Elvis fan Lida Keijzer: ‘I love it here’
Meets with Elvis Presley Enterprises officials at Graceland
One of Elvis Presley’s most devoted fans is having her life’s dream come true by celebrating the King of Rock n’ Rolls 83 birthday at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee this week. Music fans from around the globe visit Presley’s mansion by the hundreds of thousands each year. But for one of his most loyal fans ever, actually visiting Graceland was nothing more than a dream, until a campaign by fellow Presley enthusiasts around the world would help change that. Lida Keijzer, of Veendam, Netherlands, is experiencing the amazing power of Elvis fans as they united to honor one of their own.
Keijzer has become a champion among legions of Elvis devotees for her dedication to Presley through her work on arguably one of the most unique personal tributes ever—a detailed miniature Graceland she has been constructing since May 2015.
Keijzer works on an astonishing replica of Presley’s Memphis, Tennessee home saying “each day I listen to Elvis, his music, the lyrics to his songs have helped me through many areas of my life….good, and bad. Some of my favorite songs are ‘What Now My Love’, and ‘Separate Ways’. My favorite movie is Blue Hawaii. His music gave me a lot of inspiration. I often dreamed of building Graceland as a dollhouse and as you can see, I made my dream come true.”
With the help of a dear friend, fellow Elvis fans and even Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE), Keijzer arrived in the United State on December 30th just in time to celebrate the beginning of 2018 and Presley’s birthday in Memphis.
What has been her most favorite moment so far?
“I think being in the mansion standing in front of the Jungle Room. Wowwwww. It’s my dollhouse. It feels as if I’m walking in my dollhouse. I was surprised that I built it so good,” she laughed. “It’s not different. I know a lot of that house. You know, they changed the piano and the curtains in the piano room. Nobody ask about it, only me!”
A favorite moment is hard to decide because there has been so many. Highlights include meeting with EPE Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer Gary Hahn, touring the mansion, paying respects at the Presley gravesite and meeting Elvis fans she only knew through social media. She’s dined at some of Elvis’ favorite spots including Marlowe’s and Coletta’s.
Hahn presented Keijzer and her good friend traveling with her, Thea Siero, tickets to the mansion tour when they first arrived and a VIP ticket for January 7th. “He was really nice,” Keijzer said. “And January 8 I will meet Angie Marchese (Director of Archives at Graceland).”
Hahn also gave her a handwritten note:
“Lida, You are so very talented! Every detail of your Graceland dollhouse is amazing. I hope to see it in person someday. Thank you for all your work on this. Gary Hahn”
“I love it here,” Keijzer said after being in Memphis a few days,” The weather is good, not that cold anymore. Same like Holland.”
Keijzer and Siero plan to attend the January 8th Elvis Birthday Proclamation Ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at Graceland. The special ceremony takes place with Graceland/EPE officials, a birthday cake cutting and proclamation of Elvis Presley Day by Memphis and Shelby County officials.
What did she think when she saw the gravesite, Meditation Gardens?
“I was speechless,” Keijzer replied. “I couldn’t keep it dry. Tears were coming down. I put my hand on his grave.”
The trip has been emotional, surreal and historical for Keijzer. Before she stepped into the mansion, she arguably knew Graceland more intimately than anyone because of the extraordinary detail she has detailed in her own dollhouse.
“Yes, I know, and you know what?” she laughed again. “I have to change the Piano Room. They put other curtains and a white piano into it.”
The two visitors from the Netherlands are staying “at the Days Inn across the street from Graceland,” Keijzer said. “When I eat my dinner, I see Graceland.” Although her time has been a world wind tour of the area, she takes the time to think about Elvis who remains the bestselling solo artist of all time. According to Graceland, Elvis has sold over one billion records worldwide.
Keijzer and Siero also met two Elvis Radio DJ’s from Sirius XM radio fame, Argo Memphis and Big Jim Sykes.
Keijzer’s miniature Graceland in the Netherlands is jam-packed with attention to rigorous detail. Even Priscilla Presley recognized how authentic the Neo-classical dollhouse is. Graceland has been described as a Classical-Colonial Revival architectural style. Keijzer house includes such features as the traditional entrance portico with four Corinthian columns on the exterior and faithfully fabricated interiors. One room in the house includes mini Elvis jumpsuits and guitars enclosed in show cases and gold album plaques hanging on the walls. A small piano plays Elvis’ famous romantic song, “Love Me Tender.”
“There are two rooms I don’t want to make and that’s his bathroom and his bedroom, out of respect for his privacy,” Keijzer remarked. “I hear from a lot of people they’ve never seen this so full and detailed as I did.”
Until now, Keijzer had “never been to Graceland, so all of the things that I have built by hand have been researched by me through books, looking on the Internet, and pictures from around the world. It is an ongoing process, and it is not finished, I work on some part of it every day. I have worked as much as 10 hours per day building, and designing the house. There are many nights when I go to bed I think about how I can either make a certain piece, change something that I have built or make some part better, my mind is constantly thinking about my Graceland dollhouse.”
Her journey to Graceland began with the help of Elvis fans and friends when Mississippi fan Kathy Savelio set up a Go Fund me account to help raise money. Shirley Dieu, a former girlfriend of Elvis’ loyal good friend Joe Esposito and author of the book “Memphis Mafia Princess,” gave the fund a shot in the arm by offering books and momentous to fans who donated to the cause. Together, the fans raised over $1,400 for Keijzer’s trip.
Some of the Elvis fans Lida and Thea have met include Elvis’ nurse Letetia ‘Tish’ Henley Kirk, Elvis Tribute Artist Jake Slater (who proposed to his ‘Ann Margaret,’ fiance Laura West the day before at Graceland), Char Victory, John and Cindy Stone.
“Elvis touched each of us in a special way,” Keijzer told a group of Presley fans whose names she inscribed on her model. “We all love and miss him dearly. I am honored that each of you allowed me to write your names on my Graceland wall. Your names are forever written in the stone on my Graceland wall and in my heart. Thank you again my friends from around the world.”
“My Graceland dollhouse is completely hand made by me,” said Keijzer. “I taught myself to make things by hand. When I was younger I would see something that I liked. I would come home and try to duplicate it by myself. The items in the house are made out of wood, glass, and plastic. It measures 40” high, 48” wide, 24” deep. It takes hours to make some of the more delicate items. It doesn’t always come out the way that I want it to on the first time, so I re-do it.”