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Homage to the King

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Homage to the King

U-M stagehands all shook up over shrine


Bill Abbott takes an up-close look at the Elvis shrine in Power Center.

Elvis is no longer at the Kalamazoo McDonald's.  Word has it he now hangs at the Power Center.

It all started in 1989 when Bill Abbott, master carpenter at the University of Michigan scenery shop, made a life size Elvis cut-out from a record store poster.

From those humble beginnings rose the Elvis Shrine, perhaps worth a pilgrimage today, when the King would have turned 58.  The Elvis Shrine is deep in the Power Center, high atop the walls of the U-M scenery shop.  The shrine features the cut-out Elvis (sporting angel wings, no less) standing in front of a stained glass window.  The angelic Elvis (the young Elvis, of course) is surrounded by siz plump cherubs.

It all happened gradually.  First came the cut-out Elvis, then the scenery makers got a stained glass window background from a production of "Brigadoon."  From there it snowballed.  

A Christmas production yielded the cherubs and the wings for Elvis and, thus, a shrine was born.

In a strange way, the Elvis shrine is awe-inspiring.  It leaves many visitors a bit speechless.  "Most people say 'oh wow' or 'cool.'  People who are into Elvis get a really big kick out of it," said Rolfe Bergsman, technical director.

But all has not been smooth for Elvis' reign.  He was the victim of a kidnapping attempt. 

"It was a work-study student," said Bergsman.  "He left a ransom note, had his girlfriend give us a ransom call and Elis spent a couple days with his kidnapper."  The scenery shop eventually recovered Elvis by paying the ransom: six raisin bagels.

What does the future hold for the shrine?  "I think we've just about got it." said Bergman.

Abbott's plans are more grandiose.  "We could get a halo some fog...," he said.  "We could get an electrician in here to put up some lights..."