“Elvis has left the building” has become such a cliche, or as the Wikipedia puts it, “a catchphrase and punchline,” if you’re young enough, you may not know that people actually said it of Elvis Presley.
It was “announced at the end of [his] concerts to encourage fans to accept that there would be no further encores and to go home. It is now used more widely to indicate that someone has made an exit or that something is complete.”
“Oddly, although the phrase was routinely used to encourage the audience to leave, the first time that it was announced it was to encourage them to stay in their seats. That first use was in December 1956 by Horace Logan [listen], who was the announcer at the Louisiana Hayride show, in which Elvis was a regular performer.
“Presley had very quickly become very popular with teenagers but had previously taken a regular lowly spot at the Hayride, which was his first big break. He was on the bill quite early in proceedings but after his performance was over and the encore complete, the crowd of teenagers, who weren’t Hillbilly enthusiasts, began to leave. Logan announced: ‘Please, young people … Elvis has left the building. He has gotten in his car and driven away … Please take your seats.'”
Throughout the 1970s, the phrase was captured on record several times, spoken by Al Dvorin.
Now, it is “used to refer to anyone who has exited in some sense. For instance, it might be used when someone makes a dramatic exit from an argument, to relieve tension among those who remain. Baseball broadcasters on radio and/or television sometimes use the phrase as a humorous way to describe a home run, which is typically hit over the outfield fence, leaving the field of play.”
There is a movie called Elvis Has Left the Building (2004): “A fugitive Pink Lady rep hooks up with a bored ad exec as she’s trying to avoid going down for the murder of several Elvis impersonators.”
The phrase is referred to in the Dire Straits song Calling Elvis [listen].
Is anybody home?
I’m here all alone
Did he leave the building?
Or can he come to the phone?
I’m here all alone
The Wikipedia lists several pop references to the phrase, including the films The Usual Suspects and Independence Day. But it doesn’t mention Elvis is Dead by Living Colour [listen], which is the strongest reference for me.
Elvis is dead, 40 years today. Or as I read 40 years ago tomorrow, Elvis HAS left the building. Right? RIGHT?!