Recession shakes up impersonators


The crashing economy has local Elvis impersonators checking into "Heartbreak Hotel."

Corporate belt-tightening is thinning the ranks of Elvis tribute artists and other celebrity impressionists who are taking extra jobs to survive.

"I work with a ton of impersonators," said Elvis impersonator Johnny Thompson, "and they're saying business is so down they're all looking for part-time jobs -- bartenders, waitresses -- whatever they can find. I'm talking about excellent singers and top look-alikes. It's hit the whole industry."

Thompson, who appeared in Carrie Underwood's video "Last Name" and has a video shoot today with Katy Perry, said he's been to Asia five times in the past year to pay the bills.

Another popular Elvis, Brandon Paul, said he's been warning his brethren for years not to "put all your eggs in one basket."

His Elvis brothers "are calling and saying they're down to one or two jobs a month. I told them to get work wherever they can. One told me, 'But I moved here to be an Elvis.'"

Paul followed his own advice and diversified. He purchased Graceland Chapel, where he stands in as The King during weddings.

Paul isn't crying. He admits he's made up to $350,000 a year as Elvis, and that was before he got the chapel.

The chapel business is not hurting as much, he said, because foreign currency is still strong against the dollar.

Jesse Garon, dubbed the "Official Elvis Of Las Vegas" by Mayor Oscar Goodman, said he's getting so many media requests, including one from France, "that I've become the poster boy of the down-and-out in Vegas. Everybody's fascinated that Elvis has fallen on tough times."

Asked how bad it is, Garon, who drives a vintage pink Cadillac to his gigs, said "it's gone from here" -- raising his right hand to his curling lips -- "to here," lowering his hand to his shaking hips.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Amid rumors that he's coming out of retirement, unbeaten boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. has pulled out of a fundraiser and gala for the needy in Middletown, Ohio. Once a great steel city, Middletown has been labeled by Forbes magazine as one of the 10 fastest dying cities in America. Mayweather's spokesman told the benefit's organizers the reason for the withdrawal would be clear after an "announcement" this week. ...

Cher and her dancers have been throwing sailor hats into the crowd at the end of her 1989 hit "If I Could Turn Back Time" (the music video was filmed on the USS Missouri battleship) during her shows at The Colosseum (Caesars Palace). Seemed like a good idea until one of the hats didn't sail and ended up on the stage recently, nearly causing Cher to take a tumble. ...

The white tiger that appeared in Siegfried & Roy's farewell appearance was tethered to a cable as soon as it exited a glass enclosure, a spokesman said. That would explain why there were no security barriers at the Keep Memory Alive benefit for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. The tiger was identified as Montecore, the big cat that severely injured Roy Horn during a show Oct. 3, 2003. ...

Film legend Tony Curtis is signing his new book "American Prince -- A Memoir" from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Aurora Bar in Luxor.

SIGHTINGS

Rio headliners Penn & Teller, shooting scenes Wednesday in singer Katy Perry's video shoot at the Palms. She's arranged to have a number of local entertainers to join her in the video for her new song, "Waking Up in Vegas." Perry, who topped the charts with "I Kissed a Girl" last year, was romantically linked to Good Charlotte frontman Benji Madden after they were spotted together in Las Vegas over Valentine's Day weekend. But during a visit to Amp salon (Palms) on Tuesday, she was overheard saying how much she enjoyed being single. ... Megan Hauserman of VH1's "Rock of Love" is at the Golden Nugget, filming her new reality show.

THE PUNCH LINE

"John McCain's daughter, Meghan, wrote yesterday that Ann Coulter is 'offensive, radical, and insulting.' Wow. That's by far the nicest thing anyone has ever said about Ann Coulter." -- Jimmy Fallon, NBC's new late-night host

Norm Clarke can be reached at (702) 383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.

 

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