In Ocean City, Maryland there is a widely known phenomenon known as Boardwalk Elvis. He dresses in the famous Elvis white jumpsuit, sometimes they’re black jumpsuits, carries a small boombox radio and dances and performs to Elvis Presley tunes on the boardwalk. He has been doing this since the early 70’s. Recently he was an honored guest at an event in Ocean City called The Night of 100 Elvises.
These days you can find Elvis impersonators, or tribute artists to the King of Rock and Roll, all over the world, and in Myrtle Beach, SC. Where else would Elvis be in Myrtle Beach? You guessed it…on the Boardwalk.
In Las Vegas you’ll find one on every corner and sometimes you can’t keep count of the numerous Elvises you’ll spot in a day because there are so many of them. I realize that this is a diehard fan tribute to a beloved icon they worshiped and now are missing, but after a recent trip to the city of sin I wondered about what would motivate me to dress up like this everyday and go out into the world.
What are these folks thinking when they stand in front of their own mirrors and don the clothes, the actions and the mannerisms of someone long gone to us in the real world? Do they see their reflections and smile at how close they come to the truth of someone else? Are they bothered by the ridicule those less sensitive tend to bark out at them as they pass on the street? When a tourist asks to have a picture with them, does that one moment in time stand out as the one that made it all worthwhile to get out of bed that morning?
I looked in the mirror and then wondered if I wasn’t already my own version of someone I dearly loved and missed, or am I an original? Was I already dressing and acting in tribute to another human being, celebrity or perhaps a deity? Who was it I had on my mind every morning when I picked out my clothes and applied my makeup? Was everything I did each day to prepare myself to deal with my own life simply a rehearsal of sorts, as I mimicked a life that had passed? Or was I imitating a life that was already revolving around the sun, the same as I was?
You tend to see yourself in a whole new light once you start looking for someone else in there, don’t you? Obviously there’s going to be the “she has her father’s nose” type of comparisons. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I thought about my family and my friends. Was I anything like any of them?
I also wondered just how objective I was going to be, especially when all of us like to think they broke the mold when we were created. No one wants to be a copy…or do they? These Boardwalk Elvises certainly beg to differ with that analysis. Are we so interested in being different than everyone else? Or do we instinctively try to emulate those around us so we fit in the group a little better and don’t stand out so much?
I am going to guess there are two groups of us out here; those that want to be original and those that want to emulate. It has to be a symbiotic relationship in order to work because we would never have anything creative without those originals and the originals would have no one to pal around with and no inspiration to continue being creative if there was no one to try it on and follow along.
For instance; we might not think of the original Elvis quite as often as he would have liked if there weren’t any Boardwalk Elvises to remind us he was so awesome when he was alive.
Or I could be totally wrong about all of this! Maybe the creative folks wouldn’t need anyone to emulate them in order to know love. Maybe they would just hang around other creative sorts and then that symbiosis would stimulate them in such a way that they could continue being more and more creative without ever seeing their life’s work repeated in ways that stray from the original!
Think of that!
An endless stream of fireworks that continue ad nauseum into the future with nothing ever being duplicated.
It overwhelms my tiny brain, quite frankly.
If I saw you wear a pair of shoes that I really liked…I could never buy a pair for myself because you would own the only pair.
I’d like to think most of my thoughts are originals. I know that when I say something I think is particularly keen I like to make a meme of it and sign my writing moniker, Madeline Laughs. I’m not so arrogant though that I can’t accept that perhaps it’s all been said and done before, even though I get accused of trying to reinvent the wheel at times. Maybe my thoughts, my ideas, my eureka moments, have all been realized in the past by someone else who also thought they were the first to make it to the top of the mountain too.
That doesn’t bother me as much as it might bother some people. I am not out to set the world on fire. Maybe just singe it a little or send some smoke signals. If what I put out here isn’t all that unique, it’s not going to send me into a morose state that will fill my pockets with rocks for a short walk in the ocean.
I imagine that might be a thought or two a Boardwalk Elvis might share with me and I find solace in that idea. They already know that what they are doing, the way they look, the tone of their voice or the style of their lip syncs, has all been done before. In fact, done to death and then some. And they just don’t care. They still get up every morning and decide if it’s going to be the white or the black sequined jumpsuit. They still comb back their pompadour hairdo and trim those muttonchops. They curl that lip and swagger out the door to find a corner, or a boardwalk, where Elvis fans won’t mind doing a little jitterbug to their flashy rendition of Don’t Be Cruel.
For some oddly comforting reason, I find this form of emulation, while still being original in their own Boardwalk Elvis way, to be something I can aspire to.
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