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Precious Memories

Graceland Too reopens for visitors; Paul MacLeod's fans pay visit to Elvis' No. 1 fan

By LaReeca Rucker
The Oxford Eagle

HOLLY SPRINGS — It has been said that, in the South, we don’t hide our eccentrics; we show them off.

Holly Springs reopened Graceland Too on Tuesday, welcoming visitors to tour the home of the “universe’s, galaxy’s, planet’s, world’s” most devoted Elvis fan.

A homemade sign with that self-declaration inspired T-shirts sold during the daylong event “Graceland Too Forever: A Celebration of Paul MacLeod” honoring the super fan, who died July 17 at age 70 of apparent natural causes.

He died two days after police said he shot and killed another local man who was trying to force his way into Graceland Too.

MacLeod was found dead in a chair on the porch of his home guarded by two painted lions wrapped in barbed wire and colorful beads — homage to the animals at the front of Presley’s Memphis mansion.

A small crowd gathered at noon Tuesday in the sweltering Mississippi heat to tour the Elvis shrine. Inside, records and pictures of Elvis covered the walls and ceilings of every room.

Tour guides offered insight into the mind of MacLeod, who spent his life archiving every pop cultural reference of Elvis ever made.

This included marking hundreds of magazines with paperclips and handwriting detailed information on note cards affixed to the walls about television programs that merely mentioned the singer.

Sudie Clark came Tuesday with her friends, Patsy Carr, Billie Morgan and Shirley Hambrick, all of Tupelo. The four belong to an Elvis club and have taken an Elvisthemed cruise. Clark saw Elvis in concert at the Tupelo Fairgrounds in 1956.

“None of us had ever been (to Graceland Too), and we wanted to see it,” she said.

Jeffery Jensen, who spent 2004 to 2006 working on a documentary about MacLeod, led tours. After shelving the film eight years ago, he returned to Holly Springs from his home in Jamaica to continue the documentary after MacLeod’s death.

“I think he was a visionary that was sort of unparalleled in his devotion,” Jensen said Tuesday, standing outside the Gholson Street home. “I don’t think there is anyone more singularly devoted to any individual than Paul MacLeod is to Elvis. Paul was an American original.”

MacLeod didn’t take a day or hour off, Jensen said. He opened his home at all hours for tours. And despite his devotion, he never met Elvis.

“I was never that interested in the objects that Paul had — the Elvis memorabilia,” Jensen said. “I was mostly interested in Paul’s attempts to reference Elvis in the media. That fascinated me. And just Paul’s story.

“Here was a man who was opening up his home to visitors 24 hours a day, and he just seemed to possess a kind of original entrepreneurial spirit, which is sort of a dying thing in this post-corporate apocalypse.”

What will happen to Graceland Too now that MacLeod is gone?

“It’s totally up in the air right now,” said Jensen. “I spoke to his daughters about it last night, and they have some basic financial logistical concerns to address before they can even imagine that, but they really need help.

“If anyone’s out there who has a love for this place and have anything they can give in regard to funding or personal time, I think that’s what’s going to save it.”

Vernon Chadwick, who funded and directed the first international conference on Elvis Presley at the University of Mississippi in 1995, also led tours at Graceland Too on Tuesday.

“Charisma is really something that both Paul and Elvis shared,” he said. “I think that Paul was a very shy person, and through Elvis, he was able to reach out to other people. Elvis was a means by which someone like Paul could invite people to his house and feel comfortable talking to them.

“Paul was the consummate object of the collection. He was the master of ceremonies, the impresario, and everything else was just part of his repertoire.”

Boston resident Marjorie Wilkinson has come to Holly Springs every August since 1994 to visit Graceland Too and see her friend.

“We are dear friends of Paul,” she said. “I hope they can keep it open, but without Paul, it’s not the same. It’s not really about Elvis. It’s about Paul.

“What’s so lovely is that Paul fit in here. There was room for him here. He was loved by the people of Holly Springs.”

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