Sun, Jul 02, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Koizumi rocks and croons at Graceland

AP , MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi wears an actual pair of Elvis' legendary sunglasses and does an Elvis dance on Friday as Priscilla Presley, Lisa-Marie Presley and US President George W. Bush watch during a VIP tour of Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.

PHOTO: AFP

US President George W. Bush and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stopped by Elvis Presley's famed mansion, Graceland, ending the Japanese leader's trip on a light note.

It did not take much coaxing from Bush on Friday to get Koizumi to croon some Presley tunes.

"You're a pretty good Elvis singer,'' Bush told Koizumi, an avid Presley fan.

That was all the prodding the freewheeling Japanese prime minister needed.

"Love me tender, love me sweet," Koizumi sang.

"Wise men say, only fools rush in ..."

"We need a karaoke machine," joked Priscilla Presley, mother of Presley's only child, Lisa Marie. Koizumi donned a pair of sunglasses that Elvis wore in the 1972 concert film, Elvis on Tour, and hugged Lisa Marie. "Hold me close. Hold me tight," he sang to her.

Then Koizumi bent down, swung his arm as if strumming a guitar and sang, "Glory, glory, hallelujah," a refrain from the Battle Hymn of the Republic, also part of the Presley repertoire.

The visit to Graceland was the highlight of the outgoing Japanese leader's two-day visit with Bush, a kind of sayonara summit to illustrate how their personal friendship has helped bring US-Japan relations closer than at any time since the end of World War II.

"This visit here shows that not only am I personally fond of the prime minister, but the ties between our peoples are very strong as well," Bush said.

It was Bush's first visit to Presley's white brick mansion.

"My first visit, too," Koizumi said, standing in a gaudy, wood-paneled den known as the Jungle Room, a place where Presley hung out with his buddies. "It's like a dream -- with President Bush and Presley's daughter."

Bush, first lady Laura Bush and Koizumi drove through the gates of Graceland in a shiny, black limousine adorned with the flags of both nations, as though they were making a formal diplomatic visit.

After they got out, the scene turned surreal.

Here was Bush, who did not stop off at the Taj Mahal while in India, touring the home of a music star who died in his bathroom of heart disease and drug abuse in 1977.

Instead of walking down red carpets to review troops, Bush and Koizumi strode over green shag that lined the floors and ceiling of the den. Instead of elegant furniture and chandeliers, they posed for photos in a room decorated with white ceramic monkeys and wooden chairs with armrests carved in the shape of animal heads.

Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, snapped photos of the Japanese delegation in front of Elvis' 1955 pink Cadillac with whitewall tires. "I loved the [lamp] shade they had covered with faux fur," Rove said.

Graceland was closed to tourists when Lisa Marie and her mother escorted the dignitaries around the 5.7-hectare estate, showing them the glossy black baby-grand piano, a 4.6m white sofa in the living room, Presley's burial site and his gold records, guitars and costumes.

It was all Elvis all day.

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