A Score of Elvi Rock Mesquite, NV
By Arthur J. Bloberger
Photo attached; caption: L to R, 3rd Place winner ERock, 2nd Place winner Travis Allen, and 1st Place winner Mark Anthony. Photo by Amy Bloberger.
This past weekend, no less than 20 of the world’s finest Elvis Presley tribute artists gathered in the showroom of the Casa Blanca Hotel and Casino in Mesquite, NV, to get “All Shook Up” and vie for cash prizes in a competition entitled “Elvis Rocks Mesquite!” Produced by “Mama” Rea Link of Branson, MO, proceeds from the competition will go on to benefit the charity known as Any Soldier, Inc., which sends packages to the U.S. military overseas. According to Link, who brings these competitions to many locales throughout the country under the banner of “Uniquely Elvis,” “Any Soldier, Inc. is such a great cause. We hope the success of this event will help to make it an annual happening in Mesquite.”
It was really a four-in-one extravaganza, with many of the impersonators initially competing in all three preliminary rounds – ‘50s Elvis, ‘60s Elvis and ‘70s Elvis – the cream of which would rise to the top to engage in the highly competitive, sold-out final round. And the entire extravaganza itself was captured by Las Vegas’ own Margate Entertainment crew for future broadcast as a series of television specials, since there was way “Too Much” for just one single show. Check your upcoming local listings for more information to be announced.
The King himself obviously needs no introduction. But the same can’t be said for the 20 amazing impressionists who suited up in everything from gold lame’ to black leather to “G.I. Blues” uniforms, “Blue Suede Shoes,” and bejeweled jumpsuits replete with colorful silk scarves for the swooning ladies. You just “Can’t Help Falling in Love” with these guys. Hailing from all over the USA and beyond, the entrants included Paul Conceio and Bret Burkhart of (Viva) Las Vegas, NV; Shane Patterson and Barry Stevens of Henderson, NV; Edward Head of Litchfield Park, AZ; Liberty Mounten of St. George, UT; Phil Garcia of Taylorsville, UT; Vice Grosso of Kissimmee, FL; Chris Johnson of Birmingham, AL; and Canadians Al Ross and Jim Bishop.
Finalists included Brad Collins of Las Vegas NV; James Kruk of Oceanside, CA; Gene Styles of Peoria, AZ; Clint Ingbretson of White City, OR; Cliff Wright of Athens, AL; and local hero Claude Nielson of Mesquite, NV, competing at the same age Elvis himself would have been if he were still alive – 75-years-young. Although highly competitive, the many performers do not have “Suspicious Minds” amongst themselves, and instead act in many ways as if they are one big family, supporting and praising each other. Still, as talented as they all were, the losing competitors may well remember the Casa Blanca as a “Heartbreak Hotel.”
In the final round, you could have cut the excitement with a comb – “It’s Now or Never” time. Overall trophy and prize winning finalists were ERock of Buckner, MO (3rd Place); Travis Allen of Las Vegas, NV (2nd Place and the People’s Choice award winner); and Australian Mark Anthony (1st Place Champion). Anthony is no stranger to an Elvis tribute championship, having also taken victory laps this year in Toronto, CAN, Lake George, NY, and last month’s Las Vegas Hilton competition. His next stop is the Ultimate Elvis Competition being held next weekend in Memphis, TN.
As one of the quartet of “Hound Dog” judges, this writer cannot stress enough how difficult it was for the four of us to whittle down the field and then choose the winners. Much like an Olympic event, often mere fractions separated the gifted participants, who were scored in a variety of categories that included voice, appearance, performance, stage presence and audience reaction.
A host of related satellite attractions rounded out the weekend’s festivities at the Casa Blanca, including an Elvis Sock-Hop, Elvis Bowling, Elvis Karaoke, a Four Kings Slot Tournament and a “Blue Hawaii” Luau Buffet. Everywhere you went, it was Elvis, Elvis, Elvis! As one male audience member joked, “Even the urinals had sideburns!” If you missed it, “Don’t Be Cruel” to yourself next year, because a fantastic time was had by all. (And if I left out any of your favorite Elvis song titles in this yarn, please forgive me. “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.”)