Fingerprints Of Elvis
David Stanley Interview
The Fingerprints Of Elvis in the Albert Docks, Liverpool, is the first exhibition of it's kind outside the States and to mark the occasion Designer Magazine met up with Elvis' Step-Brother David Stanley who provides the audio commentary for the exhibition. Set up by the team behind the successful Beatles Story museum it focuses very much on finding out the person behind the stage persona and features many of Elvis' personal artefacts including stage costumes, motorcycles, tombstone and obviously the fingerprints themselves.
Q: The Fingerprints of Elvis exhibition has just opened in Liverpool. The biggest exhibition of it's kind outside the States and very much something you were involved in putting together in terms of personal anecdotes and stories. Could you tell us a little bit of how the exhibition came to be and why Liverpool was such an important place to stage it?
A: The thing with the Fingerprints of Elvis exhibition is that it's the first of it's kind. There's Gracelands, Memphis which is obviously the home of Elvis Presley and hundreds of thousands of people go through Gracelands every year, but this is the first exhibition ever done on Elvis Presley outside of the US.
The reason Liverpool was chosen wasn't a premeditated thing. The guys that do the Beatles Story came up with the concept of the Fingerprints of Elvis so the whole thing came together as a result of an individual who owns a lot of the material coupled with Jerry Goldman, Ted Oldman and Fred Cooper. Ironically, here Elvis the most influential rock & roll star of our time is in Liverpool because probably the most influential band of our time is The Beatles and more influenced by anybody would be the Beatles.
Q: As well as Liverpool just gaining the European Capital Of Culture Award, there really is a melting pot of culture with these exhibitions being brought together in such a close proximity. Would you agree?
A: If you're gonna have the most influential music ever it's going to be Elvis and the Beatles. Elvis as a single artist and the Beatles as a band. There will always be Elvis Presley and The Beatles forever. I love the Beatles like people love Elvis and when I get done here I'm going to go over to the Beatles Story. I was talking to some of the guys from the Mersey Beat scene and as well as hanging with those guys I'm a big history freak so I'm going to check out the town.
Q: For the exhibition you actually did the audio narration for each individual piece of memorabilia. It must have been an emotional experience that took you back to specific incidents related to each piece. What was it like the first time you walked into the exhibition?
A: To walk into that place is like walking into my house. Every single thing that I look at I have a story for. I was just talking to someone before and they asked could you tell me a story about this, that or the other and there's so many it's hard to do pick just the one thing. My mind is so full of memories as I walk through there because those things belonged to my big brother, those are the things that I grew up with.
What I like about it is, as a student of history myself I like to try and to get to know a person. And when you get to know a person the best way to get to know them is through the things they wrote or read or things that they wore and played with. The title Fingerprints of Elvis, although the fingerprints are there, are the fingerprints of everything he left behind from his writing to his motorcycles - that goes beyond the legacy of Elvis and gets a perspective of Elvis the human being. The more you reveal about Elvis the more you put him on a level to where we can all relate to...because at the end of the day he was just a human being.
All photo's by Karen McBride - www.karenmcbride.com
Q: You moved into Gracelands when you were four. Were you aware of the enormity of it all?
A: What was it like growing up with your family? Exactly, growing up with Elvis was all that I knew. When I moved to Gracelands I didn't know what a rock & roll star or hound dogs, rock songs or movies. All I knew was that there was this man who my mum married his dad and now he's my stepbrother. When you're four years old you don't really have a solid mindset so that is all I knew. People ask me what it was like growing up with Elvis? I can tell you what it's been like since Elvis has gone. It's been different because I thought everybody's brother was a rock star, I thought everybody had a Gracelands. To me it was just normal.
As a kid growing up liking the Stones and the Beatles the measurement of success to me was the size of the crowd. I knew Elvis was packing out concert halls, but when you're actually there and you watch people respond to him - 20,000 flash bulbs going off at the same time, people rushing the stage and mass hysteria - that is when I realized this was not just a concert but a historical event.
Q: Being so close to Elvis yourself can you understand the obsessive nature of his fans so long after his death?
A: With Elvis is was always about the dedication of the fans. I've been a Beatles fan, but I've never wanted to do a pilgrimage to Liverpool. My Number 1 Goal in life has not been to come to Liverpool, so Elvis fans have this heavy dedication where going to Gracelands is like going to heaven. The Elvis fan is a unique breed, loyal, dedicated like Elvis is looking down on them and they need to do something for him - that's absolutely amazing to me!!!
Elvis fans are going to cover this place (Fingerprints Of Elvis), it will turn into a pilgrimage. I guarantee you on August 16th when people walk through that door and see that tomb there - the flowers will be stacked up and the rivers going to have stuff floating on it - because they just can't get enough.
Q: Towards the end of the tour at the autopsy documents and the tomb you're quite brutally honest about the situation in which his life ended in. Did you feel it necessary to humanize him in this way?
A: Elvis is a godlike figure and yet he would never understand the insanity what goes on today. But that's one of the reasons Elvis left so early, that's why he died so young. The World Worships Me - that would kill anybody. Can you imagine the world loving you and you knowing how bad you could be. Elvis was a great guy, but he was also an ass - he could be jerk and it didn't matter if he was a jerk because they loved him anyway. Elvis couldn't make a mistake because the world still loved him.
If Elvis would have checked into a rehab he would have been 10 times bigger than he was before he went in because the world would have embraced him and collectively said let us love you and help you through this. He thought if the world knew about the things that were going on his personal life they would just leave him and abandon him. At the end of the day Elvis killed Elvis and the fans will blame anybody but him at the end of the day - that's not being derogatory or disrespectful - his death humanized him more than any single act that he ever did because even he couldn't do that.
The Fingerprints Of Elvis makes him real and if you listen to the tapes I don't stay away from the controversy. I tell you what happened to this guy and people say how can you say this - because I was there. I don't read history, I write it because I lived it.
The Fingerprints Of Elvis runs at the Albert Docks, Liverpool
Also remember to visit The Beatles Story on the same day
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