Had Elvis Presley not toppled from the toilet in 1977, done in by pills and trans-fats, the man who made “race music” sexy safe for white people would have celebrated his 75th birthday on Friday.  Dozens of Elvi are marking the occasion with impersonations of The King at parties across the South, and caterers are serving up Elvis’ favorite foods, the kind of stuff that would lard over the strongest heart.

At the Cultural Center in Largo, Florida, the Stuffed Mushroom restaurant delivered biscuits and sausage gravy, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and banana pudding to a party featuring six Elvis tribute artists.  In the audience was Helen Olson, 85-year-old godmother of actress Ann-Margret, who remembered meeting Elvis in 1963 when Ann-Margret was dating him.  She let slip that the one-time Swedish sex symbol is now 68.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were to be served at the town hall party in Farragut, Tennessee, where resident Lee Durand planned to show off his collection of Elvis memorabilia considered to be one of the world’s best. Durand owns not only an Elvis gargoyle and an Elvis “pill pouch” but a pair of size 28 Elvis pants, clearly from the young, postage stamp Elvis era and not from the ballooning Lost Vegas windup.

The anniversary celebration reached all the way to the National Archives in Washington where longtime Elvis friend Jerry Schilling and Nixon drug adviser Egil “Bud” Krogh lectured about the infamous photo-op meeting between Elvis and President Richard Nixon at the White House in 1970 at which Elvis was given a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge.  Schilling said it wasn’t so much meeting Nixon that impressed Elvis. “What he was really proud about was that he got that badge.”

What would the senior Elvis be singing?

Bama, bingo, cops and the BCS: Ronnie Gilley, owner of Country Crossings, a Mobile, Alabama, casino at war with Gov. Bob Riley over bingo gambling, denied being responsible for an aerial advertisement at the BCS national championship game between Alabama and Texas that called for Riley’s impeachment.  “While I disagree with almost everything Governor Riley has done over the past year or so, I would not go to these lengths to discredit or embarrass him,” Gilley said. Riley’s anti-gambling task force moved to raid Country Crossings early Wednesday, but Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver, an outspoken advocate for the casino, went to a judge’s home at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday to get an order to stop it.  State officials disagree on whether electronic bingo is legal in Alabama, and Country Crossings has become a crossroads for the dispute.

Neigh: Two men have been given probation for engaging in sexual activity with horses on a Middle Tennessee farm.  Investigators said one of the defendants videotaped another man having sex with a horse and that that man later died of internal injuries from the incident.

PETA pets: PETA brought its costumed “wounded elephant”  to Savannah, Georgia, but students at Hodge Elementary School told reporters they still want to go to the circus.  PETA protesters handed out circus animal cruelty books.  The school didn’t help PETA’s cause much with an end-of-the-day warning over the loudspeaker that children should not speak to strangers, even costumed strangers. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is countering PETA with free shows by its clowns.

Dew Droplets: The Alachua County, Florida, sheriff’s office fired a prison guard who acknowledged being a member of the Ku Klux Klan … A Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates wants to repeal the state’s one-handgun-a-month rule to allow more … Tennessee consumer protection groups are warning residents about fake census workers trying to get Society Security numbers and banking information from people … TVA chief executive Tom Kilgore says the company plans to use more, cleaner natural gas to generate electricity, but opposition is growing to drilling shale for the gas … Louisiana  Gov. Bobby Jindal has donated $30,000  he received in campaign contributions from Scott Rothstein, a Florida lawyer accused of running a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

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Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor was born and raised in Georgia and worked more than 40 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a reporter and editor and as an online producer for ajc.com and AccessAtlanta. He served for a time as the newspaper's regional editor, overseeing coverage of the South. He is co-author, with Dr. Leonard Ray Teel, of Into the Newsroom:  An Introduction to Journalism and has conducted workshops in the Middle East on feature writing.