PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Tours of Elvis Presley's Palm Springs estate are being offered today to commemorate the 35th anniversary of his death.
The estate at 845 W. Chino Canyon Road will offer tours every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $19.77 per person, "in honor of the year Elvis left the building," estate co-owner Laura Whittier said.
Presley died at age 42 on Aug. 16, 1977, at his Graceland home in Memphis, Tenn.
The 5,100-square-foot Palm Springs home, called "Graceland West" by The New York Times, was built in 1946 on about two acres and was owned by the Jergens cosmetics family and McDonald's founder Ray Kroc before Presley bought it in 1970.
Co-owner Reno Fontana said the house was vacant for 27 years before he bought it in 2004.
"There's a lot of history on the property," said Fontana, who bought the house for $1.25 million. He said Elvis celebrated his last birthday in the house, and the Palm Springs estate and Graceland were the only properties he owned when he died.
Fontana, an Elvis fan who lived in Palm Desert, had seen the estate listed in a real estate magazine. He called the agent the next morning and bought it from a man who lived in Japan.
"He hadn't been to America for eight years and thought it was time to sell it, I was the first caller on the property, I bought it sight unseen," Fontana said. Because the house hadn't been used in 27 years, Reno had to landscape, paint and get rid of animals, bugs and dry rot.
The week after Elvis died, the house was broken into and clothes, guitars, a television set and furniture were stolen. Graceland took what was left, Fontana said. But, he said, the interior of the house, like the kitchen and walls, are original.
The History Channel will film work planned for the living room and dining room, Fontana said.
The house was opened for events in 2008, including celebrations on Elvis' Jan. 8 birthday, and a "Blue Christmas" party.
The estate is used mostly for private events like business and nonprofit functions, parties and weddings, Fontana said.
"The tours are for special occasions," he said.
He said Elvis recorded nine songs at the house, and a new generation seems to be rediscovering the singer.
He said Elvis's wife, Priscilla, wrote in a book that Elvis told her he would never sell the Palm Springs estate.
For tour information, call the estate at (760) 322-3211.
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