There are not many people who can stake a claim of being more famous than Elvis Presley. His fame has grown even beyond the grave. He is popularly known and recognised as just Elvis.
Elvis has spawned countless lookalikes and tribute acts, not to mention books, documentaries and biopic films. This year marks the 45th anniversary of his passing, and this month sees the release of a new biopic film ‘Elvis’ directed by Baz Luhrmann, where the legend once more comes to life on the silver screen. The buzz surrounding this film is immense, but don’t forget that it is ultimately about a flawed human being whose demise was sudden, premature and tragic.
Elvis’s short life of 42 years could be described as a cautionary tale on fame. Since his death in 1977, he remains the best-selling solo artist of all time according to the Guinness book of Records with over 500 million records sold. Reputedly, Elvis did not gravitate towards fame the way it latched on to him. He seemed to have the Midas touch when it came to spinning music and box office hits. Though a public persona, his ex-wife Priscilla Presley reports that he was a very private person who was reluctant to give interviews. An only child whose twin brother was still born, the thought of being home alone was so unbearable that at 22 he purchased his one and only home, Graceland, then filled it with people on his payroll or close to his heart.
Fame changes people, not just the fans who see you as an image, but the way the famous person sees himself. In a way, the outer world expands but the inner world shrinks, often leading to feelings that only chemical substances can relieve – anxiety, fear, phobias and doubt. When asked how he felt about his fame, he stated, “Well, the image is one thing and the human being another … it’s very hard to live up to an image.” Relationships in one’s inner circle become warped because you are no longer seen as the person you once were but as a commodity first and foremost. People begin to want a piece of you whether it’s your photos, financial assets, autograph or mere presence. It’s easy to begin to feel suffocated. Elvis spent most of his time at his home, Graceland, hotel suites. In his final days, he did not want to leave his bedroom. He was a prisoner of his own fame.
We live in modern times where most people crave a taste of fame – the 15 minutes of fame of which Andy Warhol spoke. They fail to realise that fame may not be good for their physical, emotional or spiritual health.
If Elvis could come back from the dead, would he endorse fame? It is clear the answer would be a resounding ‘No’.
For further insights on the pittfalls of fame and the downfalls of the famous, check out Dr. Carla’s latest book ‘Culture Detox II: Celebrating Self Not Celebrity’.