Elvis Presley not only set the highest marks for excellence in music and recordings, his humanitarian efforts and charitable contributions were second to none during his lifetime. An often neglected achievement is the incredible standard he established for entertainers on how to treat their fans. There are thousands of stories, some barely known, about the respect and love Elvis had for his fans.
“His fans were a priority,” said Charlie Stone, a producer who worked close with Presley and his manager Colonel Tom Parker in the 1970s. During the Texas Tribute to Elvis festival in March, he offered that “on the other side of the coin, his fans were unbelievably devoted to him too.”
The dedication of millions of Presley fans worldwide has not diminished four decades since his death on August 16, 1977. Arguably one of the most loyal fans on the planet is Lida Keijzer. She has been industriously constructing one of the most unique personal tributes to Elvis ever—a remarkable miniature Graceland Mansion and grounds. Next month will mark one year since Keijzer, a resident of Veendam, Netherlands, began working on her astonishing replica of Presley’s Memphis, Tennessee home.
“Every day I still listen to Elvis, his music, the lyrics to his songs have helped me through many areas of my life….good, and bad,” Keijzer told the Examiner this weekend. Some of my favorite songs are “What now my love”, and “Separate Ways”. My favorite movie if Blue Hawaii. His music gave me a lot of inspiration. I often dreamed of building Graceland as a dollhouse and as you can see, I made my dream come true.
Keijzer’s “Mini-Graceland” is bursting with her loving labor and attention to intensive detail. She made her childhood dream come true and it is so unique even Priscilla Presley recognized its distinctiveness.
Recently she has shared it with Elvis fans on Facebook and received glowing reviews. Careful to authentically capture the Neo-classical mansions Classical-Colonial Revival architectural style, her model includes such features as the traditional entrance portico with four Corinthian columns on the exterior and faithfully fabricated interiors. On Saturday, she revealed another accomplished room with miniature Elvis jumpsuits and guitars enclosed in show cases and gold album plaques hanging on the walls. Even her tiny piano plays Elvis’ famous romantic song, “Love Me Tender.”
“There are two rooms I don’t want to make and that’s his bathroom and his bedroom, out of respect for his privacy,” Keijzer remarked. “I hear from a lot of people they’ve never seen this so full and detailed as I did.”
“I started building the house in May 2015, so I’ve been busy with it for almost a year,” she explained. “Because it’s all handmade, I think it will take another year before it’s really finished.”
“I have never been to Graceland, so all of the things that I have built by hand have been researched by me through books, looking on the Internet, and pictures from around the world,” Keijzer continued. “It is an ongoing process, and it is not finished, I work on some part of it every day. I have worked as much as 10 hours per day building, and designing the house. There are many nights when I go to bed I think about how I can either make a certain piece, change something that I have built or make some part better, my mind is constantly thinking about my Graceland dollhouse.”
Her friend and fan, Caroline Mallaby, an acquaintance of Priscilla Presley (who opened the real Graceland up to the public on June 7, 1982), shared photos of the Mini-Graceland Keijzer is building. Elvis’s former wife, “responded to my email to say how amazing it was,” Mallaby stated. “She was very impressed.”
“I got a response from Priscilla,” Keijzer gushed. “She gave me applause for my piece of laborious artwork. I am so happy.”
Not only is she paying reverence to Presley with her meticulous two-year project, she is honoring the legacy of his fans by actually replicating the famous pink Alabama fieldstone wall surrounding the grounds of the mansion. At the real wall, fans have been writing their names and messages of admiration for years. Keijzer’s duplication includes written words with the names of her “Elvis friends.”
Becky Yancey, an actual secretary for Elvis and his father, Vernon Presley, at Graceland, has her name inscribed on Keijzer’s wall. A quick sampling of other names are such super fans as Jeanett Russo, Vera Burford of New South Wales, Kathy Savelio, Mariangela of Brazil, Celina, Jane Green of Italy, and Sherry Evans from Indiana, USA.
“Elvis touched each of us in a special way,” she told them. “We all love and miss him dearly. I am honored that each of you allowed me to write your names on my Graceland wall. Your names are forever written in the stone on my Graceland wall and in my heart. Thank you again my friends from around the world.”
“My Graceland dollhouse is completely hand made by me,” Keijzer stated. “I taught myself to make things by hand. When I was younger I would see something that I liked. I would come home and try to duplicate it by myself. The items in the house are made out of wood, glass, and plastic. It measures 40” high, 48” wide, 24” deep. It takes hours to make some of the more delicate items. It doesn’t always come out the way that I want it to on the first time, so I re-do it.”
“I call it my ‘Labor of Love for Elvis’,” Keijzer proudly proclaimed. “As I work on my Graceland dollhouse, I imagine what it would be like to have lived there during the time when he was alive. I still have one dream that I know will come true. I dream of one day going to Graceland to be able to be so close to Elvis’ personal belongings. The way I knew I would build my own Graceland dollhouse, I also know that I will go to Graceland one day…..I don’t know how it will happen, I just know that I have faith that I will stand in his house one day.”
When news was shared that Priscilla Presley was pleased with the Mini-Graceland, many fans congratulated her. “Well deserved for all the hours, love and thought you have put into this,” offered Allison Beck of Birmingham, United Kingdom. “To top it all, you have also allowed us to be part of it by kindly putting our names on your wall. Very, very happy for you.”
Bertha Jorrie, of Dallas, may have expressed the continuing fan phenomenon at the first ever Texas Tribute to Elvis Presley event in March.
“With Elvis, fans don’t just listen with their ears,” Jorrie smiled. “We hear his voice with our hearts and souls in such a way that we connect emotionally with each other. Elvis brings people closer together.”
“We treat Elvis’ legacy with respect and care concerning the truth,” added Ruth Garcia of Harlingen, Texas. “History knows that Elvis was a uniting force between races. He wasn’t a hater. He helped the world culturally as a giver through his voice, music, and just the way he acted towards his fans—his fans of many races.”