Here’s the second installment from assistant director Kevin Hourigan’s RoosevElvis road journal.
We have hit the height of our sleep deprivation. Accordingly, we have been operating heavy machinery, shooting guns, and driving for long stretches. We have reached the point where the boundary between wakefulness and sleep has blurred. The benefit is that we have been able to do an immense amount of dreaming in the daytime.
Our pursuits have been as follows:
We woke up and drove to Lincoln, Nebraska to do a shoot at a meat processing plant. Libby has set us up with a whole series of contacts to get some really incredible material shot in the Lincoln area (her hometown). When we arrived at the meat processing facility, we were greeted with a warm welcome by Larry, the owner of the establishment, and his daughter Lisa, an old friend of Libby’s. He gave us complete access to the floor. We were bowled over by his eagerness to support us and our project.
Several of the meat workers were in several of our shots. They were tremendously gracious in teaching Libby how to use the machines and in diverting their workflow to accommodate our shoot. When we wrapped, we looked for our keys to the car, and Lisa handed Libby a pair of keys encased in a vacuum sealed packaging. It was a funny prank.
After a short stop for burritos, we headed to Lisa’s salon, Lason. Again, we had the location mostly to ourselves. There was one other stylist working in the salon, Jason, who answered all of our questions. We wanted to use Jason in the shoot, but he was working with clients, so I was cast as the hair dresser. We ran a little over at the salon, but Jason was very lovely and let us stay after he left. Once we wrapped, we made a mad dash to Lisa’s house to beat Sunset.
We arrived at Lisa’s at the height of magic hour. We entered, and Libby was reunited with her four best friends from Nebraska in the golden light of sunset. Lisa’s neighbor gave us a lesson in gun safety and stood by as the ladies fired off. Turns out both were a pretty good shot. We wrapped with Ann, alone, just as the sun set.
We retired to Lisa’s house where a full spread of barbecue food awaited us. Skewers of meat and shrimp, grilled chicken, potato salad and coleslaw. It was a midwestern feast. We stayed on for an hour or so, ate, and took a moment to relax before heading back to Grand Island.
We rose early to catch the light of the sunrise. We shot behind Libby’s cabin in Grand Island, in the brush surrounding the dried bed of the Platt River. It was a serene and almost surreal location – very beautiful. We even got some shots of Kristen kayaking pretty expertly across the nearby pond.
We finished up the shoot and went back to the cabin to attempt to wake up and move out of Grand Island. First step: tick check. Results: four ticks found. All safely removed. Luckily, Nebraska does not host deer ticks, which are the carriers of Lyme disease, but I will make sure to get the necessary incident reports.
We packed up and hit the road. Before leaving Nebraska, we needed one last shot: a long shot of the women eating at the diner. We went to Coney Isand, a local diner famous for their hot dogs. While Libby and Kristen shot this long scene, one of the waitresses told us about the evil spirits and haunting she encountered in the Badlands. As was the case with all the other locations we shot, all of the staff at the restaurant were incredibly gracious, sweet, and so supportive. We stuffed ourselves with hotdogs and milkshakes and then hit the road for good.
We made it as far as we could, stopping only a few times to switch drivers, or to get food or gas. As the sun started to set, we sought the refuge of a motel. Our criteria: the shittiest, most dilapidated motel we could find, with a romantic little door frame which we could shoot both from the outside and the inside. We found our dream in the Cortes Motel.
There was an almost fully naked obese man sitting practically pressed up against his window in the motel room next to us. Luckily, I think our videographer was able to avoiding framing him in any of our external shots, though we considered his enthusiasm a good blessing for our project.
We wrapped around 2:00am and went to bed. The road to Memphis awaits us.
We arose yesterday morning and quickly packed our bags, eager to complete the final leg of our pilgrimage to Graceland, the mecca.
We zipped through Missouri and Arkansas, stopping only occasionally for gas and bathroom/snack breaks. We were surprised by the amount of Pro-Life propaganda we encountered on the road. The scenery was otherwise quite pleasant.
As we neared the Arkansas border, we passed through Mammoth Spring, a gorgeous little spa town, and a honky-tonk specialties store sitting right on the Arkansas border. We found a restaurant built in a converted gas station serving some pretty intense Southern food, so we figured it was a good match. We pulled over to grab a quick meal.
When we got back on the road, we filmed some extended driving scenes with Elvis/Teddy. The acrobatics involved in this shoot were among the most impressive physical feats of the week, both for the level of physical skill required and for the sheer disregard for the law that some of these activities demonstrated. Libby spent some of the trip totally backwards, leaning on the dashboard, and at other times, she or Kristen shared the passenger seat with our videographer AND all of his camera equipment.
As we got closer to Memphis, we let Ann take the wheel, solo. We abandoned the front rows of the car and rolled sound and video continuously as we approached Memphis. All sat in silence, with only the comforting sound of the GPSlady’s voice filling the car. This was the final leg of the journey. Next stop Graceland.
Before anyone realized it, we were driving through downtown Memphis. In no time, we were turning onto Elvis Presley Boulevard. We approached Graceland. No one could have expected the sight that greeted us. All along the sidewalk is a stone wall ranging from 4’-6’ high. It is clear that the wall has become a major sight of devotion, as every inch of the wall is covered in signatures, pictures, and love notes to the beloved Elvis Presley. The combination of the scale and humanity of this object was quite staggering to all of us.
When the light faded, we went to Corky’s for some Memphis barbecue. We had a delicious meal and a wonderful waitress.
We arrived to stay at David and Rose’s house around 9:30. It was a beautiful home, very generously prepared for us. Rose made us drinks and peach pie, and sat and talked with us as we swam in the pool. It was very nice to swim. It was a relatively early night, as everyone was very excited to get a substantial amount of sleep.
We woke up around 9:00 and hit the road to Graceland. This time, we went inside.
We were warned that we would most likely be underwhelmed by the mansion. We expected something kind of small and gaudy, not like Disneyland but also extravagant in its own right. Aspects of these expectations were fulfilled to various degrees, but we were moved and surprised by the way you could feel Elvis in the house as a peculiar, young kid. So much of the house was incredibly bizarre – the jungle room, the billiard room – and it was clear that only he could have invented such a domain.
After saying goodbye to Graceland, we headed over to Beale street to have our last meal on the road. We had some barbecue at a restaurant with some fantastic musicians playing outside.
We went to the airport and packed our bags.
It was sad to say goodbye to the journey, but there is so much in store with this piece in the very near future. It will be good to head into rehearsals, especially with the incredibly strong foundation for the piece that we have continued to build over the last week. It was a lot of great work, a lot of laughter, a lot of love. It was a week of very bold, rich days. All of the people we encountered in our travels were absolutely lovely and helpful.
I feel so lucky to have been able to be a part of this trip. The work that I have witnessed has been on all fronts utterly inspirational.