The Men (and women) Who Would Be King
Yes, it was Elvis weekend in Penticton. Men with sideburns sauntered all over town, and on a stage erected for the event dozen’s of Elvis impersonators of all ages, races and both genders gyrated and growled their best imitation of The King of Rock and Roll.
Most of the Elvis Tribute Artists, as they call themselves, haven’t quit their day jobs, which is a good thing from what we heard, but some perform professionally under such names such as “Velvet Elvis” and “Eternal E.” One professional evidently got his start at the Elite Café, a very cool restaurant in downtown Penticton, and goes by the name “The Elite Elvis.” How an Elvis impersonator gets a start in a restaurant, I have no idea.
The Elite is celebrating its 80th birthday this year. We were talking with the owner, who bought the place a few years ago, and he offered to buy us our coffee if we could guess when the restaurant was last remodeled. There are several horseshoe shaped counters along one side with rotating stools and booths along the opposite wall. Shiny chrome and Formica everywhere. It is in such good shape that I thought the décor was as faux as the Elite Elvis. But it was last remodeled in the 60s and the wonderful retro styling that gives the place character is genuine.
Anyway, back to Elvis. Half the shops downtown have been selling Elvis memorabilia. A sign said, “Parking for Elvis fans only. Violators will be all shook up.” Penticton is stuck in the 80s, so it doesn’t seem that long ago that Elvis left the building. But still, the whole thing was weird.
To find an Elvis cult in Canada comes as a surprise, but it at least partially illustrates the ambivalent attitude Canadians have towards the US. They like American culture, or pop culture anyway. But they don’t feel as positive towards Americans. Kind of like American (and Canadian) vacationers in Mexico. (I have to say Canadians’ antipathy towards Americans seems to be general; I haven’t felt any animosity towards me personally.)
Its not like Canada doesn’t have any culture of its own. There are plenty of talented Canadians. For its population (less than California) Canada has exported to the US an amazing number of performers—William Shatner, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Celine Dion, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, the late newsman Peter Jennings and a whole raft of comedians, just to name a few. Oh yes, don’t forget the buxom blonde Pamela Anderson (whoohoo!) But rather than bringing Canadian culture to the US, they are just absorbed into the American culture.
An Elvis tribute festival is fun, in an odd sort of way. But I think Canadians should be honoring one of their own. I’m hoping for a Pamela Anderson festival.
On a different subject, today, July 1st, is Canada Day. It is similar to the 4th of July in the US, but different. I’ll let it go at that for this year.