Nigerian lesbian and LGBT rights campaigner, Awhobiwom Pamela Adie is celebrating 10th anniversary of her ”freedom day”. a day on which she came out of the closet.
Taking to Facebook yesterday, she shared a throwback photo from her bridal shower and listed her achievements since she came out as gay in 2011 to the shock of her ex-husband, family and friends.
I always mark this day, December 12, as my “Freedom Day” because it was the day my life began to change Frfr. By now, I would have had 3 children and would have been celebrating the 10th anniversary of the wedding to my ex-husband. Many would have clapped and congratulated me for having been married for so long. But I wouldn’t have been honest with my self and those celebrating me…no one would know that I am lesbian behind closed doors. But today, I celebrate my truth and my freedom.
So much has changed in the last decade. First of all, I was 25years old at the beginning of the decade and now, at the end, I’m 35. I have gotten married, gotten divorced, came out of the closet, and earned 2 masters degrees. In the same time, I have gone from a full head of locs to a three-quarter head of locs, lost a dog and got a new dog companion, Midge.
Within this timeframe, I have led a global campaign that mobilized people to stop a deeply homophobic pastor from entering South Africa to spread hate, been listed as one of 100 most inspiring women in Africa, listed among the 10 most powerful names in Advocacy in Nigeria, spoke at the World Economic Forum, received the Young Alumni Achievement Award, wrote, produced and directed my first documentary film, and became an Obama Foundation Leader.
But it hasn’t been all rosy. I was broke many times because I was committed to seeing the end of my film project. My heart was broken multiple times, I cried a lot. I was sad many times. I loved again and again. I showed up. I fell short many times. I didn’t give up. I believed most times, and other times, I wasn’t as sure. I knew myself a lot more than I ever thought. And I also met some very awesome people…including the love of my life!
I traveled to 6 new countries, I faced some of my fears – I facilitated 3 training sessions of LGBTQ+ activists from across Africa, screened my film in 5 countries, went skydiving and parasailing – went on the desert safari, gotten 3 tattoos, did a safari tour, stayed at the Burg Al Arab, went ziplining, visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, and challenged the Nigerian government for infringing on my right to freely associate.
I say all this not to brag (well, there’s a lil bit of that) but to say that nothing ever stays the same forever. When we open up to living our truth, we can explore and take opportunities as they present themselves. Sure, there were times I had doubts or felt unworthy. But I abandoned religion and found Meditation, which helped me overcome my self-doubt and guilt.
As a side note, I have to reject the notion that I am somehow “lucky”. I’m not lucky. I paid my dues. I paid the heavy price and I’m getting the reward. So, please don’t say “she’s lucky”.
Anyway, I hope this inspires you to be all you can be and open yourself to life by focusing and working on the things you want to achieve. If all these can happen in the last 10 years, imagine what can happen in the next 10? Imagine what YOU can achieve in the next 10 years!
Begin with the end in mind.
Thank you to my many helpers who have contributed to my journey in the last decade. Some of what was achieved was possible because of your support.
I’m grateful and hopeful and on that note, I say Cheers to the next decade!
Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History
The 2019 Venice Biennale feels like the end of everything: the end of art tourism, the end of vacations, the end of the beach and the climate of pleasure. With bad news about the climate crisis worsening every day, the nationalistic turn of governments from the U.S. to Britain to Italy to India and Brazil, it’s unclear whether the liberal ideology that produces world-scale cultural events like the Biennale can hold much longer, or whether the economic or ecological structures of global tourism can continue to support it. The liberal democratic order of free markets and free will is undermined around the globe by violent nationalism and economic protectionism. The Biennale exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times, offers little but a hollow scream in opposition. The whole thing feels a bit like buyer’s remorse, a magnum opus from a lapsed believer in Francis Fukuyama’s promise that we’d reached the End of History.1
Joint Italy-EU military vessel with helicopter, Piraeus Port, Greece, August 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram
Both the main exhibitions and the various national pavilions feature more women and artists of color this year than any previous. Diversity is manifest with respect to types of work, interests, materials, biographies, and ages of the artists on view. Curator Ralph Rugoff states that “[the artists’] work grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory notions, and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.”2 Diversity and multiplicity appear here to be set up as counternarratives to universalism, the ideology that has historically governed the international contemporary art discourse. But is this in fact the case? Fukuyama says, “The spectacular abundance of advanced liberal economies and the infinitely diverse consumer culture made possible by them seem to both foster and preserve liberalism in the political sphere.” If, as Fukuyama suggests, there are “fundamental ‘contradictions’ of human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure,”3 diversity is not one of those contradictions. Rather, pluralism reinforces the “common ideological heritage of mankind,”4 while fascism’s resurgence around the globe and the popular embrace of nationalist identity are more of a contradiction in light of the realities of international markets. This is the turn of events that market utopians like Fukuyama failed to anticipate.
Rugoff never comes off as a utopian, given his pervasive air of weary detachment. Rather, the exhibition transmits how it feels to watch the ascent of Donald Trump and the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit from the “all-knowing,” cool remove of the contemporary art insider—omniscient, yet impotent, and unable to divest from toxic habits. George Condo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Christian Marclay, and Arthur Jafa channel an anxiety bordering on panic. Construction, shipping, air travel, commerce, monuments, the body, gender—all once fixed as concepts in the Western imagination, with clearly associated positive values, are now invoked by artists such as Yin Xiuzhen, Nicole Eisenman, Slavs and Tatars, and Martine Gutierrez as hazardous, unstable, and volatile. Nowhere is this instability more evident than in the work of Mari Katayama, a Japanese artist whose self-portraiture tableaus tease the boundary between agency and objectification. These artists, more than the comparably straightforward representation advanced by artists like Zanele Muholi, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, or Gauri Gill, capture the zeitgeist of not just the show but the present time. Our historical moment is monumentally catastrophic, and the usual serious response to extremism doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, the images range from abject to absurd.
Indios antropófagos: A Butterfly Garden in the (Urban) Jungle. Peru Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram
Especially relevant are the artists who toy with the fetishization of Indigenous bodies and cultures for Western consumption. Within the main exhibition curated by Rugoff, Gutierrez situates her U.S.-born Latinx, trans body within a series of photographic landscapes, Body in Thrall, that challenge touristic notions of indigeneity, cultural authenticity, and romanticized poverty around non-white people. She occupies diverse personas, from a film noir femme fatale to the terrifying Aztec deity Tlazolteotl, “Eater of Filth,” always negotiating the high fashion aesthetics of desire with a subversive decolonial aggression. Similar themes and tactics appear in Indios antropófagos in the Peruvian Pavilion, curated by Gustavo Buntinx, in which historical artifacts from the Spanish colonial era and large mosaic tile works by Christian Bendayán depicting frolicking Indigenous youth come together in a scathing critique of cultural tourism. In the French Pavilion, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, artist Laure Prouvost references the oceans and the sea life projected to die out by 2048, only 29 years into the future, with a number of glass animals seemingly cast into the sea floor, strewn across a landscape of refuse and discarded technologies.
Back in the real world, there’s no way to excise or sequester the beautiful parts into a future that can outlast the very real catastrophes happening now. The overwhelmingly urgent need for a complete lifestyle change played in my head over the week following my visit to the Biennale, as I recuperated from a difficult personal and professional year on a seven-day Greek Islands cruise with my young children, partner, and parents. Looking over the waters where thousands of migrants have drowned, from the top deck of a massive, yet outdated, luxury vessel, I considered how the looming climate crisis creates a condition of simultaneous enjoyment of the modern world that is all around us, and a mourning for its obvious and inevitable loss. Is this the end of curating? The traditional role of the curator as guardian of the world’s collected treasures seems as irrelevant as the contemporary job of mounting resource-heavy exhibitions for an international crowd of jet-setters. Conceptualism has begun to rot from the head, as when Rugoff controversially chose to include Christoph Büchel’s installation of a salvaged boat that, in 2015, sank in the Mediterranean with more than 800 people aboard. I reflected on this watery tomb, recommissioned as a tourist attraction, while looking out across Piraeus port. In the distance, a military troop (jointly operated by Italy and the European Union) performed exercises atop a warship in a city where anti-immigrant attacks are on the rise. In the seventeenth century, the Venetians gained and lost control of Athens in a rivalry with the Ottomans. Today, it seems the EU’s primary objective in the Mediterranean is to sever thousands of years of interconnection between these three regions. Two years ago, the regenerative promise of art as a universal cultural good was undermined when documenta 14 recreated the financial dynamics of German austerity policies in Athens, Greece afresh. Debts went unpaid, workers uncompensated, all in the name of “fiscal responsibility” that nearly shuttered the sixty-year-old event for good. What better outcome ought we to expect this year from an art event born out of universal nationalism?
Halil Altindere, Space Refugee, 2016. May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram
An explicitly utopian impulse is fugitive in May You Live in Interesting Times, but it manifests in the intersection of art, science, and technology. Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef raises awareness about preservation of the oceans through a crowdsourcing practice that combines mathematical learning with environmentalism and craft. Tavares Strachan’s meditation on African American astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., locates metaphysical discourse about the afterlife within a scientific conversation about space travel—where elsewhere Halil Altindere complicates this view with the tale of Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris and his persecution by the state. Ryoji Ikeda bathes us in cleansing white light and describes a massive, thunderous universe of data that takes breathtaking shape before our eyes. Hito Steyerl’s This is the Future is a post-internet pastorale in which computer vision is applied to the Venetian landscape to depict a state of perpetual, dreamlike futurity in which the present persistently refuses to resolve into view. The protagonist of Steyerl’s installation seeks out a garden that she had previously hidden in the future in order to protect it from the ravages of the present.
The song of the Lithuanian Pavilion Sun & Sea (Marina) still rings in my ears:
“When my body dies, I will remain,
In an empty planet without birds, animals and corals.
