Thursday, Aug. 16, was the 35th anniversary of the death of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Elvis Aaron Presley died on the throne at age 42, a victim of prescription drugs and boredom. He's become a cartoon character, but hundreds of thousands of fans crowded Memphis this week to celebrate the man and his music.I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I've done the same pilgrimage, on the 15th and 25th anniversaries. I couldn't make it this year, but I'm sure at some point in the future I'll do it again. The 50th, in 2027, sounds good. That means I will have made it to 75, so I'll deserve to celebrate.And if I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I've gone to Memphis during Elvis Week, I'm really embarrassed to admit I've done the impersonator bit and dressed up like him on more than one occasion -- and I sang. Once I even did it in the middle of the newsroom. Actually, more than once!I'm not sure exactly how I developed this Elvis fascination. I was too young (4) in 1956 to notice when he burst onto the scene, although I do vaguely recall hearing Blue Suede Shoes and thinking those would be pretty cool. The Beatles, in 1964, were the ones I went crazy over. I do remember watching the Elvis Christmas special on NBC in 1968, when he wore the famous black-leather suit, and in '74 when his Hawaiian concert was broadcast live, via satellite, around the world, but it was nothing I got very excited over.Actually, the Star-Telegram is really to blame for me getting into Elvis. And when I say, "me getting into Elvis," that's unfortunately not much of an exaggeration, much to my wife's regret. We even have a life-size statue of the King in our game room. Perhaps you saw the story in Tuesday's Star-Telegram about what to do if you need an intervention because your collection "hobby" has gotten out of hand.My wife was actually the Elvis fan in the family when we married; she really loved his movies like Roustabout. Now, when I say the word Elvis, she just rolls her eyes.Anyway, in 1992, I was in charge of the afternoon edition of the Star-Telegram. Although the circulation of that edition was bigger than the morning paper when I got here in 1986, by then things had changed and most of our subscribers preferred to get their newspaper in the morning. We were trying some different ideas to get more people interested in reading the evening paper, so we decided to make it a little more entertaining and less "serious" than the morning edition.One thing we were trying was lots of reader contests. One of our editors suggested we pick one reader and give them a sack of peanut butter and 'nanner sandwiches and buy them a bus ticket to Memphis during Elvis Week.Instead, we picked 20 winners and we rented an entire tour bus, and I led them to Graceland for a 24-7 Elvis experience. Well, actually it was only three days, but since we didn't sleep much the entire time it felt like seven.On the nine-hour bus trip we played Elvis trivia, watched Elvis movies, listened to nearly 200 songs (at the rate of 20 an hour) and pigged out at a buffet at the halfway point, just like Elvis would have. Two of the people on the trip (neither of whom were Elvis fans; they were the guests of two different winners) got together during the ride and wound up getting married the next year.In Memphis, the first night we went to Bad Bob's Viper Room to see 30 Elvis impersonators fight it out to be World Champion. Japanese Elvis won; he didn't speak a word of English. The next night we attended the midnight vigil, where tens of thousands of fans light candles and solemnly walk past Elvis' burial site. We toured Graceland, of course, and Bud Kennedy got trapped in a bathroom at the Heartbreak Hotel and couldn't get out, but he swears the ghost of Elvis tripped the lock to free him and he became a true believer.Since then I've been forever associated with Elvis in the newsroom, so I learned to live with it. My office is covered with Elvis junk that staffers have picked up for me during their travels. Our TV critic always sends me notes when he spots Elvis shows that are going to be on, and our music critic always lets me know about the newest Elvis-related music.And all I can say is ... "Thank ya, thank ya very much."Jim Witt is executive editor of the Star-Telegram.817-390-7704Twitter @jimelvis
Jim is at the top right, holding an Elvis jacket.
Jim Witt is in this group of Elvis fans. Can you spot him?
Answer is below.