for the 6:00 news that night when the man stuck his head in the room and asked her the question.
“No Tony, I’ve been in here for over an hour. What’s going on?”
“Elvis Presley just died. We’re assembling a crew out back to cover the story. Grab your purse and get out to Graceland with them,” he said.
Without another word, Ellen was out of the editing room and running out back to meet the crew. To hell with her purse and her make-up, there was no way she was going to miss this story. This was going to be the biggest story of the year. Hell, the decade.
As she ran out the back door, someone held open the door of the station wagon that already held the rest of the news crew. It sped away before she could even get the door shut.
“What happened? Does anyone know?” she asked the four other people in the car.
“It came over the ambulance dispatch. Elvis Presley had a heart attack at Graceland.”
“How do you know he’s dead?” she asked.
“One of the dispatchers feeds us leads on big stories. He was listening to the call and heard everything that was said. He said it sounded like Elvis had died before he even hit the floor.”
The next 12 minutes were torture. Even running red lights didn’t seem to get them to Graceland as quickly as they wanted. When they finally arrived, they were glad that the police had not set up a perimeter yet. The driver knew that once the perimeter was set, no media or reporters would be able to get through the gates, but that wasn’t the case... yet. He pulled up the drive and stopped a few yards away from the back of the ambulance where they would load the body in. This was going to be the film reel of the century.
“Ellen, stand behind the ambulance. We’re going to start rolling film in just a second,” the producer was saying as the sound man was handing her a microphone and plugging it into his tape recorder.
“Coming up in 5, 4, 3... and ...,” he pointed to his star reporter.
“We’re coming to you from Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, where minutes ago an ambulance was summoned for what is believed to be a fatal heart attack suffered by Elvis. The details of the event are unfolding as we...,”
Ellen suddenly stopped and looked towards the front of the house where two ambulance techs were wheeling a stretcher out of the house with a very alive, although very sick, Elvis Presley buckled to it. Elvis appeared to be fighting the techs, not wanting to go in the ambulance, but really too weak to put up much of a fight. Knowing the camera was still rolling, Ellen went to work.
“As you can see, Elvis Presley has suffered some sort of medical issue and is being attended to by ambulance staff. We don’t know yet what has happened or if anyone else in the house may have a problem. Stay tuned to WMEM, the only television station at Graceland for further details on this breaking story.” Looking towards the road, Ellen could see that the police had already blocked the entrance to Graceland and the rest of the news stations were already setting up in the shopping center parking lot across the street.
The doors of the ambulance station wagon were closed and the two techs climbed in the front. Ellen asked, and found out, they were going to Baptist Memorial. They started the engine, hit the lights and sirens, and sped away.
Knowing what was happening, the mayor ordered a full police escort to ensure Elvis got there as quickly as humanly possible. When the ambulance pulled up to the emergency entrance, there were already dozens of reporters and news crews assembling. They opened the doors of the ambulance and took the stretcher containing the most famous man in the world through the doors and transferred him to the team of doctors and nurses who were waiting at the ready to take the patient.
“Get him to OR 3,” the hospital’s leading heart surgeon said as a half a dozen or more people began working on Elvis as he was being wheeled to the operating room.
Four hours later, the hospital held a press conference where the chief cardiologist took the lead.
“At approx. 3:30 this afternoon, Elvis Aaron Presley was admitted to our emergency room with what was initially reported as a severe heart attack. While, Mr. Presley did indeed suffer a heart condition, it was not as severe as first suspected. Mr. Presley is resting comfortably in his room in the ICU. We are going to hold him overnight for observation, and then re-evaluate him in the morning. As soon as we know more, we’ll be sure to let you know. Thank you.”
Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide.