I thought I'd share
some ideas with you if you are considering doing Elvis impersonations and need
some tips as to how to get started. I learned a lot when I was involved with
this a few years ago. These ideas are not in any particular order, I'm just
going to rattle them off for you....
One important tip that everyone should
remember is that being in the sun
too long isn't good for Elvis impersonators or anyone. Protect yourself and
your skin with a Sunbrella
Start off 'small'....try doing
impersonations with your family during gatherings, with friends or other
situations where you can practice freely.
Keep an eye on the newspaper for ads
about 'grand openings'.......you'd be surprised how many people would love
to have an Elvis impersonator at a grand opening. You can mingle with the
people and pose for pictures, perhaps standing out in front of the place of
business. It never hurts to ask. Just ham it up and have a great time. You
don't always have to 'sing' or 'perform' in order to make an appearance and
enjoy yourself, not to mention how you're getting your 'name' out there.
It goes without saying that you have to
have a lot of nerve and guts to do some of this stuff, but I've seen
it work like a charm...this also builds confidence in yourself and helps you
to 'sell' yourself in order to be hired for an act. Think of the local
businesses, including restaurants, that you frequent.....assess how well you
know the owners....see if they'll let you come into the establishment and
'practice' your act, whether you are singing or just mingling with people.
Also keep your eye out for parades in
town. It's very simple and inexpensive to get something together for a
parade, even if it means hitching a ride on another float or sitting in the
back of a car and waving at the crowds. One time, I did my Marilyn Monroe
impersonation while my dad did Elvis. We were in a parade together, on a
portable stage that dad already owned. I handed dad scarves and Teddy Bears,
and he tossed them to the people standing on the sidewalk. They people got a
big kick out of seeing Elvis and Marilyn together.
Keep a close watch for when the
holidays roll around. People love to have something fresh and new for a
holiday party.....something that will get the people talking and remembering
that party, or event, for years to come. If it's Christmas time, you know
that you can do the Elvis Christmas songs.
Keep your ear open for talk of a
Birthday party, Anniversary party, Retirement party, even Bridal
showers......you'd be surprised at the 'gigs' you can get like that. Anytime
you hear of gatherings of that nature, ask if you can 'appear'. It can be a
planned event, in which the guests know of your impending arrival, or you
can completely take them by surprise.
It's a good idea, during your act, to
hand scarves out to the audience. When I made the scarves, I would make them
more 'slender', not big and square. When they are more slender, they fit
very attractively around your neck and can be taken off with ease. And it's
good to wipe a little sweat with the scarf before giving it to some
people....they really like that!
Order some cloth labels for the
scarves. They are inexpensive they look very nice, having a cloth label sewn
or pinned onto a scarf. You can get it stitched on in seconds with a sewing
machine. It gives the recipient a nice souvenir to
keep...complete with whatever you put on it. I ordered labels for my dad
that read...."With Love... Jim Elvis (Thank You Very Much)". That was short, sweet,
and to the point. It makes the scarves or stuffed animals more special. It's a good idea to try to
order them in your signature colors.
Order some business cards, or make them
yourself on your computer. I ordered some cards that were in my Dad's
signature colors, which were black and gold. They were very classy looking.
The cards also mentioned ideas for appearances...like for Birthdays, Anniversaries,
Retirement, Graduation parties, etc. List your name and contact
information...perhaps mentioning that you will customize acts to suit the
event, which you would pretty much be doing anyway, but it does let them
know that you are flexible. I'm sure you get the idea....if you are making
your cards yourself, you can also add a small picture of yourself on your
It would be a good idea, if at all
possible, to not wear your Elvis costume while driving your vehicle
from place to place or to your shows....it adds wear and tear to your costume, especially if it's heavily
decorated. If at all possible, it's best to take your suit with you and
change clothes once you're at your destination. I know that's not always
convenient...but trust me on this, it does wear your costume out more if you
are getting in and out of the car all the time. My dad has damaged a suit
by doing this. He learned the hard way. It's easy to catch your costume on
knobs and such.
Where do you find a good, inexpensive
garment bag? At a Bridal shop.......surprises you, doesn't it? But it's
true. You can get a nice garment bag at a reasonable price at a local Bridal
shop. They are extra long in length, which is what you want. You want a
garment bag that will 'encase' your costume, not just cover it over the top
and halfway down. When you hold your Elvis costume up, you see how long it
is and how uncomfortable it is to hold it up in place for any length of time
...so, imagine carrying it, full length, like that. So, get a nice garment
bag and it'll take good care of your costume.
Washing your costume..... 'dry
cleaners' won't touch your costumes......too many decorations and they
won't risk ruining it. But that's okay....you can do a great job by washing
it yourself in your bathtub. Just use a gentle liquid cleaner, such as Wool-lite, and
wash your suit in cold water. Do not use granulated powders for any reason.
