KING NOT FORGOTTEN

It was a birthday celebration worthy of a king.

About 15 local fan club members gathered around the bronze Elvis statue by the Las Vegas Hilton for Presley’s 73rd birthday Tuesday night, and they loved him tender.

They reverently adorned the statue outside the venue where he long performed. Balloons, cards and flowers were delicately put in place, as candles surrounding his feet were lit.

They had come from as far away as Brazil and Germany.

“Everybody worldwide knows the name Elvis,” said Betty Sanders, one of the members of the Viva Las Vegas! Elvis Presley Fan Club. “You say Elvis, they know who it is, and you’re automatically friends.”

Passersby from the annual Consumer Electronics Show stopped briefly to get a picture with the statue, the fans and the “E.T.A.” on hand. (That’s an “Elvis tribute artist” to those not familiar with the lexicon of all things Elvis.)

A handful of Social-Security-eligible fans sang “Happy Birthday,” blew out candles and cut cake.

But the fan club isn’t exclusively composed of those who grew up in the ’50s, swooning to his trademark pelvic thrusts or mimicking his suave hair, honoring the icon. Standing out among the faithful few was Adrienne Wade.

“I was, flat-out, just born in the wrong generation,” said 26-year-old Wade, donning her pink shirt bearing Elvis in all his glory. “Elvis is a much better role model than the artists we have today.”

Wade, whose birth followed the death of Elvis by five years, was introduced to Elvismania by her mother, Margo Wade, who proudly displayed her denim jacket with an air-brushed portrait of Elvis on the back. Her lapels were covered with pins and trinkets, only a portion of her vast collection of Elvis memorabilia.

She recalled being about two feet away from Presley when he was filming the movie “Wild In The Country.”

“Everybody said to me, ‘Why didn’t you get his autograph?’ I said, ‘Why didn’t I have his child?’ ”

Leaning against a nearby pillar because of a knee injury, Jon Patino recounted his own Elvis stories. He said he worked with Elvis on the set of the film “Charro!”

“I don’t know what it is about Elvis,” Patino said. “There was just something about the man that was fascinating.”

“He was a role model for me growing up,” said Steven Perry, another fan club member.

Other admirers of the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer surrounded the statue, each sporting differing degrees of Elvis accessories. And although Patino, Margo Wade and others had personal experiences with The King, many were there to celebrate the birthday of a man they had never even seen in person.

“I never met him,” said Betty Sanders. “But if I was a few years older, I would have been following his tour bus around.”

His tour bus was parked for years while Elvis made Las Vegas his home. From 1969 to 1976 he performed 837 consecutive sold-out shows at what is now the Las Vegas Hilton. He died in 1977.

Twenty-seven years later, the Viva Las Vegas! Elvis Presley Fan Club was born. Its goal is to honor Elvis while also raising money for charity and donating the money in Elvis’ name, members said.

“We try to keep his memory alive,” Perry said.

Contact reporter Scott Spjut at sspjut@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0279.

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