April 10th – On Thursday nights in Delray Beach, Fla., you can head to Ellwood’s Garage and Bar for warm beer, great burgers and the greatest Elvis impersonator on the planet. This guy comes out in the white bodysuit from Aloha Elvis and sings Elvis tunes (which are really everyone else’s tunes, as Elvis didn’t record much original music) to a standing room for AN HOUR! Actually, it’s an outdoor corner bar and people are lined up on the street four people thick to get a peek at Elvis. And an hour is a really long time if you don’t love Elvis. Fortunately, everyone at Ellwood’s – aged seven to ninety five – loves Elvis. Including my kids, who didn’t really know they loved Elvis until it was over and they asked if they could stay for the 9:00 show. The Elvis in Delray has this cult that follows him all over South Florida. They wear shirts with his picture that say “Robert by Day…Elvis by Night.” They pass out cards so you can vote for Elvis as the Best Entertainer in South Florida (which he was won for the last five years straight, by the way, thanks to his loyal fans). They hug and kiss each other as they all know each other from following Elvis all over the state and from the Elvis CRUISE they take together once a year (You got that right, Elvis and his fans go on a cruise where he is the entertainment every night). They dance in the aisles of the restaurant and take pictures of the Elvis poseur (as if they might never see him again). In fact, Brad took several pictures of Elvis performing that night and I was appalled.
“It’s official,” I announced over my tepid Bud Lite. “You are OLD – you’re taking pictures of people you don’t even know. Only old people do that.” My mother, by the way, had spent the morning photographing a red fox darting across the back yard/golf course at their house. I mean, what DO YOU DO with those pictures? Who do you show them to? And, really, what do you say?
At the end of the show, which concludes with a rousing rendition of “How Great Thou Art/Glory, Glory, Hallelujah” everyone is in tears, including the fat Marine from Jersey who served in Korea. Even Brad is holding back a moment. And that’s when I realize that while I have absolutely nothing in common with anyone in this seedy bar, Elvis is community. If you don’t like Elvis, there’s something wrong with you…seriously wrong. You can disagree about whether you like young, movie star Elvis or old, fat, alcohol-addled Elvis, but you can’t not like a man who could sing everything from Sinatra to Three Dog Night and make it sound like his own. A man whose only Grammys (three) were for his gospel recordings. A man who courted and married a 14-year-old, who is now on “Dancing with the Stars” with a face that doesn’t move. Really.