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FIT FOR THE KING; ELVIS MANSION TOUR DRAWS THOUSANDS.

Byline: Fred Shuster Daily News Staff Writer

Crowds showed the King they still love him tender Saturday as a local Elvis impersonator hosted an open house to mark the 20th anniversary of the rock 'n' roll legend's death.

It could only happen in the Valley.

Thousands waited for hours in the hot sun to stroll through Elvis impersonator Danny Uwnawich's Melodyland, a Georgian-style mansion in Northridge modeled after Presley's Graceland.

Fans of the King and the simply curious lined up along Parthenia Street to take turns viewing Uwnawich's collection of authentic Elvis memorabilia, full-size trophy room, elaborate kitchen and bathroom, and glitzy furnishings on the 20th anniversary of the rock 'n' roll star's death.

Uwnawich - who performs as Danny U. - spent five hours greeting visitors in a black, gold-studded suit, matching boots and gold-rimmed sunglasses. ``Thank you all very much,'' he drawled as screams and cheers rang out.

``I must have shook about 5,000 hands,'' Uwnawich said. ``We're having a ball.''

Uwnawich's $1.5 million home, built five years ago with earnings from nearly three decades as a popular Elvis impersonator, boasts four bedrooms, a ballroom, Corinthian columns, a swimming pool and pond.

As Presley's music played softly in the background, groups of about 15 people each were led through the house. A pink 1958 Cadillac stood in the driveway.

``I just loved it,'' said Stefanie Armbruster, 14, of Granada Hills. ``It was really beautiful. I've driven by for years, but I've never been inside before.''

Saturday was probably the last chance to see this Valley memorial to the King. Uwnawich plans to retire this year to concentrate on making records and appearing in films.

``Elvis was 42 when he died and I'm 42 this year,'' Uwnawich explained. ``I didn't want to go further than that. I'll miss going on the road, sure. But if there's a demand, I might make some appearances.''

Melodyland, which sits on one acre, is actually larger than Graceland, where a crowd estimated at 30,000 waited Saturday to see the Memphis mansion where Presley died of heart failure on Aug. 16, 1977.

Uwnawich was raised in Shreveport, La., where he lived near James Burton, Presley's longtime guitarist. He began impersonating the King as a teen-ager. Today, there are more than 200 registered Kings working professionally across the country.

``Elvis was an American icon,'' said Uwnawich, who was scheduled to perform Saturday in Thousand Oaks. ``He was a great American.''

One of Melodyland's most popular features was the trophy room, which houses a collection of animal heads and a full-size stuffed lion in attack mode. Couches, paintings and an antique desk completed the sunken, maroon-hued room.

``You could just imagine Elvis sitting there in the jungle room with Ann-Margret surrounded by all those animals,'' said Katherine Nicholson, 38, of Northridge.

Another visitor, Gloria Pall, actually worked with Presley in the 1957 film ``Jailhouse Rock,'' in which she played a nightclub dancer.

``I showed Elvis a few good bumps 'n' grinds,'' the North Hollywood woman said. ``He was delightful. Everyone loved him. Nobody ever had a bad thing to say about him.''

At one point during the day, Uwnawich went up to a man in the crowd who was cradling an infant and brought the man's family to the front of the line.

``It was the kind of thing Elvis himself would have done,'' said Reseda resident Mike Means, whose 3-week-old daughter caught Uwnawich's attention. ``It was a very nice thing of Danny to do.''

To Melodyland guide Stan Friedberg of Chatsworth's Canyon Interiors, which helped design much of the home, it was all in a day's work for Uwnawich.

``You meet the nicest people in Elvis' house,'' he quipped.

Canoga Park resident Marc Carter, who planned to attend Uwnawich's concert, said he has long been intrigued by Presley's lifestyle and music. He was impressed by Melodyland's sprawling white marble bathroom and plush master bedroom.

``For a lot of people, it's too difficult to go all the way to Memphis to see Graceland,'' Carter, 39, said. ``But this is great. This is very close to the real thing.''

Along with staunch Elvis fans, Saturday's open house drew the merely curious.

``I've driven by this place so many times,'' said teacher Evelyn Brown of Northridge. ``I've always wondered what it looked like inside.''

Many visitors thanked Uwnawich on their way out.

``This was so nice of him,'' said Northridge resident Andrea Baranick, 39. ``It was a really nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.'

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

Photo: (1--color) Elvis impersonator Danny Uwnawich welcomes visitors to his Melodyland mansion.

(2--color) Danny Uwnawich, who dressed as the '70s Elvis, embraces a woman waiting in line for a glimpse inside his re-creation of Graceland.

Gus Ruelas/Daily News
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 17, 1997
Words:791
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