Back in the Building
Meet the owner of downtown's most rockin' residence.
Years ago June Robertson flipped open a magazine to see a girl lounging on her bed in a poodle skirt, surrounded by photos and mementos of the King of Rock-and-Roll. "She had her very own Elvis room and I wanted one too," says Robertson.
Today, it's safe to say, the British transplant has one-upped that gal in the poodle skirt about 1,000 times over. In her apartment at Uptown Square, formerly known as Lauderdale Courts public housing. Robertson boasts a veritable shrine to the entertainer she fell in love with as an 8-year-old when she first heard "Heartbreak Hotel." And that shrine, at 185 Winchester, is located just two floors above the unit where Elvis resided with his parents from 1949 to 1953. Take that, poodle girl!
Robertson lived in Germantown before she moved to Uptown Square a couple of years ago. But she'd find herself visiting Lauderdale Courts time and again because "it's hallowed ground," says the 58-year-old personal assistant to an Olive Branch businessman. "Then one day I saw the workers here and I thought, 'Oh, God, it can't be true.'" When she confirmed that the projects were indeed being converted to mixed-income apartments, "I was the first one in the building," she declares.
On the landing outside her unit is a table with tourist information and Elvis memorabilia. Inside, the singer's likeness adorns paintings, clocks, purses, curtains, knick-knacks, and more.
Among some choice collectors' pieces, many of the purchased with the help of memorabilia dealer Stephen Shutts, are a deposit slip from Elvis' checkbook with Dr. George Nichopoulos' phone number scribbled on it, a sheet of Elvis' personal "TCB" stationery, and a cigar stub that a fan named Shelly Connell picked up at the fairgrounds in 1962. Explains Robertson: "Elvis had just tossed it and was about to crush it when the girl said, 'Oh, Elvis, let me have it!'"
In the bedroom is a framed lock of Elvis' hair, reportedly sold by the singer's former barber; a baby-blue scarf that Elvis flung to a fan; and -- eat your heart out, poodle girl -- a pair of Elvis' white briefs, size 36, a bit on the dingy side. And no wonder: His housekeeper, Nancy Rooks, dusted with the undies.
Over the years, Robertson has been a wardrobe manager for such Hollywood celebs as Barbara Sinatra and Kathy Hilton (mother of Paris) and worked for three years at Buckingham Palace for the Princess Alexandra, first-cousin to Queen Elizabeth. But she sees herself foremost as "an Elvis advocate."
"His name is magic," she insists. "And that stunning face. My aunt had to sneak me a magazine when I was little because my father wouldn't allow it -- oh, it was the most beautiful face on the earth. Besides that, he had a heart of gold."