King’s Ransom

Elvis Presley memorabilia takes wing at Oakland International.

Airports are not the carefree places they used to be for art shows, but when it comes to the King, Oakland International will do just fine. The Eye of the Storm, a rockin’ tribute to Elvis Presley with photos, artifacts, multitudinous memorabilia, and prodigious Presley-ana, is definitely worth a looky-loo for fans passing through OAK this “Blue Christmas” season on their way to Memphis or anywhere else. (If you don’t really have business at the airport, it’s probably best not to bother — you might get shot by Homeland Security.)

Cal State Hayward professor and documentary filmmaker James Forsher qualifies as a major fan. His late mother Trude Forsher was El’s West Coast secretary, and the young Jim got to sample a vast array of Elvis thingamabobs. “Colonel Parker was a carnival barker,” Forsher remembers, speaking about Elvis’ notorious manager, “and when he sold off merchandising rights he overlooked nothing. My mom got hats, sneakers, T-shirts, earrings, keychains, you name it.” Before Forsher got together with the Oakland Museum of California, which is sponsoring the Eye of the Storm exhibition along with Oakland International, he had to go down to his basement to show off his collection to friends. Now, around a hundred of his 1,500 Elvis items are on view publicly, about half the pieces in the show. Enthuses Forsher: “I was shocked at how well they put it together. They have a picture of me when I was five with my Elvis guitar, and somehow they found an Elvis guitar to display next to it. Mine was long since lost.”

Probably the prize piece is the original pair of Blue Suede Shoes worn by Elvis on The Steve Allen Show in July 1956. Researcher Ben Petry of the Oakland Museum, curator of the exhibit, found the shoes at the Elvis-A-Rama Museum in Las Vegas. If Petry has his way, the museum could host an “Elvis in California” exhibit in 2005. But for now, you’ll have to visit the Terminal 2 Connector Building Exhibit Area at OAK, along the motorized walkway. The show runs through January 12. Follow that dream.

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