TUPELO WANTS BIGGER PIECE OF ELVIS
By Memphis Commercial Appeal
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Mississippi-born Memphian Mike McCarthy has devoted much of his life to scratching the itch of his Elvis obsession with art. He's created comic books with
such characters as
"Psychedelvis" and "Rebelvis," and movies with such titles as "Damselvis, Daughter of Helvis" and "Elvis Meets the Beatles."
Needless to say, these were not Graceland-authorized projects.

But now McCarthy has gone Elvis-legit, so to speak, uniting his distinctive indie-cult sensibility with the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau to create a
short film titled
"Tupelove," set to appear Monday at tupelo.net, to promote the town where Presley was born 77 years ago today.

The 15-minute film marks the start of a major effort by Tupelo
"to reinvest in Elvis," in the words of Neal McCoy, 37, executive director of the Tupelo
Convention and Visitors Bureau. Members who travel with ElvisMatters will go to Tupelo too, of course. The hope is that the city will be able to cut itself a
larger slice of the multimillion-dollar Presley tourism pie.

The enterprise is expected to hit its high point during
Elvis Tribute Week in August, when a life-size $50,000 statue of Presley is unveiled in the green park
space near Tupelo's City Hall.

The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau is paying for a life-size Elvis Presley statue to be installed in front of City Hall. The sculpture will replicate a 1956
photo by Roger Marshutz of Presley performing at a homecoming concert in Fairpark. The statue will be on a four-foot-tall platform and will be reaching down
to the crowd.
“People will be able to reach up” and try to touch the statue like audience members did in the picture, said Neal McCoy, executive director of the
CVB.

The statue will be in the grass between the dancing fountain and the Coldwell Banker Tommy Morgan Realtors building, he said. Bill Beckwith has been hired
to do the sculpture. Beckwith’s other works include Chief Piomingo in Fairpark, BB King in Indianola and William Faulkner on Oxford’s Square.

The Tupelo CVB board has allocated $50,000 to the project. The entire project is going to cost $75,000 to $80,000. The CVB has partnered with the Tupelo
Elvis Presley Fan Club for the project. McCoy said the fan club is going to raise the remaining money.

With a population of about 37,000, Tupelo attracted 40,271 visitors to the Elvis Presley birthplace during the 2010-2011 fiscal year -- or "closer to 55,000,
once you add the tire-kickers," McCoy said, referring to people who stop to look but don't buy a ticket or enter the building. He said the estimated economic
impact of tourism in Tupelo in 2011 was close to $69 million.

McCoy said the Tupelo Elvis experience complements rather than competes with Graceland and Memphis. "Our message is 'Elvis the Boy' -- what formed and
shaped Elvis up until he was 13 and the family left to go to Memphis."

McCarthy said 2012 will be not only "an incredible year for Elvis appreciation in Tupelo," but it's "a special Elvis anniversary year. Elvis would be 77 on his
birthday, which is his death year (1977). And he's been dead 35 years, which is his birth year (1935)."

McCarthy's interest in such unusual connections makes "Tupelove" more than a typical tourism promotion. "I said, can it be the type of piece that explores
roads that are not often traveled? Can we show the Elvis history that hardcore fans know about, but other people don't?," he said.

Shot in October on a budget of about $10,000, the film stars New York-born, Memphis-based actor Corey Parker as a traveling businessman stranded in
Verona, Miss., just south of Tupelo, where Elvis' parents, Vernon and Gladys Presley, were married. A charming young woman (Memphis actress/musician
Amy LaVere) in a 1957 Chevrolet convertible (borrowed from the Tupelo Automobile Museum) gives the man a tour of relevant Tupelo-area sites, including
the graveyard where Presley's stillborn twin, Jesse Garon Presley, was buried, and Johnnie's Drive-In restaurant, "where Elvis used to hang out and eat
hamburgers," McCoy said. "You can still go there and eat a hamburger just like Elvis ate."

LaVere's character also shares "profound" bits of Elvis history and yore. For example, the boy who would be the King was a fan of the boy superhero Captain
Marvel Jr., whose caped costume presaged Elvis' jumpsuits.

McCarthy became interested in the tourism job after meeting Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing director Sean Johnson, a fan of McCarthy's
1995 neo-exploitation film, "Teenage Tupelo." McCoy said "Tupelove" is "a little different from (McCarty's) typical films. We made sure the message was going
to present Tupelo in a positive light, and show what formed Elvis to become what he was, the original American Idol."

"Tupelove" is narrated by D.J. Fontana, Elvis' original drummer, who concludes: "Elvis never forgot Tupelo."

WATCH 'TUPELOVE'