The King of Rock’n’Roll walked away from this world 32 years ago. But it should not be a wonder if I tell you that in fact, he walked across a bridge, and not “away”. He reached the other side, people’s heart, the biggest stage that was ever built, where he still lives and he still sings.
This explains why on August 16, 2009, 18 Elvis Impersonators kept the crowd on toes for ten hours, exactly in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. The enthusiasm and joy just couldn’t be refrained between walls. OL’ Skool, the Club where the event took place, was too small to gather the amount of people who were unveiling so much energy and happiness. Wherever you were turning your head to, you could meet a smile, even on people’s face that were just passing by…And the source of these fireworks of emotions was without doubt Elvis’s heart. Weren’t these two: energy and happiness the King’s trademark?
“It was a marathon. I wanted to break my own record and this time I launched the event with 18 Impersonators. I’ve started with 14 participants on 2006. The competition was not meant to be strict. It was more a fun party. We gave space for participants to improve themselves”, shares Calvin Guneratne, the owner of OL’ Skool, who planned the whole show.
The King was God’s sent
Elvis Celebration Marathon 2009 was a marathon indeed, a marathon of smiles, enthusiasm, joy, dance, songs, all carrying Elvis’s touch and why not? At the end, all who took part felt themselves Kings, for a day. The event went to that extend that if you really craved for the King’s food, you could easily have a bite from his favorite peanut – butter banana sandwich that was on sale. “This year, the show was covered charge. I was quite worried. Two or three competitors were organizing the same thing in town, celebrating Elvis’s death Anniversary, but eventually all fans were out for me” Calvin added.
The good response from the public should not be a surprise. The OL’ Skool Club doors opened on August 2005, at one single knock of Elvis’s heart that Calvin didn’t miss it. He heard that knock in an instant when he was just seven years old. He was playing in the room, when his mother called him to show him something that came on newspapers, the news about Elvis’s death. “I remember that I was looking at the newspaper and then back at my mother’s face. I just couldn’t understand the tears in her eyes at that time. But something inside me was stirred up. Elvis got under my skin. He was my inspiration to pick up music by myself, playing different instruments, especially keyboards. And I do all this by ear. In this way, the sounds come from the mind and heart” confesses Calvin.
And the little boy grew up with Elvis’ touch in his heart. Later on he understood the tears in his mother’s eyes, so well. Those delicate drops, human emotions display were the stepping-stones for his dream. “I opened the club especially for Elvis. And I am so proud that I got stuck with old music and I had the chance to open doors to a place where all these sounds of 50’s, 60’s to 80’s to be set free. Nowadays, the crowd educates the DJ’s and the bands play the same songs without turning ears to past. Music became a chaos. And I wanted to change this and the music scene to become the other way around. I just love Elvis. The way he was kneading sounds playing gospel, rock, and blues was magnificent. He was God’s sent. This is my strong belief”, admits Calvin, who owes another two clubs in town, (including the biggest Indian Disco in South East Asia), and is planning to open another one, on November this year.
And it’s amazing how during the show, I discover his belief on all impersonators’ lips. “He is God’s miracle. I think when you serve God as worship leader as I do, I believe that I’m tithing my talent…” opines Alex Wong, 33 years old, one of the participants. His faith drew him to success. On 2002, he won the First Prize to Graceland at Elvis Impersonators Competition organized across Malaysia. “I remember like it was yesterday, the day when I call the radio station who organized the show at that time to register myself. But before doing this, I prayed. I just wanted to give a try. God’s response was such an amazing surprise. Despite the amount of impersonators willing to take part into the competition, I was the first one on the line and eventually the first on stage”…added Alex.
Elvis’s way of communication made the difference
Elvis, the best-selling solo artists in the history of music, selling over one billion records worldwide, owed his success and immortality in people’s heart to one special thing, called “Love”. But it was music, his unique way to channel “Love” to people that made the whole world to vibrate with emotions. People just couldn’t help, but falling in love with him, as one of his songs says…”It’s a genius. My decision to be Elvis’s Impersonator leaned on his special way to communicate and connect to people. It was <<emotion to deliver>> all about. I feel so great when I am on stage, because I can do what he could do, delivering emotions and the connection with people is a magic moment” states Frankie Fong. The King was more than an icon and there are so many cases to prove that. He effectively gave a helping hand to people in need even after he passed away.
“I’ve been Elvis Impersonators since I was 14. This is how I’ve been earning my living. He helped me to get a job and even to get my second wife, I’m not kidding, I was hospitalized for some days and somebody spread the news in the hospital that I look and sound like Elvis. This is how I got her attention. She was part of the medical staff. And another thing… Elvis makes me feel and look so young. There is one reason for this, when I’m on stage, worries just disappear….” shares Ezanee Sultan.
Many Elvis Impersonators competition took place around the world, in one place or another. But the event in Malaysia was one of a kind. The King’s heart approached the public in such a diverse ways. It was not all relied on blending different styles of music that he was famous for. This time Elvis’s touch was displayed through three different nationalities that live in this country and different generations. The audience was just mesmerized to see the Chinese, Indian and Malay Elvis, all equipped with the King’s glittering costumes…The oldest competitor, Eskandar Eyaw was 64 years old.
Among participants, a great presence on stage was the special guest, Alfred Ho. He lost his sight many years ago, but his touch on strings, his voice holding so many emotions set long applauses free in the audience.
The event is over, but it still lingers in so many people’s heart, it’s the engine that makes Calvin’s dreams to go on…The good news is that next year he is planning to organize another Elvis Impersonators Marathon but on a higher level. It will take place in a five star hotel, where the public will be spoiled with a sit down dinner and even a unique moment…He hopes to have the opportunity to be in touch straight with Graceland during the show, organizing a video-conference…and made the connection with Elvis’ land possible…
It’s amazing how and you could see with your own eyes, the connection between a mother’s eyes and her child, recalled The King’s heart and touched so many people’s lives around the world, no matter how far their country is from Graceland…..
Teodora S. Cotrău
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia