Pretending to be the King

DON SIMS visits Graceland about eight times a year ``just to be here,'' he says. Sporting conspicuous, mutton-chop sideburns, Mr. Sims admits to being an Elvis impersonator, performing as the king at nightclubs in the St. Louis area. ``It's kinda my way to show respect for him,'' says Sims. ``He was the greatest and always will be,'' he adds softly. This week, Sims is competing against more than 30 other Elvis Presley impersonators here at Bad Bob's Vapors, a club not too far from Graceland. At a sound check, the various Elvises draw numbers and take turns warming up with the band. Some even act like Elvis offstage: ``S'cuse me, baby,'' says one as he passes by.

Joe Kent just started his Elvis routine about five months ago: ``It's a mimic,'' he explains, ``like a parrot that hears something over and over. ... I've always been a pseudo-fan, until recently.'' He has a daytime career as a magician, so ``the performing aspect comes sorta natural.''

Why does he do it? ``Elvis is the coolest - not too many people giving away Cadillacs anymore,'' he says.

Most Elvis impersonators are die-hard fans, says Jackie Franklin who, with her husband, owns Bad Bob's and the Hound Dog Caf'e. Contestants have 15 minutes to perform the songs of their choice, and ``although it's not required, most dress up,'' she says.

But some of the real kicks in this contest come from half-pint impersonators. Paul Elvis Campione, 7, from Brooklyn, N.Y., has a glistening pink suit, rings, and slicked-back hair. After attending Elvis week for the past few years, he's somewhat of a celebrity himself, having appeared on numerous TV shows. Shy in person, but not on stage, Paul says he took to Elvis at age 3 after seeing his movies and hearing his music. ``I wanted to be like him,'' he says. His parents, Angela and Raymond Campione, say their love for Elvis probably rubbed off, but that the impersonation is their son's idea.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Pretending to be the King
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today