Elvis’ Jungle Room
Elvis was known for many things: singing, dancing, acting… but he wasn’t exactly known for his good taste. But, as Pablo Picasso said, “Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness.” (It’s worth noting that Picasso was a tikiphile; he acquired his first, a Marquesan, around 1910, and in later years had them all over his art studio.) And so we have Elvis’ paean to bad taste, his Jungle Room at Graceland.
Elvis’ Jungle Room is furnished almost entirely with Witco furniture, a blocky style of wooden carved furniture created by William Westenhaver that reached its height of popularity in the 1960s. Most homes housed maybe a piece or two of Witco, but a whole room of it can be visually overwhelming. Elvis, of course, could handle a little visual stimulation, and went gangbusters — not only does his Jungle room house a full couch, a half-dozen chairs, tables, a cabinet, and a tiki bar (with tiki stools), but the whole room is carpeted in lime green shag, not just on the floor, but also the ceiling. It is atrocious, in the best way possible.
The official website for Graceland provides two virtual tours, which give 360° views, and allow you to zoom in and out. The Virtual Tours actually give you a better view in some ways than you can get there in person, where the room is roped off and must be viewed from the side. There’s also a great thread underway on Tiki Central, where a woofmutt has collected a variety of Jungle Room lore with some tidbits thrown in by Sven Kirsten (whose book on Witco will be out next year). Included is a story of Elvis’ dad, Vernon, telling him he’d just seen “the world’s most ugliest furniture” in a store in town, only to discover that Elvis had coincidentally just bought the whole set that same day.
Elvis’ Tiki Bar