Sunday, June 3, 2012
Elvis By Request: Or Research By Any Other Name...
In the years since, I've enjoyed listening to his music and I've watched a couple of his old movies on TV. Although they brought back many happy memories, I've never wanted to chase my youth by attending an Elvis Movie Fest or by going to see some Elvis impersonator. Personally, I've always thought those aging, overblown guys with mutton-chop sideburns and stretched-to-the-limit white jumpsuits that show off their Michelin physiques are farcical. I prefer to remember Elvis as the handsome, lean, and slightly dangerous movie star of the 60's.
So, how did I get roped into a road trip to Canada to see an Elvis Tribute Artist?? Long story, but I did. So, Friday, a friend and I drove 6 hours from mid-Michigan to Ontario, Canada to see a show called "Elvis by Request." -- Trust me, it wasn't by MY request.
After checking into the hotel, we got to the theater early. The show started late. Of course, it would!
While my companion paced nervously, I just shrugged. After all, I planned to simply daydream through the show and maybe plot the next chapter of my work in progress. Finally, the theater doors opened and I found my friend had reserved us FRONT ROW seats!
Okay, change of plans, no closing my eyes for a snooze during the show. I'd be on my best behavior and at least pretend to be entertained.
The house lights went down; the band filed in; and the announcer walked to center stage -- an announcer who looked old enough to have been one of EP's contemporaries. I stifled a groan, sure he'd be followed by some aging old geezer in a Elvis costume. Boy...was I wrong.
The band and back-up singers launched into the opening bars of "A Little Less Conversation," and The King came on stage.
This is Stephen Kabakos, the ETA we went to see in his black leather "Elvis Come Back Special" costume. You can see by comparing him to Elvis' actual picture at the top of this blog entry that Stephen really resembles the young and oh so sexy King of Rock.
Suffice it to say, there was definitely no snoozing with him singing and gyrating -- yes, there was gyrating -- just a few feet in front of me.
Seriously, this young man has an incredible voice and has all the nuances of Elvis' vocals down pat. When you close your eyes, you'd swear it Elvis himself singing, and when you open your eyes, Stephen looks enough like the early BDD (Before Donuts and Drugs) Elvis to make you smile and sigh. And when he bent down and kissed my hand at the end of his 3-hour show, I really smiled.
After the show, Stephen signed autographs and posed for pictures. He has fans that follow him all over Canada and the USA, including my friend. I met some of Stephen's entourage, including his very lovely Mom who attends most of his Canadian shows. I learned he's been doing Elvis tributes for the last 16 years and has just returned from performing in the Far East and India. He's that good.
I also learned a bit about the whole ETA business. There are dozens of competitions around the world each year and are quite costly. Besides the admission fee and the travel, the costumes are really expensive. Most ETAs have their outfits custom tailored and a bejeweled replica jumpsuit can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. But just as a costume and a pair of sideburns don't make an Elvis, not just anyone can throw an Elvis competition either. Elvis Tribute Artist competitions have to be sanctioned by Presley's estate and the best competitions are by invitation only to competitors who have won at local then regional competitions over the years. Some artists become friends over the years and help one another, sharing tips and trivia. Others believe in "every Elvis for himself" and are not above upstaging a competitor.
As I learned more about the ETA world, my mind starting spinning out possible titles for a new mystery set in this world.
Love Me Tender, Love Me Dead.
Heart Attack Hotel.
Dying in the Chapel.
Hmm, lots of intriguing possibilities. I may have to make another trip to Canada. Research is important for authenticity, you know.