On a balmy night last April, my sister and I stopped by Sid’s Diner in Yukon, Oklahoma for burgers and a parking lot performance by Darin Thrasher, a professional Elvis impersonator and owner of the diner. I was impressed. Thrasher’s a good singer, and he flips a mean burger. He serves the best French fries in town.
Worldwide, there must be thousands of Elvis impersonators. Possibly some were in the crowds who gathered in Memphis Friday night for The King’s 75th birthday. Doesn’t seem possible, but then he’s been dead for 32 years, and that doesn’t seem possible either.
Dad or alive, Elvis gets the last laugh. According to ABC news, his estate raked in $55 million dollars in 2009. ABC also reports that the crowd joined in singing “That’s All Right, Mama.”
You Tube, which is so good at so many things, has a hard time pinning down Elvis. The man was simply larger than life. One recording I found is from his 1968 Comeback Special. Jamming in the round with a couple of his original band members on a raw and raucous “That’s All Right, Mama,” Elvis looks young and full of energy, just the way I want to remember him.
Have a listen at http://tinyurl.com/nan8lx.
Browsing through You Tube also turned up a wonderful video of the comedian Andy Kaufman imitating Elvis on a 1979 Johnny Cash TV show. Andy does a couple of one-line imitations of Johnny Cash and Minnie Pearl, playing for laughs, before launching into an imitation of Elvis that’s so good it’s eerie.
Kaufman had an interesting show business background, but I remember him as Latka on the TV sitcom “Taxi.” We sometimes say that gifted people are ahead of their time. Kaufman was a comedian out of his time. Apparently the people he worked with never knew whether he was joking or serious.
He isn’t the icon that Elvis Presley is, but Kaufman has his share of diehard fans. As in the case of Presley, rumors have persisted for years that Kaufman didn’t really die but just dropped out of sight. According to snopes.com, Kaufman died of lung cancer in 1984.
On film, Presley, Kaufman and other great performers of our time are still alive and well. We’re indebted to those inventors, tinkerers and technicians for film, audio, radio, movies, videos and whatever comes next.
Mystery writer Bill Crider wrote a great short story about Elvis. It’s included in his anthology, THE NIGHTTIME IS THE RIGHT TIME (Five Star 2001). For something far out and funny, there’s the 2004 cult movie, "Bubba Ho-Tep," featuring Bruce Campbell as an aging Elvis confined to a nursing home because of a broken hip, and Ossie Davis, who claims he’s JFK, colored black as a disguise.
Both the book and the CD are available through Amazon.
A publicity shot for “Jailhouse Rock” 1957, from Wikipedia.