Yet with the press of a single button,
I will remake this world again”
The finale of Sun & Sea (Marina) details the 3D printing of facsimiles of species in widespread collapse, taking comfort in their simulated resurrection as one would in the cold rays of a dying sun.
The gentle tenor of the apocalyptic visions in Sun & Sea (Marina) perfectly encapsulates the feeling of living at the outside edge of the story of the human species on planet Earth, with the knowledge that history as we know it may well be about to end because our species is one of millions undergoing collapse. The emptiness of our endeavors is invoked by Shilpa Gupta, whose wildly swinging metal gate hammers an effigy of national borders into a gallery wall. Otobong Nkanga’s drawings in acrylic on crayon reference the mechanical, industrialized nature of exploitation in the 21st century. Unlike the bees, whose society is organized around abundance, we humans have engineered systems to maximize our suffering. If humankind can truly lay claim to a common ideological heritage, as Fukuyama once argued, we have only ourselves to blame for our impending end.
If that’s true, it won’t be until nearly 2100 when a full measure of Mr. Glass’s footprint will be possible. But some weighing can start now. The most instantly recognizable voice in contemporary music, he opened a new chapter in operatic history, pushing the bounds of duration and abstraction. At a time when the most lauded composers disdained overproduction, Mr. Glass wrote unashamedly for everyone and everything — and all stubbornly in the distinctive style he created, establishing a model for serious artists moving from the opera house to the concert hall to the film studio, garnering both Met commissions and Academy Award nominations.
MR. GLASS WAS BORN, almost literally, into music: His father owned a record store in Baltimore, where the composer-to-be absorbed Beethoven, Schubert, Bartok, Shostakovich and Stravinsky — and, perhaps, an intrinsic connection between art and commerce. Over a few years in Paris, Nadia Boulanger was his composition teacher as he was exposed to the jittery-fly modernism of Boulez and Stockhausen. He didn’t hate them, but he didn’t want to compose like them, either.
Those pieces culminated in “Einstein on the Beach,” a dreamlike meditation on scientific discovery, human relations and nuclear apocalypse that progressed in enigmatic episodes, austerely designed and directed by Robert Wilson and with swirling choreography by Lucinda Childs, the dancers representing atomic particles in ceaseless motion.
“When ‘Einstein’ opened,” Mr. Glass said, “we had never performed it straight through without stopping. We didn’t know how long it was. It turned out to be five and a half hours.”
Mr. Glass became a maestro of excruciatingly delayed gratification. “I have no idea what Philip was thinking when he wrote ‘Satyagraha,’” Mr. Guérin said of that 1980 opera, a highly stylized but (compared with “Einstein”) more traditionally plotted story about Gandhi’s early ventures into nonviolent protest in South Africa. “The third act is 45 minutes long, and has just two harmonies. But when it explodes into pure Phrygian scale in the final aria, it’s, like, oh, this totally makes sense.”
When it came to “Satyagraha” and “Akhnaten” (1983), Mr. Glass said, “many people were waiting for the son of ‘Einstein.’ They liked that experience of that throbbing, relentless ensemble playing that we did. Of course I wasn’t going to do that. Why would I do that? I had just done it. So I did something completely different, and it was much too lyrical for some people.”
The bronzed character of the “Akhnaten” score emerged through necessity. The company in Stuttgart, Germany, that commissioned the work was renovating its theater, so the performances took place in a space with a much smaller pit.
With the violas now taking the place of the violins, the sound shifted down an octave, its burnished sheen given body with brasses and punctuated by sometimes raucous percussion. As for the title character, the Egyptian pharaoh who is said to have pioneered monotheism — and to have had all traces of him erased for that blasphemy — Mr. Glass put him onstage from almost the beginning, but tantalizingly delayed his first musical entrance.
“How do I introduce him to the audience so that the first time they hear him, they understand he is a completely radical, unforgivable event in the Egyptians’ history, and they have to destroy him?” Mr. Glass recalled asking himself. “I’ll make him a countertenor, to sound not unnatural, but radical. Radical can be natural. He just was who he was.”
“The world had caught up with his music,” Mr. Guérin said. “The Philip Glass sound became digestible to mass audiences. If you had told the people in New York that the composer of ‘Music in Twelve Parts’ would be able to maintain his musical language and score major Hollywood pictures, they wouldn’t have believed you. But he got to be himself.”
Fast-rising Nollywood actor Perikles Mandinga was born in Guinea-Bissau and has been in the entertainment industry for many years. He attended college in Lisbon, Portugal before moving to the USA.
He started as a fashion model, and has featured on runways, magazines, billboards and television. Mandinga won “Rip the Runway”, a P Diddy produced reality show aired on BET Network.
He has extensive film and theatre credits both within the US and internationally. His theatre credits include Tower of Babel, Insanity and Properly Plucked. He has also featured in popular Nollywood movies including Omoge, Adaora, Kiss and Tell including some others.
In an interview, Madinga revealed his plans to gain strong network in the Nollywood industry and make a name for himself. He also talked about his crazy fantasy and how he would like to date one of Nigeria’s most controversial actress, Tonto Dikeh.
Who is Perikles Mandinga?
I am a simple person who lived in two different countries (Portugal & USA) from an early age. I like to travel, and I still play sports. I like meeting new people.
What actually informed your decision to go full-time into acting? And how far do you think you can go?
From an early age, I knew acting was something that I love to do but coming from a traditional African family, I knew it was going to be a hard task because my dad wouldn’t accept the idea. He was very hard on me and my siblings. After finishing my studies in Lisbon, I had the opportunity to come to the USA to model. I knew that acting was going to be my full-time devotion, not modelling because it was my life’s purpose.
What are those unique skills you are bringing to play that may possibly stand you out or better still that may give you recognition among all the big stars we have in industry?
Starting out in a poor African country moving to a European capital and then in NYC I have seen things that maybe the other big stars have not experienced.
What kind of roles do you prefer?
I like to play characters that can be genuinely kind, nice guys or bad guy roles- those make me work harder at their motivation. I like characters that have flaws that can be exploited. Because I have a good sense of humour, I can build characters that have two sides to their personality.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? What are your personal goals?
In 5 years from now I see myself doing amazing work with actors that inspired me to get into this business.
Which are the films you have acted in?
Kiss and Tell, Omoge, Adaora, Yes I Do. All of these are Nollywood produced.
By all standards, what comparison can you do between Hollywood and Nollywood- which is more relevant to Africans?
Well from my perspective, I see Hollywood as something that has been there for so long, and now there’s a new kid on the block- Nollywood. It is fresh, with new ideas and it’s growing so fast that nothing will be standing in its way. It has a natural and large market eager for new films that it can relate to.
In your opinion, what do you think should be done in terms of sourcing for fund and maintaining world-class movie productions?
In time, as Nollywood grows, it will be able to finance its growth, similar in history to Hollywood. An important thing is to ensure that new, young and upcoming individuals shouldn’t be shut out from participating.
These days, what have you been up to or which project(s) have you been embarking on?
So many things are happening all at the same time, so my hands are full with projects from movies, theatre and other ventures. It is very exciting.
You are quite handsome, you probably would be getting admiration and glances from the female folks. How well do you relate with them?
Thank you for the compliment. I have a big sister who always kept me in line. She and mom taught me to respect everyone. As a result, I have been fortunate to have many female friends who I trust and have deep friendships with.
Currently in the movie industry, who is your female crush?
That should be Tonto Dikeh. I like her so much and she has a very unique personality. Crazy though but I wouldn’t mind going into a serious relationship with her. After all, I can last more than 40 seconds.
What has fame robbed you of and what doors has it opened for you?
You think I have fame? So far nothing has changed me and likely never will. I am no different than anyone else. I am the same person who gets up each morning to see what the day will offer.
Describe a typical day?
My typical day contains jogging, working out or yoga meditation. I have theatre work with my coach and go on many auditions. I like going for walks and playing sports. Nothing makes me happier than reading books. I especially like autobiographies lately.
Name one luxury product you wouldn’t mind breaking the bank for?
I can’t break the bank for what I want because it doesn’t exist yet. I would do everything to help my sister from dying from cancer.
Where is home at the moment?
Home is the place where you’re loved and feel comfortable. Right now I live between Lagos, Lisbon and NYC.
Who is your role model and why?
My Dad is my role model and he will always be. He was a doctor and taught me about ethics, morals and love and helping others.
Aside acting, what other things do you have passion for?
I have a strong love of our African continent. I believe in helping my brothers to achieve their full potential. Sometimes I think that is my calling. I am curious about different aspects of business around the world.
Any message for your fans out there?
Thank you!! Please keep us going by seeing our movies. You inspire us to keep going with new movies, new stories. We started from almost nothing and your attendance at our films answered our prayers. Thank you
There’s a scene in See I would bet everything in my wallet (seven dollars, three old MetroCards, and five half-used coffee rewards cards) that it’ll go viral. It’s the one where Jason Momoa’s character picks up a book for the first time. Since the show is set centuries after a virus deprived humanity of sight, he has no idea what’s in his hands. He complains it smells like “dead bark” and holds it the way a toddler might hold a vegetable when they were in fact expecting a cookie. Then Alfre Woodard’s character demands he hand over what he’s found, and speaks its long-forgotten name: book.
It’s extremely funny in context, and probably debilitating out of it. It also makes See, Apple’s post-apocalyptic drama, one of my favorite kinds of shows: you could just plainly state something that happens in an episode, and everyone would swear you’re making it up. That doesn’t mean you should watch it.
Set in the ruins of our world, the people of See have adjusted to a sightless life after centuries of practice. Makeshift curtains of beads make for boundaries both audible and physical, fights involve a lot of probing contact and grappling (as does sex), and there’s a lot of finger snapping. See is extremely invested in showing you how all this stuff works, so much so that it barely delves into its characters.
