Friday, December 7, 2007

Don't step on Jelvis' 'Blue Suede Yarmulke'

The Forward Q&A returned this week with an interview with "Jelvis," or at least one of the many Jewish Elvis impersonators. (Seriously?)

Given what we now know about Elvis’s ancestry — with his matrilineal great-great-grandmother having been Jewish — isn’t it a bit redundant to say you’re the Jewish Elvis?

I think redundancy is good in rock ’n’ roll and in the arts. If you find something that works, you just beat it to death. And in this case it’s already dead.

So you think he’s dead?

Well, he’s like Jesus. He keeps coming back for more. Jelvis certainly isn’t dead. He carries on the gospel.

Yes, being Jelvis is one of comedian Willard Morgan shticks. The Jewish Journal this week also has a short piece on the same Jelvis.
Jews impersonating Elvis is nothing new. Andy Kaufman was one of the first to gain national exposure for his Elvis act while "The King" was still alive. It's said Kaufman's act was Elvis' favorite. We also have Shmelvis, Elvis Smelvis and Neil Diamond.

So do we really need a Jelvis?

Morgan seems to think so.

"It's just part of my crusade, finding that when I put on the suit with the Jewish star ... people love the iconic image of Elvis ... and that when I see a Japanese Elvis or a Mexican Elvis, I can see that the spirit of the man crossed racial and religious barriers," Morgan said.

Bridging the gap between rhythm and Jews, Jelvis' songs include "Don't Step on My Blue Suede Yarmulke," "Little Schicksa's" and "Heartburn Hotel." And because his work lies more in Jewish interpretation than impersonation, Morgan explains that he is more of an Elvis interpreter than an Elvis impersonator.

Morgan said that when you assume the character of Elvis, you are totally put at ease due to The King's charismatic and nonchalant nature. Perhaps a white, sequined jumpsuit might be the perfect treatment to combat Jewish neuroses.

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