"At a karate tournament I won in Long Beach in 1972 Elvis came over to say 'Hi,' " he said. "I was working as a cook at Denny's and got them to transfer me to the Denny's on Elvis Presley Boulevard near Graceland in Memphis. I hung around until eventually Elvis hired me. For five years I was supposed to be his bodyguard, but I did about everything, even got on his karate team. Had a real good time."
Pete Peterkin, an African-American Elvis, works for KKBT-FM (92.3), where his job is impersonating Presley and some 100 other celebrities in comic call-ins.
A jazz guitarist and comedian who performs in a 1950s-type zoot suit, Peterkin prefers Elvis' early songs, with "more of a black sound," he said. "Elvis had a lot of black fans."
Kevin Thongpricha of El Monte, who was born in Bangkok where "there are many Elvises," achieved Presley fame there before bringing his act to this country in 1972. He wears an Elvis-styled jumper with a colorful Thai shirt and flowing sleeves and tinted rhinestone-trimmed aviator glasses.
"Elvis respected his audience; he always got dressed nice. That's why I get dressed nice too," said Thongpricha, who sings in English but throws in an occasional Thai phrase.
"Sometimes I feel Elvis' spirit is helping me. I think wherever his spirit is, it's kind of following what I'm doing. I told my friends that, and they said: 'Might be.' Sometimes in my mind I say to Elvis, 'Please help me,' and sometimes he does. Some people say to me: 'Why don't you change your act? People are tired of Elvis.' But I say I'll never change it. I love him, and I don't care."