Thursday, May 20, 2010

#19 - Calling Elvis, Part 1

The first time that I appeared on stage, it scared me to death. I really didn't know what all the yelling was about. I didn't realize that my body was moving. It's a natural thing to me. So to the manager backstage I said, "What'd I do? What'd I do?". And he said, "Whatever it is, go back and do it again." - Elvis Presley

His natural hair color was blond but he dyed it black, once even using shoe polish to do it himself. He dressed in bejewelled jumpsuits that weighed more than 25 pounds and sometimes he'd sign autographs on fans' breasts -- first name on the left, last name on the right. In 1956 after his first television appearance, he created such a national stir that parents destroyed turntables and locked-up his albums. In 1965 he talked about entering a monastery, but fortunately for all of us that never happened.

Few performers have captivated audiences, mesmerized the public, or permeated pop culture like Elvis Presley, and his legacy continues to thrive even now decades after his untimely death in 1977. Ironically it's been estimated that there were about 170 Presley impersonators the year he died, some say there are over 250,000 today (and they're referred to as tribute artists)! Since 2007, an annual event called the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest has attracted some of the best in the business and much to my amazement a preliminary round of the competition was being held at nearby Chinook Winds Casino Resort in Lincoln City, OR, on Saturday, April 24, 2010 -- the same date as my Chemeketa Community College Portrait-Personality photo class field trip! So the stage was set, it was just a matter of securing access or credentials for all 5 of us to cover the event . . . and I did!

Kurt Brown Productions and Chinook Winds Casino Resort generously allowed the class complete and unrestricted access to photograph the show including the dressing area, backstage, sidestage, and directly in front of the performers -- it was wonderful! Now add to that a low white ceiling venue-wide and the ability to use bounce flash, and you can imagine we all were able to make some exceptional concert images! My goal was to produce a photo essay and a separate picture story from the event (Note: These images are part of that essay, the picture story is next month's post), and the class's assignment was to produce a single "best" photo for our follow-up critique -- I know they had a difficult time choosing just one shot!

The Oregon version of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest offered 17 performers that ran the spectrum in terms of age and ethnicity, height and weight, and performing style and song choice. All the artists sang one song and were scored by judges using a 10 point scale following these 4 categories: vocals, appearance, stage presence, and overall performance. Winners of the preliminary rounds will be invited to compete in the semis and finals during Elvis Week 2010, August 12 and 13, in Memphis, TN. Today's competition was pretty fierce and lasted over 2 hours and from the looks of the artists to the sounds of the audience, no one in the arena was disappointed.

And so on the year that would've been his 75th, once again we honor the man that loved fried peanut butter and sliced banana sandwiches made with a full stick of butter. Elvis always believed he would die in his 40's, sadly I don't think he needed a psychic to come to that conclusion. To be continued . . .
(Note: Special thanks to Heather Hatton of Chinook Winds Casino Resort and Kurt Brown of Kurt Brown Productions as well as all the Elvis tribute artists for making this photo project possible.)
Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine. - Elvis Presley