'Elvis Maniac' and Bush Go to Graceland

Elvis has left the building, but the president and the prime minister have entered it.

In a special gesture of thanks and friendship, President Bush took Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, an avid Elvis Presley fan, on a pilgrimage to Graceland, Presley's mansion in Memphis.

On Air Force One the songs "Love Me Tender" and "Don't Be Cruel" were played. Available in-flight movie? "Viva Las Vegas."

Bush even went so far as to serve Elvis's signature fried-peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches as snacks.

But the highlight for Koizumi in the Elvis-reference-filled visit was a tour of the late rock 'n' roll star's home, accompanied by Elvis' former wife, Priscilla, and his only child, Lisa Marie.

The living room, TV room, trophy room, billiards room -- they took it all in. But it was in the fabled Polynesian-themed jungle room where the prime minister got all shook up.

After Koizumi donned some Elvis glasses and started singing "Love Me Tender," President Bush joked, "I thought you were going to sing 'Blue Suede Shoes.'"

Allies in Politics, Music

Making the pilgrimage to where Elvis lived, died and is buried was a reward to the outgoing prime minister, a longtime Elvis fan and a loyal Bush ally on issues ranging from free trade to the war in Iraq, where Koizumi sent troops even though there was widespread opposition to the move in Japan. Those noncombat support troops began leaving Iraq this month and are scheduled to be withdrawn by the time Koizumi leaves office in September.

After the tour, Bush emphasized the meaning of it to reporters.

"This visit here shows not only am I personally fond of the prime minister, but that the ties between our peoples are very strong as well," Bush said.

Koizumi's obsession with Elvis has been evident for decades. As a young legislator in the 1980s he raised funds for an Elvis statue in Tokyo. Recently, he compiled a CD of his favorite Elvis songs for charity.

"Mr. Koizumi was deeply influenced by Elvis," said Tomikazu Taguchi, the president of the Elvis Presley Society of Japan. "You can tell he is an Elvis maniac."

Japan has always had a thing for the raven-haired crooner; and the love was reciprocated. Elvis, a black belt in karate, loved Japan. He even incorporated the Japanese martial art into his act.

"He really, really was fascinated with the physical, the spiritual, and I think that was a real connection with Japan and the Japanese people," one of Elvis's closest friends, Jerry Schilling, told ABC News.

That connection was celebrated during today's surprise trip for Koizumi.

"It's like a dream," Koizumi said. "I never expected President Bush to come with me to visit Graceland."

Then to some laughter, Koizumi went into his rendition of "Impossible Dream."

Schilling said Elvis would have been proud.

"He never got on a platform politically, but behind the scenes he was very astute and he would know the significance of what today is," Schilling said.

The prime minister said today reminded him of the Elvis song "Treat Me Nice." And then, like Elvis before them, the two world leaders left the building.

Karen Travers and Noriko Namiki contributed to this report.

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