Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Elvis Presley impersonators

A Lash moment. Why are there so many Elvis impersonators in Mallorca, asks the sage. Has something to do with his (Elvis that is) being the “king” and something else, whatever it is.

Well, I am neither American nor into his eighties - as is the Lash. I can concede that Elvis, in his very early days, had something going for him; a rebelliousness, a musical style, a sexual excitement. By the time I became aware of music - and I’m a child of the sixties - Elvis was already a parody, with his ludicrously affected vocalising.

It got worse. Elvis became a fat, bloated cabaret artist; a drug-addled, burger-addicted, fat, bloated cabaret artist. And that was how he died. Why is he so impersonated? Sometimes for affection, and I apologise to fans who might disagree with my appraisal, but often because parodies are so easy to impersonate. Why, for instance, could so many people in the ‘60s and ‘70s impersonate Harold Wilson? Because they liked him? No. Because Mike Yarwood took the piss so effectively.

I once saw a board outside a restaurant in Puerto Alcúdia that advertised an “Elvis”. It went along these lines: even if you don’t like Elvis, this is a great evening’s entertainment. Let’s highlight that: “even if you don’t like him ...”.

Elvis’s longevity as a target for impersonation has little now to do with his early brilliance; it has everything to do with the ease of targeting his sad decline. Elvis impersonators rarely dress up as Elvis as he was in the late ‘50s; they dress up as Elvis in Las Vegas - as the lump he had become.

There again, there were so many other awful examples of brilliant young men-turned-zombies who died too early and do not attract Elvis’s interest. Jim Morrison, for instance. But this was not for lack of charisma. Despite his drug addiction, Elvis’s enduring role in providing a business for those who make white, sequined bomber jackets was partly that he became “safe”, unlike others who succumbed so sadly to the horrors of drugs, like Morrison or Hendrix. But more than that he was a grotesque. And the grotesque is the stuff of impersonation, comedy and satire. Ask the guys who do Little Britain.

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