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Elvis lives on

As Elvis Presley fans on Saturday mourned his death, the Canada-based Elvis Sightings Society maintains he is alive and instead chooses to remember his life

  • The Newport restaurant in Ottawa, Canada is also home to the Elvis Sightings Society. Image Credit:Supplied Picture
  • Elvis did not die. He is alive and so is his music says Moe Atallah, owner of the Newport restaurant. Image Credit:Supplied Picture
Tabloid

Even if Elvis did not die of a drug overdose back in 1977, would he still be alive today, aged 73? Absolutely, says Moe Atallah, co-founder of the Elvis Sightings Society and owner of the Elvis-themed Newport Restaurant in Ottawa, Canada. And how would he know, you may ask?

Through the Elvis hotline, of course. In Atallah's restaurant, which is also the headquarters for the Elvis Sightings Society, sits a red phone that the king calls on every now and again to check that everything's okay. Fair enough.

Newport Restaurant is a shrine to the rock'n'roll legend. From chocolate milkshakes that are "all shook up" to special peanut butter and banana sandwiches, Elvis paraphernalia jostling for space on the walls and waitresses' uniforms that have the king's image embroidered on them, it is the ultimate in Elvis kitsch.

Atallah has gone to incredible lengths to honour the king — outside his restaurant is a three-metre-high mural of him. The street behind it is named Elvis Lives Lane.
The Lebanon-born entrepreneur was always an Elvis fan but the adoration intensified when he left during the civil war to settle in Canada in 1976.

Elvis Sightings Society

He started working in a small restaurant where he met his wife Donna, "and because I was attracted to her I tried to find out her hobbies. When I visited her at her family residence I discovered I had a big problem — her living room was covered with pictures of a very attractive, good looking guy and that was Elvis".

Atallah says despite his blossoming romance he did not stand a chance of getting his picture on those walls. A year after his arrival, the King died "but Donna was convinced he could not die and did not die".

The couple got married a few years later and Atallah opened Newport Restaurant, which was popular with several of the city's politicians and journalists.

Well-known newspaper columnist and Elvis fan Earl McRea frequented the restaurant and befriended him.
"As we were chatting one time, I told him my story about Donna and the Elvis pictures and he told me he thought I looked like Elvis. He had just read in some of the tabloids that Elvis was seen in Kalamazoo and suggested that we start the Elvis Sightings Society and our headquarters should be in the restaurant," explains Atallah.

Faked death

The group was founded on April 1 with the mayor of Ottawa, another Elvis fan, "and the rest is history". In recent years members of the society have included several mayors, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, deputy prime ministers and many other politicians.

Even former US President Bill Clinton knows about the restaurant. "When they built the new American embassy here, Clinton, in his opening remarks, said that his mother had turned down an invitation to see our Parliament and Supreme Court because she wanted to see the Elvis restaurant on Elvis Lives Lane. True story," Atallah says.

Atallah says weeks after founding the society, they were contacted by people who took them to Tweed, a small village between Ottawa and Toronto where they met the King.
"He found out who we are and as he felt comfortable talking to us, he told us he had to fake his death and change his looks. The pressure was too much and he had to go in hiding, and the more he spoke we understood."
Weeks after the meeting the society started receiving pictures of the King that he personally brought to the restaurant and signed.

"Now the restaurant is a shrine to him and all the walls are covered with his pictures. The only difference there is a huge one with me and the King, and Donna can not say anything about it," he laughs.

The King also had no problems with the group talking about him being alive but his only request was that they helped the community. "As you know Elvis came from a poor family and it bothered him to see people in need, so we established a charitable status for the society."

Every Christmas day the restaurant serves meals to more than 1,000 people in the city as well as distributing gifts, scarves and toys. Through the years they have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.
Their biggest event is the Black Tie Beanfest, which is always a sell-out. "For our last one we had 500 guests and we raised about $150,000 (Dh550,500)."

As for the anniversary of his supposed death on August 16, the society members did not plan an event but instead continue to remember his life.

"Donna was right — Elvis did not die. He is alive and so is his music. As we fulfil his wishes to help the needy, the King watches from a distance."

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