Mike Richardson, dressed in a white Elvis-style jumpsuit and wig, dropped to one knee in front of a woman who barely had spoken to anyone in months at Keepsake Village nursing home.
Richardson moved in close, gently took her frail hand and met her gaze. And when the Columbus resident began to sing, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” the years melted away to a time when her skin was smooth and her love was young.
Seconds later, she broke her silence by smiling and softly singing along. Only afterward did Richardson discover that the woman’s late husband used to croon the tune to her on a regular basis.
“Elvis is gone,” Richardson said. “But through the simple impersonation, I feel that, in some small way, I’m continuing a part of his work. I believe that every time I go to a nursing home, I’m taking his spirit with me.”
The 59-year-old Richardson and other area residents say they can’t help thinking about the musical legend who died 35 years ago today after becoming one of the best-selling artists of all time.
Record collector Jarrett Noel, co-owner of The Mix, a used record store downtown, designated a separate bin in the store for Presley’s albums because of his continued popularity which has outlasted disco, rap, alternative rock and nearly every other style and genre.
“There always are people looking for Elvis records,” Noel said. “With older people, it’s often a matter of nostalgia. With younger people, they just like the music.”
Other fans expressed irritation that they hear too many people comparing other major artists with Presley, who scored dozens of hits — “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “My Way,” among others — from 1954 to 1978.
“I’ve heard people talk about Michael Jackson as the King (of Pop),” said Columbus’ Emanuele Rossittis. “But, to me, Elvis was like Muhammad Ali — the greatest.
“He was so versatile and flexible. Have you heard any of his gospel songs? Oh my goodness.”
Columbus’ Joyce Harmon, 77, recalled him as a young artist with a daring stage presence in a more innocent age.
“I didn’t mind his hips,” she said, breaking into laughter while recalling that conservative network television showed him only from the waist up on his first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
But Harmon said she should have skipped his movies, from “Blue Hawaii” to “Viva Las Vegas.”
“They were bad,” she said.
Ed Love, 81, of Columbus, clearly viewed Presley as a performer apart from others in the mid-1950s.
“His music seemed very different than anybody else’s,” Love said. “I think it really changed some teenagers’ lives.”
Presley made enough of an impact on Love that he regularly plays one of Presley’s gospel-oriented CDs at home.
The record shop’s Noel expects a few Elvis customers to visit today because of the anniversary.
“There probably will be more people than usual just looking for Elvis (records),” Noel said.
And looking, perhaps just like Richardson, for a way to keep alive the star’s music and memory.