Baba Voss (Jason Momoa) is a man who must take his family on the run after his adopted twins, Kofune and Haniwa, are born with sight. The trouble is, the very idea of sight is heretical — much like witchcraft in colonial America, troublesome people are accused of having the ability to see as justification for burning them alive. And there’s also an evil queen who learns of the twins, and as a religious zealot who worships the “darkness” (by, and I will testify to this in court if I have to, masturbating as she prays) she wants them brought to her for evil queen reasons.
A generous and forgiving read of See could interpret it as an attempted meditation on knowledge, ignorance, and responsibility, but See actively resists attempts to latch on to anything of substance it might have to offer. In the first three episodes made available in advance to critics, See is more interested in the logistics of its world than it is in implications.
Sometimes that leads to fun television. The third episode, the best of that initial bunch, is largely unconcerned with the season’s main arc, instead telling a story where Kofune is kidnapped by slavers and must be rescued. It’s visually striking, introducing a tribe of people that, unbeknownst to them, are living in the ruins of an amusement park. It’s got a killer fight scene, with unique choreography that clearly conveys the limitations and skills of everyone involved and depicts brutal violence with grace and skill. And it’s got personal stakes, which I won’t spoil here because it’s one of the only bits of character backstory you get in the first couple of episodes.
None of these things make See a more interesting show beyond the hour you spend watching them. It’s cotton candy, a fun confection for one moment, and just plain sugar the next.
See is clearly interested in drawing people into its elaborate and well-crafted post-apocalypse, but it’s telling that the only questions I have after watching are purely pedantic ones. Like how did a blind society make such perfect and deadly weapons, or build homes that never leak, or clothes and makeup that look so nice?
These are questions asked by jerks and spoilsports, and I wish I had better ones to ask of See. The show is strange, but fails to justify that strangeness with a compelling story, characters, or literally anything other than the list of ideas you and your stoned cousin would come up with if you wondered what it would be like if we all woke up one day totally blind, man. Maybe you’ll come up with something fun enough for posting on Twitter, but it’s not going to cut it for eight hours of television.
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Almost the same as what? Almost the same as how she looked 20 years ago, when she was starring in the hit series Friends, according to the Mail Online.
Amazing. What is the secret of her youthful appearance? Not eating.
That doesn’t sound ideal at all. Well, more specifically, she’s adopted an “intermittent fasting” regime, more commonly known as the 16:8 diet.
Is it like the 5:2 diet, except you starve for 16 days and then binge for 8 days? No, in this case the numbers represent hours. “I noticed a big difference in going without solid food for 16 hours,” Aniston told the Radio Times.
Sixteen hours without food? By the time you’re allowed to eat, it would be past your bedtime! Fortunately, your sleeping hours are counted as part of the fasting period. You just have to delay breakfast until 10am.
I could probably just stay in bed until then, as long as I were allowed to eat what I liked afterwards. You eat anything, but you must stop by 5 or 6pm, when the fasting begins anew.
And does it actually keep you young? Who knows. Some people believe it is supposed to keep you slim, improve blood sugar control, boost brain function and increase life expectancy.
You know what’s guaranteed to make you feel old? Eating dinner at 5pm. Most intermittent fasters prefer the more convenient 12 to 8 eating window, but 10 to 6 is considered optimal.
Optimally joyless, do you mean? Obviously Aniston isn’t completely rigid about the whole thing. She has a “cheat” day once a week where she treats herself outside fasting hours.
And what does she have? Celery juice.
She treats herself to a celery juice? What an example to us all. Indeed she is.
I was being sarcastic. She is certainly an example to Reese Witherspoon, her co-star in the new series The Morning Show. “Jen knows so much about health and fitness that I always defer to her,” she told the Radio Times. “She’s great at wellbeing advice.”
Is there more to her wellbeing regime? In addition to fasting, Jen does meditation, followed by five workouts per week. Witherspoon, the swot, manages six.
I don’t understand how these people find time in their schedule to get drunk. They don’t need to get drunk; they get high on being a better person than you.
Do say: “Fasting, meditation, exercise: what a great way to use up the hours between now and death.”
Don’t say: “Focus, Jen. It’s nearly 6pm, and this box of doughnuts isn’t going to eat itself.”
The dissonance between the Emmy awards and the show itself perhaps reflects TV’s broader existential crisis. So many of the night’s wins felt like they were embracing the future of television, honoring diverse performers and creators, and heralding shows that swing for the fences and reinvent the form. But the awards ceremony itself, overstuffed with worn-out bits and interminable montages, was a formulaic relic of the past.
But it was “Fleabag” that prevailed. In addition to its anticipated win for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, it took home several surprise trophies, including Outstanding Comedy Series.
Based on Waller-Bridge’s one-woman play, the Amazon Prime and BBC sitcom is a seamless blend of tragedy and comedy, punctuated by Waller-Bridge’s signature fourth-wall breaks. Told from an unabashedly feminist perspective, the show dares to make jokes about otherwise taboo topics like miscarriages, while also serving as a powerful meditation on grief, loneliness and uncertainty. “Fleabag” is among a number of inventive comedies, many of them created by women and people of color, that infuse their creator’s singular vision.
On the drama side, Jodie Comer won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for “Killing Eve,” also created by Waller-Bridge. The BBC America drama, about the cat-and-mouse game between MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and assassin Villanelle, recenters the male-dominated genre of crime thrillers, telling it from the female gaze.
The divisive “Bandersnatch,” the create-your-own-adventure episode of Netflix’s “Black Mirror,” which won for Outstanding Television Movie, also marked a new frontier for TV. Netflix is developing similar shows employing the format, including a forthcoming interactive special of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Other streaming platforms are also looking to adopt the formula.
Several history-making winners gave Sunday night’s ceremony some of its most memorable moments. “When They See Us” star Jharrel Jerome became the first Afro Latino performer to win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, giving a poignant speech honoring the show’s subjects. Created by powerhouse director Ava DuVernay, the limited series is a searing and humanizing portrayal of the wrongfully convicted teenagers of color formerly known as the Central Park Five. Now, thanks to the series, the men are known as the Exonerated Five.
“I am so overwhelmed, and I am so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day. James Baldwin said, ‘It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I had been taught about myself and halfway believe before I could walk around this earth like I had the right to be here,’” Porter said in his rousing acceptance speech. “I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right.”
The jubilant and poignant victories felt like they came from a TV universe separate from the ceremony itself. Aside from a few memorable presenter pairings (get Catherine O’Hara and Amy Poehler their own show, immediately), the awards show was a mess from the very beginning.
There was a head-scratching introduction, with Anthony Anderson “saving” the show by enlisting Bryan Cranston to wax poetic about the power of television. There was montage after montage, including a bizarre “in memoriam”-like segment for shows that ended this year. The moment felt like an afterthought, playing second fiddle to segments that honored the series finales of “Veep” and “Game of Thrones.”
Most befuddling of all, there was the official “announcer,” actor and comedian Thomas Lennon, who doled out a series of embarrassing and stale punchlines, awkwardly providing transitions before and after commercial breaks. At one point, he seemed to acknowledge the absurdity of the gig, giving up midway through another cringeworthy line.
“Are the Emmys woke?” he began. “Or is that just something that was — this is why people don’t do this, because it sucks.”
In an earlier bit, presenters Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel jokingly lamented the show’s lack of a host, and seemed to acknowledge that the formulaic role usually goes to white men like themselves.
“You know who the real victims are here? It’s us. This show sucks. It’s just sad. Hosting is the only thing we know how to do,” Colbert said. “Without a host, who would read the words, ‘You know my next guest from the hit series “NCIS: New Orleans”?’”
“The next thing you know, they’ll start using Alexa to present the nominees,” Colbert joked, before the voice of the Amazon device announced Waller-Bridge as the winner for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
The idea that future awards shows might be hosted by a robot is certainly extreme. But it serves as an acknowledgment that the Emmys, unlike their winners, are stuck in the past. Next year, the show should try to reflect the diversity and forward-thinking inventiveness of the winners, instead of doing them and the TV audience a disservice with a soulless slog of an evening.
Thing was, none of them had given much of a fuck about Elvis while he was alive.
When you got right down to it, all Dead Elvis meant by the last week of summer was a congested Memphis, what with all the out-of-towners and news vans bunched together at the gates of Graceland to pay their respects and leave behind bouquets and teddy bears.Shit was everywhere, just take a look on the TV.
What they were always sayingfifty thousand Elvis fans cant be wrong?News claimed over thirty thousand of those fans showed up, just to wait in line, see his body laid out at the Memphis Funeral Home. Rumor was that a few of the Beatles had even flown in all the way from England. Burt Reynolds and Ann-Margret, too. President Carter had to call in the National Guard, for Chrissakes.
Raymond Bubba Green wondered who was supposed to clean up all that shit. Taxpayer money, or cons handed Graceland details as Community Service.
To Bubba, there was only one thing that Dead Elvis meant: money.
The way the man from Cincinnati told it, it sounded like the King of Rock and Roll was worth more dead than aliveor at the very least, his body seemed to pay by the pound.
Bubba Green, who at 25 had been expelled or suspended from every school hed ever attended throughout Tennessee, had grown accustomed to a life in and out of county lock-up, usually for selling drugs or for using them. By August 1977, he had grown more than accustomed to living for heroin, the same drug that had killed his Rhonda less than a year ago.
Theyd met right after Bubbas stint in Angola, that Louisiana state penitentiary named for the plantation and cotton fields that once occupied the land. Never married but thick as the thieves they were long enough for the State of Tennessee to label them as common-law. It had been Rhonda turned Bubba on to the harder drugsthe chippingBubba first figuring if she was going to be doing it, better she be supervised than unsupervised.
While Bubba was finishing up another jail stint, Rhonda took off for Dallas.When he was sprung, Bubba got word shed been raped and killed in a roadside motel room, left to be found the next morning by housekeeping.
We was not as good for each other as we should have been, Bubba told people later, but regardless, you know, I loved her.
Back on the street by August of77, Bubba hadnt much time for grieving. Let the world mourn Elvis, let him mourn Rhonda when he could. He had bonds to make, and Rhonda had taken what little money was left when she split for Dallas.
