June 3, 2014
'Shades Of Elvis' -- Through The Eyes Of Artists -- And From The Heart Of Priscilla Presley
"It was incredible not only to touch, but to have a piece of history on my face. For a moment I felt my hips sway all by themselves." -- Henry Winkler shares what it felt like when he put on Elvis' sunglasses."When I put the glasses on it was surreal. You can't help but channel your inner Elvis." -- Michael Buble
Priscilla Presley has never stopped loving Elvis. And he never stopped loving her. Yes, they were married for six years. Yes, they were divorced. But their devotion, love, and respect for each other remained long after the ink was dry on the divorce papers they signed in 1973... actually, for the rest of the King of Rock 'n' Roll's life.
Priscilla has dedicated so much of her time and energy since Elvis' untimely passing in 1977 to the fans who love and adore him.
"Shades of Elvis" -- which was the clever idea that photographer Christopher Ameruoso brought to the "Dallas" actress after they spent a day together on a photo shoot for a magazine cover several years ago -- became her passion. It was another chance to share one more window into his soul. "The idea," Priscilla explains in the foreword of the book, "was to photograph (in classic black-and-white portraiture) artists, icons, and legends while they were wearing Elvis' sunglasses. Even more than that, we wanted to provide the book's famous subjects with a brief glimpse of the world the way Elvis saw it, through those shades, and then have them share what came to mind."
Want to see what Cher looks like wearing Elvis' shades, or Sir Elton John, or Johnny Depp, or Snoop Dogg? How about 77 other high-profile names? Check it out here.
The Huffington Post caught up with Priscilla to discuss all things Elvis: her labor of love - "Shades of Elvis," why it was important for her to take on this two-and-a-half year project for past and future fans, why their love for each other never died, what song he dedicated to the fans he loved unconditionally, and much more!
"Shades of Elvis" is such a sweet, affectionate tribute to Elvis on your part. Tell me why you ultimately decided to do the book and were you thinking of Elvis throughout the whole process?
Priscilla Presley: "Yes, of course I was. When Christopher first approached me about his idea I thought, 'What a great idea, to have people with such popularity that would give their quote on how Elvis Presley inspired them, how he changed their lives or touched their lives in some way.' And when the generation of today would see in the book people they admired i.e. Johnny Depp, Snoop Dogg, Tim Burton, Cher etc. and hear why Elvis was so important, what he contributed to music and not only our culture but many cultures, it was a no-brainer. For me, it's all about keeping his legacy now and in the future. Keeping him current. There's a bit of an edge to the book. It's in black and white, simple and understated but impactful with content. Elvis always had an edge and I feel this book represents him well. It doesn't have any pictures of Elvis. Everyone knows who he is. It's about what is said about him and by whom."
Tell me about the sunglasses. Did you have those made for Elvis?
"No, he bought them in 1970. We were shopping on Sunset Boulevard and we walked into a store that sold sunglasses. He was trying on different shapes and Dennis, the owner, showed him the pair that would look right for his face. He told Elvis the shape was good because it covered his eyebrows and that when picking out sunglasses, that should be considered. Elvis always wore that same shape, he never varied. Unless, of course, maybe in a film."
So you saved those original sunglasses all these years?
"Yes we did. Those are his original sunglasses that we have in the archives at Graceland."
How did these celebrities feel holding Elvis' sunglasses?
"Everyone who held his sunglasses had so much respect and care. They handled them so gently as if a fragile piece of art. Christopher said Johnny Depp just studied them for about three minutes, carefully tilting them in different positions and with utmost respect. Each person could relate to the glasses however they wanted. Christopher just shot the photos as they related to the glasses. He has such an eye for aesthetics and form."
How did you go about the selection process when you were picking all of these celebrities?
"It was those that in some way shaped, inspired, or created an effect on our society. Everyone here is well-known, well-regarded, or someone who has even had some controversy. Of course, Elvis had controversy in his life too. In going through the book Elvis inspired or affected those one would never suspect. I had no idea many were such fans of his until going through the quotes. Some made me laugh, some made me think, some made me cry. We have, I think, 81 beautiful images."
I'm going to throw out a few names who were in the book and I'm curious as to how they were selected by you and Christopher together. Tom Jones was a big fan of Elvis, I know. I'm sure Elvis was a fan of his. Did you call him yourself?
"Tom is a really good friend. We were at a dinner party together. He asked me what I was up to lately and I told him about "Shades of Elvis." He loved the idea and when I approached him on participating in it he just said, "Absolutely." (She tries to impersonate his voice) in that wonderful voice. (Laughs)"
I loved Jose Feliciano's quote, talking about visiting Graceland, standing on the lawn inside the gates during the 35th candlelight vigil for Elvis where he felt a hand touch his right shoulder, and when he turned around, nobody was behind him. "Was it Elvis telling me he was glad I was there?... I thought about that moment a thousand times ever since." It gave me chills.
