Wolf Files: Every Man (and Woman) an Elvis

Imitators Honor Presley
on the King’s 67th Birthday

By Buck Wolf

Jan. 8, 2002 --   I am weak. I have given in to temptation. I have once again written about Elvis.

I officially retired Elvis from The Wolf Files two years ago, when the King would have turned 65.

Now, on Jan. 8, it's the 67th anniversary of his birth. Big deal, you say? But just wait … The entire world will flock to Memphis in eight months. At least it will seem that way. August marks the 25th anniversary of the King's passing.

Elvis may have died a fat middle-aged man strung out on drugs. But he will always be the quintessential American rock star, enshrined as a dashboard statuette and rendered in black velvet.

Once again, Elvis beckons, and I am giving in. In celebration of Elvis' birthday, I bring you some of the most unusual Elvis impersonators.

Fat white men once held a tight grip on the Elvis impersonation market. But these days you can find Mexican, Asian, Serbo-Croatian and even lesbian Presley clones in their white spangled jumpsuits.

Indeed, the range of Elvis impersonators is as diverse as America itself. By some estimates, there are as many as 35,000 Elvii, performing, often for free, at all sorts of venues.

"Many of these are just the guys who get dressed up and sing in the parking lot of Sears," says Gordon Forbes III, who directed and produced the documentary Elvis And The Men Who Would Be King.

But for many, like Trent Carlini, it's a full-time job that's taken him to venues all over the world.

In Chicago last year, Carlini even held a workshop to teach Elvis impersonation to the poor, showing them how to snarl their lips and thrust their pelvises to the beat of "Hound Dog."

"There's a simple reason why blacks, whites, Asians, want to be like Elvis," Carlini says. "Elvis was cool, and that's what everyone wants to be."

For the record, Elvis swivels his hips only during drum fills. The lip curl should be used not as a sneer, but a shy smile. And when you throw a scarf to the ladies in the audience, make sure it's heavy, so it carries beyond the front row.