There was a time when the King could be found in every casino lounge and wedding chapel in Vegas, inspiring countless conspiracy theories involving faked deaths and flights to Caribbean hideaways. But hard times have fallen upon Graceland, and impersonators have had to find creative ways to keep afloat.
"[Audiences] are getting very burned out on the Vegas look," says Gary Huet, owner of Trade Winds Entertainment, a company that specializes in singing telegrams and celebrity look-alikes such as Xena and Marilyn Monroe. "All these contests and karaoke chasers, everyone wants to make them .... some kind of Vegas-looking outfit, and I think people are just tired of looking at it, because I've been selling a lot of the black."
You heard it here first -- young Elvis is in. "I call it the '69-'70 era," says Huet, who admits that Elvis still constitutes a full 60 to 65 percent of his business.
The trend may lean toward youthful Elvis, but the King's audience is heading in the opposite direction. "I'd say half the Elvis shows are probably in nursing/retirement homes," Huet says. And don't think for a minute his geriatric fans can't still enjoy a show. One seventysomething woman stripped off her vest and began go-go dancing on the table. "She started swinging [her vest] in the air, and she threw her clothes at me," Huet says. "That little old gal, humpbacked, she thought she was 19."
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Weren't these the same folk who condemned Elvis in his early years for bringing about the destruction of the country's moral fiber? "A lot of people who didn't care for him wiggling his hips then like him now," Huet says. "If you look at today's standards, he would be mild."
Converts or not, these fans are not pushovers; the seniors still have sass. "I have people tell me, 'Oh, you've got a captive audience.' Yeah, well, I tell you what, what you don't realize is they are also the first people to tell you, 'I don't like him,' 'It's too loud,' and get up and leave." Nonetheless, they've allowed Huet, who also has been both a mechanic and real estate agent, to eke out a good living. "It's more steady than anything else."
Given the King's new market, perhaps the famous phrase should be modified: Elvis has left the assisted-living center!
There will be a free Elvis show for senior citizens on Thursday, April 27, at 10:30 a.m. at the South Montgomery County Friendship Center, 2235 Lake Robbins Drive. For more information, call (281)291-6353.