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