"He gets very emotional about it. He's such a wonderful human being and so talented. "
Let's talk John Stamos. He's not bad to look at. His pose was John Stamos channeling Elvis, I thought.
"No, not bad to look at at all (laughs). John is also a good friend and he was on board the minute I asked. He's an enormous fan of Elvis. I don't know if you read his quote or not, but I thought it was brilliant. ("Wearing Elvis' TCB shades is like trying on Dorothy's ruby red slippers. Although the slippers would hurt my feet and I wouldn't look as cool...")"
Tell me about Cher. How did you get this incredible icon to do a photo shoot for this book?
"Cher and I have a mutual friend. I approached him and told him how much I would love Cher to be a part of the book and I asked, "Do you think she'd consider?" Well... she agreed. With her busy schedule, it was a bit difficult because she is on-the-go, so trying to get her pinned down was a trek. Eventually, It was arranged that Christopher could have the photo session between wardrobe fittings. It was in, out, and done. Painless. He said she was very accommodating, beautiful, and loved the project."
"One thing, among many, about Christopher that I love -- because I'm an artist myself -- is that he is quick. The majority of people that are in the limelight, hate having to pose for photos. You do, of course, get exceptions. But it could be many hours long photo sessions. And with lots of people involved on the location "With "Shades of Elvis," the people chose their own environment and location. A place where they would feel relaxed and comfortable. He made it so easy -- just him and his assistant, who happens to be his beautiful wife, Daniella. The sessions could be done in 15 minutes."
Did you think about Paul McCartney or Ringo? Those two would have been really cool.
"Yes, absolutely. Paul lives on the east coast and in England. He was difficult to pin down as he rarely comes to L.A.. We almost had him when he breezed through L.A. last year. I'm hoping to get both Paul and Ringo for our next book. In fact, President Clinton agreed to be in the book. It was being arranged for his next trip to L.A.. It was at the time that President Mandela had passed and, of course, the plans changed."
Changing the subject, when you and Elvis were married, I remember thinking you were the luckiest girl in the world. Then when you two got divorced, I was devastated. You two seemed so perfect for each other. I'm glad you and Elvis were friends and continued to love and respect each other so much after the divorce. It's such a testament to your character... and his.
"Thank you, Pat. Honestly, it never really felt like we were divorced. We always cared for one another. One wonderful thing about our relationship and our love for each other is that it never died. We were the best of friends after. We were still calling each other all the time. It goes to show you that when one separates, it doesn't mean that you don't love still. I didn't leave him because I didn't love him. Our daughter Lisa Marie gave us the biggest compliment in an interview recently when she was asked how did she feel when we divorced. She said "I never knew they were divorced.""
Elvis seemed to love his fans so much. Did you two ever discuss his fans and how much they meant to him?
"Absolutely. He attributed his fans for taking him to the heights he never thought he could attain. He recognized their loyalty, was thankful for their support, and appreciated their devotion. The last song he sang on stage: "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" was a dedication, a thank you to each and every one of his fans."
Did Elvis have some favorite artists or entertainers that he loved? And was he ever intimidated by any artists?
"Elvis loved to entertain and loved being entertained. He felt there was room for everyone. Anytime we were in Vegas we would go to the main showrooms and all the lounge acts that we could catch. Tom Jones, Barbra Streisand, Righteous Brothers, Nancy Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ann Margaret, Fats Domino, Sammy Davis Jr., and so many more. Whoever was in Vegas, he was the first one to sit, watch, and cheer them on. And when one of the guys would tell him who was appearing, they would ask if he wanted them to send flowers to the women. He'd say yes go ahead. He was such a gentleman and a true professional."
You weren't in the book. I actually wanted to see a picture of you wearing Elvis' sunglasses.
"No, I'm not in the book. This book is a tribute to Elvis by those who say it so well with their quotes and by their magnificent images along side it. It's a testament to who he was by those who recognized what he accomplished in his relatively short life. Not only did he change the course of popular music scene, he changed our culture, our dress. He was a national phenomena, an American original. I often think what he would have thought as he passed each page viewing each image and what each quote would mean to him. I honestly think he would be overwhelmingly touched. As words penetrated deeply in his soul. It's a validation from his peers. It wasn't always like that. He was different and he knew it. It took a while to be accepted. But time has a way to sort things out. I wish he was here today to see all the magnificent talent that took part in the making of this table book dedicated to him."
"Shades of Elvis" has reached the #1 best seller list on the Blurb.com website. Blurb.com is the largest independent book publishers on the internet with almost a million book titles to their catalog.
source: Huffington Post