A musical tribute fit for The King

Elvis Presley would have turned 80 this month. We chat to the impersonator who keeps The King alive with shows in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and celebrates the musician’s legacy in the UAE.

Elvis impersonator Rob Kingsley, who will perform in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, says it's a dream gig. Courtesy A Vision of Elvis
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You might expect an Elvis impersonator to be slightly over­zealous, with an obsession bordering on ­mania. Rob Kingsley meets these hopes, reeling off facts about The King. Ahead of his performances in Dubai and Abu Dhabi – tributes to Presley, who would have turned 80 this month – he tells The National why he loves his job.

How did you end up as an Elvis impersonator?

Completely by chance. I was always a fan since I was a kid. I joined the army and my local regiment was stationed in Germany, like Elvis. I had to come out with an injury and I went on holiday to Cyprus. I got on the karaoke for a song and the resort manager booked me there and then as an Elvis ­impersonator.

Is there anything about the job you don’t like?

Every day I get up, look in the mirror and laugh. It’s like a dream job. There’s a massive love for Elvis all over the world and it’s amazing to be able to share that – I thank Elvis every day for what he’s given us.

You were crowned winner of the European Elvis ­Tribute Championship in 2008. What are the most common ­mistakes made by the ­competition?

Its attention to detail – the whole look. There’s a statistic that one in every two males will dress up as Elvis at least once in their life. It’s the suits.

Where do you get your suits?

I get them from the guy who made them for Elvis – Gene Doucette. I’ve owned more than 50 – I’ve bought US$100,000 [Dh367,000] worth of Elvis suits.

What’s the biggest ­misconception about Elvis?

How fat he was. When he first went to Vegas he had a 28- to 30-inch waist. He was around 32 to 34 right up to 1975 – in the 1977 CBS television special he had just put on a few pounds and that’s the picture people always use. It’s very cruel. Can I tell you a fact?

Of course.

There are 85,000 Elvis ­impersonators in the world, compared to 170 in 1975.

You’re 45. Elvis died at 42. How much longer can you keep up the charade?

I reckon I’ve got five years. It’s a personal thing. I’m a massive fan and it’s more important to be respectful to The King than to my career.

Elvis would have been 80 on January 8. What would he have done if he lived?

I have no idea – musically his voice is still there. He was ­always reinventing himself – after the army, the 1968 comeback, in Las Vegas. The sad thing is people remember him for all the wrong reasons, not the positives.

What are your thoughts on banana-and-­peanut-butter sandwiches?

I’ve never tried one – for all those calories I’d rather have something more healthy. It’s funny, you travel the world and people want you to try these exotic things, but I would just be happy with egg and chips. Like Elvis – it was the home-cooking he loved: soul food.

Elvis trivia

• Despite the fact that around 40 per cent of his records sales came from outside the United States, Elvis Presley never ­performed outside North America except for a few shows in Canada in 1957.

• He recorded 15 songs with the word “blue” in the title.

• He bought Graceland, his home of 20 years in Memphis, Tennessee, when he was just 22 years old, shelling out US$102,500 for the 5.7-hectare estate.

• Towards the end of his life, Elvis would reportedly ­pretend to be a police officer, pull people over and then hand out ­autographs instead of traffic tickets.

A Vision of Elvis is at ­Dubai’s Madinat Theatre from January 28 to January 31 and at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace on February 5 and 6. Tickets, from Dh175, at www.platinumlist.ae

rgarratt@thenational.ae

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