Leslie Rubinkowski Impersonating Elvis

ISBN 13: 9780571199112

Impersonating Elvis

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9780571199112: Impersonating Elvis
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A journalist explores the world of Elvis Presley impersonators, their fans, and the industry that supports impersonators

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A study of Elvis Presley impersonators--their habits, habitats, and hangers-on--that provides lots of detail about jumpsuits and sideburns but willfully avoids analyzing why this peculiar species thrives. Journalist Rubinkowski spent several years attending fake-Elvis conventions and contests and talking with dozens of the estimated 1,500 working Elvises, as well as the ancillary figures who put on the shows or pay to see them. The central character here is Dennis Stella, a 37-year-old insurance salesman and beginning Elvis from Calumet City, Ill., whose largely hapless progress she tracks all the way to the Elvis Presley Impersonators International Association's Las Vegas gathering and Memphis's (relatively) prestigious Images of Elvis contest, held during the August Elvis Week festivities. After several setbacks involving a wig, the big turning point in Dennis's muddled quest is his decision to dye and grow his own hair into an approximation of Elvis's: ``The amount of Elvis happening inside a person's head,'' remarks Rubinkowski, ``corresponds exactly to the blackness and volume of hair on top of it.'' But why would somebody want to perform as Elvis? Dennis started after his mother died, because she had encouraged him to follow his dreams . . . or something like that. It's unclear because Rubinkowski steadfastly refuses to amplify the comments she elicits from her not-so-articulate subjects. The wry Robert Lopez (``El Vez, the Mexican Elvis'') is, thankfully, ironic about his career, but most of the Elvises seem earnest and foolish, rambling deludedly: ``I'm a very good singer. I just happen to do Elvis, you know? . . . I could be the next big entertainer.'' Many fans obsessively attend impersonator events, but Rubinkowski, aside from poker-faced descriptions of their tacky outfits, offers no more insights about the audience than about the performers. This kind of ceaselessly deadpan delicacy, which merely underlines the ridiculousness of the phenomenon without penetrating it, is not nearly response enough. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Twenty years after the death of Elvis Presley it would appear that he is more alive than ever, kept fresh in the minds of the public not only by his fans but by an astounding number of impersonators around the world. Theirs is a serious business that raises the king to a status of mythic proportion and proves him to be a pop cultural icon still able to draw a healthy crowd. These two works examine the phenomenon of Elvis impersonation. Rubinkowski, a reporter and journalism teacher, packs voluminous research into her book. Clocking more than 25,000 miles in her quest, she interviewed some major players, immersed herself in their world, and attended Elvis conventions from Memphis to Las Vegas. She examines the subculture of the impersonator, with its varying rules, philosophies, lifestyles, and stylistic approaches. Yet she carefully underscores each individual personality. On the other hand, Henderson (English, Univ. of North Carolina) recounts this scene from firsthand experience, donning wig and jumpsuit at age 52 to impersonate Elvis for his book. His forays into costuming, song material, body movements, props, bodyguards, background research, and even shoes are hilarious, informative, and touching in turn. He, too, meets the headliners in this most unusual pastime (for some, a professional career) and invests a not inconsiderable amount of sweat and tears into putting on a credible show. His tale and astute observations make this a page-turner. Both works provide entertaining and informative insights into a nostalgic quirk of American culture and are suitable for general circulating collections.?Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, N.J.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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