I must take up computer and mouse in indignation. How could you include Elvis on your “celebrity” cover? What possessed you to put the King amongst a group of the world’s great sleazeballs? And at the head of the table? Have you no shame, gentlemen?

True, the King was famous, and true, in his latter years, he was slave to a gaudy (though I would contend endearing) vulgarity which I suppose Nabokov would have called “poshlust.”

But Elvis had nothing in common with the wretches who besmirch your cover. He belongs with Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Merle Haggard (whose tribute album to Elvis is unforgettable). Leather jacket or jewel-studded outfit, he nevertheless belongs to the world of real American song.

You rightly scorn a new kind (or should I say mutation) of fame, which has no existence apart from the money pot—thus the thief and harridan Hillary Clinton, the grasping and corrupt Jesse Jackson. One could go on about the rest.

But the point remains. Elvis does not belong in this picture. He was a Southern boy who made good and was destroyed by a world in which the rest of the people on your cover flourish. That alone should have given you pause. That you neglected this obvious contradiction should be cause for deep second thoughts and long faces in your office.

As Merle Haggard has said, Elvis has gone from Graceland to the Promised Land. Can you say that fate awaits anyone else on your cover?

        —Robert Alpert,
Newton, MA

Dr. Fleming Replies:

Our issue took up the artificial construction of celebrity, and if Elvis was the king of anything, it was of hype. Even before Col. Tom Parker took over his career, Elvis had shown a predilection for Tin Pan Alley over authentic rural music, and while he did have talent, the same can be said of many celebrities who have been hyped beyond their level of competence: Judy Garland, Norman Mailer, Leonard Bernstein—the list is endless.

Elvis’s rendition of “Blue Suede Shoes” is wonderful pop music, but it sounds phony after you go back to Carl Perkins—who actually wrote many of the songs he performed. In the limited world of Southern pop culture, Elvis—from the time he recorded the execrable Lieber and Stoller composition “Hound Dog” to his sub-adolescent movies to his reincarnation as a post-pubertal Wayne Newton—strikes a false note. Elvis stands in the same relationship to Carl Perkins and Little Richard as Pat Boone stands to Elvis. He’s not the King—he’s not even the Duke of Earl.