Bubba was thinking about just thatthe girl, the money, the debtwhen Blue Barron called him up Wednesday afternoon.
Bubba, you looking to make some money? Blue was a local bondsman Bubba had come to know all too well. He knew Bubba was looking to make some money, knew he was always looking.
Good, said Blue. Meet me at the Luau.
Like everyone in Memphis, Bubba Green knew the gaudy, Polynesian-themed exterior of the Dobbs House Luau on Poplar Avenue. Its sugary, fake island food was cheap and popular with the local college kids and the students from East High School across the street. He parked his motorcycle and, once inside, let his eyes adjust to the dim lighting of the large dining area.
Tiki torches flickered around the tourists lined up at the buffet. Mounted wood carvings shaped into sinister grins and framed stills of Elvis in Blue Hawaii were mounted along the walls. Blue Barron was seated at a family-sized wooden table under hanging plants and bamboo tufts. He was sitting next to another man. This one Bubba didnt recognize. White, looked big, husky, although he was sitting. Both men had their hands folded on the table top. They watched Bubba walk in and waited while he pulled his trucker cap low and sat down across from both. Neither spoke until Bubba was settled.
Are you interested in making a million dollars?It was the big one beside Blue, the stranger. He said it more than he asked it.
Bubba didnt know if hed heard that number right, looked at Blue, who just nodded.
I am mostly certainly interested in making a million dollars, Bubba said.
There was a pause before the large man leaned in.Well, what would you do for two million dollars?
Bubba could hear it now in his speechhe was definitely a Yankee. Well, sir, Bubba said, my mama aint safe for two million dollars.
The man said he was from Cincinnati. Just about all he said, so Bubba thought of him as just thatMr. Cincinnati.
Bubba Green followed Mr. Cincinnati down Union Avenue to the Holiday Inn, the one in walking distance to Beale. There, he parked his bike on the side, saw the man lumber up the metal staircase leading up to the second story of the two-story hotel, then unlocking the door to one room and standing outside the threshold for Bubba to see him. Got any weapons on you? Mr. Cincinnati asked, raising Bubbas arms up in a frisk just inside the door.
Yessir, a knife, Bubba said, making eye contact and slowly handing over a butterfly knife from his right back pocket.
Wait here, the man said, pointing for Bubba to take a seat on the edge of the sparse rooms twin-side bed. Bubba folded his hands on his lap and studied the green carpet and the ugly gold geometric shapes in the design, the white Venetian blinds, the writing table: an ashtray loaded with Mr. Cincinnatis cigarette butts and a small Holiday Inn stationery pad and matching pen.Crumpled balls of the stationery littered the desk.
He listened to the sounds of Mr. Cincinnati in the bathroom, not sure what was going on inside but hearing movement like the shower curtain being slid, followed by some exhausted grunting. The man emerged, each hand clutching an identical brown suitcase.He tossed both onto the bed behind Bubbas back. Look here, he said, flipping a case open.
Bubba had already decided the money had to be counterfeit.All that cash in one place? Had to be fake.
Bubba stood beside him, on his toes to crane over the larger mans shoulder.He stepped aside for Bubba to see: maps and large, full-color photographs, mostly aerial views of Shelby County. It was easy for him to make out the shape of Memphis, the grid of its arteries punctuated by the muted tint of bayous and the blue wall of the Mississippi River to the west. There were more papers stacked underneath, and Bubba caught on to the bold type at the bottom of one enlarged, color map. Forest Hill Cemetery. The name was familiar, Bubba remembered it from the news.
Mr. Cincinnati pulled out tighter diagrams of the cemetery property, these with hand-drawn lines linking A and B points. White tape lines met at a specific mausoleum in the center.
The man began to sift through the other contents, handing Bubba papers in bunches, explaining as he went along. There were copies of receipts for a casket weighing 948 pounds; a nine-pound brass lock made special in Oklahoma City; the dimensions of a large, plexiglass bubble. Take a look through these, he said. Bubba leafed through the stack and the man bent to open the other case. Look here, he said and lifted the lid.
Bubbas eyes nearly teared up.He was looking down at stacks of paper-belted hundred-dollar bills, each belt marked with 1,000 in black, felt-tip pen.
Before Mr. Cincinnati uttered another word, Bubba had already decided the money had to be counterfeit.All that cash in one place? Had to be fake. If not, this meeting was some kind of sting, Blue setting him up for another skip of his, needing an easy fall-guy. Who did he know, or who had he borrowed from who could rope him into some RICO thing?
Bubba had served enough time, he decided hed never be anyones fall-guy.
But he also considered the bills looked real enough to pass along on the street.Rent, smack, bonds, and a ticket out of Memphis.
He felt Mr. Cincinnatis eyes on him, watching him look down at the money. If all that money is real, Bubba now thought, this Yankee is carrying it around, he ought to be more afraid of more than just my little old knife.
Im going to ask for 10 million dollars in ransom for the body, the man said.He was cool, calm, and collectedeven the way he said the words like ransom and the body, like they was everyday words in a normal, everyday sentence.
Right in that there briefcase was a million dollars in belted bills, Mr. Cincinnati explained. It, along with another briefcase just like it, he went on, was all Bubbasbut only if he could execute a single task: smuggle the body of Elvis Aaron Presley out of its final resting placethe little cemetery just off Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Forest Hills Cemetery, Lot #796A; about four and a half miles from Graceland.
The mausoleum constructed for Elvis Presley was a massive building, more than double the size of the single-family shack in Tupelo, Mississippi, that had been his childhood home. This was a monumentairy rooms housing six vaults, a palace of many chambers. Elvis was the one directly to the left, Corridor Z: 9 feet long and 27 inches high. All white, columns and tile. You walked in, all you heard was your own footsteps and breathing, the echoes of eternity billowing throughout a maze of granite and marble.
On August 18, the burial started with a long procession down the street bearing Elvis namea white hearse leading 17 white limousines, all booked at a moments notice by Elvis daddy, Vernon Presley himself. Police had to carry away screaming fans attempting to charge his sons hearse on foot. The copper coffin, weighing nearly a thousand pounds, was carried by the six people who were the closest the performer had to friends: road manager Joe Esposito, members of Elvis entourage, the self-proclaimed Memphis Mafia, and Dr. George NichopoulousDr. NickElvis longtime personal physician, known to get the King anything required for nearly twenty years of maladies: road fatigue, dehydration, high blood-pressure, and the twisted colon that brought on the fatal heart attack.
Before the crypts gates were locked, a cylinder with Elvis' name, birth, and death dates was placed in the casket, ensuring easy identification during the Rapture.
A small service was held at the mausoleum for a select group of family and professional VIPs, those who had known Elvis Aaron Presley in real life. They, too, were enough in number to line up for hours. Vernon was the last out, kissing the coffin and promising his famous son that Daddy would be with him soon.
Vernon saw to it that Elvis was buried wearing a white suit and a blue shirt, and had personally brought his sons beloved TCB ring into the mausoleum to slide on his finger. Between the booking of the limos, the custom casket, and the all-important emblematic ring, Vernon had demonstrated that his son wasnt the only Presley who could take care of business in a flash. Nine-year-old Lisa Marie helped her grandfather place a metal bracelet on her fathers lifeless wrist. Lastly, before the crypts gates were locked, a cylinder with Elvis' name, birth, and death dates was placed in the casket, ensuring easy identification during the Rapture. Elvis hated waiting in lines.
The crowd long gone, five workmen then cut through the three-thousand floral bouquets strewn among the lawn and entered Elviss tomb. They went in pushing a wheelbarrow full of sand and carrying a five-gallon bucket of water and cement, churning into a double slab of concrete to seal the crypt.They then covered it all over with a large marble sheet, Elvis name and lifespan to be chiseled later.
Like every other newscaster in Memphis, Russell Ruffin covered the death of Elvis Aaron Presley, just as he had covered every related update to come out of Graceland since word of the death first broke. That day, Russ and his crew had been two hundred miles outside Memphis, covering a routine legislative meeting that dispersed as soon as a civic employee entered the boardroom to announce Elvis had just been pronounced dead over at Memphis Baptist. Russ led the caravan back to WMC-TV Memphis Midtown studios on Union Avenue.
After moving down from Nashville in late 1975, the 36-year-old Ruffin learned quickly that working for the NBC Memphis station would mean covering just about anything having to do with the citys favorite son. Not that he was complaining; Russ had grown up an Elvis fan himself, seeing Jailhouse Rock in theaters as a kid and painting sideburns on the sides of his face, strutting them around school before puberty allowed the real thing to grow in.
Around the newsroom, Russ was privy to all the Presley gossip that long predated the death. It had been rampant throughout Memphis pretty much Elvis entire career, as hed bought Graceland only a year after signing with RCA in 1957. Superstardom in a year, and with it, one of those heavenly mansions Jesus mentioned.
Russ was quickly told the one about Elvis presumably breaking up a real bar fight right here in town, telling a shocked drunkard, Why dont you pick on someone your own size? just like in one of his own movies. He then followed up on sightings of the King flying over Graceland in a private plane, surveying his kingdom below and amused at the sight of the crowd, unaware he was watching from above. Russ had looked into rumors Elvis had nearly been arrested for driving a go-kart down Elvis Presley Boulevard, saved only from the indignation of handcuffs by flashing the badge given to him by Richard Nixon.Elvis always had it on him.
And then there were all the Cadillacs. Russ covered each of those, too.
Russ had arrived in Memphis just in time to cover the third of Elvis widely-publicized stays in Memphis Baptist Hospital, always under the banner of road fatigue or exhaustion. The truth about the prescription drug addiction would only come out later during Dr. Nicks trialthe scandalous affair finding Nick forever branded a pharmaceutical rubber-stamp for high profile patients like the late Presley and his darker contemporary, Jerry Lee Lewis.
