MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Graceland mansion, the mecca for thousands who idolized rock 'n' roll superstar Elvis Presley, was opened to the public Monday and drew raves from Presley fans from across the country.
'Everybody in our group was awe-struck,' exclaimed Joe Foster, a Detroit construction worker who was first in line. 'They thought it was great.
'The way it is set up is excellent,' he said. 'Of course they have a couple of bugs to iron out like anything you do the first time.'
The first group of fans drove across Elvis Presley Boulevard in a shuttle bus that took them up the curving driveway to the 23-room mansion at 9 a.m. CDT.
They began the tour shortly after Delta Mae Biggs, Presley's aunt who lives at Graceland, used a pair of gold-colored scissors to cut a blue ribbon strung between the white columns on the front porch.
For a $5 ticket, a maximum of 3,000 tourists will be admitted each day to the home in suburban Memphis that cost Presley more than $100,000 when he bought it in 1957.
Leonig Levitsky, a Russian emigrant who has lived in Chicago since 1927, came to Memphis especially for the Graceland opening.
'It was good,' said Levitsky. 'Sure, it's worth the money.'
Cecile O'Rourke, Levitsky's traveling companion, said the tour was great.
'I loved it,' she said.
Miss O'Rourke said the turnout of tourists showed interest in Presley was unflagging nearly five years after his death.
'I still love that man. I don't think anyone will be as popular as he was,' she said. 'I think in 50 years it will still be going on.'
Foster was so enthused over the tour he decided to buy another ticket for a second tour of the 13.8-acre estate and mansion.
'I'm going to have to go back again,' he said. 'There's just too much to see.'
Tour groups, limited to 14 persons, are led through the house by young guides wearing white shirts and slacks. Red-coated security guards are stationed inside and outside the house to keep the more zealous fans from carting off mementoes and from entering parts of the house not included on the tour.
Barred from public inspection are Presley's upstairs bedroom and the bathroom where the entertainer died Aug. 16, 1977. But, the main floor, the basement den with its three television sets and mirrored hallway and the entertainer's record-filled and memorabilia-strewn trophy room are all on display along with a collection of Presley's automobiles and motorcycles.
The trophy room, and another den on the main floor with a jungle motif, drew the most praise.
'I was really impressed with the trophy room. It was super,' said Foster. 'That jungle room was pretty good, but the trophy room was the creme de la creme.'
Presley's grave, and the graves of his parents and grandmother, are the last stop on the tour. The gravesites, which are in a special meditation garden on the south side of the house, were the only part of the estate open to the public before the tour program began.
Revenue from the tours will be used to pay the upkeep of the mansion, which is part of the estate left to Presley's 14-year-old daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. The teenager inherits the estate when she is 25.