When I was a kid, I went through a little Elvis phase. I watched a couple of his movies (I can't even remember which ones) and joined the legions of those who found the rockabilly legend's charisma completely disarming. But even as a preteen, I was sensible enough not to invest myself in the life and musical stylings of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Probably because I prefer men who still have a pulse. And because I never had any aspirations to grow sideburns.
Still, I'm fascinated by Elvis wannabes. Particularly the bad ones. And it was in this spirit that the Night Rider decided to swing by Elwood's Dixie Bar-b-que in Delray Beach for their Elvis impersonator's Thursday night show.
Part of Elwood's charm is that it has all the ambience you'd expect of a place that was once a gas station. The bar is an old oil-change lift, complete with ramps with "Memphis Rotary" stamped in their iron.
Tonight the place was as packed as fat Elvis' jumpsuit. All the tables of the outdoor eatery had been claimed, most of them by people old enough to remember the entire career of the Memphis legend. There was no generation gap here from the Silent generation to the Echo Boomers, all were present and accounted for.
The 9:30 show (there's also one at 7:30) opened with a pre-recorded "See See Rider" complete with instrumentation and female vocal back-ups. The impersonator took the stage dressed in a white-fringed, silver-studded pantsuit and a rhinestone-decorated guitar. He didn't actually play the thing, mind you. It was just a prop.
Unfortunately, he was a pretty good imitator, which meant I'd have to get my laughs at someone else's expense. It wasn't long before his hip-swiveling, arm-windmilling act of Presley hits began pulling in rubberneckers, three of them on their way to Bull Bar.
"In 50 years they'll be doing this sorta thing for Eminem," Elizabeth, a 23-year-old dental assistant said. Made sense to me. Both capitalized on being white musicians performing the black musical style of their eras.
"You know he's a Delray cop," said her friend Greg, a charismatic nurse whose face had the same two-day scruff as his shaved head. By the end of the evening, I'd been told that same rumor enough times that it felt like established fact.
For a moment, I forgot pseudo-Elvis and his alleged day job. I had an important Night Rider follow-up question pertaining to Greg's profession: "So are nurses really as slutty as I've heard?"
"They aren't slutty they're just open," he said, and before he had an opportunity to clarify the difference, Greg's friend Earl-the-ER-physician interrupted.
"Nurses are the baby seals of the medical profession."
They're being clubbed for their pelts? They make excellent shark snacks? Yeah, no.
When I expressed my confusion, Earl laughed.
"Navy seals," he corrected. "The special forces of healthcare."
I wondered about the kinds of nursing that would be aided by SCUBA gear. One word: Ew!
I decided to give Earl another chance. Trying to make the connection between the medical profession and the night's entertainment, I asked him what emergency might send the King to the ER.
"Hip dysplasia?" he offered, uncertain.
Maggie, an attractive blond of a certain age, knew about the hip swiveling legend firsthand. She'd seen Elvis perform in Atlantic City. She offered her assessment of the impersonator: "He doesn't look like him, but if I close my eyes, he sounds almost like him."
With that kind of imagination, she must have a beautiful sex life.
"Yeah, it brings back memories," her friend Trish agreed. "I know all the words to these songs."
In fact, that seemed to be the reason most were here. It was one big sing-a-long.
Trish wasn't done reminiscing: "When Elvis played one of his last shows, I was getting my gall bladder out and I had a private room, so all the nurses came to my room to watch him on the television. I think 20 people died that night because all the nurses were busy watching Elvis."
A gaggle of mature fans danced in the tiny space in front of the stage, but the most interesting interpretations of the King's songs were done by those who were born after his death.
On the sidewalk a young woman in black librarian glasses, tube top, and white tiered skirt danced a bizarre combination of moves that resembled belly dancing and fly swatting. Within spitting distance of me, another young woman got up from her seat to do the Running Man, Roger Rabbit, and Charleston dances in succession to the song, "Viva Las Vegas."
Soon the faux Elvis was serenading a slender brunet visiting from Jersey with a crew of family ladies for her long weekend bachelorette party. The 27-year-old bride-to-be, Mandy, giggled as he sang, in honor of her impending nuptials, "Satisfy Me" (one of the best pre-nup imperatives I've heard yet).
"My fiancé loves Elvis impersonators," she said when she returned to her table. Her bridesmaids reported that "When I go to Memphis" became his standard reply when his family would ask when they were going to get married.
"That's how he proposed to her," one of her bridesmaids shared. "He asked her, 'Will you go to Memphis with me?'"
"Aw," I said, suppressing my romantiphobe ways. It's not that I was going soft. I was just outnumbered by eight women who took marriage and female-bonding seriously enough to fly down from Jersey for this estrogen fest. I know from experience, these aren't the types I wanted to mess with.
To cut down the girly factor, I asked the ladies for some dirt on the bride. You know: the kind you'd never provide to a reporter unless you were drunk.
"She's a bit of a drama queen," one offered. "Once she took the dog outside to do its business, and you know it took a little while, and she was like (mimicking Mandy with a shrill whine while flinging her hands in exasperation), 'I waited minutes and minutes and minutes!'"
Well, if minutes felt like hours to her, then her fiancé should have no trouble.
I made my way over to the other side of the bar for a better view. One that left me with a burning question."What kind of undies do you think Elvis wears?"
Andrea was convinced that the real show was going on in Elvis' pants. With just a trace of a German accent she observed, "None. I can see everything. Can't you?"
Overhearing our conversation, the guy behind me remarked that he believed Andrea was going commando as well. He insisted he could also practically see Andrea's "Graceland" through her own white jeans.
She confirmed that his suspicions were correct. Another nurse, I wondered?
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When the show was over, the place cleared out. As Elvis was packing up, I went over to inspect his big sideburns, which seemed a little weird on a guy who was reputedly a cop.
"Are those things real?" I asked reaching over and giving the right one a little tug.
"Are those?" he shot back, nodding toward my chest (and wisely not giving either a tug).
Fair enough. I was so amused by his quick retort that I forgot to ask if he was actually a cop. So he wasn't the real Elvis, that much was true. But the sideburns were genuine. And as far as comebacks to nosy columnists, well, tonight he was king.