Elvis turned me, an Alabama country girl, into Cinderella that night, but such acts of kindness were commonplace for him.


It has been 20 years since my cousin, Elvis, died, and for as many years I have been buying myself a yellow rose on that August day in honor of the ones he always gave me.

I'll never forget the first time I received two dozen yellow roses from Elvis. It was opening night of my first play. Even before they arrived I was thinking how proud Elvis would be because he always encouraged me to become an actress. Then in came the most beautiful bouquet of yellow roses I had ever seen. Studying them, I began to reminisce about the first rose he gave me, on my first visit to Graceland. Elvis was not home when my grandmother and I arrived, so I got a special tour from his Aunt Delta. She took me to meet Grandma Minnie, whom Elvis always called "Dodger." Then she led me to Elvis's room. His dressing area, bright with costumes, surpassed everything I had ever imagined. Aunt Delta let me try on a few of his belts and scarves. Gazing in the mirror, I felt like a movie star.

The next day I was sitting at Minnie's feet listening to ghost stories when Elvis and his father, Vernon, walked in. His very presence was electric. Elvis looked at me, a teenager with long blond hair and big green eyes, and asked, "Dodger, who is this?"

She said, "That's some of your family, son."

I jumped to my feet to shake his hand, but he grabbed me instead, welcoming me with the warmest hug. It felt like I had known him all my life. Elvis had a God-given way of making people feel special.

I remember hearing Elvis ask what my plans were for the evening. Minnie told him that another cousin and I were going to a concert. Elvis wanted to know what I planned to wear, and I told him that I just had two choices. Within an hour he not only had several dresses delivered for me to try, but he also had sent yellow roses for us all. As I modeled the dresses, Elvis chose a floor-length yellow gown fit for a princess. I completed my outfit by placing the yellow flower in my hair. After that he always remembered special occasion by sending roses.

Elvis turned me, an Alabama country girl, into Cinderella that night, but such acts of kindness were commonplace for him. I remember the day he gave Aunt Nash Presley Pritchet $20,000 to buy land for her church and a new car to use in her ministry. Another time he saw a couple looking longingly inside a Cadillac showroom. He asked if they saw a car they wanted. They answer yes, and he replied, "It's yours!"

No wonder thousands of people still congregate each year outside Graceland on the day he died. People come to show respect and love for a special man, one who possessed a charisma based on more than music or even the performance skills he pioneered. It emanated from his humanity and tenderness, evidenced to me by the beauty of a yellow rose.