In the past two years, 35-year-old Lisa Marie, Presley's sole heir and chairman of the board of EPE, has become more involved in the decision-making process.
"As a member of a younger generation, she injects more contemporary views and ideas into how to promote Elvis and maintain Graceland as a premier tourist attraction, with a spin-off effect of wider interest in Elvis," says Patterson. "The fact that not a single day goes by when you don't see a reference to Elvis- -- his name, image, likeness, or icon -- in the media or society, is testament to Elvis' incredible impact. Elvis literally is everywhere."
Keeping Elvis before a wider audience -- especially a younger one -- is paramount on EPE's priority list, since for the past three years, the estate has calculated that at least 53 percent of Elvis' fan base is 35 or younger. That's why EPE cooperated with the 2002 Disney movie "Lilo & Stitch," a huge hit with youngsters, and put their stamp of approval on the dance remix of last year's "A Little Less Conversation." Both projects served to keep Presley contemporary, even as his jumpsuits of the '70s date him.
Skinny Elvis only, please
While Priscilla and the board of directors have gone a long way to license memorabilia in good taste -- doing away with such tacky items as vials of "Elvis Sweat" and grass allegedly plucked from the Graceland lawn -- the estate is beefing up the role of the gift shops in the overall EPE economy.
"The estate is forever looking for new products to be sold in its shops," says Burk. "In addition, far more products that are licensed to sell to the general public never see those shelves."
At least some of those will doubtless be shipped overseas in 2004, when Memphis joins with the Beatles' hometown of Liverpool, England, in celebrating both the 50th anniversary of Elvis' first release and rock 'n' roll in general. Dozens of projects are planned for the year, from a Thanksgiving television special, to books, to updated DVDs of Elvis' most celebrated TV performances, to a new compilation of Elvis' Sun Studio recordings. That's a big a hunka, hunka love for the man from Memphis. Even people who look like him will likely profit.
"Aside from the official Elvis industry, there is a thriving impersonator business and a bourgeoning underground Elvis market," reports Patterson. "Not bad for a man who has been dead for more than a quarter of a century."
|-- Posted: Jan. 8, 2003