It was during that stay in Memphis Baptist that the King got the bug to bestow his riches upon select members of an adoring public. See, if Elvis saw you on TV and didnt like you, hed pull out the small revolver always in his right boot and blast a hole right through the screen projecting your moving image. But if he saw you and he liked you, liked your face, then Elvis would pick up the gold phonethe one next to the couchand dial a few numbers, have a new car sent to your house. That July, hed bought a total of 13 Cadillacs from the local Madison dealership, then sent them out to random worthy citizens throughout Memphis. With love, Elvis Presley.
Or so Russ had heard. He was still working as a general correspondent for the network, hadnt made weekend anchor just yet, the day Elvis called up the station room and asked for him by name.
Russ snatched the phone from his station managers hand, immediately recalling the one about Elvis buying some lucky Denver news anchor a brand new Eldoradohis reward for airing a human interest piece on him, making the performer sound more like Mother Teresa.
Mr. Ruffin, an unfamiliar voice spoke back to him. Joe Esposito here. Mr. Presley is next to me and he really enjoyed that piece you did You did a great job demonstrating his generosity
Presley had handed the receiver to his loyal road manager before Russ could get on the line. Insult to injury: the Cadillac wasnt for any WMC-TV anchor.No, Elvis wanted the address for a girl Russ had interviewed earlier that day, one going through hard enough times she deserved a new Eldorado.
You wouldnt happen to have her address, now would you, Mr. Ruffin? Elvis sure would appreciate it.
Might as well get a story out of it. Russ had grabbed a mic and a cameraman, rushed to Memphis Baptist anyway. They got as far as Elvis private door, eye-to-eye with an off-duty cop and Esposito himself. He haggled for a few minutes of taping, promising a piece for that evenings broadcast: something about the outpouring of flowers, cards and, yes, teddy bears, all Elvis fans had been sending.
Good enough for Esposito, but Elvis was a little too tired at the moment to talk to the camera. Russ ended up reporting from beside the door, while over his shoulder, Elvis bare feet dangled off the edge of the bed, out-of-focus.
That was a year ago. By August 1977, Russ had earned a second title as weekend anchor and was a recognizable face around Memphis. Recognizable enough for an FBI informant to obtain his home phone number, letting him know someone was planning to steal Elvis Presleys corpse later that week.
Thursday, August 25, 1977
Two days wasnt all that much time for Bubba to plan for such a large-scale body-snatch, but it looked like Mr. Cincinnati had done his homework, making it all that much easier. He had a few names to get the ball rolling and would use his own promised payment for deferred expensesincluding the team he would need. Giving it some thought, he had the makings of a skeleton crew before the day was out.
He knew a safe-cracker, one who owned a set of cutting torches that could get through the mausoleums iron railing. If memory served, Mike also had his own acetylene torches and oxygen tanks, like those scuba divers go out in the islands. Over the phone, he had tipped Bubba to an appliance store downtown, said they didnt keep such a close watch on their loading docks early in the day.He could hotwire one of the appliance truckswould be ideal, pick up whatever the hell it was Bubba needed help lifting.
He promised Mike 75 grand but considered upping it to as much as an even hundred if all worked out and Bubba was feeling generous. He considered the fact they still needed two additional sets of hands to get the casket from the crypt and into the truck box. Two more workers meant further dipping into Mr. Cincinnatis briefcase. But Bubba had seen on the news that it took four pallbearers to carry Elvis casket; scaling back to only four was pushing it, he knew, but no way around it. Hed have to pay off three.
There was another old boy from the neighborhood, always needed cash for junk. Bruce Nelson was five years older than Bubba. They had scored together, for a while during the Rhonda years. They hadnt spoken since Bubba had come back to Memphis, but he called him up, offered him 40 grand right over the phone. Maybe 60, same conditions as Mike.
Counting it out in his head, Bubba told himself he wasnt necessarily being greedy. If he was in line to score two million for putting everything together, no reason he was expected to give it all away. He considered the outstanding bonds, the ones Blue Barron knew this type of one-time score would cover, and then some.
After that, Bubba thought, he would contact a few smugglers he knew from Angola. Theyd be heading to the Caribbean once they got out, he remembered, and remembered the offer was open to sail along.Get him far away from Memphis and its ghosts.
For that, Bubba needed every cent he could squeeze.
Bubba ended his Thursday night with a beer, knowing he had a well-equipped box man in place, and some needed extra muscle. All he needed now was a wheelman, the getaway driver to high-tail them out of the cemetery, allowing Mike to casually join the other truckers on the freeway, their thousand-pound cargo secure in the box.
Bruce suggested Bubba contact Ronnie Lee Adkins. Bubba recognized the name from high school. They had never been friends, Ronnie was a year behind.
Bruce vouched for him, handed his home number to Bubba.
Friday, August 26, 1977
Want to tell me where were going?
Ronnie Lee Adkins, behind the wheel of his beige Chrysler, Bruce Nelson in the passenger seat. Bubba Green sat alone in the back, watching the storefronts and street signs along Elvis Presley Boulevard through the window on his left.Ronnie looked up at the rear-view mirror, waiting for a response.
Just drive and Ill tell you where to go, Bubba said, not looking up when he said it.
Ronnie Lee Adkins had been the first to show up at the chosen meeting pointthe parking lot of a laundromat on Unionhis Chrysler idling as Bubba and Bruce pulled up along either side on their bikes. The men got in silently, Bruce finally saying, Howre you, brother, once the doors were shut.From the backseat, Bubba studied the back of Ronnie Lee Adkins head, watched his hands stay gripped on the wheel even while parked. He thought this was a good sign, a solid first impression. He didnt mention the fact that he recognized Ronnie from school.
'Bubba, I gotta ask you. We been circling Elvis Presleys cemetery for any particular reason?'
Bubba determined not to reveal to Bruce or Ronnie exactly where they were going just yet. Both had agreed to the job based on the money, tonights mystery tour being part of the deal. He was playing close to the chest, and thats exactly why his plancobbled together in less than 48 hourswas going to work out just fine. He was playing it smart for once. Hell, hed only needed Mr. Cincinnatis map of the cemetery interior and the casket schematics. Other than that, Bubba knew the streets of Memphis good as anyone else.
So far, it looked like Ronnie Lee Adkins did tooand he took directions just fine. Bubba told him to turn onto the expressway, then sat back and folded his hands in his lap. He watched the Memphis streets pass by, all lit up, as quiet as the city gets, then went over the steps again in his head.
Mike would be sitting tight in the appliance truck on Route 69Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Expresswaywaiting in the shadow of the Kerr Avenue underpass just west of the cemeterys rear entrance. His industrial cutters and locksmith gear were stashed in the trucks cargo box, along with a mobile generator just in case the trucks battery couldnt supply enough juice to drill through the concrete.
As soon as Mike saw the Chrysler, he would park at Forest Hills west entrance, while the other three went around to Elvis Presley Boulevard on the east side. Theyd hop the fence on either side of the property, then Mike would use his flashlight to help them all meet in the middle. According to the map, Elvis crypt was in the center.
Only Mike was told the last part of Bubbas 48-hour plan. First thing tomorrow morning, hed call the man from Cincinnati through Blue Barron, have him meet in the parking lot of Poplar Plaza Shopping Center just after dawn.
Mr. Cincinnati, Bubba told Mike, would be bringing those briefcasesboth of them.
Ronnie took the car onto Elvis Presley Boulevard. Again he looked up into the rear-view mirror. Where from here? he asked.
Eyes still out the window, Bubba mumbled to keep circling around Kerr Avenue and Hernando Road, keep a lookout for the appliance truck.
Half a dozen passes already the last half-hour. No Mike. No truck. More circles. An hour passed. Bubba tugged on the brim of his trucker cap. Where the fuck was he?
You got a way to call your boy, check in on him? Ronnie asked.
Naw, Bubba said, giving a quick glance away from the passing streets.He dont get that truck, we just try again tomorrow.
Ronnie looked over at Bruce for a response, got nothing. He turned south on Hernando, all three men in the car glancing to their right, checking for a big, white truck one more time. Again nothing, just the darkness of the overpass shadow.
Bubba, I gotta ask you, Ronnie said, one arm over the other on the wheel as he made the turn passed Forest Hills iron gates. We been circling Elvis Presleys cemetery for any particular reason?
Before hed been handed a seemingly never-ending stream of Elvis Presley assignments, Russ Ruffins usual stories included community affairs and local politics. Both areas went hand-in-hand with the Memphis crime beat, ensuring not only the guards at Graceland knew Russ face on-sight, but so did the cops and bailiffs at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center, local District Court, and the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
Hed always dealt well with law enforcement. Back in Nashville, Russ had covered the local polices acquisition of their first Kevlar vests. The broadcast got him an invitation to the Press Clubs Gridiron show, an annual event for statewide news VIPs, all gathered together in a grand ballroom to rib each other, safely out of the public eye. Taking the stage, Russ demonstrated the bulletproof vest using a starters pistol.
Word spread about Russ Press Club appearance, and he got coerced by a network cameraman to recreate the stunt out in the studio parking lot. The cameraman was itching to test out the stations new video camera unit and already had a gun in the trunk of his car. They loaded a blank, but the velocity of the blastall the finite debris hidden in the fresh Nashville air, instantly ignited and shot at the speed of soundsent Russ reeling, slamming him against a brick wall.
The clip found its way onto one of Dick Clarks blooper specials. So far, that was the extent of Russ national exposure.
He moved to Memphis the following year, having taken enough bullets for one team. That November, he dodged a larger one. A few buddies linked through his NBC affiliate invited him to French Guyana, where they were covering California Congressman Leo Ryans visit to the Peoples Temple Agricultural ProjectJonestown.
'Hey man, dont use my picture. Im undercover.'
Russ knew it was a big story and packed his bags. He made it to the airport but missed his flight. None of his buddies returned.
After that, covering news out of Graceland didnt seem so bad, or covering the Memphis crime beat. It was never boring, and there were benefits to all the sheriffs knowing who he was, he could be trusted. Russ ended up with a lot of tips that way, all the cops and robbers both recognizing his face.
