Bush And Japanese Premier Koizumi Visit Graceland President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the shrine of the King today. Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Zach Macmillan talks about what they did on their trip to Graceland.
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Bush And Japanese Premier Koizumi Visit Graceland

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Bush And Japanese Premier Koizumi Visit Graceland

Bush And Japanese Premier Koizumi Visit Graceland

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. And here are the headlines from some of the other stories we're following here today at NPR News.

The Supreme Court ruled today that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees. In a strong rebuke, the Justices said the trials are illegal under U.S. and international law.

And the Department of Veterans Affairs says it's recovered the stolen laptop that contains sensitive personal information on millions of U.S. veterans and active duty service members. The FBI says there is no evidence that anyone accessed that information. Details on those stories and, of course, much more later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION, it's SCIENCE FRIDAY and Ira Flatow will be here with a look at the short lived electric car and a new film chronicling its demise. Plus, a bird flu update and new research into crops and carbon dioxide levels. All that tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY.

In a few minutes, Cirque du Soleil tackles The Beatles. We'll get an early review of their new show. But first, the president, the prime minister, and the king.

Tomorrow morning, President George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will fly from Washington D.C., where they met today, to Memphis, Tennessee. There the presidential motorcade will travel down Elvis Presley Boulevard, just off I-55, and on to Graceland. Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley will greet the two heads of - the two leaders and give them a tour of the King's famous estate. It's surely a dream come true for Koizumi, who's a big fan of Elvis' music. In fact, here he is singing "I Want You" with former CNN anchor Bill Hemmer, on that network's American Morning program in 2004.

(Soundbite of song "I want you")

Prime Minister JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI (Japan): (Singing) Hold me close, hold me tight. Make me thrill with delight.

Mr. BILL HEMMER (Former CNN Anchor): Let me know where I stand from the start.

Prime Minister KOIZUMI: I want you, I need you, I love you with all my heart.

CONAN: Maybe he should have stuck to politics. Japanese prime minister and former CNN anchor Bill Hemmer singing Elvis Presley's I Want You. And if you need further convincing that Mr. Koizumi is one of Elvis's biggest fans, in 2002. the prime minister released a CD compilation in Japan called My Favorite Elvis Songs. It sold out all 200,000 copies.

Joining us to talk about the president and the prime minister's visit to see the King is Zach Macmillan, a reporter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal who will be covering the trip. He's with us on the phone from his office in Memphis. Thanks for taking the time to be with us today.

Mr. ZACH MACMILLAN (Reporter, Memphis Commercial Appeal): Glad to join you, Neal. I thought that was a pretty good rendition.

CONAN: You did?

Mr. MACMILLAN: I could just - could you see him in a jumpsuit with the hair flowing back. I think he'd be great. I hope he shows up in a jumpsuit tomorrow.

CONAN: Well, he'd definitely be skinny Elvis.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MACMILLAN: He would definitely be the skinny Elvis. Although, I think the folks at Graceland like to refer to it as classic Elvis.

CONAN: Classic Elvis. And, in fact, I understand that there's some belief that later Elvis's didn't exist.

Mr. MACMILLAN: Well, some people would probably like to claim that.

CONAN: Anything else besides - what are they going to do when they get to Graceland?

Mr. MACMILLAN: I guess they'll go the Jungle Room. You know, Lisa - I think you said Lisa Marie and Priscilla are going to give them a personal guided tour. They won't have the little headphones like most visitors do. And they have, you know, as the White House - they're not too specific on exactly which room they'll be in at which time. They're only going to be there - if we look at the schedule, I don't know, not too more than an hour. That's barely enough time, to me, to see the Jungle Room.

CONAN: And not enough time for a meal. You think peanut butter and banana sandwiches, maybe?

Mr. MACMILLAN: You would think. Maybe they'll have them - they'll have a lunch bag for them.

CONAN: Could be in the goody bag they take away. Along the way, are they going to get to see much else of Memphis?

Mr. MACMILLAN: Well, I know they're going to have the city's famous fare, the barbeque. They're going to go down The Rendezvous. The famous Rendezvous downtown. And, you know, whether or not they're going to make any other side trips to any of the other musical destinations, if you're a music fan like Prime Minister Koizumi, then you would think you might find some other places in Memphis. We have heard that there might be some other possibilities, but we haven't confirmed any of that.

CONAN: So he might go to Beale Street, the home of music there in Memphis?

Mr. MACMILLAN: Maybe Beale Street, maybe Sun Studio, where Elvis and Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins - or maybe, if he were really sophisticated - he would really impress us if he went down to Soulsville, where the Stax Studio - the famous Stax Studio...

CONAN: Stax Gold Studio, yes, indeed. The home of Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays, and all of those guys.

Mr. MACMILLAN: Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave.

CONAN: Yeah. So are Memphians excited about the visit of the president and the prime minister?

