Sandra Luther was 16 years old in the summer of 1964 when her mom let her spend afternoons at the famed MGM Studios in their Culver City, California, neighborhood. She was hanging with a guard named George when this nice-looking man approached. ?George, who?s that?? she asked. ?Elvis Presley,? he said.
?I didn?t scream or holler like all the girls did in the ?50s,? Luther says. ?I waited until he came down to where the gate was and I said, ?Mr. Presley, could I have your autograph?? He said, ?Sure.??
?I didn?t know who he was ? I didn?t care?it?s an autograph of some movie star, and I?ll know who he is later on.?
Four years later, on December 3, 1968, she was inches away from a television screen, mesmerized, watching the King?s ?Comeback Special? on NBC, and a lifelong obsession was born. ?He is and always will be the sexiest man to me.?
The first time she traveled to Las Vegas to see Elvis perform at The International in 1970, she saved the menu and a few items people had left behind. She made the pilgrimage twice a year through 1975 to be part of his historic, sold-out series. Today, she notes the coincidence that Elvis? Vegas runs began each year in January and August, the months of his birth and death.
The piece of paper signed serendipitously nearly 50 years ago is hidden, but Luther?s doublewide trailer in east Las Vegas is filled with all things Elvis, collected primarily at swap meets in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. ?He?s in my bedroom, my den, my dining room, my living room. He?s got his own room, which is called the Elvis room, and there are one or two items in the laundry room. And there?s one shower curtain,? says Luther, now 64.
Posters, paintings, puzzles, postcards and plates make up just part of the collection. If an item has Elvis? name or image, Luther has it: books, records, cassettes, 8-tracks, glassware, spoons, stamps, neckties, belt buckles, key rings, candy tins, music boxes, license plates, statues, hound dogs, bingo daubers, music boxes and liquor decanters. A tapestry she won in a drawing in Memphis is prominently displayed; a storage unit holds more.
She hasn?t tabulated the total number of pieces or their value. She never sells items, but donates to two fan clubs of which she is a member?All Shook Up N Vegas and Viva Las Vegas Fans for Elvis?for charity fundraisers.
Luther, who recalls she took about three years to get over the singer?s death in 1977, says hers is an almost-spiritual connection. She feels the tap on the shoulder and the nudge to go to swap meets to find more. She grows quiet when asked how she would feel if she had to part with an item.
?Any and all of it would be a lot. ? If I had a fire, I might as well stand in here and go with it.?