The National Park Service announced last week that Graceland will now join the parade of dead presidents' homes and other boring historical sites as an official Historic National Monument. Yee-ha—I love it! It's a rock n' roll mecca and one of the most popular tourist stops in the country. It's well-done, serving as a one-stop-shop to all things Elvis, where you can see the house, cars, planes, costumes, awards, etc., plus visit E's final resting place. And it's also a very fucking cool attraction that is very deserving of this honor.
Which brings me to my point du jour: it's about time the Park Service made an effort to ramp up their cool factor. For years schoolkids and tour groups have had to suffer through tedious monologues about the War of 1812 or how years of erosion shaped this or that, blah blah blah. Thousands of family vacations have been ruined because, hey, who wants to go to Gatorama or to see a two-headed cow when we can listen to some elderly docent drone on about Thomas Jefferson's swivel bookstand or Millard Fillmore's chamberpot? We've all been dragged through some stale-smelling "historic home" and subjected to placards and stories about looms and smithing and life on the farm. God help you if there is a gristmill out back.
Now the swingin' crash pad that's filled to the hilt with the tackiest shit you've ever seen in your life, where the King of Rock & Roll died on the toilet, is considered historic! I have hope that perhaps the NPS is finally coming around. Why stop there? No more of this "Paul Revere Stood Here" bullshit—let's add some more cool sites with historic merit to the list. Here are some helpful suggestions:
• The Hotel Chelsea, New York City
OK, so this place has been around since 1884 and the list of notable people that have stayed there is endless—Mark Twain, O Henry, Thomas Wolfe, Dylan Thomas, et al—but I'm sure nine out of every 10 people that passes by the building says, "Oh my god, that's where Sid killed Nancy!" The King of Rock n' Roll lived and died at Graceland, and the King and Queen of Punk Rock lived and died at the Chelsea—it only makes sense.
• The Liberace Museum, Las Vegas
This place would give Graceland a serious run for its money in the tchotchke department. Where else could you see a disco-mirrored grand piano, feather-adorned outfits that would make that thing that Cher wore that one time look like a nun's habit, and a collection of tasteless costume jewelry that rivals no other (including a 115,000-carat rhinestone). Imagine school groups learning about "Mr. Showmanship," while being led past his very own red, white and blue hotpants outfit and rhinestone-covered roadster—the kids would be all over it! I believe this man's world-class collection of gaudy crap is of historic interest and should finally get the iconic recognition it deserves by the U.S. government.
• The Brady Bunch House, N. Hollywood
If I showed the average person side-by-side pictures of this house and, say, Chester A. Arthur's boyhood home, which one do you think they would recognize? And if this modest-yet-mod, middle-class abode doesn't just scream "Americana", well, then I don't know what does. The current owners are apparantly very upset by all the tourists tromping around in their begonias and shouting "Porkchops and applesauce!" at all hours of the day and night, so they have erected some kind of privacy fence to keep curiosity-seekers at bay. The NPS should buy them out, open the house to the public and give the people what they want. Think of all the questions that could finally be answered. Why would an architect with six kids design a house with only three bedrooms? Was there really no toilet? Where did Alice sleep anyway? And finally, the age-old mystery of who got the attic would be solved! Sick side note: Another house I thought about mentioning for a possible historic marker was 10050 Cielo Drive, but decided that it would be in poor taste. In my defense, it IS the site of arguably the most infamous crime of modern times, and Alcatraz and Ford's Theater are on the list, so you can see where...oh, nevermind. I'm ashamed that I even mentioned it.
• The Cathouse, Los Angeles
So much debauchery has happened at this infamous Sunset Strip rockery that there needs to be, at the very least, some kind of monument here—a bronze reproduction of Vince Neil passed out on the sidewalk out front would work. Anyway, imagine how much fun it would be to lead fanny-packed tourists through as they eagerly snap keepsake photos of the very spot where the bass player from Jetboy ODed. "And this is the barstool that Nikki Sixx crashed his Harley into when he rode into the club naked." "Slash once fell down this very staircase, taking an artificial Christmas tree along with him." "That vomity stench you smell comes from years and years of throw-up jettisoning from the throats of '80s rock greats like Taime Downe, Tracii Guns and Chip Z'Nuff." I really think I'm on to something with this one. Does anyone know how to get ahold of Riki Rachtman? We need to start the paperwork immediately and assemble a dedicated group to lobby Congress—if we could get Axl on board, I think we could really win them over.
Speaking of famous rock clubs, I seriously think CBGB has some pretty good clout to be made into a National Monument. It would be the perfect way to help save it from foreclosure—turn it into a monument and preservation society to American rock and punk. I would go as far as to say that this club has introduced more Rock N' Roll Hall of Famers, like The Ramones, Blondie and The Talking Heads, into the public lexicon than perhaps any other place in the world. What do you say? Let's put a little more of the "H" into history and a little more of the "cult" back into culture. No more should innocent children and travelers be exposed to dull lectures on trundle beds and silt loam and boring white guys wearing powdered wigs.
Come on, NPS, let's make learning SEXY!