Mr. MACMILLAN: Oh, yeah. Memphians are - Memphians are excited - it's a little - I mean, in Memphis, you're just - you're used to Graceland. It's sort of its own island. So when people come to town they go to Graceland the way they go to Orlando to go to Disney World. So in the sort of day-to-day life of a Memphian, you don't think about Graceland a whole lot.

People come, they visit Graceland, but there have been, you know, there's a local band that's going to play while they - I think while they eat ribs at the Rendezvous. And he's having - his wife is pregnant, she's going to be induced today so that he can play at the Rendezvous tomorrow. There's been a guy that was - he somehow got a hold of a lot of locks of Elvis' hair that - he wants to give them to the prime minister. So there's a lot of people like that who are interested.

There's definitely a little bit of a buzz, but, you know, we've had a lot of famous people who like to go to Graceland.

CONAN: Zach Macmillan, thanks very much.

Mr. MACMILLAN: Sure. Thank you.

CONAN: Zach Macmillan, a reporter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, who will, tomorrow, be covering President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi as they visit Memphis and Graceland.

As he mentioned, they will be stopping for a barbecue lunch at the Rendezvous, the famous Memphis restaurant on South Second Street, famous mostly for its ribs.

Joining us now is Nick Vergos. His family owns the Rendezvous. Nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. NICK VERGOS (Co-Owner, Rendezvous Ribs Restaurant, Memphis, Tennessee): Hey, Neal. How're you doing?

CONAN: And we say this - how long has the Rendezvous been around?

Mr. VERGOS: My father started the Rendezvous in 1948.

CONAN: And ribs then, and pulled pork?

Mr. VERGOS: It actually started out more as a tavern. He had like cold sandwiches, ham sandwiches and salami sandwiches, and draft beer and soft drinks. But he had a - there was a coal chute that was in the basement of where he built his restaurant. He converted it into a charcoal pit and started smoking his cured hams, and then just started cooking. And ribs ended up being the thing that hit off. We went from selling about a box a week to 10,000 pounds a week. It's quite a success story in the restaurant business.

CONAN: Well, as I'm sure you know far better than I, there is great controversy in the barbecue world about different kinds of preparation. Which do you prefer?

Mr. VERGOS: I prefer ours.

CONAN: I'm saying, how are yours prepared?

Mr. VERGOS: Ours are - well, they're fully cooked. They're not sauced, so they're just cooked with the seasoning. And that's what people have come to know as dry ribs. And, of course, there's sauce available on the table.

I prefer all ribs, actually. I'm just a huge barbecue fan, and on any given day at any given moment in Memphis, Tennessee, you can walk into God knows how many barbecue restaurants and have the finest barbecue you've ever had. It's just -barbecue's just a wonderful thing here in town.

CONAN: Well, given that, why do you think the White House chose the Rendezvous?

Mr. VERGOS: Well, I think that we're probably the most famous of all the barbecue places. And, of course, we think we're the best.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Well, what did you - how did you react when you got the phone call?

Mr. VERGOS: We were pretty excited about it, actually. This started around the first week of June when I got an e-mail from somebody in Washington that said that there was a chance, and, I guess about the middle of last week, it really got firmed up and we got really, really excited then.

CONAN: So are preparations underway? Are you getting stuff ready?

Mr. VERGOS: Preparations started, actually, Friday of last week. It was our first meeting with the people from the White House and it's just been, it's meeting - we didn't meet over the weekend, but starting Monday of this week, the meetings have been pretty reg - not really so much meetings as just, maybe 30 minutes a day, an hour a day, just kind of talking about things that may need to be done. There's nothing really firm has been set up.

CONAN: Not even the menu?

Mr. VERGOS: The menu has been set up. They're going to have ribs, chicken, and shoulder.

CONAN: Uh-huh.

Mr. VERGOS: Shoulder meat. But times, and where he's going to sit and things have not really been confirmed yet.

CONAN: All right. Well, good luck to...

Mr. VERGOS: But we have a big restaurant. We can sit him anywhere.

CONAN: I'm sure you'll be able to squeeze him in.

Mr. VERGOS: We'll fit him right in, sir.

CONAN: I understand the rest of the country can sample some of your famous ribs - you ship?

Mr. VERGOS: We ship. They can go to www.hogsfly - H-O-G-S-F-L-Y. Thanks for the plug too, by the way.

CONAN: Well, thank you very much for that. Good luck tomorrow.

Mr. VERGOS: Thanks very much, Neal.

CONAN: Nick Vergos, son of Charlie Vergos, who founded Rendezvous Ribs in 1948. The Vergos family still owns the Memphis restaurant where President George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi will grab lunch tomorrow after they tour Graceland.

When we come back, it's going to be Cirque du Soleil, and le Beatles.

(Soundbite of song “I want you”)

Mr. ELVIS PRESLEY (Singer): (Singing) Hold me close, hold me tight. Make me thrill with delight. Let me know where I stand from the start. I want you, I need you...

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