Local princess worships the King

January 8 marked Elvis' 70th birthday. One day before marked the ninth-annual Elvis In-vitationals here in Seattle at the Experience Music Project. Elvis had cut his first record at Sun Records before I was born, and the time I could clap my hands to the beat of Hound Dog, he was already a cultural icon.

Growing up in Seattle, living on Capitol Hill, I could only dream of Elvis the King. But I've done what I could to get close to him whenever possible. For the past 20 years, whenever I've met an Elvis impersonator (or Elvis Tribute Artist, as they're called in Elvis World), I've had my photo taken with him (or her!). Over the years, I've collected dozens of photos of myself with the King, and my husband, JoDavid, has helped me create a special "All is Elvis" section on my Web site, www.seattledreamhomes.com.

Over the years, there have been dozens of Elvis events in Seattle. There were several meetings of the International Elvis Fan Club in the late '80s, and Robert Bennett put on several Dead Rock Star events featuring Elvis in the early '90s. All were wonderful fun and great photo ops!

Peter Verbrugge, local promoter and impresario, began the Elvis Invitationals nine years ago at the Crocodile Café in 1994. It started out small, with members of Portland's Cherry Poppin' Daddies, and then had to eventually move to EMP to handle the growing crowds.

I was lucky this year to be able to judge the event. The other judges were professional Elvis tribute artist Art Kistler from Minnesota, Gene Stout, Seattle PI music critic, Leon Berman DJ of "Shake the Shack" on KEXP radio, and ElVez (Robert Lopez), past punk rocker, EPA and current Teatro Zinzanni performer.

The show started out with the pro Elvis review, "Night of the Living Elvis," then moved quickly to the 24 amateur performers. We were to judge on the following criteria:

Vocal Performance Did they sound like the King? Did they remember the lyrics?

Costume and Appearance Was any effort made? How is their hair-do? Or their hair don't?

Stage Presence How did they act on stage? Did they perform any moves that drove the crowd crazy?

Audience Response Was the applause lukewarm, warm, hot or red hot?

Peter held up a highly scientific (and suspiciously homemade-looking) "Clap-o-Meter" after each performance, which I read and dutifully recorded on my tally sheet. Judging was intense and the voting took on an air of seriousness I didn't expect, as hopeful after hopeful Elvi took the stage. Elvis appeared in all shapes and colors. Young and sexy Elvis. Hawaiian Elvis. Transexual Elvis. Fat, dissipated and drug-addled Elvis. On and on, the Elvi came, sang and finally conquered.

In the end it was a tough call, a thoroughly difficult decision. All Elvi received a lovely gift bag. But finally, only one amateur Elvis Tribute Artist remained standing.

The winner was announced. The crowd roared, and 23 Elvi crowded in a frenzy of sequins, glitter and white jumpsuits onto the stage to sing and dance to "That's All Right Mama." It was a beautiful end to an unforgettable evening.

Elvis has left the building.

Thank you.


Capitol Hill resident Marlow Harris can be reached c/o editor@ capitolhilltimes.com.

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