Repeat performances: Ultimate Elvis experience, plus Barbie wedding bells

Elvis Impersonators pile onto a trolley in downtown Memphis, Tenn. Tuesday to head from a luncheon with fans to the Cannon Center where they will compete in the 2008 Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest scheduled to be held Wednesday and Thursday.

Photo by Jim Weber // Buy this photo

Elvis Impersonators pile onto a trolley in downtown Memphis, Tenn. Tuesday to head from a luncheon with fans to the Cannon Center where they will compete in the 2008 Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest scheduled to be held Wednesday and Thursday.

It was delightfully surreal when the 22 Elvises crowded onto the stage at EP Delta Kitchen this afternoon.

The participants in the 2008 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest introduced themselves to the cheers of fans and friends who were invited to the meet-and-greet because they had reserved tickets for Wednesday’s semifinals and Thursday finals at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts.

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22 Elvis tribute artists gathered at EP Delta Kitchen on Beale Street to meet their fans. Then, they all took a trolley to the Cannon Center.

22 Elvis tribute artists gathered at EP Delta Kitchen on Beale Street to meet their fans. Then, they all took a trolley to the Cannon Center. Watch »

Elvis Impersonators pile onto a trolley in downtown Memphis, Tenn. Tuesday to head from a luncheon with fans to the Cannon Center where they will compete in the 2008 Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest scheduled to be held Wednesday and Thursday.

Photo by Jim Weber

Elvis Impersonators pile onto a trolley in downtown Memphis, Tenn. Tuesday to head from a luncheon with fans to the Cannon Center where they will compete in the 2008 Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest scheduled to be held Wednesday and Thursday.

Carol Butler, director of product licensing, and Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises, unveil the new Elvis and Priscilla Barbie dolls at a ceremony at Graceland Tuesday.

Photo by Greg Campbell
Special to The Commercial Appeal

Carol Butler, director of product licensing, and Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises, unveil the new Elvis and Priscilla Barbie dolls at a ceremony at Graceland Tuesday.

(L-R) Karen Bailey, Donna Sharrow, Angel Durham, Linda Durham and Janice Helms raise glasses of orange juice in a toast to the unveiling of the Elvis and Priscilla Barbie doll wedding set at Graceland on Tuesday. The group of women from Texas got in line 12 hours before the unveiling to be the first to purchase the dolls.

Photo by Mike Brown

(L-R) Karen Bailey, Donna Sharrow, Angel Durham, Linda Durham and Janice Helms raise glasses of orange juice in a toast to the unveiling of the Elvis and Priscilla Barbie doll wedding set at Graceland on Tuesday. The group of women from Texas got in line 12 hours before the unveiling to be the first to purchase the dolls.

It was a flashy display of black hair, meticulously styled to each individual yet all basically the same. The Elvises were shy and gregarious, tall and short, thin and ... well none really more than XL.

As they mixed with the crowd, they posed for pictures and patiently told and retold stories about how they got started.

Joe Hall was getting more than the usual attention. At 23, he’s only been doing the Elvis tribute act for 19 months; he got his start at a Halloween party. But he’s picked up enormous recognition as a contestant on “America’s Got Talent.” “Being viewed by 60 million people is quite a rush,” he confessed after signing a scarf for Donna Whisenand of Conyers, Ga.

Hall, from Lincoln, Neb., was there with his sister, Caroline Hall, who was maintaining some perspective. “I’m helping him keep his head on his shoulders.”

Later the ETAs hopped a trolley where they waved to bemused onlookers and did some improvised harmonizing. When they got to the Cannon Center they were led on a tour by stage manager Ongeleigh Gipson who pointed out the stage doors they’d need to know, where the dressing rooms were and where they would make their entrances onstage for their ultimate Elvis moment.

Earlier in the day and also as part of Elvis Week festivities, the debut of the Priscilla and Elvis Barbie wedding doll set gave a boost to a local charity.

Presley Place will get the $6,800 that was bid for a doll set that had the added cachet of being signed by Priscilla Presley. Brenda Bahn-Moore of Bentonville, Ark., a long-time Elvis fan, made the winning bid at the auction held by Elvis Presley Enterprises.

The Barbie set, which depicts Elvis and Priscilla on their wedding day in 1967, was developed in a partnership between Mattel and EPE and will retail for $69.99. EPE spokesman Kevin Kern said fans started lining up about 10 p.m. Monday at Graceland to get the first shipment that went on sale this morning.

Presley Place is a 12-unit apartment property that is part of the Estival Communities program created and managed by the Metropolitan Inter-faith Association (MIFA).

MIFA spokesman Elizabeth Garrett said Presley Place is transitional housing for families that have been homeless. Residents can live for up to a year and take classes in money management, parenting and other areas to become independent and productive.

The 2008 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest semifinals and finals will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, 255 N. Main. Tickets are $50 to $140 and are for both events. Click here to purchase tickets or call Ticketmaster at 901-525-1515.

© 2008 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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