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September 14, 2017 - The Times Of India / Elvis Express Radio
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|The thin packet that the postman slipped under the door of his Koregaon Park home accounted for one of the defining moments of Zahir Chinoy's life. The packet contained an
autographed photograph of the only "king" the music world of the mid-20th century ever knew. Indeed, the Elvis Presley that Chinoy had only heard on the airwaves or occasionally
soaked in at the movie halls of Pune had almost come alive from under that door, pleasantly reshaping the ruminations of his idol in his yet virgin mindspace.
The photograph was sent gratis by a stewardess from a restaurant outside Hollywood. Chinoy's parents had gone to the movie wonderland in 1961 with the intention of meeting Elvis
for their son's sake but met with closed doors, it being a weekend. With not enough time in hand to stay on in the US, they walked into the restaurant and in passing mentioned their
failed attempt to the stewardess. She nonchalantly said she knew a film director close to Elvis and would get a signed photograph from the King himself. The parents and the boy
didn't pin much hope on her assurance, but were awe-struck a few months later when the photograph arrived.
The King is now long dead but the boy, who turned 75 a few days ago, has quietly perpetuated his memory. Chinoy's bungalow at Kharadi houses a basement "den", as he fondly
calls it, which stocks only Elvis memorabilia painstakingly gathered over the years.
The place breathes Elvis with a range of life-sized music album and movie posters of him in his wide-cut trousers, bell-sleeved shirts, pointed collars, gold belts and the famed
sequinned peacock and eagle jumpsuits. His iconic S-shaped, en pointe pose from Jailhouse Rock stares at you from posters and is emblazoned on coffee mugs and wine and shot
glasses. The "den" stocks more than 1,000 Elvis CDs, DVDs and LPs, record players, T-shirts, cushion covers, postal stamps released by several countries and even a miniature
pair of blue suede shoes.
Chinoy and his colleague, Rajiv Jacobi, co-founded the Elvis Presley Fan Club in Pune, which has around 180 members who meet informally for music listening and movie screening
sessions. Several cities around the country have similar Elvis clubs, but the collectibles with the Pune chapter outstrips those of the others.
Harking back to the Pune of the '50s and '60s, Chinoy recalls the Elvis movies that would trickle in every six months or so, a good two years after their release in the US. The movies
would play to packed audiences in cinema-halls like West-End, Empire, Liberty and Hindvijay, all long shut down.
Entertainment in the city was restricted to the movies, the radio, the occasional play, the races, a meal at one of the few restaurants or a leisurely stroll in the great, pollution-free
outdoors. A car owner then enjoyed local celebrity status. He often parked on the uncluttered footpaths and a ride in his vehicle was a luxury. The Chinoys went to the movies every
Sunday evening in their car, with the West-End management mandatorily reserving five seats for them.
The 62-year-old Jacobi remembers the struggle to get good music in those days. He would bribe the clerical staff during his frequent rounds of the foreign post office and customs
department in Mumbai to pick up Elvis records and later cassettes sent by friends and relatives from abroad. DN Road and Chor Bazaar were other avenues for Elvis music that was
smuggled in. In 1983, Jacobi even went to Colombo just to fetch two Elvis video-tapes - 'Elvis: That's The Way It Is' and 'The 68 TV Special'.
It's "Heartbreak Hotel" playing in the "den", which gives Chinoy occasion to drift back to 1992 when he stayed in a hotel by that name just outside Elvis's abode, Graceland. He had
gone there with his wife and two sons and had paid 25 dollars per head for a tour of the entire estate, which included a glimpse of Elvis's planes and cars.
A lot more memorabilia was acquired during that US trip. Chinoy says the "den" cannot display all the items he and the club members have picked up over the years. Much has been
stashed away, including the treasured photograph from Hollywood. Chinoy would rather display precious diamonds than that one acquisition.
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