I visited Memphis in 2013 [and] I had a coming home realisation,” says Lisa Bseiso, founder and president of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Qatar.
“It resonated within my soul and spoke so loudly that I needed to pursue being a part of his legacy, and help others understand one of the most important figures of popular music culture.”
Two years after Bseiso’s trip to Memphis, after finally gaining approval from Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises, the club opened its doors to the other Elvis fans of the Middle East – to raise understanding about the life of one of the world’s most famous performers, and to preserve his memory and music.
Bseiso then met with other fan club presidents, and even Priscilla Presley herself. “They were so happy to see new, young energy stepping into the roots of where they had once been… they told me that their ‘era’ of Elvis fans are dying out, and it was my responsibility to continue [his legacy].”
The club’s inaugural events in Qatar took place in February as part of Discover America – USA Week. Bseiso personally invited two celebrity guests from Elvis’ world to appear. Jerry Schilling – friend and confidant of Elvis and the manager behind The Beach Boys and Lisa Marie Presley – hosted a dinner with a Q&A-style talk and showed archival images and videos, not viewed by the public before.
The Grand Hyatt’s weekly brunch went Jailhouse, too, with guest DJ Derrill Argo Jr – all the way from Memphis-based Elvis Radio – on the decks. “Tables were decorated with Elvis tableware and we had a corner for Elvis’ favourite food,” says Bseiso. She adds that it’s also important to know that they were non-profit activities to strengthen cultural ties between Qatar and the USA. “As we learn about Elvis and his impact on American culture, we are also teaching people about this part of the world, about the true essence of Islam, and the great spirit of Arabian hospitality.”
Bseiso hopes to organise a Rock n’ Roll festival, an Elvis tribute artists show, Elvis bingo nights, ’70s dance hops, and to travel to Memphis and represent Qatar at Elvis Week 2016 (and hopefully, in 2017, with a Middle Eastern representative to the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist competition).
So far, the club has 30 official members. There is no membership fee yet – though Bseiso tells us it is currently being finalised – and the club is all about “quality over quantity”. The club gets membership requests every day, but, Bseiso explains, “We want to make sure that any possible members genuinely and honestly join because they want to be positive, active figures in the club and are committed to it.”
The club’s online community is also growing, with more than 3,000 Facebook followers already. “This is the beauty of Elvis. Thirty nine years after his sad and untimely passing, he still resonates that universal power and charisma, connecting people from all over the world.”