Elvis has not yet left the building. In fact, his iconic mythology echoes far greater and far louder than it even did during his lifetime. The cult of Elvis is very real, cutting through place and time, uniting those with very little else in common. Though born in Tupelo, Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, there are solid Southern California roots in the Elvis Presley story. Elvis owned houses in Los Angeles, including a home in Bel Air at 565 Perugia Way where he met the Beatles, one on Ladera Circle in Palm Springs where he honeymooned with new wife, Priscilla, and another on North Hillcrest Road in Beverly Hills which they lived part-time until their divorce in 1973. He had an extended stay at Hollywood’s Knickerbocker Hotel (Suite 1016) in 1956 during the shooting of Love Me Tender and kept a room at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for several years during the 1950s. Elvis made his movies at Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios and MGM (now Sony Studios) and was known to have dined at both Canter’s and the Formosa.
While the Los Angeles connection is pretty solid, it took Orange County to step up to the plate and organize the only Elvis Festival in the state of California. Now in its 17th year, it was originally held during a weekend Swap Meet at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, but this year expanded to a full fledged street fair taking place on Historic Main Street in Garden Grove, in front of the incredible Elvis-themed Mexican restaurant, Azteca. Elvis Fest offers quite the eclectic assortment of kitsch, from Elvis Bingo, hula, rockabilly acts, a Cadillac car show, Elvis impersonators performing magic, Elvis & Priscilla on Stilts and the highlight of my day, the Crème de la King impersonator performances. View the incredible highlights of several of the impersonators in this video clip below.
Although you will have to wait until next August to attend the 18th Annual Elvis Festival, you can make sure to become a regular at Azteca, which is at once cool, surreal, fun and delicious. This Elvis-themed Mexican restaurant, which originally opened in 1957 on Garden Grove Blvd and moved to its current location in 1980, is plastered with Elvis memorabilia from floor to ceiling. Authentically soulful, it is a year-round tribute to the King. I believe that Elvis would have fallen in love with the massive plate of cheese enchiladas here in the same way I have.
Azteca Mexican Restaurant: 12811 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA 92840 (714) 6238-3790