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GRACELAND COPY WAITS FOR WINNER : ELVIS TRIBUTE TO GO TO CONTEST WINNER.

Byline: Fred Shuster Daily News Staff Writer

A retiring Elvis impersonator plans to hold a contest to give away the $1.5 million mansion he built in 1992 as a tribute to Graceland.

The house, a four-bedroom Georgian-style home located on the corner of Parthenia Street and Zelzah Avenue, is to be the prize in a sweepstakes that involves the marketing of a long-distance phone card that goes on sale across the country May 1.

The $4.99 card will bear the likeness of Presley impersonator Danny Uwnawich, who built the 8,000-square-foot house he dubbed Melodyland five years ago with money earned from his act. The home underwent about $500,000 worth of repairs after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

No matter how many phone cards are sold, the home will be given away to one of the buyers, whose name will be drawn at random Jan. 8, 1998 - the late Presley's birth date, said Alan Libman, promoter of the sweepstakes.

The sweepstakes is a money-making effort on behalf of Uwnawich, who is retiring from the road this year and who owns other homes in Van Nuys and Las Vegas. Libman, a West Hollywood-based businessman, currently is promoting the giveaway of a Steinway piano owned by John Lennon by means of a $4.99 toll call.

Details of where to buy the Melodyland sweepstakes phone card will be announced next month, Libman said.

Libman said he timed the sweepstakes to coincide with an important year for fans of Presley.

``This is the 20th anniversary year of Elvis' death,'' Libman said. ``Everybody and their brother will be doing tributes this year. But this one is different. People all over the country would like to win a house in Southern California. And the added incentive is, this is a showpiece.''

Uwnawich's version of Graceland, which is actually larger than Presley's famous Memphis home, sits on one acre and features Corinthian columns at the entrance, front gates with a musical motif, a ballroom, trophy room, huge white marble bathroom, swimming pool and pond.

Uwnawich, who plays about 40 shows a year around the country as Danny U., has spent nearly 30 years impersonating the '70s Elvis, complete with pork-chop sideburns and glitzy costumes.

``I put it all into this house,'' Uwnawich said. ``But Elvis' taste was a little different than mine, even though the furnishings are similar.''

The house is famous in the Valley because Uwnawich swings open his gates to the public each year on Jan. 8 to commemorate the King's birthday.

``That's when people drop by all day long,'' the 42-year-old Uwnawich said. ``They leave flowers, put candles on the gates and play Elvis music on giant boom boxes. It's almost a religious thing. People just don't want to let go of the legend. He was a very special person.''

Uwnawich bought the property five years ago, tore down the existing house and built Melodyland for $1.5 million, he said.

The sweepstakes is an example of the unusual ways in which people are selling homes these days, said real estate broker Mel Wilson of Northridge-based Coldwell Banker Mel Wilson & Associates.

``At a time when the normal methods of selling property don't always work that well, real estate agents are trying to find more creative ways of selling houses,'' Wilson said. ``This is surely going to maximize their return.''

Based on a sale price of $1.5 million for the Northridge house, the new owner would have to pay about $19,000 annually in property taxes, Wilson said.

``These kinds of sweepstakes and contests are legal and pretty straightforward,'' said Linda Fernandez, a trade practice analyst with the Colton-based Better Business Bureau. ``In exchange for the fee, a service or product is provided, and the buyer is enrolled (for the contest). We don't get involved unless there are a number of complaints.''

Fernandez said she had not heard of any complaints involving the Lennon sweepstakes or house sale lotteries.

Uwnawich says he had just put the finishing touches on the house and had placed the final crystal in an entrance-hall chandelier just two hours before the 1994 quake hit.

``I walked across the street to see how it looked. Then I went upstairs to bed and started watching TV,'' recalled Uwnawich, who is married and has a 22-year-old son. ``Two hours later, the earthquake hit.''

In a split second, Melodyland became Heartbreak Hotel. Walls cracked, light fixtures shattered and marble split. Officials slapped a red tag on the door. Uwnawich, who sports jet-black hair and a Southern drawl just like the King, was told to move out. He returned six months ago.

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 and met his idol in 1973 in Las Vegas where both entertainers were performing.

``I told Elvis that I planned to build a house similar to his,'' Uwnawich said. ``We call this the West Coast Graceland.''

CAPTION(S):

4 Photos

PHOTO (1 -- color) Music motifs grace the gates to Melodyland in Northridge.

(2 -- color) Elvis impersonator Danny Uwnawich stands in front of Melodyland, a tribute to Graceland.

(3 -- color) Danny Uwnawich holds a ``Black Dove'' guitar once belonging to Elvis in Melodyland's living room adorned with Presley paraphernalia.

(4 -- color) A collection of Elvis memorabilia is on display at Melodyland.

David Sprague/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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:Feb 13, 1997
Words:898
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