Elvis soulful, Elvis sassy. The many images of "The King," departed but never dethroned, stared up from the auction tables outside Azar Storage Co. here today.
Elvis on a deck of cards, Elvis on a plastic coffee mug, Elvis to hang from the Christmas tree.
The occasion was the auction of Elvis Presley memorabilia collected by Asa and Drema Anderson during their 13 years of marriage. The Glen Burnie couple, who divorced in July, could not decide how to divide their mementoes, so a judge ordered instead that they auction off the items and share the proceeds.
"This is the King's day," declared auctioneer Robert Campbell, 66, a dapper figure with a stiff white moustache and wooden cane. "Snooze and you lose."
About 150 people -- many of them women wearing shiny jackets decorated with teddy bears and silhouettes of the singer -- eagerly sifted through crates containing books, magazines, movie posters, bumper stickers and more than 6,000 records. Elvis himself provided the background music via a 1955 green-and-gold Wurlitzer jukebox, the showpiece of the auction.
Anne Bishop of Baltimore brought along Elvis, her 1-year-old terrier, who peeked out from a blanket cradled in her arms. Terry Smith of Baltimore, who faithfully travels to Graceland each year to commemorate Elvis Presley's birthday and the anniversary of his death, coveted a box of skinny black-and-pink neckties. Asa and Drema Anderson, who in happier days named their elder son Elvis, eyed each other coldly from opposite sides of the crowd.
Theirs is a bitter parting. Asa (Ace) Anderson, a 37-year-old truck driver, said his ex-wife never cared about Elvis and that he was the one who had collected the Elvis souvenirs since 1956. Drema Anderson, a 30-year-old quality control inspector at a factory, said her ex-husband never cared about Elvis and that he collected the mementoes only with the idea of making money from them.
He said she had sold the choicest items from the collection before the auction. She said he smuggled away the best things to his mother's house. He vowed to start anew with a better-than-ever collection and, indeed, was the winning bidder on many items today. She vowed never to look at an Elvis movie again: "I want to get all that out of my life," she said.
Domestic disputes aside, the auction was an opportunity for Elvis fans to add to personal collections and consider once again the magic that was -- and they contend, still is -- Elvis. No matter how many unflattering books are printed, no matter how many ugly stories about Elvis' last years continue to surface, this was a loyal crowd.
"People always tried to put Elvis down and hurt Elvis," said Ace Anderson, adding that he is friends with Presley's double first cousin. "People can say anything about you when you're dead. I look at it this way -- Elvis has been dead for eight years and his popularity not only continues, it increases. Who else can say that?"
"Elvis started at the bottom and worked his way up," said Jimmy Boyle, 40, of Severn, holding an Elvis shopping list written by his wife Sandy, who was unable to attend the auction. "About those other things, well, he was only human, too, I guess."
At precisely 11 a.m., auctioneer Campbell climbed onto a stepladder and instructed an assistant to turn up the volume on the jukebox. The crowd quieted as Elvis warbled "America the Beautiful," and then the bidding began.
Janet Diggs, a beautician, forked out $175 for a white porcelain whiskey bottle -- a swivel-hipped Elvis with a music box base.
"Well, I have a collection of Elvis whiskey bottles," said Diggs, who lives in Owings Mill, "and this is one I didn't have."
The bidding continued: A silk-screen mirror featuring Elvis with a shock of hair falling steamily into his eyes -- sold! A box of Elvis Presley dog tag bracelets and belt buckles -- sold! Stacks of the posthumous recording, "God Called Elvis Home" -- sold!
Shirley Smith of York, Pa., shopping for additions to the "Elvis Room" in her home, summed up the spirit of the buyers.
"I have pretty near everything you can have," she said, "but I can never get enough of Elvis."