Enough with the Elvis Trashing, Already

Billionaire entrepreneur Robert Sillerman owns the “likeness” of Elvis Presley.

He bought it from Priscilla Presley and the Elvis estate for $100 million.

And, loathe though I am to side with monolithic corporate control of what should be public-domain national treasures, part of me is rooting for Sillerman to take decisive control of the Elvis Presley “brand.”

Why?

Because the cheap debasing of Elvis has gone on long enough. And it’s not funny anymore, folks.

elvis-bubba-hotep.jpg

Yes, I laughed at the affectionate horror-comedy film Bubba Ho-tep, with Bruce Campbell essaying a poignant serio-comic portrayal of an aged Elvis. Elvis was made fun of, but the overall film was sympathetic to Elvis and to the past, and it justly criticized society’s warehousing of the elderly.

I’ve laughed at the Flying Elvi, Elvis fat jokes and drug and toilet jokes. I even had my own “Elvis sighting” (or maybe it was Conway Twitty) and joked about it with friends.

At some point, however, the parody Elvis, or the idea of the campy Elvis has overtaken the real Elvis in the minds of the public. I daresay that for most young people now, the parody Elvis is the one that first—and probably exclusively—comes to their minds.

Mind you, I’m not one of those Elvis fans who treats the man like a religion and who deny the darker sides of the King. There’s room for Elvis parody, spoof, satire or whatever in my universe.

But at some point, it became too easy, a too-cheap shot, the proverbial shooting of the fish in the barrel.

And the 30,000 Elvis impersonators with their “homages” of varying quality have not necessarily helped matters.

(Maybe 30,000 Elvis “fans” can be wrong).

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What has set me off is seeing the continued proliferation of these over-the-top caricatures after watching or re-watching several of the real Elvis’ televised concerts.

Have you seen the DVDs of “Elvis, That’s the Way it Is,” or of the TV specials “1968 Comeback” or “Aloha From Hawaii”? Elvis is sensational in these programs. He could do it all. Even the big-white suited Elvis doesn’t come off campy so much as cool. Yes, I said cool.

If you haven’t seen these shows, you really are missing great entertainment. In them, Elvis looms large and commands respect. His talent is awesome.

elvis-outre-hair.jpg

I had never been a “fan” per se of Elvis before, but watching these shows converted me. It also provided me a mini-cause to try to change people’s misguided perceptions about Elvis, as an artist and showman.

Watching these shows makes you realize how far the caricatures have strayed from the real Elvis.

The proverbial last straw for me was a banner atop an mp3 site, Albumbase.com, which features yet another outrageous pompadour and white-suited Elvis caricature.

Yep, that’s original.

Here in the Louisville, Ky., area alone, several business use unauthorized depictions of Elvis to sell their wares. Here’s the website of the Third Avenue Cafe, just a mile up the road from my work on Third St. Notice the outrageous caricature of Elvis dining. I’ve been to this pseudo frou-frou eatery before; they have a mannequin suited up as the white-cloak Elvis (of course) that sits at a window seat (and outside during the summer).

This local auto dealer, Jim Butner Auto Sales, uses Elvis in its slogan and features a white-suited you know who in its TV advertising. Guess it’s easier to make fun of Elvis and divert attention from the fact that your own name is But-ner.

elvis-black-elvis.jpg

Sillerman has already indicated that the gravytrain may be ending for the Elvis impersonators. Once he gets control of the brand, only “authorized” Elvi—no doubt with a hefty kickback to Sillerman—will be allowed to publicly perform.

On this I have mixed feelings. There are no doubt some impersonators who do the King justice. Most of the ones I’ve seen, though, look ridiculous and do no service to the artist’s legacy.

But, it is America, and we’re supposed to be free to imitate the famous, to do impersonations and to look stupid doing so.

elvis-comeback.jpg

And getting the Elvi clones in line won’t do much to stop the proliferation of other goofy Elvis imagery, especially on the internet.

Maybe in getting richer, Sillerman will make the world less interesting, a little less crazy, messy and wild. Corporate control tends to do that.

But I’m not going to mourn too much if one more stupid, lame, unimaginative Elvis caricature bites the dust.

