MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Elvis left the building years ago, but Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi channeled his spirit Friday during a visit to the performer’s Graceland mansion.
Standing next to President Bush in the garish “jungle room,” a Polynesian-inspired sanctuary filled with fake-fur chairs, ceramic monkeys and green shag carpet on the floor and ceiling, Koizumi broke into song. He crooned a few lines from “Love Me Tender” and “Fools Rush In,” before slipping on a pair of Elvis Presley’s signature sunglasses and attempting a few gyrations. At 64, he couldn’t swivel his hips quite like the King in his prime.
Still, he ended with a classic late-Elvis flourish, crouching, waving his arm in a windmill and singing, “Glooory, glooory, haaalleluuujah!”
It was perhaps the most bizarre moment in one of the strangest road trips in diplomatic history – a U.S. president and a Japanese prime minister paying homage to The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Bush’s black presidential limousine swept past Presley’s pink Cadillac as he and Koizumi arrived for a tour led by Presley’s former wife, Priscilla, and his daughter, Lisa Marie. The Presleys seemed to enjoy Koizumi’s performance almost as much as he did.
“We need a karaoke machine,” Presley’s former wife joked during Koizumi’s jungle-room show.
Bush took his pal to the rock ‘n’ roll shrine as payback for Koizumi’s steadfast support and friendship. Koizumi, an avid Elvis fan who shares Presley’s Jan. 8 birthday, plans to step down from his post in September.
He called his Graceland visit a dream come true.
“I knew he loved Elvis,” Bush said. “I didn’t realize how much he loved Elvis. He not only knows Elvis history, he can sing a pretty good Elvis song.”
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