Like the first week of August, when Russ and a cameraman were on a routine assignment outside Shelby County Court.
He had his shirt-sleeves rolled up, the mic in his hand, watching the fresh arrests being escorted out of the courthouse. After all these months, Russ had started recognizing some of the faces. One in particular looked familiara white twentysomething male, sporting a days-old scruff and a dirty pair of jeans and tee shirt. Looked like a drop-out, his long hair falling down his face.
The kid stopped right in front of Russ, leaned in close to his ear. Hey man, he whispered. Dont use my picture. He nodded to the cameraman. Im undercover.
He hadnt seen him since, but Russ never forgot a face. Or a voice.
The last Friday of August, Russ was home with his wife. Penny had dinner ready just as soon as he had walked in, and they were already clearing the plates when the kitchen phone rang. He wasnt expected back at the station until early the next afternoon and was looking forward to a quiet night at home.
Is this Mr. Ruffin from the TV news?The mans voice was familiar, but Russ couldnt place it. I had to get your number from the station, the man said. I told them I had an Elvis story for you.
Another Elvis tipit never seemed to end.
Well, sure, Russ said, looking over at Penny drying the dishes alone. How may I help you, sir?
There was a pause on the line before the caller spoke again. Well, you helped me out a few weeks back and I thought Id help you out now, tooyou know, with a story.
Russ craned over to the countertop and reached for a pen and small pad, the phone cord twisting around his body. And how is that? I helped you out?
You were at Shelby Court a few weeks back, the man said. I asked you not to use my picture. I was undercover, working with Memphis PD
There it was, the drop-out with the hair. Of course.
Well, the man continued, my name is Ronnie Lee Adkins. You were good to me, and I want to give you a scoop on somethingsomething going down at Forest Hills Cemetery tomorrow night.
Saturday, August 27, 1977
If this Adkins fellow was telling the truth, Russ considered, that gang of misfits better be strongand be bringing plenty of gear for the heavy lifting.
He had said as much to Penny, placing the phone back in the cradle and reading her his notes from the strange phone call. For the past two weeks, Russ had covered the death of Elvis Presley from every possible angle, including the interment at Forest Hill. He knew intimately the near-impossibility of anyone getting through those gates, let alone driving off with a casket of that weight.
He turned to Penny. These fellas would need a crane to pull this off.
Russ also knew from contacts within the Memphis PD that Shelby County deputies were working in rotation, guarding the mausoleum itself.
He hadnt enough time to wait for Saturdays shift. Right after the call with Ronnie Lee Adkins, Russ dialed his closest squad contact, Captain Tommy Smith. Listen, Tommy, I just want to make sure that you guys are aware of this, Russ had said.Before I run with this, I need to make sure Im not holding any information that could get one of your boys hurt. He repeated everything hed been told by Ronnie Lee Adkins. When he was through, Smiths answer surprised him enough that Penny froze cross the room just seeing his own reaction.
Yep, the grave robbery? Captain Smith had said. We know all about it.
Russ called ahead to his station manager at WMC-TV Memphis studios and requested a crew for a live feed later that night.
While working in Nashville, it was routine to chase down hot leads with the use of 16mm film; as an anchor here in Memphis, Russ now benefited from access to the NBC affiliates more modern equipment, namely its expensive live van.Still, hed have had to call dibs on it, since there was only the one for the entire network.
By the time he punched into his Saturday shift, Russ been on the phone with Memphis PD all day, pumping the officers for updates and keeping his name associated with the exclusivity of the story. The latter had proved easier than expected: You know, since I brought this to you guys, I was hoping we would be allowed to get up close, watch the arrest
The cops had agreed, but by Saturday afternoon, even they werent sure of the break-ins possible time. Theyd heard from their informant, but there had been no word on the time.
Not knowing didnt endear the story any further to Russ station heads, none of whom wanted their only mobile unit wandering the streets of Memphis with no guarantee of a scoop.
Russ made a deal with the manager: the stations best cameraman, Bernie, drove a white Crown Vicone that could pass for an unmarked squad vehicle.Russ grabbed him on his way out the door at 9 p.m. Hed ride to Forest Hill Cemetery with Bernie, and the mobile van would follow behind.
'Bubba! Dont move, man! Somethings wrongwe aint alone!'
Russ looked at his watch. He had the live crew for an hour and a half. After that, any grave robberies would have to be taped and edited for a later airing.
Climbing into the passenger seat of Bernies Crown Vic, Russ tuned the newsrooms communal police scanner to the familiar Memphis PD frequency, prepared to sit back and listen intently for signs of life.
He told Bernie to head towards Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Bubba Green had no choice but to consider the previous nights attempt as a dry run; no reason to tell the others it was a bust.At least now all three knew the lay-out: the streets and the checkpoints.
It was nearly midnight when, again in the backseat of Ronnie Lee Adkins Chrysler, Bubba finally spotted the appliance truck in the shadow of Route 69.
Bubba had felt furious all day. Seeing Mike in place at the underpass, the anger finally began to subside. He hadnt been able to get him on the phone until late last night, Mike apologizing, going on and on that the appliance store employees had still been working the loading dock late into the night. He couldnt have lifted any of the trucks until today, he insisted, but tonight should be fine. Sorry, brother
He had Mike recite the plan back to him over the phone, then quizzed him on the smaller details. Satisfied, Bubba hung up and called the other two, letting them know tonight was a go.
Ronnie careened off of Hernando Road south towards Forest Hill. Bubba turned his head and watched the headlights on the appliance truck flash on and off, as Mike took off the opposite direction, north on Person Avenue.
Theyd worked it out so Mike would bust his way into the cemetery through the back. Hed find Elvis massive mausoleum first, then signal the others with his military high beam. The assortment of cutting tools would be more than enough to bust the iron gate and all that marblebut theyd still have to cut their way through the fence to haul the casket itself out and into the truck.
There would be no way to cut through that undetected while they were inside doing their business, as any passing car would see the truck waiting by the west entrance. Bubba figured theyd have to bust it last on the way out.
Ten minutes to midnight. Bubba leaned forward, pointed to the coming turn street. Pull up right here like last night, he said to Ronnie, then to both Ronnie and Bruce, Wait hereIll hop in first, make sure Mikes in place.
Bubba pulled his cap low on his head as he exited to the roadside. He looked around, then hopped the cemetery fence.
Russ knew he was losing his chance at a live feed after the first half-hour had passed. It was too quiet, parked there in Bernies car outside the Forest Hill gates, even with the staccato bursts of muffled directives shooting from the scanner. With the car radio off so they could listen to the police communications, it was the first time Russ hadnt heard so much as a second of Elvis music in the past two hours.
Russ, did you hear that last part?Bernie reached over and turned up the scanners volume nob.
What did I miss, Bernie?
A Chrysler was just pulled over near the cemetery I think I heard an officer on the two-way ask his dispatcher if an undercover was in the car.
Russ bolted upright.What did he say?
It had to be them. Russ rolled down the window of the Crown Victoria and saw Hernando Avenue coming up ahead. Were going to lose the van any minute now, he said, his voice against the wind. Lets head towards the cemetery and keep an eye.
Bernie was back on Elvis Presley Boulevard in five minutes. He turned off the ignition.
It was nearly 10:30 p.m. Bernie, Russ said, lets keep that scanner cranked until they call back the van.
Bubba hit the ground running.
Hed instructed Ronnie to turn the car off, not let it idle. Best be safely inside the cemetery and set up with Mike at the crypt before hollering for the others.Scaling the cemeterys gate was easy enough, Bubba landing on his hands and one knee bent. The felt the grass cool under his hands and through the rips in his jeans. He looked up into the darkness and the sea of headstones. His eyes adjusted, and the stones slowly glowed a dull, pale gray against the black of the grass and the towering oaks and maples over a century old. Mikes flashlight would be simple to spot through the 200-acre abyss.
According to Mr. Cincinnatis aerial schematics, Elvis mausoleum should be west from his entrance over the fence. Staying low to the ground, Bubba looked around, inching his way towards the cemeterys center.
He froze in place. Was that movement up ahead? Bubba didnt see the beams of a flashlight, nothing but the dark swaying of the trees against the lighter darkness of the sky. But he could swear something had moved among the darkened shapes up ahead.
Finally, a lighta flashlight.
Mike setting up camp at the wrong fucking grave
He watched then as the small white beam vanishedthen appeared again, off to the left. He froze again. It was unmistakablenow there were two flashlights.
Either Mike wasnt alone, or it wasnt Mike at all.
There was no more time for silence: Bubba turned around on the spot, burning his knees against the ground as he scurried back towards the fence a hundred yards away.
He looked up, seeing the outline of Ronnie and Bruce in front of the gates railings and against the lights of the street behind. Theyd climbed their way inside, were both whooping and hollering, their hands in the air, making a scene.
Bubba! Ronnie called out again, his hands cupped to his mouth. Dont move, man! Somethings wrongwe aint alone!
Bubba climbed to his feet and ran towards the fence, noise and chaos be damned. Run, boys! he yelled, following behind as all three hopped back onto the street and made for the Chrysler. Ronnie ran around and took his place behind the wheel, gunning the engine before all the doors had slammed shut.
Just go, man, Bubba barked.Go straight and just keep on goin!
Ronnie took a right onto Person Avenue instead, lightning fast.
What you doin, man? Bubba cried.I said straight!
Didnt matter now. The beige Chrysler pulled onto Person, stopping short just as the inevitable came into the view for all three men: a barricade of at least half a dozen black and whites, all flashing their red and blue lights and cutting off any chance of passing through.
With them was an NBC news team.
For the better part of the last two hours, Russ had sat in the passenger seat of Bernies car, fidgeting with the wire of his mic, twirling it around his fingers like the tail of an animal. Every few minutes, Bernie double- and triple-checked the video camera on his lap.
