humorpop culture
An Elvis State of Mind
by Marjorie Dorfman

page 2

Elvis impersonatorsIn his day, many called him an upstart. What would his imposters be called? False starts? He was a man of little education who soared to fame even beyond his own wildest dreams. He was a fair singer, but certainly not an excellent one. His back-up group, The Jordanaires, rendered a quality and strength to his vocal renditions that he could never have achieved alone. He could play the guitar, but nowhere near as well as Johnny B. Goode. (Or do I mean Chuck Berry? I get confused sometimes.) He had a great publicist and manager, Colonel Tom Parker, who knew a good thing when he saw one and profited immensely from Elvis’s rise to stardom and fame.

elvis fansElvis appealed to the teens of his day in the same way Rudolph Valentino did in the 1920s. Valentino was really our very first heartthrob. Frank Sinatra outdid him in the 1940s as bobby-soxers all over the country screamed and carried on wherever he performed. The Beatles experienced this same madness when they were all the rage in the 1960s. Sure, they were icons too, but the difference is you don’t see people renting themselves out by the hour impersonating "Old blue eyes" or the Sheik himself! Sinatra still has his following; people like me still listen to and enjoy his music. I’m sure too that there are those who still watch Rudy gallop across the sands of Araby in search of the fickle silver screen that left him behind a million midnights ago. Still, these icons never intrude into our reality or distort it. They are dead; we are alive. That’s the way it is and the way it should always be.

I once knew a woman who kept a flask in Elvis Presley’s image and whenever she took a drink from it she would refer to it as "a little touch of the king." This I can understand, but impersonators are another thing entirely. Why can’t these people pretend to be themselves instead of someone else for a change? Even if they are mediocre, at least its their own mediocrity and not someone else’s they are expressing. If an Elvis impersonator knocked on my door looking for work, I can’t imagine that I could find a place for him anywhere in my life unless he wanted to mow the lawn. I wouldn’t know what to do if I found myself among those who claim to se Elvis in convenience stores all over the Northern Hemisphere. (This poor dead man has been everywhere! I suspect aliens have abducted these same people many times!) I guess if I did see the king of rock and roll, I would ask for an autograph. Traces of the past are always there and demand respect. Besides I "could never be cruel to a heart that’s true."


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Culture is one thing and varnish another
R.W. Emerson, Journals, 1868

In the room, the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo
T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock

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