Posted by Robert on March 17th, 2006


Wise Men Say.

LAS VEGAS- Greetings from the Glitter Gulch. I’m here on a business trip, my first visit here since 1993. Since then, celebrity chefs from all around the globe have opened branches of their famous eateries.

I arrived at 1:30 a.m. last night ready to eat in as many of those restaurants as I can over the next few days. Details to come.

Much has changed in Las Vegas since 1993. One thing that hasn’t changed is The Graceland Wedding Chapel. In 1988, when I met my future wife, I told her that if I ever got married the service would have to be performed by an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas. I was adamant about it.

Four years later we were engaged and I compromised. We were married by my uncle in our church in Hattiesburg and then flew to Las Vegas the next day to get remarried by an Elvis impersonator.

In two days we went from getting married by Hugh the Episcopal rector from Virginia to reciting vows to Norm the Elvis impersonator on the Sunset Strip.

The Graceland Wedding Chapel is exactly what one would think the Graceland Wedding Chapel would be: Just as tacky as the real Graceland. I opted for the deluxe ceremony, which came with flowers for the bride (a tacky bouquet of hard plastic red roses similar to the type used outdoors in cemeteries), a red garter for my wife, a complimentary “I Got Married at the Graceland Wedding Chapel” t-shirt, and three songs sung by the king.

I am not a big a fan of Elvis, I just liked the campiness of getting married by someone who is so dedicated to one human being’s life and career that he still wears dyed-black lamb chop sideburns 30 years after they were en vogue, if they ever were.

A limousine picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the older part of the Strip where the Graceland Wedding Chapel was located. We were greeted by Norm and a fellow named Stewie who was there to witness the event and to play the Casio keyboard. Norm asked us which three songs we would like. I chose “Kentucky Rain” and “In the Ghetto” which weren’t exactly wedding songs but they were my two favorite Elvis songs, and it didn’t really matter because we had been officially, legally, and spiritually married the day before.

Stewie escorted my wife down the aisle as Norm the Elvis impersonator broke into “In the Ghetto.” I leaned over and whispered to my wife, “At least it wasn’t “Hound Dog.'”

During the ceremony, my wife and I got tickled and were stifling laughs so as not to offend the Graceland wedding Chapel crew. It was the type laughing that one tries to stifle while sitting in the choir loft during church in junior high school. The harder one tries not to laugh, the more one wants to laugh.

I learned on that fateful day, February 7th, 1993 that a stifled laugh, when observed by a third party doesn’t look like a stifled laugh at all. A stifled laugh obviously looks like something akin to sheer joy.Norm the Elvis impersonator mistook the stifled laughs as a sign that we were overjoyed and emotionally moved by our visit to the Graceland Wedding Chapel. Before long, three songs turned into four, four turned into six, and six turned into eighteen.

Almost an hour later, we learned from Stewie that we had just witnessed what he described as, “A real treat.” Norm, seeing the “joy” on our faces, had performed his entire nightclub routine for us. “No one has ever looked as happy as you two and he gave you the full treatment.”

By the eighth song, “All Shook Up,” our stifled-laugh grins had morphed into a panicked looking expression of sheer desperation. That didn’t stop Norm.

At the time, Vickie Lawrence, of “The Night that the Lights Went Out In Georgia” fame had a daytime talk show. Norm asked us to stay over two days to get married again during his upcoming visit to the Vickie Lawrence Show. Alas, the slopes of Aspen were calling, three wedding ceremonies in four days was too much to ask of anyone, and my wife had barely agreed to get remarried by an Elvis impersonator in the first place.

Now I am back in Vegas. My wife is home with the kids. I don’t drink. I don’t gamble. I don’t like Celine Dion, Wayne Newton, or Tom Jones. Maybe I’ll drop by the Graceland Wedding Chapel and say hello to Norm and Stewie. Maybe I’ll sit in on a couple of nuptials just for old times sake.


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