Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Birthday, Baby Elvis!


judging the elvii.jpg
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
I've watched all those documentaries about Elvis impersonators, and knew that going to the Northern Lights Theater at Potowatomi Bingo and Casino was going to be surreal, but it was still even more surreal than I thought. Being the cheap-o that I am, I didn't go to the paying show, I just sampled an Elvis competition in the late afternoon, with 7 Elvii vying for a spot in the (paid for reservered seats) finals later this week. I didn't even see the whole show -- I got there late to catch three Presleys: one who had some kind of vision impairment (I won't assume he was totally blind, but he did have assistance getting off stage), and two others. It was almost karaoke Elvis -- they'd go onstage, fire up the music, and go. They'd introduce themselves in Elvis' voice and mannerisms, (thank you very much), and then intro the song.

This is the greatness of Elvis. Even among the three, each had picked a different Elvis era to do, and there's plenty to choose from. Problem is, a lot of Elvis impersonators are getting up there, in age and in weight, so they're kind of locked into Vegas Elvis. There were a couple who attempted -- and succeeded -- at 10 Million Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong Elvis, or Jailhouse Rock Elvis, but White Frinded or White Rhinestone Vegas Elvis reigned king. No attempts at Leather '68 Special in this pack. The fact that Elvis has at least as many eras/looks as Madonna explains why people love Elvis. There's an Elvis for everyone. Musically, they all love doing either Elvis' gospel stage, or at least doing "Hurt" or "Unchained Melody," because they get to go Tom Green operatic and show off their voices (or, in a few cases, unfortunately expose their weaknesses). In fact, one of 'em claimed the music for his song had been unavailable (either he forgot it) so he was going to attempt a capella. No, we're on to you, dude, you had completely planned to sing "Unchained Melody" a capella, just like you said Elvis had to do once. A few biffs there, but otherwise not bad. Elvis Number 7 came out in a wonderful gold lame sportsjacket and sounded great, and then changed on stage into Jailhouse Rock Elvis -- but he voice seemed to get timid and it ruined the effect.

I missed Elvis Number 2, the winner in this round. He had a good early 60s Elvis look to him, and was probably the best looking (except for maybe Gold Lame Elvis) of the bunch. One last look before the judging would officially commence included them all turning around so we could get a comparative gander at their pelvises. But the surreal part was watching this comic emcee try to egg on the crowd. Mostly female, and middle aged, these were people who knew their Elvis and you could hear whispers of just how accurate the hip wiggling is and while they joked with him, they were impatient with him.

As this was a semi-final, the announcement of the "winner" seemed anti-climatic. Ol' Numbah 2 got the award, and they all shuffled off to catch some rest before the big show at night. I made my way through the casino, past the creepily hypnotic slot machines (they don't ding and yell, they just play gentle happy music to draw you in), and over to where the shuttle bus carts casino-goers back to parking. One of the Elvises was waiting for his valet to bring his car to him. You could see he was tired from a hardworking day, with a couple of extra outfits in the back to Take Care of Business in the back. All in a day's work for an Elvis Impersonator, I guess.

No comments: