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BTTF# 15: Melody Land in Northridge; The Elvis Presley Mini Graceland Tribute by Impersonator Danny Uwnawich

Images above courtesy AOL Luxist
Welcome aboard the Delorean! Marty McFly here to take you on a journey to Melody Land in Northridge. The Delorean has the required plutonium plus some random garbage in the Mr. Fusion reactor ready for this trip. The time circuits are set to August 16, 1991 and the flux capacitor is......fluxxing. The engine is running (not stalled this time) so we need to hurry. Hang on, as the ride can be a little bumpy as we travel back in time to explore Melody Land at 17912 Parthenia Street Northridge otherwise known as mini-Graceland, a tribute to Elvis Presley. 

The San Fernando Valley can be home to many odd and surprising things like the Tower of Wooden Pallets, General Motors Futureliner, The Piano Shaped Pool by Liberace, and The Circular Encino home where disco  meets Vegas to just name a few. Another random thing to have hit the SFV is a replica of Elvis Presley's Graceland home in Memphis, Tennessee. For some, this may not seem like much of a surprise considering that this is.....the San Fernando Valley. It was only going to be a matter of time before somebody did something on a grand scale related to the "King of Rock and Roll."

Image courtesy AOL Luxist
That person is Danny Uwnawich (stage name is Danny U), an Elvis impersonator since the age of 13, who started in his native Louisiana and worked his way to playing shows in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. On the side, he has acted in films including; "The Living Legend," "Halloween III," and "Kojack," as well as a small role in the made-for-TV movie, "Elvis and Me."

Image courtesy AOL Luxist
As a tribute to Elvis, Danny Uwnawich built Melody Land, a scaled down version of Graceland to allow locals the opportunity to see a replica of Graceland who never had the opportunity to travel to Memphis. He would open the front gates of his home to the public on just two significant days out of the year. Those two days were Elvis Presley's birthday on January 8th and the anniversary of his death on August 16th (which coincided with the inaugural opening date mentioned above). Danny Uwnawich spared no details in building this home trying to meticulously match Graceland investing close to $1 million back in the late 80's. From an LA Times article by Carlos V. Lozano on December 25, 1988, Look Alike Elvis Creating Look-Alike Graceland
Uwnawich, who has been impersonating Elvis on-stage for the last 16 years, said he searched for six years for an appropriate site for "Melody Land," as he calls his Graceland replica. He finally settled on Parthenia Street, he said, because "I wanted it on a big boulevard."
He purchased the site in 1986, had the house sitting there torn down and started building the Elvis tribute the following year.
Only the house's wooden frame is finished now, but the resemblance to Graceland is already apparent. Large white wrought-iron gates installed out front are shaped like an open music book. Ornamental guitar players and musical notes decorate the gates--just like those at the original mansion outside of Memphis.
"The only people who have those gates is me and him ," said Uwnawich, a 10-year resident of Van Nuys.
"Melody Land" will be considerably smaller than Graceland--it will have only three bedrooms--but Uwnawich insists it will accurately resemble the larger mansion in many other ways.
Image courtesy AOL Luxist
The gates were from the movie "Elvis and Me." (LA Times) He even had the contractor visit Graceland (from the same LA Times article):
The contractor building the 8,000-square-foot house, Ricky P. Davidson, said Uwnawich flew him to Memphis, Tenn., to see the original Graceland to ensure that details of the mansion are accurately reproduced. "He's spending a lot of money, he said. "It's going to be a big party house--an entertaining house."
If you want to talk about bad luck, Melody Land was severely hit in the 1994 Northridge earthquake  which was only three years after its opening. "The home's chandeliers came crashing down, marble and glass shattered, and the walls were cracked" (LA Times) as described in the following article which also mentions the features of the home. From the LA Times on January 9, 1995, Melody Land Still All Shook Up: Elvis Home Replica Remains Shuttered on King's Birthday:
Inside, the $1-million replica bears many features of the real thing, including gold-plated sinks and Italian toilets shaped like crouching lions, but it was rendered uninhabitable by the quake and remains closed, awaiting repairs.
It also includes a heart-shaped pool and a fountain, and Unawich covered the living room furniture with plastic, just as is done at Graceland. But because of its smaller size (Melody Land sits on one acre, while Graceland is on 13), the mock Presley home has a putting green rather than a golf course.  
"Danny Uwnawich also had an upstairs ballroom, 1956 Cadillac Eldorado in the driveway, 1971 Corvette, and three other cars that were Elvis Presley's favorite. Danny Uwnawich also added a Jungle Room decorated with deer and other animal heads reminiscent of one of the King's collections." (LA Times)

