Update: 24 hour church of elvis no longer has a physical location. It is a website only and owner is not affiliated in any way with the former Couch St. address.
Over the last two and half decades, Portland-area residents have been treated to the many evolutions of the 24 Hour Church of Elvis, which is arguably the most realistic “thing” in the Rose City.
When one is asked to describe the 24 Hour Church of Elvis, the answer is invariably, “I don’t really know how to… You just have to go see it.”
After being completely closed for several years, a new hope has appeared that the 24 Hour Church of Elvis won’t be giving up just yet; it is, rather, going back to its roots. The current location is at 408 N.W. Couch Street in old town Portland.
The founder, Stephanie G. Pierce, is a Celebrity Spokesmodel/Minister, Former Biospherian, Confirmed Semi-Finalist, and Most Importantly of All, An American.
From 1985-1986, the first 24 Hour Church of Elvis operated out of a large storefront in southwest Portland and contained a single coin-operated fortune-telling machine, accessible from the street. Maniacal window displays beckoned passersby to come inside, where over 300 Portland Artists displayed their work in the one year it was open.
At its second location, the Church’s entire store front was transformed into a blipping, bleeping, flashing work of art. It included several coin-operated art exhibits that made sounds, moved, and talked in response to pressed buttons. These machines included the World’s Cheapest Psychic, Dr. Justin D. Nikov-Time, and the 24 Hour Church of Elvis, which is actually only a display at the gallery. The official name of the gallery is Where’s the ART!! A Gallery of Art for the Smart. Both displays have been revived at the new gallery, popularly known as The Church of Elvis.
Stephanie G. Pierce is an ordained minister and started performing legally binding, as well as novelty weddings out of her gallery-turned-wedding chapel in 1989. The cost of a wedding: 25 dollars for a legal wedding or a sidewalk commitment ceremony, and one to five dollars for a cheap not legal wedding. Either service provided a certificate as well as a wedding procession around the block carrying a large and unwieldy “Just Married” sign, complete with tin cans trailing behind. These options are also available at the new location.
When Berbati’s took over her space, Where’s the ART!! moved to it’s third location. The third incarnation of the 24 Hour Church of Elvis was up two flights of stairs and did not have space immediately available for coin-operated windows. While waiting two years for permits to come through, Stephanie G. Pierce gave tours of the “before”, as performance art, to pay the rent, which was considerable. As part of the tour, those who entered were promptly yelled at for interrupting, or, depending on which part of the tour they interrupted, barked at by others taking the tour. It provided the opportunity to wonder what in the world was going on, and gave those already taking the tour, who had just gone through the same welcome, the chance for a good laugh. The tour consisted mostly of an amalgamation of seventies pop culture junk described as fast as possible by the artist. After the free tour, Stephanie G. Pierce would press you hard to buy some of her t-shirts or other art to pay her rent. That store closed in 2002, and is currently an architect’s office. You can still see the Where’s the ART!! sign displayed through the window in the door if you find the old location though.
From the very beginning back in 1985 the Church of Elvis was a favorite hangout of the infamous Portland street performer called “Elvis.” If you were lucky enough, he’d serenade you while singing tunes on his cardboard guitar. “Elvis” can still be seen regularly around old town Portland and frequently performs during the Saturday Market.
Unfortunately all locations of the Church of Elvis in the Portland area have been closed.
Know Before You Go
Easily accessible by public transportation in Old Town Portland.