domingo, 28 de abril de 2013

All shook up by Elvis Presley invasion

BACK IN BRID: Elvis impersonators will be descending on Bridlington for the Elvis Weekender. Pictures: Simon Kench
They speak many languages but share common traits – a sneer of lip, a shudder of the hip and quiffs like cliffs. The fourth Elvis Weekender returns to The Spa Bridlington this week, with contestants arriving from across Europe.
Among the 32 entrants for the tribute competition – known as one of the best in Europe – are Elvises from Portugal, Spain and Italy.
One German contestant stands out for good reason – at 6ft 7in tall, Oliver Steinhoff's a king-sized version of the King.
"He gets a lot of jumpsuit for his money," said Steve Caprice, the event's organiser, with a grin.
The four-day event, which starts on Friday, will see thousands of fans arriving in the town.
And for Steve, a noted Elvis tribute artist in his own right, there's a pride in the growing prestige of the event. The counterfeit Kings are all competing for a £1,500 first prize and a gold-plated 2ft trophy.
The eventual winner will also go through to the semi-finals of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Contest in Memphis.
Held at the Cannon Centre – not far from Elvis's Graceland mansion – the competition has a $20,000 first prize.
Last year's Elvis Weekender winner, Ben Portsmouth, of Berkshire, went on to be crowned the Ultimate Elvis and tours the world with his act.
"It is a competition with a good pedigree," said Steve, who runs the Bridlington event with his wife, Barbara.
"The winner in 2011, Pete Storm, won the Collingwood Elvis Festival in Canada, and also the Images Of The King in Las Vegas – which is a tribute competition that started while Elvis was still alive."
Others competing for the title of International Elvis Masters Champion at Bridlington include Mario Kombou, who appeared as Elvis in the West End show Jailhouse Rock, and Steve Halliday, who appeared on ITV's Stars In Their Eyes Elvis Special.
This year's competition – run alongside a series of concerts, including a performance from Pete Storm – will see the 32 entrants whittled down to a seven-strong final on the Sunday.
And the enduring interest in the man dubbed the King Of Rock'n'Roll – in the US there are estimated to be 35,000 Elvis tribute artists – is one that Steve identifies with.
His own fascination began at the age of seven, when a cousin played him Don't Be Cruel, and has remained a part of his life ever since.
Steve, a regular performer in rock'n'roll events before deciding to focus on Elvis's music, was a finalist in the 2007 Ultimate Elvis Competition.
"Elvis had the x-factor long before it was invented as a phrase," said Steve, who lives in Humbleton, near Hull.
"He had the whole package: the charisma, the looks, the voice and the sparkle.
"I've been to the two-room shack in Tupelo where he grew up and Graceland – his life is the American dream in a nutshell."
The numbers of tickets sold, Steve said, are rising year on year for the event.
"Just yesterday, we were trying to book a room for some friends of ours who are coming up to visit, and Barbara spent all afternoon on the phone till we eventually found somewhere," said Steve.
But perhaps the best indicator of its success are those it attracts.
"Even those who are not Elvis fans will pop in to catch a show," Steve said.

• The Elvis Weekender runs from Friday, May 3 to Monday, May 6, at The Spa, Bridlington. To book tickets, call 01262 678258.

By Will Ramsey


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