Preacher at the 24 Hour Church of Elvis, Portland, OR
At the Church of Elvis, you can get a marriage license and ceremony for five bucks. You can experience the rantings of a rabid barker/game show host/preacher woman. You can see a live demonstration of a c. 1976 toy Jamie Somers Bionic Woman Repair Station/Beauty Salon. "Sometimes there's only a thin line between beauty and repair," our hostess says.
The 24 Hour Church of Elvis isn't 24-hour, isn't a church, and hasn't got a lot of Elvis. What it is a garish, turgid, jumble of 70's toy store, junk shop, and flea market. A few years ago, it was called Where's the Art? - The World's First Coin-Operated Art Gallery, which was accessible from the street, 24 hours a day. The remnants of the coin-op machines were installed in an upstairs room and surrounded by all sorts of junk, some purposefully offensive, but most very colorful and irresistible.
Wedding set with spinning Elvises at the 24 Hour Church of Elvis
Frank at barely functional coin-op machine at 24 Hour Church of Elvis
Many of the coin-ops don't work anymore, and many blinking lights don't blink anymore; our merry hostess didn't seem that interested in really keeping the place up. However, like much of my favorite American kitsch, the Church hints at a mysterious, wonderful, lost past. As if we've arrived after the heyday, but we're glad for the chance to see it before the whole endeavor lurches off a cliff.
Site visited July, 1997. Cost: A couple bucks. 720 SW Ankeny, Portland, OR. Marriages, T-shirts, Elvis ID cards and Elvis drivers licenses available. A sign on the door says: "24 Hour Church of Elvis: Usually open Noon to 5, 8 - 11 a lot. Call (503) 226-3671 for reassurance"
I got an email (from kimmiebear - thanks!) that she had heard the Church of Elvis was now closed. I tried the number above, and the system said that number was either not in service or no longer valid. Yikes! Can it be true? I feel lucky to have been able to visit the Barbi Doll Hall of Fame while it was still in existence in Palo Alto, California, before the whole kit and kaboodle was sold to Mattell... Sometimes kitsch is fleeting, like a butterfly momentarily backlit by the sun, and you have to capture it while you can...
Back to Kitsch Tour U.S.A.
Back to Science Fiction and Humor Writing
Back to The Official Frank Wu Website homepage
Email to Frank Wu