By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Now, the Man Who Knew the King provides an eloquent summation on the strange existence of the Boy Who Dared to Rock.
"At 19 years old, he was dirt poor in the Deep South, the deepest kind of poverty, outhouses, the whole bit. Before he's 20, he's a multimillionaire. He never grows up. He's never forced to change. He creates his own world; it's the only way he can survive.
"It was very bizarre. He couldn't go to Dairy Queen, ever. And you couldn't bring it home to him because it would melt. When you think about it, it's not important, but it is. The American dream can be a nightmare."
I have not driven past a Dairy Queen since and not thought of those words.
So what are Lichter and his Presley business doing out here in the desert?
"We were going to open up a museum with Graceland," he says, "and they bought the Colonel's collection, so that deal didn't pan out. But our house [in Pennsylvania] was up for sale, and it sold in a couple days, so we had to go somewhere. Colonel lived in Vegas, and he kept pitching that to us. I was leaning toward Vegas, but my wife wanted Tristan to have a chance to grow up and not be a card dealer and marry a showgirl. Arizona was this big hype; all we heard in Pennsylvania was how great Arizona was. So we decided to try it."
Business just keeps getting better, according to Lichter. And if it all seems rather silly to you, it does to him, too. But in a way that can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars. That kind of silly.
"It's a different kind of collector today than it was 25 years ago," he clarifies. "Then, it was all for love. It was fans, people weren't crazed. Nobody plays the records today, it's all business. I think it sucks. It's taken the fun out of the business, and it's priced [memorabilia] out of the ability of the average person to collect. I'm being told by my customers that I'm cheap, and I was always high. I begin to wonder if I'm losing touch with what's happening today, it's so absurd.
"The Elvis I knew has nothing to do with anything that goes on today. It's not about the music. People buy stuff for an investment. Most record collectors I know never play the music. I'm guilty, I never put a record on a turntable anymore."
Yet it's not a bad thing, apparently.
"At the end of the day, collecting is like any other addiction. And it's fun, I recommend it to anybody."
Or, as Elvis Presley himself said to Lichter one night in Las Vegas when he first heard about the Elvis Unique Record Club:
"You mean people are willing to pay lots of money for my old records? Why?"