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Fan Wins Elvis' Ring, but Finger Turns Fickle

September 27, 1987|GABE FUENTES | Times Staff Writer

Shirley Bangert is not a celebrity "love child" and did not share a jail cell with actor Sean Penn.

But the 45-year-old unemployed Canoga Park woman made the pages of the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer last week by winning a quest for the ring.

Not just any ring. The ring, the one purportedly worn by Elvis Presley, which was offered last month in an Enquirer contest to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the rock king's death.

But fidelity is fleeting. Now she wants to sell it.

Bangert won the ring, valued by the Enquirer at $30,000, after spending more than $500 to prepare and mail about 2,000 contest entries, she said.

She hatched her plan to win the diamond-studded, gold ring almost immediately after buying an Enquirer issue last month with its front page shouting "ELVIS" next to the late singer's picture.

Bangert, an unabashed Elvis fan, guessed that many fans would spend their money on pilgrimages to Presley's home in Memphis, Tenn.

"I thought, if we sent enough entries, I'd have a good shot," she said.

To qualify for the drawing, fans had to solve an Elvis trivia quiz. It was fairly easy for any self-respecting Elvis fan, except for one question: What was Elvis' first No. 1 record?

"Heartbreak Hotel," you say? Wrong. The 1956 album was Presley's first No. 1 on the pop chart, but "Mystery Train" had topped the country and Western chart in 1955.

Bangert researched it at a library but remained uncertain about the answer. She planned to split her entries between "Mystery Train" and "Jailhouse Rock," a later No. 1 hit.

About 1,000 wrong entries were mailed before Bangert learned the answer and sent about 1,000 correct ones--marked with "Mystery Train."

According to the Enquirer, fans mailed more than 200,000 entries, 76,000 of which qualified. That left Bangert, a race track aficionado who said she has visited Las Vegas a few times, with 76-1 odds. She won the contest anyway.

Bought From Collector

The tabloid bought the ring from a Nashville, Tenn., collector and was provided with documentation of the ring's authenticity, said Enquirer Editor Iain Calder. Attempts to interview the collector were unsuccessful.

Despite her passion for Elvis, Bangert plans to sell the ring, using part of the profits to buy golf clubs and visit far-away relatives, she said. The rest will be divided among her four children, she said.

The Enquirer told Bangert not to accept less than $55,000, and she has rejected offers of $40,000 and $50,000 already, she said.

She is certain the ring's value will grow.

"Oh, definitely," she said, "because you know Elvis isn't going out to buy any more rings."

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