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The King and I
Fifth-grade Elvis project turns into lifelong hobby for Lauren Jacobsen

by CJ Carnacchio

December 22, 2010

ELVIS LIVES! — This is only a fraction of Oxford resident Lauren Jacobsen’s collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
The King of Rock 'n' Roll is dead, but his memory lives on in Lauren Jacobsen's basement.

Outside of Graceland, the 27-year-old Oxford resident has probably one of the largest collections of Elvis Presley memorabilia around.

Jacobsen has shelves upon shelves upon shelves of Elvis memorabilia, ranging from mass-produced souvenirs to one-of-a-kind items.

"My collection is so extensive," said the 2001 Oxford High School graduate. "There are lots of unique pieces that you can't even find anymore."

You name it, she's got it on display posters, dolls, lamps, clocks, decanters, pillow cases, photos, magazine clippings, license plates, Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers, life-size cardboard cutouts, teddy bears, glasses, lunch boxes, Matchbox cars, keychains, action figures, wristwatches, Elvis Monopoly sets, a shower curtain, PEZ dispensers, coffee mugs, pink Cadillac toy cars, "Love Me Tender" socks, dancing telephones, a ceramic model of Graceland that lights up, compact discs, old records, videos and even a tiny pair of blue suede shoes that are actually salt and pepper shakers.

"That's not even everything. I still have quite a bit in storage, in Rubber Maid containers," Jacobsen said. "I think people are amazed at how much I actually have."

Her most unique piece is a life-size bust of Elvis that she purchased at a Sharper Image store in Florida.

"It sings and interacts and does the lip-twitching," said Jacobsen, who works as a recreation developer for the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department. "I have to have it unplugged because it's extremely creepy. I swear it watches you."

When she first started collecting, finding Elvis memorabilia was easy because there's just so much of it. What she didn't purchase, family and friends gave her as gifts.

But as her collection grows, obtaining items she doesn't have is becoming more and more of a challenge.

"I find stuff at garage sales, occasionally Goodwill, but mostly on eBay or from Graceland," she said. "At this point, it is so rare to find new pieces."

So what sparked this passion for a rock legend that died six years before she was born? Believe it or not, it was an elementary school project.

Back when she was a fifth-grader at Clear Lake Elementary, her teacher, Susan Davenport, assigned students the task of researching, writing and presenting a biographical report on a famous person, living or dead. They also had to dress up as this individual.

After doing some research at the library, Jacobsen chose Elvis because she "wanted to do something fun and different."

During the project, she learned that her great-grandmother, Mary DeLong, was "really into Elvis" and had newspaper clippings and memorabilia like decanters.

"She shared some of her stories," Jacobsen said.

Following the project, she started collecting all things Elvis.

She believes a big reason for her fascination with the King and why he continues to have such a lasting impact on so many people today is because he was "a very genuine person."

"He had nothing growing up and his family really struggled, so he gave back to the fans. He gave back to the community," Jacobsen said.

She noted that once he handed a woman the keys to a brand new Cadillac he just purchased because she was simply looking at them through the dealership window.

"I think that's why he's so memorable; he was truly for the fans," Jacobsen said.

She's seen firsthand what an impression the King made when she and her family visited Graceland for the 20th and 25th anniversaries of his death.

"Every year for (the anniversary of ) his death on Aug. 16 (1977), they do a whole week of celebration and remembrance," she said.

For the 20th anniversary, she waited eight hours in the pouring rain as part of the procession of people walking past his grave.

"You realize he's got this huge, mass following," Jacobsen said. "You just can't even comprehend what an interest people have in him."

Knickknacks and legends aside, Jacobsen is a fan of Elvis' music. Her favorite song is the 1961 classic "Can't Help Falling in Love" and she likes his upbeat songs like "Viva Las Vegas."

She admitted she's "not a huge fan"of Elvis' filmed-performances that are forerunners to today's music videos.

"They're kind of cheesy," Jacobsen said.

Despite the sheer vastness of her collection, there is that one thing that got away; the one thing she would love to possess, but continues to elude her. Years ago, Art Van had an Elvis bedroom set.

"I would have loved that but obviously where was I going to store that in my parents' house," Jacobsen said. "So, instead I settled for some Elvis Presley doorknobs."

She regrets not purchasing it back then.

"I have never again seen that, not even on eBay," she said.

If Jacobsen ever does run across that elusive bedroom set, she's "absolutely" going to buy it.

"I definitely want to own that," she said.

So no one reading this story gets the impression that Jacobsen's Elvis hobby is a full-blown obsession, she made it perfectly clear that she has no plans to ever get married at Graceland and she does not believe that Elvis is really alive, living a secret life somewhere.

"I'm not that crazy of an Elvis fan."