Las Vegas, NV (PressExposure) May 28, 2009 -- Elvis Presley has been dead for 30 years. Yet his legacy lives on in the form of the thriving phenomenon of Elvis impersonators. An Elvis impersonator or lookalike is an artist who copies or imitates the iconic American musician in looks and mannerisms. Elvis impersonation constitutes imitating his visual image by wearing an Elvis wig with the trademark sideburns and quaffed hair, putting on a rhinestone-studded jumpsuit and assorted jewelry. The artist also impersonates Elvis by singing and talking just like him.
Elvis impersonators earn their livelihood by making an appearance at parties, carnivals and casinos, dressed as the King himself. They even take the stage as Elvis, in the numerous Elvis Tribute Shows that take place around the world. It's not easy impersonating someone as famous as Elvis Presley. He has a unique personality and nuances to his character that have to be perfected down to the T. Also, his voice has a timbre and inflection that takes years to perfect. The key to a standout performance is getting all the details into place. Those who are able to do it well, reap rich rewards. It's what differentiates the really good impersonators from the mediocre ones.
The first Elvis lookalike to make a mark was Bill Haney. He had started out as an Elvis lookalike during Elvis's lifetime itself. In fact, he was the only Elvis tribute artist that Elvis himself ever went to see. Another noteworthy Elvis impersonator during Elvis's lifetime was Andy Kaufman. Elvis counted him as his favorite impersonator.
The number of Elvis impersonators is ever increasing. At last count, there were at least 200,000 Elvis tribute artists all over the world, up from the 170 there were in 1977, when Elvis died. The popularity of Elvis impersonators has spawned numerous Elvis lookalike contests, festivals and events celebrating the magic of Elvis. These contests attract thousands of Elvis fans hopeful of making it in an industry already chock-a-block with lookalikes.
The biggest contest of them all is the one held at the annual Elvis convention at Blackpool in England which has been licensed by Elvis Presley Enterprises as the official Elvis lookalike contest. Elvis's Graceland Estate also had an Elvis lookalike contest in 2007 to mark the King's 30th death anniversary.
Being white and young is not a pre-requisite to the job. There are black Elvii (the plural of Elvis), Mexican Elvii, Greek, Jewish, Chinese Elvii and even a Sikh Elvis. There was also an Elvis lookalike who was a dwarf. Female Elvis lookalikes named Elviras are also making a mark in the field of Elvis impersonation.
The popularity of Elvis impersonators can be gauged from the fact that the winner of a 2007 American reality show on T.V. called 'The Next Best Thing on ABC' was - you're right- an Elvis lookalike. Another lookalike came in the top 5. There are many radio shows which incorporate an Elvis impersonator feature in their program. These shows have Elvis impersonators answering listeners' questions in an Elvis voice or crooning Elvis songs. The industry boasts of an official Elvis Impersonator Registry, where Elvis tribute artists can register themselves as members of the thriving industry.
Although some Elvis impersonators admit that it is sometimes considered as a tacky line of work, the smiles and applause of the audience makes it worthwhile. Some impersonators dislike the term and prefer the term Elvis tribute artist instead. But what matters in the end is making people happy. It is not all glory but real hard work that has kept the heart and spirit of Elvis alive thirty years after his death. And the credit for this, all goes to the Elvis tribute artists.