-Evan

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15 Responses to Enough with the Elvis Trashing, Already

  1. Brian Quinn says:

    Nice article. I could not agree more. Elvis’ talent was awesome and yet successive ‘influential’ people in the media have tried to debase this to a form of parody.

    I think that Robert Sillerman will be good for Elvis as he has got much more business acumen than Elvis’ heirs ever had. Not to decry Priscilla’s effort in building Graceland into what it is today. She was very shrewd.

    Which brings me back to the artice. It is Elvis’ talent, charisma and good looks which make him unique and which will, in my opinion, keep him ‘The King’ forever.

  2. gravybread says:

    Thanks Brian,
    Elvis loomed so large over my early life that I think it’s hard for all the young people born since his death in ’77 to quite “get” why he was so great. I think sitting them down to watch some of the performance/concert DVDs (most especially the ’68 Comeback) would really open some young eyes and ears. My own sons give snarky smiles whenever they see Elvis mentioned and that’s because they’ve been exposed to more parody Elvis than real Elvis. Like I say, I’m not an uber-fan of the King, but whenever I want to experience an evening of electrifying entertainment in the comfort of my own home, I pull out one of his DVDs. -EG

  3. Scott says:

    Thanks for that article. I have been an Elvis fan since i was 12, am now 16, and this is exactl;y what i’ve been trying to say to those that think Elvis was nothing but a joke. Like Elvis himself said in 1972 at his Madison Square Garden press conference, ‘the image is one thing, the human being is another, and its very hard to live up to an image’.

    Many do not realise the influence Elvis had on today’s music. Without him, such groups as The Beatles, The Doors, and Bob Dylan may never have taken off, and todays music such as punk and heavy rock may never have gotten to the stage it is today. He also helped to break the boundaries of sexuality on television in performance, and the way we dress and talk may even have been influenced by this one man born from Tupelo, Mississippi.

    As an artist, Elvis’s huge musical legacy has’nt been given the greatest of care. BMG compilations still keep refering back to the old, endlessly recycled classics such as ‘Hound dog’, ‘Teddy bear’, ‘Don’t be cruel’, etc. As fantastic as they may be, Elvis had over 700 different songs of a variety of genres . The late 60’s and 70’s seem to get ignored as a period of little production really, but Elvis was suprisingly productive in the last decade of his life.

    From blues: Mess of blues, Stranger in my own hometown, Merry Christmas baby, Steamroller blues

    Country: It keeps right on a hurtin, I washed my hands in muddy water, Its your baby you rock it, You asked me to, She thinks i still care

    Ballads: I just can’t help believing, You’ve lost that loving feeling, Bridge over troubled water, My way, What now my love

    Rock: Promised land, T-R-O-U-B-L-E, For the heart, Way down

    One listen to those mentioned songs, and others of the same genre, can forever put to rest the heart and soul that Elvis put in to every song he sang that he truly cared about. I’ll leave you to find out the rest for yourself

  4. gravybread says:

    Scott,
    Thanks for the good feedback. Based on the number of hits I’m getting on this article, it obviously is striking a chord with Elvis fans. If I’d thought it would be getting this much attention, I might have crafted it better in some ways. But anyway, I appreciate the response. Now I have to figure out what to do for an encore.
    -EG

  5. KMills says:

    Bravo. You just expressed what I’ve been saying and thinking for years. Now, how can you get this out for wider consumption?

    Elvis was no joke, he was one of our own and should be treated with the same respect as other American originals.

  6. René says:

    Very true… The greatest , most natural , most talented human that ever set foot on this planet! You talk about America I guess, IMO it seems that Elvis is more respected outside the US then inside..it SEEMS i said..
    I’m living in Europe ,The Netherlands to be exact. And most of the fans over here ,(and there are loads of die-hard fans over here!) Are very fanatic, and are very much disgusted by those impersonators, .We do have them over here “those jumpsuite wearing clowns”…but the better ones may survive,and the ones who make a fool out of Elvis will be informed/warned ,to better stop doing what theirdoing. And eventualy they will. We had a few of those “incidents over the years…
    But over in the US they seem to love the tacky fat jumpsuit Elvis Impersonation…it’s almost part of the US culture! And because of that they can still make a living out of it.
    So YES the Elvis Image in the US is different then over here.
    Elvis is Amerca and the other way around! that’s at least how most Europeans see it,and that makes it even more bizarre how bad his image has been treated over the years.
    Elvis was better for America,then America was for Elvis, and that has to stop.
    He gave so much He deserves something in return!!!!

