Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Underwear Elvis

Last night Chad performed as Elvis at a church fish fry. Seeing his act reminded me of an essay I wrote for a little English department publication while I was in grad school. Here it is:

I remember the first time I saw my husband become Elvis Presley. It was before he even owned the white jumpsuit with blue rhinestones. In fact, he didn’t really have clothes on. We had been married for several weeks when he came sliding into the kitchen, Risky Business style, wearing nothing but knee-high socks, white underwear, and a guitar. I was scrambling eggs and made every effort to seem disinterested in his act, shaking my head, snorting that you’re-just-not-normal laugh. But, the longer he played, and the more he twitched and shimmied and shook, the harder it was for me to pretend that this act wasn’t worth watching. It seemed like this man was channeling Elvis himself, right there in my shabby little kitchen, and I could almost hear the roar of a Vegas crowd in the sound of sizzling bacon.

As our first few years of marriage went on, I grew accustomed to seeing the amazing transformation that I called “Underwear Elvis” at any time of the night or day. I never knew when the King was going to make an appearance, but I was always mesmerized by the act which seemed to come so naturally to my husband. He told me how he felt a kinship with Elvis ever since he was a shy, skinny middle-schooler learning to play the guitar in his room, singing with Elvis records for hours at a time. As an older teen he entertained his friends by singing Elvis tunes, but by college he spent time on his own music, so the world rarely witnessed his uncanny ability to impersonate the King.

A funny thing happened, though, when he was asked to entertain at a senior citizens’ banquet at our church. He decided to do an Elvis act. He rented a jumpsuit with a cape, placed spotlights around the room, and put on a full-fledged Elvis extravaganza. The people went wild. Like me, they couldn’t believe that he could so easily turn into the King of Rock and Roll—his show was truly convincing.

Not too many months later, we were packing up to leave our home in Nashville so my husband could begin law school at Texas Tech. As a going away gift, the president of Sony Publishing and a member of our church who had witnessed his Elvis show, presented him with a white Elvis jumpsuit, complete with blue rhinestones, bell-bottoms, and a cape. It was tacky and beautiful. My husband accepted the gift with thanks, but couldn’t imagine a time when he would ever need an Elvis jumpsuit in law school.

We had been in Lubbock for exactly three days when he was offered a job as an Elvis impersonator at a local theater. He played show after show in his white jumpsuit, and the women went crazy. I stood and watched while middle-aged ladies groped him after shows as they had their pictures taken with him. One woman tried to unzip his jumpsuit—others stroked his hair or dabbed at his brow with handkerchiefs. Some nights children would come to the theater after their parents had dressed them up like Elvis—one little boy wore his dog’s Elvis costume. My husband became a local celebrity. Stories and reviews graced the local newspaper as everyone marveled at Elvis the lawyer. It all made for a great story.

Years later, we live in a small town, and the Elvis jumpsuit hangs in a closet. Even though my husband rarely puts it on, my daughter and I are still likely to be called Priscilla and Lisa Marie at the grocery store. My husband has reached an age where he finds the Elvis jumpsuit embarrassing—he says it makes him feel like he’s the one in the room who’s just wearing underwear while everyone else is fully clothed. Somehow I find that analogy appropriate, remembering his debut as Underwear Elvis in our little kitchen so many years ago. I still prefer to watch his lip curl and his knees wobble in the comfort of our little house while our daughter looks on in amazement. Elvis may have left the building, but in our family he lives on quite comfortably in white underwear and knee-high socks.

1 comment:

  1. I always loved this essay. I loved being Gladys, too. I loved those Elvis shows at the Cactus in Lubbock. In fact, we still pull out the CD of Chad's Cactus performance that I recorded secretly from the 15th row since no videos were permitted. It is embarrassing, though, that I screamed louder than all of those little old ladies. It was as if I forgot that my voice would record right along with Chad's on that video. Regardless, I was one proud mama. Keep writing, Melissa! I so like your blog.