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The Elvii Among Us

February 11, 1996|Mary McNamara

They walk among us, often unnoticed, other times barely betrayed by a sneer-twitched lip, perhaps, or a familiar, pelvis-rolling gait. They believe their bodies are the conduits of a spirit greater than them. They believe that sequined polyester is an alternative lifestyle and hair care an acceptable method of worship. And when we see them--on a stage, in bars, in front of a used-car dealership--we can only wonder "who are these people, and what do they want from us?"

Southern California filmmakers Kathleen Fairweather and Robert Jaye are trying to find out in their documentary-in-progress, "All the King's Men." On a recent weekend at Elvis' onetime Palm Springs home, they assembled 25 of these pretenders from various locales and points on the Elvis-impersonating food chain. Bob E. Jones of Fontana (right), a relative newcomer, is a birthday-party Elvis, complete with homemade outfits. Terry Crisp of Long Beach, Brian Bromley of Aliso Viejo and Steve Peri of Ontario (center) are all pros. Jim Leboef of Las Vegas (far right) has played the Riviera and drops $100,000 a year on jumpsuits, makeup and accessories. For the truly dedicated like Crisp (far right and center below) and Raymond Michael Hebel of Moorpark (below right), it's an opportunity for expression denied most men--a glimpse at Hebel's wardrobe, designed by Elvis' own Gene Doucett, is glittering testimony. "They can put on the jewelry and the hair, the makeup and the costumes, and still be seen as macho," says Fairweather. "And it really is a labor of love. Each one thinks he really is the King, that he is really bringing Elvis back for people to enjoy."

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