    Greetings from
    René Vos
    Rotterdam, Netherlands..

  7. Freda Robison says:

    How refreshing to read your article, and I totally agree. Elvis was a natural, nothing phony about him, unlike most of the entertainers today! When you walk into the trophy room at Graceland there will be NO question as to how much he achieved in such a short lifetime, and NO question about whether he was a joke, or the greatest entertainer who ever lived, and STILL is 30 years after death. Just yesterday I heard him singing Spanish songs for his movie “FUN IN ACAPULCO” and it just amazes me that he would even try something like that! But, Elvis was so versatile, he could sing ANYTHING! Scott is right about Elvis’ music, beside Hound Dog and Blue Suede Shoes he recorded over 700 other great songs.
    I am so thankful for his legacy, movies and all…so you keep up the fight for our man…I’ve done it for 50 years now!

    Freda

  8. Matt says:

    Elvis said “The Image is one thing, the human being another” I guess it is a statement that means just as much today as it did back in 1972. It is a perverse tragedy that it is the fans (loosely speaking) that have added to the Image problem, the Tribute Artist is a very subjective view, have some of these guys looked in the mirror? Being Elvis was a curse and blessing, the blessing is that we had such a legend to revere and the curse is being so popular that so many wish to emulate him in such a horrendous parody.
    Hopefully we will see a time where we as fans are able to walk the earth free from a parody created by those who profess to be fans.

  9. Ed Bonja says:

    I wonder what Elvis would have thought of all this, one thing for sure is that this all helps to bring his music to future generations who are not too familiar with his amazing music and personality.

    Ed Bonja

    Elvis’s official tour manager and Photographer

  10. Elvis is joke?????
    treated with respect… this impersonatores is very patetic man, i hate this people, Elvis is ONE….

    one mesaje from one elvis impersonator on youtube “you suck you stupid mother fucker !!!”

    😉

  11. epscrotum says:

    listen you fucktard.. bubba ho tep was great, i wish they’d make bubba nosferatu… you’re just jealous and a lame ass blogite… find purpose already.

    es&d…. dude.

    elvis will live on in fiction! you won’t, thank god!

  12. gravybread says:

    Epscrotum,
    Anyone willing to include the word “scrotum” in their screen name might reasonably be assumed to have their brain suspended from their nutsac, so rather than calling me a fucktard for allegedly criticizing Bubba-Ho-Tep, I invite more attentive readers to actually read what I said in the article, not one part of which criticizes the film, to wit, and here it is again for this lame brain:

    “Yes, I laughed at the affectionate horror-comedy film Bubba Ho-tep, with Bruce Campbell essaying a poignant serio-comic portrayal of an aged Elvis. Elvis was made fun of, but the overall film was sympathetic to Elvis and to the past, and it justly criticized society’s warehousing of the elderly.”

  13. Sandy says:

    In honor of the upcoming anniversary of Elvis birthday I was wandering around on the web and found this – I just wanted to tell you that it was wonderful to read – down to earth, respectful, loving, open-minded and just enough melancholy to make me bow my head and smile and feel that twinge of tears. Very lovingly written. Thanks and happy 2009. Elvis Loves You! If you are in the Bay Area let me know – we are having a party in honor on Jan. 9th in Oakland! —S

  14. tuyumhi says:

    jealous, it was going to happen, sooner or later. just don’t include the fantasy stuff along with the ETA crap!

    hey:

    an ETA walked into a bar, bartender says “get the hell outta here!”

    ETA told a dentist “mah tooth hurts man” dentist says “too bad”.

    how many ETA’s does it take to change a light bulb? sorry, they weren’t allowed into the hardware store to get the bulb.

    so on.

  15. Gayle Alward says:

    You made some Good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree.

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