As expected, the station had called back the mobile van. That was almost an hour and half ago. As they watched it drive off back to the network studios on Union, Russ and Bernie made themselves comfortable, both fearing a long stakeout.
Finally, five minutes after midnight, the fuzzy voice of a police two-way: Its going down.
Lets move! Russ said, unspooling the microphone wire between his fingers.Bernie revved the engine and sped to Elvis Presley Boulevard.
What with the lights and the shouting, Bubba couldnt tell just how many squad cars were actually settled in the trap, cutting off their escape. They all swarmed, taking each side of the Chrysler, pulling the boys out at once. All Bubba felt were the fists raining down.
Everything seeming to move in slow-motion, but those Miranda Rights being spouted, those were in real-time. As the officer spread Bubbas legs and laid his hands on top of the cars hood, he watched Ronnie being taken to one car and Bruce manhandled into another.
Bubba felt himself cuffed and thrown into the backseat beside Bruce. Through the window, Bubba watched Ronnie slink down in the backseat of the other vehicle.
Some reportera tall, blond fellow Bubba recognized from the weekend newswas aiming his microphone into Ronnies window, trying to get him to speak while some police were shouting at him to back off, step away from the vehicle. A cameraman was with him, the weight of a huge video unit pulling his shoulder slightly down. The two men looked tied together by electrical wires.
Bubba let out a defeated breath.There would be no money now, he knew.
There would be no Caribbean trip or paid-off bonds and loans. Matter of fact, now thered probably be a bunch more.
Fuck.Hed never get out of Memphis.
More reporters outside the window now, plus the cops and curious nobodies snooping arounda sea of snarls and grotesques. Bubba sucked wind back through his throbbing lungs slowly, each breath a little labored and deliberate.
While he focused on his breathing, Bubba wondered if Mike had gotten out of the cemetery all right, hoped he had hightailed it in the appliance truck and was already miles away. He hoped Mike would make it to Texas, where Mike claimed he had family and friends waiting for him with open arms.
'I aint no cop.' Ronnie said it low, his muscles tightened against the blade.
During the ride to Shelby County lockup, Bubba also wondered something else. Something like an itch that had been itching since Ronnie had taken it upon himself to break the silence of the night, yelling through that cemetery fence.
Bubba wondered why Ronnie was taken to a different car.
Then he wondered how Ronnie had somehow landed them directly into a barricade of waiting police cars.
POLICE CLAIM FOILING ELVIS BODYSNATCHERS!
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)Police on a stakeout at Forest Hill Cemetery captured four men after a chase Monday, foiling what authorities said was a plot to steal Elvis Presleys body and hold it for ransom.
But one of the men was freed for lack of evidence, the other three were charged with trespassing, and a police official said the plot might be hard to prove.
In a statement, Memphis police said information was received several days ago that a group of people was going to enter the cemetery, break into Presleys mausoleum, steal the body and try to ransom it.
Acting on the tip, police kept the mausoleum under watch.
On Saturday night, the statement said, suspects were seen near the cemetery but did not attempt to enter Forest Hill.Police were later informed, they said, that this had been a trial run.
The stakeout continued Sunday night, and early Monday morning, four suspects were arrested near the cemetery after having entered over the back wall, bypassing security guards, approached the mausoleum and shook the door when they were apparently frightened off.
Police Director E. Winslow Chapman said three of the men were arrested after a brief chase. The fourth was arrested at the emergency room in Baptist Hospital, where Presley was taken after he died on Aug. 16. Chapman said the fourth man apparently had sprained an ankle running from the cemetery.
Chapman said the police believe the men intended to use conventional burglary tools to break into the mausoleum, but he said no tools were recovered, although police searched the cemetery grounds and the route of the chase. The case against them would be weak without the tools for evidence, Chapman said.
Tuesday, August 30, 1977
Locked up again, facing felony charges of attempted grave robbery, body snatching, and trespassing.
A public defender had told Bubba in no certain terms: If it all stuck, grave-robbing would get him 99 years, but dont worrythe botched attempt would only get him 33.
Bubba thought: in the grand scheme of things, what the fuck was the difference?
The public defender went on, You could go up there and shoot an kill a guy, rather than let him testify against you, put your gun down, call the po-leece, tell 'em you just shot and killed 'em, come get 'ya, and youll get 30 years Or you can let him get on that witness stand, testify against you, and you get 33 yearsif they convict 'ya.
Bubba had made the error of asking what had happened to dear old Ronnie Lee Adkins. Lawyer told him, also in no uncertain terms: Leave that Adkins fella alone.
But that wasnt what Bubba heard. The way he saw it, the lawyer just confirmed Ronnie was worth more dead than alive.
Bruce knew where Ronnie lived, had his address written down. Having used what little money he had left to post bailBlue Barron always won in the endBubba went round to Bruce, told him the new plan, to be implemented immediately.
Were gonna put the fear of God into Ronnie, hed told Bruce. Let him think his life is on the line, he gets up on that stand and throws us all under a bus.
They rode over in Bruces car, playing it cool and getting Ronnie into the front seat of the car, in the passengers seat for once. Bubba got in back and instructed Bruce to drive them down Poplar Avenue all the way downtown.He told him not to stop until he could see the marshes and the Mississippi River out in front.
Parked, Ronnie felt cold steel come whip around under his chin.
You messed up real good, Bubba hissed, pressing the tip of his butterfly knife tight against Ronnies Adams apple. He ran it slow along the scratchy grain of Ronnies stubble. Real good, informing on the wrong people this time. Didnt you? he said.
Behind the wheel, Bruce kept a lookout for tourists. They came down here sometime to get a nice view of Mud Island. Ronnie kept his mouth tight, let Bubba keep talking. See, youre worth way more to me now dead than alive, Bubba said. Lawyer told me so. And I listen to the law, now on.
Bruce cracked the window. Near silence where they were, the wind through the marshes and the soft lapping of the shore nearby.
We got friends, Bubba said, his grip on the knife and its place at Ronnies jugular frozen still. And they got friends, and you know, friends of friends. Way I see it, youre in a no-win situation. You agree?
He loosened his grip just enough for Ronnie to slowly nod without cutting himself against the blade.
Well, thats good, he said, real good, Ronnie. So, heres what were going to do: were going to drive you up to Baptist Memorial Hospital, drop you off, and youre gonna tell them youre a Memphis City policeman suffering chest pains the last few days. But you hear me? You fucking tell them youre a cop.
I aint no cop.Ronnie said it low, his muscles tightened against the blade.
Dont matter to me, said Bubba. Not at this point. But youre gonna tell them that, get pinched for impersonation.
Why would I do that?We all already facing charges, man.
Bubba tightened his grip again. I want you discredited, got it? You even think about turning us out on that witness stand, I want you seen as a lying sack of shit whose word aint worth nothing. Your testimony wont be no good. I already know youre a liarbut I want it on fucking record youre one.
He paused, listened to the stillness surrounding the car. Seagulls hung over the river. I mean, he said, flicking the butterfly back into its sheath, theres more truth in that than anything else, right?
ELVIS RETURNS HOME!
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)In death, Elvis Presley returned to his mansion in much the same manner as he went in lifewith secrecy and tight security.
Two white hearses carried the bodies of Presley and his mother, Gladys Smith Presley, from Forest Hill Cemetery to the grounds of Graceland unannounced Sunday night.
The hearses, escorted by eight Memphis policemen and five Shelby County Sheriffs deputies, traveled south without disruption down Elvis Presley Boulevard, three miles from the cemetery to the mansion.
The Presley family received unanimous approval from zoning officials last week for the transfer. Lawyers for the family said security and privacy were reasons for the request as well as the inconvenience caused to other families with loved ones at the cemetery by Elvis crowds.
About 100 fans watched as the hearses entered the mansion grounds from the rear entrance shortly after 7 p.m.
Tuesday, October 4, 1977
The story ran on WMC-TV on Sunday morning. It wasnt the live feed Russ had envisioned, catching the grave robbers redhanded, but hed still gotten the scoop Ronnie Lee Adkins promised.
Russ observation that the Crown Victoria closely resembled an unmarked squad car proved correct: The cops had waved them right through the Forest Hill gates. At Elvis mausoleum, hed leapt out and quickly struck a pose with the mic, reporting the nights events against the mausoleums marble wall.They used the cars high-beams to light the shot. Russ then shot a clip inside Elvis private chamber.
Elvis grave would always remain the only part of the Graceland tour that was free of charge.
Spliced together with Bernies footage of Raymond Bubba Green, Bruce Nelson, and Ronnie Lee Adkins being carted away, the completed clip aired as Sundays lead story. Phone calls started almost immediately, Russ NBC parents and the National Enquirer within the first few hours of its airing.
The Enquirer should have known better than push Russ and Bernie to hand over even a single frame to a competitive news source. But when it came to the honchos at their parent network, any footage shot with studio equipment was up for grabs. They handed over the raw footage, seeing every NBC affiliate in America use the material for their own coverage on the story.
Forget taking a bullet on Dick Clarks blooper reel. On August 29, Russ finally reached a national audiencejust as he had promised the station managers.
As he had expected, new of the attempted theft of the Kings body quickly spread, especially in Memphis. Only weeks after Elvis had been tucked and shelved in his mink-lined crypt, the botched grave robbery proved another excuse for Elvis wide-reaching constituency to gather en masse around both Forest Hill and the locked gates of Graceland.
Also as he expected, Russ had to cover it all for WMC-TV Memphis: the arrests, the aftermath, the eventual arraignment and, finally that October, the most unexpected twist of it allthe dismissal.
It was months later that Russ was again at Shelby County District Court, watching in disbelief as a judge announced that Green, Nelson, and Adkins were to be set free, let go, the judge declaring Adkins as too unreliable a witness to even take his word at face value.
Only Russ knew Adkins had been the tipster, the informant the one to call him at home, for Chrissake. No one in law enforcement would say it in a courtroom, but Russ wondered if the judge been fed instructions to let Adkins walk, his clandestine status within the Memphis PD earning him some form of immunity.
