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Even at 70, even dead, Elvis draws a crowd

Published Aug. 24, 2005

Would the pompadour be gray? Would arthritis have stilled the swiveling hips? Would the lip now curl above false teeth?

If he were still alive, Elvis Presley would have turned 70 Saturday. But old age and the unfortunate problem of being deceased haven't slowed down the King.

"There's no age to him," said Jerry Engelby, one of 800 or so fans gathered on Graceland's front lawn for a cake cutting and Happy Birthday sing-along. "He's just Elvis."

For the faithful, with Good Rockin' Tonight blasting from a pair of speakers, Elvis was as hot (or as cool) as ever.

That he was born in 1935 and died in 1977 did little to tarnish the fans' memories of a rock 'n' roll rebel or bespangled star.

"In the movies we're watching, he's still just Elvis. The songs we're hearing, he's still just Elvis," said Engelby, 62, of Jefferson City, Mo., who wears pink and black to Graceland because Presley favored those colors early in his career.

That career, which began in 1954, is still strong, too, with Presley's run as a star lasting longer after death than in life. And now, at 70, Elvis may be on the cusp of a whole new phase in his career.

Elvis Presley Enterprises, the business arm of the estate, brought in $45-million last year, making Elvis one of the top-earning dead entertainers in the world.

Robert F.X. Sillerman, the founder of music and sports promoter SFX Entertainment, is in the process of buying 85 percent of the estate's assets. He plans to take the business public and look for new markets for Elvis ventures.

Many in the birthday crowd at Graceland were from abroad, including several hundred in a tour group from Great Britain.

Ester Blajer, 59, of Buenos Aires said she believes Presley would have turned more to gospel music had he not died young.

As a teenager, Blajer wrote to a celebrity magazine's pen pal page and began corresponding with other Elvis fans around the world.

"One pen pal, we have been writing for 42 years," Blajer said. "I just spent Christmas and New Year with her in Madison, Wis."