One Night with Elvis

It started, like all such things do, with an idea concocted during cocktail hour.

Over sherry in heirloom glasses and mixed nuts still in their tin, with the glint of the setting sun hitting the crisp water of Lake Lanier, my cousin, whom my mother and I were visiting, pronounced that we needed "something fun" to do as a highlight for our spur-of-the-moment trip. I was between jobs, my gig as a mayoral campaign office manager having ended not long after election day (we won!) At the strong suggestion of my father, Mama decided we needed a girls-getaway while the weather was still temperate and my employment situation still in flux. With the tumult that often transpires between a mother and a burgeoning grown-up daughter seemingly behind us, it seemed the right time for each of us to grow up, put on our big-girl panties and establish an adult relationship. On the road.

So off we went. With a pitstop first in Atlanta for some shopping. Always shopping in Atlanta. For as long as I can remember, the family would take time during summer vacation time to stop and do back-to-school shopping at the major malls. Apparently, it was more sophisticated buying clothes there than it was at our local stores. I think it was mostly the allure of having an outfit that no one at home did, as it was bought in the big city. I do know that the year I came home with a Fair Isle sweater the exact same kelly green shade as my pair of Pappagallo rubber "duck" shoes, I thought I was totally "all-that." A walking promotion for The Preppy Handbook. It was the early '80s, after all.

For the record, on that girls-only shopping trip, I got a cherry red swing dress with big pearl buttons down the front which I wore to my high school reunion later that summer. I loved that dress. Not so much that reunion -- but that is another story for another day. Back to the matter at hand.

It was just a short ride from Atlanta to my cousin's house on the shore of Lake Lanier. Our final destination. Filled with antiques and stories, the lake house was comfortable and a lovely respite set on a slope where trees ran thick. Aside from doing the usual family-visiting-family things – sitting around drinking and telling old tales; going out to eat; telling more stories; reading; napping; drinking – my cousin always liked to throw something fun into the mix for his guests. A very genteel Southern gent, he would have been a city slicker out of water in his country environment had it not been for his natural and unassuming charm. One summer visit when I was a kiddo, that “something fun” involved catching several hundred dollars worth of fish at a trout farm. My younger cousins and I just kept catching the bloody things and before our host realized it, we had acquired fish for days. So much trout. The real fun, though, happened later that evening when Mama and my other cousin’s wife, after consuming several “Silver Bullets" aka martinis, tried to package the filleted trout into little freezer bags. Imagine if Lucy and Ethel had been nipping at the schnapps before they went to work at the candy factory. Now I know why white wine goes better with fish. It just makes things easier. Probably even trying to tag, bag and freeze them.

The “something fun” for this visit involved a trip to a place called the Lantern Inn. An inauspicious rural Southern joint down a dark road from civilization where the menu was fried, the buffet was plentiful and the beer was cold. The place had entertainment – not usual for this sort of establishment in those days. A brother/sister duo.

She was a Patsy Cline impersonator.

And as for the bro -- he took on the icon. The King. The One and Only.


Let's rock, everybody, let's rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock.

The best part of this whole thing was that the siblings were multi-talented and multi-taskers. Patsy was a waitress. And Elvis – well, Elvis was the fry cook.

We opted not to eat dinner at the Lantern Inn the night we went -- if I recall correctly, we’d hit a catfish fry earlier in the evening at the VFW. So-so catfish but amazing hush puppies. So after supper, Mama, my cousin-in-law Nancy and I headed off for an evening of beer and entertainment.

We had plenty of both.

Patsy Cline was just OK – not a bad voice, but really – no one can come close to the original voice of silk and heartache.

And then there was Elvis. Wearing the While Jumpsuit. With the moves and the vocal affectations. Who knew if he could actually sing, because with all that going on, it really didn't matter.


By the time he hit the stage, our little crew was well into the long neck Buds, making ourselves comfortable at a picnic table back by the kitchen. By the time he segued into “All Shook Up” we were dancing on the floor.
And when he rolled into “Burning Love” we were on top of that picnic table shaking our groove things and singing along. Loudly. Even Mama. If you had told me during my teenage years, when my mother/daughter relationship was the family version of the Cold War, that one day, I'd be dancing on tables with my mother with nary a critical word or set of rolled eyes in sight, I would never have believed it. But there we were in our '90s-fashionable Keds, carrying on, cheap nylon scarves autographed with "Mike Jones as Elvis" around our necks, handheld longneck Buds keeping time to the music. Our big-girl panties had been donned and somehow, our relationship had matured. Even if, at that moment, we hadn't.

Little sister, don't you
Little sister, don't you
Little sister, don't you kiss me once or twice
Then say it's very nice
And then you run

Little sister, don't you
Do what your big sister done

After his set, our Elvis didn’t retreat to a dressing room to recover and recoup. Nope. There was chicken to cook and some fish filets to tend to. Plus a costume change. A black jumpsuit. Always fashionable. My mother, fueled with beer and Southern belle charm, wandered into the kitchen to share her Never-Met-A-Stranger attitude and extend her appreciation. She chatted him up, all the while he was still clad in the White Jumpsuit, TCB, baby. Taking Care of Business and Frenching up those fries. She brought him out of the kitchen to meet us and naturally, we had our picture made with him. Which meant that one of us had to have brought a camera, as these were the days before cell phones and even disposable cameras. Weird, now that I think about it. If this picture was scratch-and-sniff, it would smell like cheap beer, Obsession by Calvin Klein (my all-time favorite perfume) and fry oil. Isn't it lovely?

A little modern-day research shows that the Lantern Inn closed nearly 10 years ago, after over 40 years in business. Elvis was still the featured attraction, but he'd added some costume changes (gold lamé !) and some stale jokes to the mix. This news makes me a little wistful, but even the greatest icons have to lay down their microphones and call it a day at some point. Voices and knees (Thank you. Thank you very much.) don't always last forever. I'll always have my memories of my One Night with Elvis.

Uh huh ohh, ohh, yeah, yeah!

I'm all shook up!

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