A puppet Elvis impressionist helped Terry Fator stave off a harsh reception in Harlem.
Maynard Tompkins, Fator’s warbling Elvis tribute artist and a fan favorite in his show at the Mirage, opened Fator’s set in November for his appearance on “Showtime at the Apollo.” The show is hosted by veteran stand-up and noted beauty-pageant pageant ringleader Steve Harvey and airs 9 p.m. Thursday on Fox.
Fator appears in a lineup of unbilled performers that include a comic and magician. His segment is just 5½ minutes, and the show’s format calls for the performers to “do their best to win over the Apollo audience.”
This is at once a description and a challenge. Apollo crowds are known to be ruthless. As “Amateur Night at the Apollo” once told Rolling Stone magazine, “We offer them what no one else offers them — the power of the boo.”
Lauryn Hill, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Foxx, Luther Vandross and even James Brown were booed at the Apollo early in their careers.
But Fator said he was not worred about a boos problem at the Apollo.
“Everybody was scared when I said I was going to do this, but I kept saying, ‘I am not going to get booed. I’m telling you, I’m not going to get booed,’ ” Fator said this morning. “I just felt great about it, and I’ve always wanted to play the Apollo Theater event since I was a kid.”
Fator opened with Tompkins, one of the silliest-looking figures you’ll ever see, with his exaggerated pompadour, aggressive sneer and little rhinestone-studded jumpsuit. “I walked out with Maynard, and he’s just so much fun to look at, so goofy, and they laughed the moment they saw him.” Fator followed with Julius, the puppet that reminds of Nat King Cole, who said Maynard did remind him of Elvis “because he used to hang out here and steal my music.”
“The crowd went, ‘Ooooh!’ ” Fator said. “It really was an incredible experience.
Fator was booked on the show through the long friendship between his writing partner Jon Macks and “Showtime at the Apollo” producer Suzanne Bender, who was working on “America’s Got Talent” when Fator won the show in 2007.
“I would love to perform with the Michael Jackson puppet at Apollo,” Fator said, as if musing about that very moment. “They would go out of their minds.”