Do not rub the decorations together with your fists vigorously, you'll ruin
your decorations. My dad's housekeeper ruined a costume by doing this....so
take it from me......be gentle. Just gently press the suit down into the water over and
over....believe me, this cleans it very well. You can then rinse the suit
and hang it up on a nice padded hanger, let it drip dry over some towels
that you have placed on the floor beneath it to catch the water.
Be very careful of people with
cigarettes and women with lipstick. You don't want cigarette burns and
lipstick on your costumes. Be very careful where you sit, that there is
nothing on the chair that could stain your suit, or splinters that could
'pick' your suit. It's a good idea to stay as far away from food as you can.
You'd be surprised how easy it is to get grease and stains on your costume.
It's also a good idea to drink only water when doing your shows....you won't
want to take the chance of spilling anything on your suit.
Another 'crowd pleaser' is to have one
or two Teddy Bears to give away to special people during the song Teddy
Bear......just a thought. I've seen it bring the house down....people eat
that right up. You know those 'vending machine games' where you try to get
the stuffed toy with the metal crane thing? Well, you might want to try to
get in touch with a distributor of those stuff animals and see what kind of
a deal he can work out with you to get yourself a nice supply of those
things. The man who furnished them for my dad, did it free...he said that if
Dad was willing to perform at hospitals and nursing homes for free, to bring
those people some joy, then the least he could do is furnish the stuffed
toys to give away. You never know where you can get a good deal that will
help you. When you get them, pin one of your cloth labels on it with a plain
brass safety pin, one of the tiny ones......you can buy them just about
anywhere in packs of hundreds. The small brass pins look better than the
If you're doing a show for a birthday
or shower or something 'special' like that, take along a bear or toy or
special scarf and at some point, present it to the 'special person' during a
song. You can't believe the memories you'll be creating for that person.
It's a good idea to purchase a small
suitcase, like a Samsonite make up suitcase....something like that, to keep
some personal items in it. You might like to have some pre-moistened
toweletts and Kleenex, your jewelry, etc. You never know what won't be
available when you most need it. Black is a nice color for a suitcase, for a
man, and won't look too feminine.
Always keep in mind that you are
constantly auditioning for future shows......always. Every person you meet
is a potential future booking. So, be generous with your business
cards....make sure all your friends and family have a few on hand. Keep some
in your Samsonite case and also in all of your vehicles, at work, near your
front door to your house, just anywhere you think you might need them. Check
your local events and contests....Dad used to enter Elvis Contests in
I've seen my dad visit his friends and
family while they were in the hospital, dressed as Elvis....it was a
hit.....everyone was having a great time with it, not to mention how it
would cheer anyone up.
You'd also be surprised how many of
your 'surprise' or planned appearances can end up in the newspaper. Also, if
you are going to be doing a show somewhere, or a special appearance, it
doesn't hurt to contact your local newspaper to see if a journalist or
photographer would like to come out and take a picture. It's a nice human
My dad also went on TV several years in
a row on the Children's Miracle Network.....check your area to see if they
sponsor that event. Fund raisers are a nice way to generate publicity. If
you have the nerve, just show up at some places, completely dressed in your
costume, and mingle.
Do you have to pick someone up at the
airport? Why not go dressed as Elvis? Just go through the airport and meet
your friend or family member as Elvis....it's a great surprise, not to
mention that people at the air port get a big kick out of it. Talk about
being picked up in style!
Children's wards in hospitals and also
Shriner's hospitals are full of children who would really enjoy seeing Elvis.
Nursing homes are also a great way to
practice your act, and the people love it. I have so many video tapes of my
dad visiting nursing homes and I loved seeing the looks on the people's
faces as they enjoyed the show......some of them will even get up and dance with you.
It's great fun and makes you feel wonderful!
Pictures and videos.......take videos
as often as you can....this will help you to fine-tune your act and make
improvements. Just get someone to accompany you to your shows and
appearances. They can run the video camera and take candid pictures for
Also, if you are going to do a show at
Shriner's or somewhere like that, make sure you are allowed to take pictures
/ videos. Some places won't allow it. Just be sure to ask in advance.
If you want to, you can also take along
a Polaroid camera and plenty of film and let people have pictures taken with
Elvis. Not everyone has a camera and it would be fun to provide a way to
capture their moment on film and give it to them. Remember, this is an
investment in your promotion. You gotta spend money to make
money, right? This doesn't mean you'll always need to do this. You need to
get your name and act out there....and this is a really nice way to do that.
While I'm still talking about pictures,
here's another idea. If you go into a store that sells wedding stuff, or has
a 'wedding stuff' section, see if they have those 'packs' of disposable
cameras. You can pick up a few packs and have them to hand out at a
gathering, or keep a few in your suitcase, for those times that people don't
have cameras and really wish they did. You can give them a camera and let
them take pictures and then they can get the pictures developed. They'll
never forget you, trust me.