Or, Russ also wondered, had someone gotten to the judge?
Russ never got the answer, but he did cover every detail of the grave robberys strange aftermath. The same week as the delinquent crews dismissal, Vernon Presley successfully circumvented the longstanding zoning codes in Shelby County, granting him permission for the legal transfer of his beloved son and wife, Gladys, back to Graceland. He wanted them home, under the shade of the trees in the backyard, right there beside Elvis swimming pool.
The Presley family later called it The Meditation Garden, even put up a plaque.
Later on, after Graceland later became Memphis greatest tourist attraction, drawing thousands of fans from around the world to take the tour, see his shag-carpeted living room and his famed white porcelain monkey, his gold Cadillac and personal jets parked outside, and his sequined jumpsuits and matching capes, all under glass next to a television set hed used for target practice Even then, Elvis grave would always remain the only part of the tour that was free of charge.
Elvis loved visitors.
Before he and Penny moved on to Denver a few years later, Russ Ruffin decided that MemphisElvis Memphishad been good to him.
Years later, long after his Memphis days, Russ remembered something.
He had been finishing up breakfast with Penny, thumbing through that mornings newspaper and saw an article that jogged loose memory from 1977: It was right before the dismissal at Shelby County Court.
That week in September, Russ had received another phone call at home and hadnt thought about it in over 20 years. When it had happened, however, he had half-expected the call to be from Ronnie Lee Adkins, since another hearing was coming up.
It had been a weekday, Russ remembered, Penny out running errands when the kitchen phone rang.
This Russ Ruffin from the TV?
It wasnt Ronnie, it was another voice, a new one only slightly familiar. It sure is, Russ said, What can I do for you?
There was a pause, the voice taking a deep breath before going on. Well, you know who I am, but we aint ever actually spoke Names Raymond Green.
Russ had watched Bubba Greens arraignment the previous week. Russ reached for his pad and pen. Well, hello there, Mr. Green. Yes, I do know your name, and Ive been covering everything about your case, as you may know.
I do, he said. Listen Just so you know, it aint nothing like you heard.
Russ didnt say a word, let the man continue.
You know, my story I mean, said Bubba Green. What you seen in the newspapers. Nothing like you heard. I got a story for youafter my hearing.
But after the hearing, Bubba Green was gone. So was Ronnie Lee Adkins.
Russ remembered all of that, sitting in his kitchen in Denver, reading the newspaper and tearing out an article to show Penny across the table.
The story in the paper was about a former FBI informant changing his name in Witness Protection. Ronnie Tyler.
FBI WITNESS: PRESLEY CLAN STAGED GRAVE-ROBBING
Informant says pop hatched plot to move Kings plot to Graceland
(WorldNetDaily) MEMPHIS, Tenn.
August 15, 2002
An FBI informant involved in a plot to steal Elvis Presleys body shortly after the rock idol died 25 years ago claims the Presley family staged the grave-robbing to persuade Memphis officials to move him from the public cemetery to Graceland, now a $15 million-a-year tourist attraction, a veteran FBI agent told WorldNetDaily.
The late Vernon Presley, the Kings father and executor of his estate at the time, wanted his son buried on mansion grounds, but it was not an area zoned for burials.
So three weeks after Elvis died of a heart attack, he had lawyers for the Presley estate petition the Memphis Shelby County Board of Adjustment for a zoning variance. They cited what they called an attempted theft of Presleys body several days earlier and the expense of round-the-clock security.
Three men were arrested Aug. 29, 1977, near the Forest Hill Cemetery mausoleum where Elvis was entombed in a 900-pound copper coffin. One of them was Ronnie Tyler, who later became an FBI informant.
Tyler had been in cahoots with a crooked deputy sheriff, who swooped down and captured the thieves, said Ivian C. Smith, former head of the FBIs Arkansas office. The scheme had been hatched after the Memphis board had refused the Presley familys request to bury Elvis at Graceland, he said.
The Memphis board on Sept. 28, 1977 OKd Presleys request to move his sons body to Graceland. And the singer, dressed in a white suit with dark-blue tie and light-blue shirt, was reburied there Oct. 2.
After the theft, the county made an exception to the lawand Tyler was charged with misdemeanor trespassing, said Smith.
AUTHORS NOTE ON SOURCES
This article was written with the aid of Russell Ruffin, who was generous enough to offer a comprehensive interview regarding his participation in the original arrests of Ronnie Lee Adkins, Raymond Green, and Bruce Nelson.
Likewise, the Shelby County Historical Commission was patient and helpful in supplying details and fact-checking for dates and details regarding the numerous events and media coverage of Elvis Presleys death and burial in August 1977.
Quotes and details regarding Raymond Green are courtesy of Tri-Marq Communications and WTMJ Television, Milwaukee, which provided the only existing transcripts of Greens initial interviews.
Ronnie Lee Adkins, now Tyler, remains an active informant for the FBI, and his background information and current whereabouts do not fall under the guidelines of the Freedom of Information Act.
Other sources include:
Guralnick, Peter. Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. Boston, New York, London, Little Brown and Company, 1999.
Smith, I. C. Inside: A Top G-Man Exposes Spies, Lies, and Bureaucratic Bungling Inside the FBI.Thomas Nelson Incorporated, Nashville, 2004.
Associated Press, Elvis Returns Home, October 4, 1977.
Associated Press, Police Claim Foiling Elvis Bodysnatchers, September 2, 1977.
McCabe, Scott. The Plot to Steal Elvis Body Gets Weirder, The Washington Examiner, August 28, 2012.
Sperry, Paul.FBI Witness: Presley Clan Staged Elvis Grave-Robbing, WorldNewDaily.com, August 15, 2002.
1. Who you are becoming doesn’t have 2-day shipping. You can’t expect to arrive by just announcing you want to change. The person you want to be will show up day by day as you do, with your head down willing to do the work.
2. In this life, you are either acting in love or acting in fear. Stop yourself and figure out which space you’re living in. As Hannah Brencher says, “With love, there’s always more leftover. Fear shrinks and shrivels. Fear has an expiration date. But love keeps on growing keeps on giving with more than enough for everyone.”
3. Putting yourself first isn’t selfish. Do what you gotta do, girl. Take care of yourself. Make time for books, reflection, writing, meditation, baking, and naps. You’ll be able to love others more when you love yourself more. Care for yourself, then others. A crippled nurse isn’t much help in a warzone.
4. Watch what you eat. On social media. On television. With who you listen to, who you go to for advice, and the energy you surround yourself with. What you intake is either poison or medicine for you. Take in things and thoughts and energy that leaves you feeling full in love and peace and positivity, not empty with fear and envy and negativity.
5. Confidence and loving yourself isn’t just “feeing yourself” when your outfit is cute and you’re having a good hair day. It’s believing in yourself first, before anyone else, and sustaining that belief even when you’re struggling. Confidence is the choice to be yourself and love yourself regardless of other people’s judgments. It starts with choosing to look at yourself, your good parts and bad, and accepting all of it.
6. Take responsibility for your actions. If you can’t admit you’re wrong, you might be missing out on a powerful lesson.
7. Mountaintop moments are fun, but the real work is done in the valleys of this life. Dig in deep. Find out why you’re here. Find out who you are meant to become. The waiting isn’t idle, there is work to be done. Our valley moments are where the universe takes us to batter us into the person that has the strength to conquer mountains. Rejoice when you are in the valley, for this is your becoming.
8. Your reason determines your reward. Go into anything and everything with your entire heart or not at all.
9. Learn to say yes to the tests of your heart. Learn to stop running from darkness and hard times. Learn to love the dirt from which you grow that transforms you.
10. “He who is without sin shall cast the first stone.” Remember that.
11. In a world that seems entirely focused on building an image, focus on building character. This is inner work, the work that takes time and has ups and downs. It is work that isn’t found in our Instagram highlight reels but in the bloopers and behind-the-scenes moments that leave us on the floor asking, “Where do I go now? How do I build from this?” And let me tell you, building from the bottom is often the most difficult, but best, place to start.
12. Measure chocolate chips for a recipe not with a cup or a scale, but with your heart.
13. Root yourself here, in this moment. This present moment demands you be in it so you can enjoy it and learn from it.
14. Send letters. Tons and tons of handwritten letters. Buy flowers. Fill notebooks with how much you love people. Show your support, and not in the internet’s equivalent of a side hug in the form of likes and comments. Go to events. Sit with people and laugh. Hold their hand while they cry. Make the people who matter to you a priority.
15. Weed your garden. It may look okay one day so you decide to leave it, and then all of a sudden everything is looking a little less lively. Weed your garden daily. Face lies straight on, the lies filled with “can’t” and “won’t” and fear and replace them with seedlings of truth based in love.
16. “This too shall pass” applies to everything, the good and the bad. One day you’ll look back and thank the times you never thought you’d make it through. You’ll also look back on the great days when your cheeks hurt from laughing so much and call them “the good ole days.” Be grateful for both and live in them, as they’re both fleeting.
17. You’ll never regret loving with your entire heart. There may be times when that heart gets broken, but don’t let it shrink your capacity to love.
18. Don’t let anyone tell you when it’s appropriate to listen to Christmas music. Listen in July if you want to, babe.
19. You’re going to have to let go of some things to make room for what is coming. Let the pruning happen. Pruning is defined in the dictionary as “to trim (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.” The Universe isn’t trying to destroy the tree, it’s helping it grow. Let go of the things in life that are taking up your space for growth.
20. Please, please, please just trust and wait. Trust your people. Trust your process. You’ll never know everything, and you probably don’t want to. Be hungry for the long haul and be there for more than just an Instagram highlight reel. Where you are is no accident. Where you’re going is where you are meant to go. Dig in, do the work, and appreciate that work. Don’t waste the present moment trying to get somewhere you aren’t meant to be. You are exactly where you should be.