Imagine this: 50 million Elvis fans are going to wash that man right into their hair.
And 50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong.
That's what the people at Natural Choice Industries are betting -- even though 50 million might be a slightly exaggerated estimate. Later this month they'll unveil Love Me Tender, a cosmetics line centered on shampoo but including a conditioning rinse, moisturizing lotion and moisturizing milk bath.
Each bottle will go for around $3. For about $16, you'll get a commemorative gift pack with a bronze coin emblazoned with Elvis' image.
Also on the Elvis memorial souvenir front, and scheduled to appear this month: Elvis Presley's Musical Hound Dog, a stuffed-toy replica of the famous mutt (complete with silk top hat) that Elvis sang to on "The Steve Allen Show" one July night in 1956.
In the hound's belly is a chip that plays a medley of Elvis tunes: "Hound Dog," "Love Me Tender," "My Way," "Are You Lonesome Tonight?," "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Surrender."
The 15-inch-long, 9 1/2-inch-high Hound-Dog, manufactured by Chicago's Yorkshire Co., will be available next month for $29.95; with the top hat, bow tie and Elvis name embroidered on the right ear, it already made an appearance on David Letterman's show.
"We thought this was a good opportunity," says Yorkshire president Hy Khan. "Elvis is dead in body but not in spirit."
The shampoo will not have a chip, though the possibilities are intriguing: "Always on My Mind"? "Harum Scarum"? Chips, incidentally, are all the rage; look for a musical Elvis T-shirt and the Elvis musical pop-up book from Crown.
The Love Me Tender line will be unveiled on Thursday at a press conference at Presley's Graceland mansion in Memphis. The first national promotion will take place May 3 and 4 at the Elvis Presley Museum at Potomac Mills Mall, the largest Presley museum aside from Graceland.
The last special event there drew 25,000 Elvis fans in one day.
"We decided that since part of Elvis' legend was that he had this great hair, it would fit very nicely and work as a hair- and body-care line," explains Gary Scaife, who came up with the idea for Love Me Tender. (His California-based Natural Choice Industries had previously come up with Pink Panther Hot Cocoa and soft drink mixes, plus Popeye Punch, fruit juices using the Popeye, Olive Oyl and Swee'Pea characters.)
"This is the first time Elvis himself has ever been used on a mass-appeal item, as opposed to a collectible," said Scaife. "We wanted to do something, with the continued growth of Elvis' popularity and next year's being the 10th anniversary of his passing."sw sk
Mark Roesler of Curtis Licensing in Indianapolis (it licenses about 140 products with Elvis' name and likeness for the Presley estate) says: "Love Me Tender has the potential to be the most successful licensing program that the estate has ever been involved with. We're talking seven figures."
Curtis, which also handles such celebrity estates and properties as James Dean, Buddy Holly, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin and Abbott and Costello, took on the Presley estate four years ago after a series of lawsuits returned control of the Elvis Presley name and image from his manager, Col. Tom Parker, to the estate.
Scaife, says Roesler, "is the one who has his thumb on the marketplace and how much people are going to be buying, but the numbers I hear are staggering."
One estimate for first-year sales is from 5 million to 10 million units.
The Presley estate must approve all licenses, and it maintains quality control. It also has approval on final product, artwork and advertising.
Although it may have seemed like it, Elvis didn't invent cross-merchandising. About 100 years earlier, when Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, was making her first American tour, the singer's name was attached to everything from gloves, parasols and combs to teakettles, sausages and billiard tables. Her manager? P.T. Barnum.
Folks felt Elvis' manager, Parker, had a bit of Barnum in him, and sure enough, in 1956, there were 78 different Elvis products on the market, including bobby socks and blue suede shoes, diaries, bubble gum and the first (and apparently only previous) cosmetic line, Elvis Presley Lipsticks, which came in Tutti Frutti Red, Hound Dog Orange, Love Ya Fuchsia, Cruel Red and Heartbreak Hotel Pink.
There was also a nonsinging version of Elvis' hound dog.
In that first year, Presley and Parker made close to a million dollars from the marketing (at between 6 and 11 percent of the wholesale prices).
For the next 20 years Presley products were abundant, and his death in August 1977 did not stanch the flow. Much of the Elvis memorabilia and merchandise on the market today is unlicensed, but among the 140 legitimate products are greeting cards, post cards, belt buckles, tapestries, calendars, porcelain dolls, paneling, grandfather clocks, shower curtains, Christmas ornaments, blankets.
The most recent success has been Elvis Presley collector's dolls from New York's World Doll Co. Coming in several versions, they were the most successful collectible dolls in history; more than 100,000 were sold. The top-line model, in a limited edition of 750, sold for $2,500. Made of porcelain, it featured Elvis dressed in a duplicate of the leather jump suit he wore at the "Aloha From Hawaii" concert, complete with numerous stones embedded in it and a diamond in the belt buckle. Each doll also has a portion of an authentic Elvis scarf (packed for the last tour, but never worn) and a ticket from his last concert in Cincinnati.
There was a less expensive version ($350) plus a vinyl doll in one of four costumes ($90 each).
"We also did Scarlett and Rhett [from 'Gone With the Wind']," says World President Steve Strouse, "and they sold pretty well, but not anywhere near what Elvis Presley has. He was a real cult hero."