THURMAN - Since he was a teenager, part-time Thurman resident Russ Howe was fascinated with the swagger, style and persona of Elvis Presley.
His interest in the Presley mystique led him first to become a tribute artist, then - over the past 30 years - to gather a collection of Presley memorabilia. In 2004, he joined forces with another Elvis fan, Bud Glass, to form a collection which toured state fairs in the U.S. and was hailed at a showing in Berlin, Germany.
Just two weeks ago, on Oct. 21, this collection opened as the Kings Ransom Elvis Museum - with considerable fanfare and media attention - at the Imperial Palace casino and hotel in Las Vegas.
The collection has been hailed by Elvis' friends, bodyguards and backup musicians - a substantial number of whom attended an opening party for the museum last week.
The exhibit includes items that span Elvis' lifetime, including selections from his stage and movie wardrobes, jewelry, guns, and personal clothing items, Howe said.
"I never got to see him perform, and collecting these items made me feel closer to him," Howe said Saturday.
Ranging from a showy Lincoln Continental Mark III he presented months before his death to backup singer Cathy Westmoreland, to a bottle of Mylanta found in one of his medicine cabinets, the collection reveals fascinating aspects of his character and private life, reviewers have said.
One outstanding item in the collection is Elvis' personal Bible, including his own notations and phrases he underlined.
"The exhibit takes you through Elvis' life from the first rifle his parents bought him as a boy to the Bible that was found beside his bed the day he passed away," Howe said.
The collection includes the blue jacket Elvis wore in the 1966 movie Spinout, and a two-piece black leather stage outfit, circa 1974, that he wore in Vegas shows.