It was shortly before 3 a.m. yesterday, just as the bar was closing at the headquarters hotel for the Democratic midterm convention, when Bob Keefe strode in and yelled, "Come on, we're going to Graceland."
With that, two dozen party-goers -- including two congressmen, White House aides, reporters and two young Memphis men who joined the party by mistake -- followed Keefe, a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, out of the Rivermont and onto a chartred bus to take them to the estate of Elvis Presley.
Before the 2-hour odyssey ended at 5 a.m., the participants had stopped for a drink at the home of one of the congressmen, Rep. Harold E. Ford (D-Tenn.), convinced a guard to open the gates at the estate of the late rock idol, and held a free-for-all doughnut fight in a Dunkin' Donut Shop.
Jeff Mozo, 20, a truck driver for Kroger supermarkets, and Mike Farrell, 19, a freshman at Auburn University, said they boarded a city bus thinking it would take them home. But when they attempted to drop 50 cents in the fare box, driver Houston Gaines, apparently thinking they were part of the party, told them there was no charge.
Suddenly they were caught up in a spirited party in which White House pollster Pat Caddell and Rep. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) led songs and Ford gave a tour-guide spiel about his city.
The first stop on a circuitous journey was Ford's home, where earlier in the evening the congressman had hosted a dinner for 50 top Democrats, including HEW Secretary Joseph Califano.
Mozo and Farrell, wearing ski jackets, milled around the kitchen, alternately giving each other do-you-believe-this glances and being introduced to the political celebrities who also included presidential assistant Greg Schneiders.
"They'll never believe this at school," grinned Farrell. "No one will believe this," added Mozo.
Chanting "Graceland, Graceland," and "Elvis lives," the disparate crew piled onto the bus again and set off for Memphis' top tourist attraction. Singing off-key versions of "Blue Suede Shoes" and "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog," the portable party pressed on.
When the bus arrived outside the stone wall that surrounds the mansion, Ford hushed the crowd, got off the bus and talked to a security guard.
Then the great iron gates were pulled open, and as the gang cheered, the bus pulled up to the front door. Again, Ford asked for quiet, got off the bus and had a talk with security guards.
He was not successful in the attempt to get a tour of the inside -- a guard explained that at 4 a.m. Presley's father was asleep -- but everyone got off the bus and milled around the outside of the mansion.
The final stop was the doughnut shop.
Ford and Dodd charged in, told waitress Sharon Melton, "Don't worry, we'll just be here a few minutes." Then the congressmen went behind the counter and began passing out trays of doughnuts.
Someone tossed a doughnut, and suddently the air was filled with flying chocolate, jelly and glazed goodies.
The bewildered waitress stood at the cash register and stuffed money in a drawer, saying she wasn't sure how to account for the sales.
Would the money -- $35 by one count -- cover the cost of cleaning up and paying for the merchandise?
"I hope so," she said. "I've only worked here a week."
Dodd was the last to reborard the bus, and when he did, he was pelted with a barrage of doughnuts.
As the bus returned to the Rivermont Holiday Inn, Dodd and several others pleaded witha a reporter not to write about the trip.
"This whole thing was off the record," said Dodd, wiping sugar coating from his face.