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Dirty Hippie Radio – May The Best Elvis Win!

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 An Elvis impersonator outside Bremen, Germany. The photo is on exhibit at the El Segundo Museum of Art and was taken by Peter Badge, who specializes in Nobel Prize winners and Elvis impersonators.

An Elvis impersonator outside Bremen, Germany. The photo is on exhibit at the El Segundo Museum of Art and was taken by Peter Badge, who specializes in Nobel Prize winners and Elvis impersonators.

What is fame, and how does it work? What makes this famous, but not that? Who and what decides? Which factors or filters pertain? Why is the photographer of this iconic image famous, but we haven’t got a clue about the name of the person actually depicted in the shot? Why is Mount Rushmore National Memorial eternally more famous than the name of whomever chiseled it together? These questions only seem to spawn infinitely more contemplations; and that’s the point. It’s not the answers, but rather the questions themselves which the El Segundo Museum of Art aims to stimulate with their latest installment titled “Fame.”

And, as Education Specialist at ESMoA Chelsea Hogan suggests, “Elvis is a perfect lens through which to examine fame.” Really, what better way to analyze the phenomenon of fame than through a global icon whose fame is so enthralling that all around the world it’s become iconic itself to impersonate?

Actually, by no means is the current exhibit at ESMoA (pronounced ez-moe-uh, or es-moe-uh, whichever you like), as they prefer to be received, focused specifically or purely upon Elvis. But, each “experience,” as opposed to just an exhibit, is curated along with a type of external accompaniment or counterpart. This round, it’s a professional Elvis Impersonator contest featuring international performers. “Elvis Who?” is being held at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo on Thursday, November 14 at 7 p.m.

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Okay, okay, it’s fairly understood that on that note you could just as likely be laughing as deciding you need not read further. That, or you’re immediately aroused by the prospect of an international Elvis Impersonator competition anchored in The King’s classic 1950s-era catalogue, hosted by a legendary 1921 music/movie hall residing in your own backyard, presented for free by a recently founded, local, high-end, alarmingly legit, communally active museum/art gallery/art laboratory. And then you enter ESMoA… where the Elvis plot thickens.

As if ESMoA doesn’t already sound like some mythical groovy land or far-off planet from a black and white Sci-Fi film, the floor has been completely resurfaced with aluminum foil – including newly contrived, tapered-half-dome-ramp-graduations climbing up about waist to chest high against the walls to better experience the rise and fall of fame while gaining varied vantage points on the clusters of artwork. No, Andy Warhol was not involved, but a page may have been snipped from his famous factory…

Another Elvis. Photo courtesy Berhnard Kurz, co-producer of ESMoA’s “Elvis Who?”, which takes place Nov. 14 at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo.

Another Elvis. Photo courtesy Berhnard Kurz, co-producer of ESMoA’s “Elvis Who?”, which takes place Nov. 14 at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo.

As you make your way to the back of the room, past the specter of Erich Honecker’s actual uniform (worn as the General Secretary of East Germany, a fearsome character charged with ordering people shot down along the Berlin Wall at Checkpoint Charlie), past a prostrate bust of Yuri Gagarin (first human in outer space who also successfully flew around the planet and returned safely to earth, still looking up to the stars in bemusement of Buzz Lightyear’s presiding fame), past German pop culture glorifications of Native American Indians, Bert & Ernie with a bong, kind of floating forlornly off to the side, one might notice the photograph of a romantically dejected Elvis walking through a field. A closer look reveals it’s not Elvis at all. A more in depth look and it just gets wildly fun, ultimately leading to an international Elvis Impersonator contest.

The Elvis Impersonator image was captured by famed German photographer Peter Badge, whose not only been professionally photographing Nobel Prize recipients since the year 2000, but also has a curious side-penchant for shooting Elvis Impersonators (or tribute artists, as some prefer to be called).

In reference to Badge’s Elvis photo at ESMoA, co-founder Brian Sweeney says, “It looks a lot like Elvis, but it’s not Elvis. It’s taken in Bremen, Germany, and he thinks he’s Elvis. There’s guys all over the world that think they’re Elvis and actually act and live like Elvis… So what we’ve done is we’ve talked to Peter (Badge) and said, ‘Can we do something with your knowledge about Elvis Impersonators?’ He says, ‘Yes, sure. I know Elvis’s tour manager, I know Priscilla Presley, and we can kinda get a few people together and really bring them all for a very special event.'”

In association with Bernhard Züenkler, curator at ESMoA who resides in Berlin, and Bernhard Kurz, producer of the hit German live performance show “Stars in Concert,” which features the world’s best impersonators performing eternal numbers by legendary figures like Frank Sinatra and, yep, you guessed it, Elvis Presley; do the math and it = perhaps the ultimate and most unique Elvis-off you’ll ever see. Need a cherry on top? Ed Bonja, Elvis’s official photographer and tour manager from 1970-77, co-produced the contest and will be sitting in as one of the judges!

Unfortunately, every seat for the Nov. 14 event at the Old Town Music Hall has already been filled. But while you can be put on a waiting list by contacting esmoa.org with ELVIS in the subject line, the museum will also be concurrently projecting a live stream of the contest and performances at ESMoA with free Elvis-themed refreshments provided. And of course, admission to ESMoA is always free.

Being active throughout the community, ESMoA is also kicking off their Elvis week with an amateur local contest at Rock & Brews on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. The winner of “Is Elvis in El Segundo” will receive $500. To enter as a performer, send an email to rsvp@esmoa.org with ELVIS in the subject. The winner of the professional contest on Nov. 10 will be granted a Peter Badge photo shoot about town in El Segundo, as well as a performance spot on Bernhard Kurz’s “Stars in Concert.” May the best Elvis win!

ESMoA is located across the street from Rock & Brews and next door to the El Segundo Brew Co. at 208 Main Street and can be reached at 424-277-1020. Just around the corner, the Old Town Music Hall is at 140 Richmond Street.

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