There was only one Elvis. Stojko and Costello may share his name but Presley was in a stratosphere all his own. He’s the the undisputed King. Cool just oozed out of him, as well as copious amounts of sweat in the twilight of his career. Later on he became a caricature of his former self; the end result of being the most famous of the famous- that and a diet that included a sandwich entitled The Fool’s Gold: which consisted of a jar of peanut butter, a jar of grape jelly and a pound of bacon all wrapped up in a loaf of Italian bread. As I said before, he was the King. Ultimate fame must ultimately undo a person. Elvis lived in a world of his own creation appropriately called Graceland. He didn’t have to adhere to the same rules everyone else does (except perhaps when it came to cholesterol). He was almost above it all.
I joined the cult of Elvis as a teenager. It happened like a bolt of lightening. A friend of mine and I were watching TV, flipping through the channels when we came across a broadcast of Elvis live in Hawaii. He looked absolutely ridiculous and the music seemed extremely dated. We watched in curious fascination. My friend said: “What’s the big deal with this guy? Why is he the King?” As if on cue; Elvis broke into one of those over the top grand gestures that Elvis impersonators love to do so much. It started out as a little dance and ended in a move where he reached out to clutch the sky. The entire auditorium hit the roof and went insane. The world was in the palm of his hand. It was probably the cheesiest/most awesome gesture I had ever witnessed. My friend and I looked at each other realizing that we had just seen something extraordinary. This ridiculous looking man was a force outside the boundaries of normal human beings. Elvis Presley had special powers.
There was nothing he couldn’t do. His movies provide hints to the extent of his powers. Elvis played a tank commander named Tulsa Maclean in G.I. Blues. He’s a rough and tumble carny in Roustabout. In Clambake he plays a scientist who builds and races speed boats. In every movie Elvis sings, entertains and eventually gets to punch somebody. He always saves the day and gets the girl. Elvis never stops being Elvis. He knows the power he wields and the effect he has on other people. Some people out there on the interwebs have surmised that a modern day equivalent of that knowing smile belongs to Justin Bieber.
My knowledge of the teen heart throb is spotty at best. I’m not too familiar with his music (I don’t really fall into his marketing demographic), so I can’t comment on its worth. I’m still waiting for his equivalent to a Billie Jean or Jailhouse Rock. Being a student of pop culture I am however aware of the phenomena of his celebrity. People really seem to like him. The last time I paid any attention to him was when he appeared on Letterman and proceeded to call one of the greatest pieces of art in the history of mankind the “sixteenth chapel.” The cringe worthy mistake of a kid, that was quickly forgiven with a shrug and a flash of those self aware eyes. It seems Justin has drank his own Kool-Aid. He and Elvis do share this in common; they are both extremely self-important, but is Justin the new Elvis?
In a word: no. But what I would like to see is this: A shot for shot remake of Fun in Acapulco starring Justin Bieber. Don’t change any of the dialogue or songs. Film the whole thing on a sound stage like the original. (Elvis never stepped foot in Mexico). Could Justin Bieber become Mike Windgren: the traumatized trapeze artist who blossoms into a Mexican cliff diver all the while juggling two beautiful women? This could be the vehicle that kick starts the second phase of his career. Will he become Justin Timberlake or Kevin Jonas? Justin your jumpsuit awaits.