Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The first concert I ever saw was an Elvis impersonator.I couldn’t have been more than 12 at the time, which means that the original Elvis was still freshly dead and that I was witnessing the first generation of bona fide Elvis impersonators. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – bragging rights. Seeing a first gen Elvis Imp is akin to having seen Hendrix at Monterey or the Ramones at CBGBs, right? Could I be any cooler? Don’t answer yet.The venue was perfect – the east bank of the Mississippi River levee. A semi-natural Southern amphitheater. Like a Redneck Red Rocks. The stage was a river barge anchored just off-shore. The opening act was Chubby Checker, which is not really relevant to the story except that it was fun watching drunk people trying to do The Twist on a slanted surface. This was further complicated by the constant stream of empty Miller Pony bottles rolling underfoot, making their way toward the river.I wish I could say that I was blown away by this event and that life took a dramatic turn that evening, but, well, kinda not … But there is a moment that stands out for me, even after all these years. A non-musical moment. One that I suspect most people barely noticed, and if they did, they certainly aren’t thinking about it now, 30-plus years later. Lucky them. During the concert, some dude from backstage – the manager, perhaps? Who knows? – walked out and whispered something into the ear of “Elvis,” right in the middle of a song. I realize now that this isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary, but having never seen a concert before I just couldn’t imagine what was so pressing that it needed to be whispered mid-song, mid-concert, to the jumpsuited faux King. What, I wondered, was so all-fired pressing that it couldn’t wait two minutes? In fact, I’m still wondering. I’m wondering enough to make a list:POSSIBLE THINGS THAT THE MYSTERY MAN COULD HAVE WHISPERED TO “ELVIS”• “Hound DOG! The lyric is hound ‘Dog!’ We’ve been over this already!”• “Your graceful Tai Chi moves are impressive and oddly soothing. But I seem to recall that the real Elvis was a little bit more into Kung Fu.”• “XYJ-PDQ!” (J=jumpsuit. I guess.)• “Traditionally, Elvis threw his scarf into the crowd, not his shoes.”• “I’m pretty sure The King never said, ‘Let’s tear the roof off this &@%$#! place!’ Especially not during an outdoor concert. Love your energy, though.”• “53 across, ‘moves like a dragonfly,’ five-letter word, starts with ‘p,’ last letter ‘m.’ Any ideas?”• “I know you think you’re really killing, but I should remind you that those people out there have suspended all disbelief. If I dressed my cat in a jumpsuit they’d think he was Elvis. I just don’t want this impersonator thing to go to your head. I’ve seen it happen too many times. I’m here for you, that’s what I really want to say. I … I love you. Like a brother. I know I’m not really your brother, but I feel that way. Like a brother impersonator, I guess. Anyway, I was just passing through and thought I’d chat for a bit. I’ll let you get back to your song now.” • “There are some large, serious-looking gentlemen backstage who want to discuss Elvis’ role in stealing the black man’s music. When your set it done, I suggest you take your chances with the notoriously deadly current and jump in the mighty Mississippi. Really, you don’t want to go to your dressing room. Also, XYJ-PDQ.”• “Freebird!!”• “There’s some prepubescent kid in the audience with a skewed attention to detail who will wonder for the rest of his life what I’m whispering to you right now. Pretty weird, huh?”• “Hey, sorry to interrupt but … um … I forgot what I was going to say. Hang on, it’ll come to me. Mmmm … wait a minute. Nope. Lost it. Tell you what, you’re busy … we’ll talk later.”• “Settle a bet – what’s the capital of Rhodesia?”• “Before the next song you should announce that there’s a green Buick LeSabre in the parking lot with its lights on. There isn’t, really, I just want to see how many people leave.”
Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays in The Aspen Times.
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