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The Daily



08-04-03: They're all shook up for Elvis
Presley returns to  Bear Creek building to crowd's delight

The Daily Standard
    BRYANT, Ind. - The King may have left the building but he turned up again and again and again Sunday afternoon at the Elvis Extravaganza at Bear Creek Farm.
    A dozen Elvis impersonators sang and wiggled on stage Sunday afternoon before an audience of 300 or so mostly Elvis fans.
    Although not quite as colorful as the performers, the audience held its own with sideburns, sequined shirts, purses and hats featuring Elvis likenesses.
    Jamie Coyle of Columbus, organizer of the regional competition for the past several years, said the "whole Elvis impersonator bit takes on a life of its own beyond just paying homage to Elvis."
    "You can see and hear how the audience just goes nuts when these guys get on stage," Coyle said. "And many of these guys are really, really good at what they do."
    Presley's career offers impersonators a number of phases to emulate: the young Elvis in gold lame jacket, the black leather period, the flamboyant Las Vegas era. As well, almost any body build from slender to heavy can blend into a recognizable Elvis.
    Dayton native Brian Brenner has been portraying Elvis for about 20 years. He saw Presley perform six different times and said he was a fan from the moment he heard him sing in the early 1960s.
    "I guess it was his overall presence. His energy and the excitement he generated has never been surpassed. And, it won't ever be," said Brenner, who appeared on stage in a white jumpsuit with long beaded fringe.
    Applying makeup beside Brenner in the performers dressing room, Chris Solano of Ann Arbor, Mich., told The Daily Standard he started Elvis impersonation about two years ago.
    "As a younger person it's great to relive the whole Elvis thing before an audience. My parents were just crazy about Elvis when I was born and I grew up with it," said Solano as he applied the stage makeup that would give the young man more than a passing resemblance to the young Elvis.
    There are more than 11,000 Elvis impersonators performing worldwide and, with more than 55,000 members, Elvis Extra-vaganza (EE) is the world's largest fan club, according to an EE representative.
    Sunday's regional winners at Bear Creek Farm qualified to perform at the national competition in Las Vegas on Jan. 9-11. First-place winner Chris Wilson also received $1,000.
    Wilson of Cincinnati has won this regional contest for the past three years, and for good reason.
    He sings, moves and speaks like Elvis. His black leather pants and open-front jacket make a sharp contrast to the more sweeping pageantry of capes, fringe and spangles of other impersonators.
    Wilson, whose day job is working with computers, performs with a country band most weekends.
    "I've been singing a long time, but I just took up the Elvis thing a few years ago as something fun to do," Wilson, 31, said while backstage after the show.
    "I like to sing the songs you don't hear all the time, like 'It's Midnight.' Others like 'Heartbreak Hotel' or 'Jailhouse Rock' are actually kind of boring, I think. People hear those all the time. I like to do something different, and the audience seems to like it," he said.


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