If you want to do some of the more
fancy Elvis 'kicks', take Karate lessons. It will help to limber you up and
do the 'kicks' that Elvis did on stage.
Another idea dad came up with during
his first year of doing this....he began to purchase sound equipment, used,
but in great condition. And then he began to collect cd's of oldies music,
like in the 50's and 60's.......then, he'd offer DJ services, as well as his
act......that way, he was doing two jobs, and getting twice the money. You'd
be very surprised at how much he made doing this. He would agree to do the
DJ music for a while (he stayed with featuring oldies
music), then he'd take
a break and do his Elvis act......then he'd do more DJ music, and then do
his last act of the evening. If you stay with 50's music, you won't have to
invest as much money in your variety of music, and it also keeps people in
the mood for the Elvis music during your act. But you can always branch out.
It goes without saying that you need someone with you to operate the music
for you while you are doing your Elvis show.
People really enjoy 'theme parties' and
it's good to keep your eye out for opportunities to appear at 50's
gatherings and events. As a start, you could throw such a party yourself and
give everyone the idea.....it can snow-ball from there. See...that's the
key, you have to plant the ideas in people's minds. Not everyone considers
the possibilities....and the more creative you are, the more ideas you can
give to others. Not being booked may simply be because people didn't 'think
about it'....it's up to you to give them the ideas and possibilities.
Carnivals and Fairs..........now here's
another idea....the County Fair and Carnivals.....never hurts to see Elvis
at an event like that.
They have a commercial on TV down here
in South Carolina ....it's of an auto repair place.....and they have an
Elvis impersonator in the commercial. Elvis has absolutely nothing to do
with the auto place, but obviously they knew that having Elvis would
One time, a couple wanted to re-new
their marriage vows and they hired my dad to 'do' the ceremony....complete
in Elvis costume. They rented out my dad's back yard and invited family and
friends and really enjoyed themselves. The couple placed floating candles
shaped like flowers in the swimming pool and it created a beautiful effect.
Okay....sensitive moment here....but,
if you wear underwear under your costume, it will show. The way the
costume is designed makes it nearly impossible to wear a pair and not have
it show. So, dad always wore a 'jock strap'......just thought I'd pass
that onto you. It's better than learning that by experience.
If you are thinking of dying your hair
black, do not use that temporary stuff that you spray on your hair....big
mistake...it will start to streak down your face the minute you start
sweating. And you don't even want to think about what that will do to your
For more tips on fabric and ideas on
making your costume, check the page I have on Elvis
Start a scrap book of pictures and
flyers and mementoes of your acts and climb to success, you'll be so glad
If you are going to try your hand at
doing DJ services as well as your act, it's a good and fun idea to get
novelty songs for the events.....songs that get folks to do the Limbo, or
the Hokey Pokey....you get the idea. It's great fun to watch people get into
the fun of those silly songs and dances.
Get someone with a good camera to take
some nice 'publicity' pictures for you. You can also make flyers on your
computer, or ask someone else to do it for you. That way you can advertise
your up-coming appearances.
This next idea will strictly depend on
your finances and how far you're willing to take this. My dad did not
have a large back yard, but he did have an in-ground pool, a patio, and a
Gazebo. He built a wooden stage, complete with roof and lattice-work sides,
and a back wall. The gentlemen in this picture were a few musicians that
liked to play at Dad's parties. Anyway......he would not only entertain family and friends at the house
for graduation and birthday parties, etc....he also 'rented out' the back
yard to other people who wanted to have parties with live entertainment.
Keep in mind, he did not rent out to complete strangers. As
a package deal, he'd offer the use of the pool, he would provide the music,
and perform two Elvis shows. He would set the time as to how long the
'event' would last, and he based his price on that.. You live and learn as
far as your 'ground rules' go...like if you would prefer no alcoholic
beverages, or if you will help with preparing food, providing that the
guests bring it, etc. But these parties were a huge hit and you know 'by word of mouth' is your best advertisement. My husband and I would make
the trip to Maryland for some of these parties and I'd perform as Marilyn
Monroe, as well, and
I'd also bring fire-works with me. That was a huge hit!!! Setting off
just the right fire-works during Dad's shows, and then the 'grand
finale'....it was so beautiful! Like I said, I'm just throwing out
ideas, I don't expect that everyone will want to do all of these.
Pulling 'surprise stunts' are really
fun. One time, at a show I did with Dad in Maryland, he asked two of his
friends, men, to act as 'body guards' at our show. Dad ordered several black
shirts with the words, in white, on the backs of the shirts that read 'Elvis
Staff'.....and he provided the men with radio 'ear phones' that they
actually used to talk to one another.....and he asked them to wear dark
sunglasses all evening...guarding the stage, and also mingling with the
guests, looking serious and 'watchful'.....it was such a big hit. You'd be
surprised how many of your friends will be glad to help you out with things
like this. The crowds get a real charge out of it, too.