The passing of the King

On Aug. 16, 1977, my wife, Annette, and I were in Liege, Belgium, visiting with family. We had gone out to dinner downtown and while I was picking away suspiciously at an order of steak American (tarter steak), I noticed something strange happening in the street. Looking for an excuse to divorce myself from the plate, I went outside and into a throng of very disturbed citizens. Many were wailing, sobbing and clutching their heads much as depicted in Edvard Munch's "The Scream." Inconsolable, many lurched about the street and clung to railings, street posts and parked cars, while others simply sat down on the curb and sunk into a deep depression. It appeared to be the end of the world.

I heard one woman shout, "Le Roi est mort!" and quickly realized what had happened. Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll, had left the building for good.

We spent a couple of hours listening to the laments of these Belgium fans and how the world would never be the same. For some reason which I really don't pretend to understand, two Americans would loom large in the field of entertainment in Europe for decades. One, of course, was Elvis and the other was Jerry Lewis, if you can wrap a buck-toothed gnaw around that.

noon the next day I had punched out an article of what pretty much read like the crash of the Hindenburg at Lakehurst, N.J., and sent it to the Ashland Daily Tidings. Their guard must have been down or it was a slow news day, for it was published as my first article in the daily.

After performing emotional triage on dozens of people, I felt lower than a hound dog. The next morning we checked our heartbreak out of the hotel and went to a small village to spend a few days with family friends. I new something was wrong as we pulled up in front of their cottage. There was a wreath on the door and all the windows were shuttered closed. Through the door I heard the voice of Elvis singing "Love Me Tender," leaving me to first think that this was a rural version of the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" witnessed the night before. Putting on a brave face, I knocked gently and most respectfully on the door and assumed the posture of mourner attending the funeral of a dear family member.

Vicki opened the door, her head covered in a dark veil. Normally she was an impossibly effervescent force of cheer and merriment. All that was gone as she spoke in a monotone emanating from a vacant face decorated with two swollen and tear-soaked eyes that looked right through me. We were invited inside and immediately offered a chair in the kitchen and a full glass of potent apple jack. She intoned a dark toast, half in French and half in Walloon, the ancestral language of Wallonia (Belgium). It was a plea for the soul of Elvis.

After consoling Vicki and her husband, Joe, for an hour or so, she suddenly stood up and removed her head covering. A twinkle sparked again in her eye and she immediately took us to her garden to share the progress of her vegetable children. She led us down the planted rows speaking words of encouragement meant for every living thing within the sound of her voice.

It was then that I heard some rumbling about the house and knew that Joe was up to something. He then peeked at us from the kitchen window, then popped out the back door carrying a tray with glasses and a full bottle of Apple Jack.

We sat around a wooden table and took turns toasting between accounts of former light-hearted times. Vicki left, but soon returned with a bountiful lunch which quickly refueled our determined effort to leave the King up to his own business, at least for the time being.

Vicki turned on the radio, which was just then playing "Don't be cruel." We all looked at each other, breathed a long sigh, then began laughing and telling jokes again.

It was how we navigated the loss of the King.

Lance was last seen with Brylcreem in his hair, walking down the street in a sequin suit. Lance is in the building located at and would like to hear from you. Doncha' think it's time?

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