Images above courtesy AOL Luxist
The home was finally re-opened for public viewing on August 16th, 1996 as described in this LA Times article by Jose Cardenas on May 23, 1996, All Fixed Up: Elvis Impersonator to Move Back Into Restored Mini-Graceland Damaged by Northridge Quake: 
Uwnawich said living at Graceland, or a reasonable facsimile, "was always my dream." He plans to finish work at his mini-mansion by the 19th anniversary of Presley's death on Aug. 17 so fellow Elvis enthusiasts can tour it.
He says he wants to add an Elvis museum, a disco room and a pond on the one-acre property.

Images above courtesy AOL Luxist
As the saying goes, "all good things must come to an end " which is what exactly happened to this property. From the LA Times by Jose Cardenas on August 17, 1997, Next Best Thing to Graceland:
Meanwhile, Uwnawich's own impersonating career came to an end Saturday night with a performance at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, where 1,000 people were expected.
At 42, he said he wanted to quit imitating Elvis at the same age Elvis died. Instead he will pursue a career in acting and record his own music, he said.
"I feel kind of sad," he said. "I've been doing it for a long time . . . but everything has to come to an end."

Images above courtesy AOL Luxist
Based on property records, this 3 Bed/3 Bath 6,310 sqft home originally built in 1957 and renovated in 1989 was sold by Danny Uwnawich on February 13, 2002 for $870,000 to Bradford J King who appeared to have let the home sit unattended, slowly deteriorating, and possibly vacant until he sold it again at a loss for $675,000 on May 27, 2010 to the current owners who removed any traces to Melody Land except for the heart shaped pool and possibly some items in the interior which are not publicly disclosed therefore I cannot confirm. It seemed that back in 2008, Danny Uwnawich was going to buy the home back but I guess the deal fell through. From the LA Times by Lauren Beale (favorite celeb R.E. writer at the LA Times) on September 7, 2008, In the San Fernando Valley, Elvis Lives
Although it may fall short of the grander Georgian-style in Memphis, Tenn., it does include a heart-shaped swimming pool and an upstairs ballroom. The three-bedroom, 6,310-square-foot replica has been listed at $999,000.
Danny U is now in escrow to buy the home back, Brodetsky said. All of the furniture that was in the home under Uwnawich's ownership is still in the home, which appears to be in the exact condition in which he left it. Maybe some people can go home again.
Image courtesy; From 2009 showing deterioration
Not sure what happened here but it seems like Danny Uwnawich fell off the face of the earth as this once public figure cannot be found. But his story and creation is another reminder of the odd, strange, crazy, and random acts and things that occur in the San Fernando Valley which I believe contribute to its greatness. Even the heart-shaped pool is unique which is reminscent of the piano shaped pool by Liberace. Some individuals may complain of the SFV's boring redundant look but there is more to offer if you spend the time looking for unique gems

Image courtesy AOL Luxist
So lets jump back in the Delorean and head Back to the Future to view its current status. Really sad to see this go as this was one of my favorite things to look out for whenever I drove down Parthenia in Northridge. But that is no surprise as various sites are slowly disappearing as mentioned in other Back to the Future posts. 

Image courtesy Google Maps; Date Unknown but appears to be 2006  - 2010
Image courtesy Bing Maps; Date Unknown but appears to be 2006  - 2010

Look Alike Elvis Creating Look-Alike Graceland, LA Times by Carlos V. Lozano on December 25, 1988

Next Best Thing to Graceland, LA Times by Jose Cardenas on August 17, 1997

Melody Land Ranch, Estate of the Day, AOL Luxist by Deidre Woollard on May 24, 2006

In the San Fernando Valley, Elvis Lives, LA Times by Lauren Beale on September 7, 2008

Waymarking (picture of the gates)

Redfin Listing

Blockshopper Property Records

Found some additional pictures from

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Marty Mcfly

Anything and everything about the San Fernando Valley. This blog will take you back in time when the valley was covered with dirt and orange groves to a leader in the space race to its current status as America's suburb. Come along and join me on this adventure, I guarantee you have been influenced/impacted by the San Fernando Valley in one form or another even if you have never visited or heard of the SFV.

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