by Katy Lain

Housewives and movie stars alike will identify with this true story. A strange mystery changes the life of a world-famous supermodel forever; and it happened at the 24-hour Church of Elvis!! You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to buy the T-shirt...

—Stephanie G. Pierce
"Artist to the Stars"

One morning Monica, the famous wig supermodel, woke up with a strange (but oh-so-handsome) man in her bed. Who was this John Doe? she asked herself. What had happened the night before? She could only vaguely remember cocktails at Al D'Amato's, then dinner with Pierce Brosnan at Barbra Streisand's... And why was she all of a sudden wearing a wedding ring? Horror flooded through her and she began to shake, so hideous were the possibilities—until the phone rang. It was Monica's best friend Elle McPherson calling to congratulate her on her wedding to the sleeping beauty (his name was Eduardo) the previous evening at the 24-Hour Church of Elvis. It all came back to Monica in a rush, and she realized her ring was plastic, the ceremony wasn't legal, and that everything was going to be OK...

Strange mysteries occur at the 24-Hour Church of Elvis, a convenience store of worship/research and center/gallery of ugly art, hidden in an alley above a Thai restaurant in downtown Portland, OR. The Church of Elvis offers tired and spiritually weakened pilgrims of all ages moderately priced, coin-operated comfort for all their religious needs—confessions, catechisms, sermons, and weddings.

Shirley "Faith" and Sally "Hope" (not their real names), two robust forty-something women from Grawn, Michigan, in town for a psychology conference, recently found themselves in front of the entrance to the Church

Excited, yet unaware of what exactly to expect, they climbed the narrow stairs, pressed the buzzer, and waited. The door opened, and they were greeted by the Minister of the Church of Elvis, raven-haired Stephanhe G. Pierce, also a Celebrity Spokesmodel and self-proclaimed "Artist to the Stars," wearing a "24-Hour Church of Elvis" sweatshirt. She was just finishing up touring the Church with some flannel-wearing locals, and had arrived at that part of the tour where she gently encourages her customers to part with their hard-earned cash.

"Don't be so cheap!" she screamed (the younger ones, in particular, needed prodding), indicating the dazzling display of Elvis art—the Elvis detector, the Elvis I.D. card, the Elvis X ray, the Elvis coasters and stickers, the book, "Strange Mystery at the 24-Hour Church of Elvis," featuring Monica, the wig supermodel—not to mention the glow-in-the-dark Church of Elvis T-shirts.

"Are you a repeat customer?" Pierce demanded of the two visitors. It's easy to flunk the "customer test" by not giving Pierce the appropriate "customer response," but Shirley and Sally answered correctly. They were Church of Elvis virgins, unaware that the original 24-Hour Church of Elvis was a coin-operated vending machine displayed in a gallery window.

"Are you an Elvis fan?" Pierce asked one of the women, Shirley, in a quiet voice.

"Of course," Shirley answered. Fail.

And then a high-pitched scream: "Damn you and your Elvis worship!"

Pierce claimed not to be an Elvis fan. "I originally was going to worship plastic," she says. Ultimately, she confessed to the customers: "I decided that what we can't get rid of, we might as well worship."

Shirley and Sally sat on the "art-o-mobile," part-wheelchair, part-Graceland-era couch, pulling themselves forward by their feet, "Flintstones"-style. Once the vehicle actually works, it will whisk customers through the hallways and rooms of the Church, through the research lab and the secular nunnery and the hall of art horrors, past the collage of fame created by James, the "number one fan" (he sports a Church of Elvis tatoo on his arm). The photos in the collage depict the first couple to be legally wed at the Church. They won a radio-station contest in Chicago; the ceremony took place in the early morning so as to be heard during rush-hour traffic. Elvis (an independent contractor who costs extra) was in attendance.

Pierce showed the women her minister's robe, which she wears when she conducts wedding ceremonies. She looked pointedly at Shirley and Sally. "Do you want to get married today?" she asked.

"Um, uh," they hemmed and hawed.

"Only $5, including a Polaroid," Pierce said.

And so the two women found themselves choosing plastic rings from the Minister's collection. Shirley was the bride; she wore a purple veil. Movingly, she told Sally, "I'm doing this because I love you and I want to share Elvis with you."

The two women exchanged vows, the Minister declared them "artfully wed," and then told them to click their heels three times and say, "There's no place like home."

Taped music played, polaroids were taken, the wedding certificate was signed, tears were shed, and many items were purchased. And, hopefully, Shirley woke up the next morning a little woozy, with a plastic ring on her finger and Elvis in her heart.   </end>

All Elvis mementos shown can be found at the 24 hr. Church of Elvis.
Up Talk!