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The Legend Lives On : Anniversary: It's been 16 years since the rock legend died, but the feelings are still strong among those who adored him--especially those who say they knew him.

August 17, 1993|BOB POOL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The memory of Elvis had Ralph C. Herin all shook up Monday.

"This is Graceland," he said, thrusting a stack of snapshots into the hands of British tourist Denise Finnie. "This is Elvis' gold piano. This is his personal airplane. This one here is his grave."

Herin, 58, of San Gabriel was standing next to the Elvis Presley star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was with dozens of other fans commemorating the 16th anniversary of the rock legend's death.

"I've been to Graceland 37 times," Herin said. "Every time I go it gets better and better. I'm the same age Elvis would be if he was alive. I was in the Army with him. Look, here's a picture of Elvis and me."

He turned to Elvis fan Lois Cygan of Chicago and held out a bubble gum card depicting Elvis as a GI. Herin pointed to a tiny face behind Elvis in the photograph on the card. "That's me," he said proudly.

People still love Elvis tender.

They were snapping up the first-day-of-issue, 29-cent Elvis postage stamps being sold for $5 each by brothers Tom and John Winkler of Hollywood. They were snapping pictures of themselves next to Elvis' star, at 6773 Hollywood Blvd.

Memphis native Beverly Brosius brought her 9-year-old daughter, Tina, from Walnut. "I wanted her to see this. I worked for Elvis back in 1967, signing pictures for him. I wanted Tina to know what a wonderful human being he was."

Allison Davis of Edmonton, Canada, posed her Michael, 6, next to flower bouquets and a tinsel-wrapped framed portrait of Elvis propped above his star. "Michael knows Elvis, not today's singers," she said.

Hollywood tour company operator Michael Kellerman rents a tiny storefront next to the Elvis plaque. He said he puts flowers on the plaque every day and plays Elvis songs on a loudspeaker over his doorway.

"You see people lying on the sidewalk, kissing the star," Kellerman said. "A lot of people, mostly foreigners, think the stars are buried under there. They ask if they're buried standing up."

Kellerman said he put fresh flowers on the star until passersby kept stealing them. Now artificial bluebells are cemented into a large vase.

"There's 50 pounds of concrete in there. We have to drag it inside every night. You'd break your foot if you kicked it," he said.

Herin was dancing now, doing his best Elvis imitation as he mouthed the words to "Jailhouse Rock." A video cameraman asked his name. Momentarily flustered, Herin identified himself as Clayton Ralph.

He was showing a passerby the Elvis pins on his baseball cap when Denise Finnie interrupted. She had been waiting patiently to return Herin's Graceland photographs. "You forgot these," said the Birmingham, England, woman.

"You're an honest person. These are so valuable--there are so many memories," Herin replied gratefully.

Thangyuhverrumuch.

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