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Imitating Elvis

Tribute artists reflect on the 25th death anniversary of The King.
 
 
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Name: Tony La Torre
Title: Elvis tribute artist.

Where were you when Elvis died?
I was 8 years old. It was late in the afternoon, and I remember that I wasn't that shaken by it. Though I loved Elvis, I knew he was in poor health and wasn't very happy. So when I heard about his death, I believed that he had gone to heaven and that his pain was now over. I took solace in that and also in the fact that I could still enjoy his music and watch his movies, and that someday I would see him again when I died and went to heaven, too.

What does the 25th anniversary of his death mean to you?
The fact that 25 years after his passing, there are so many special events all over the world commemorating his memory is just more testimony to the fact that Elvis was the greatest entertainer of the all time and always will be. Love and enthusiasm for his music has only grown with time. He is as popular today as he ever was, and maybe more so. Who else can we say that about? Who else has touched his fans so deeply? No one, and no one ever will. Elvis is still the King.

How will you commemorate the day?
I plan to commemorate the day by performing some of my favorite songs here in Vegas and meeting other tribute artists. It's always fun to hear their stories and share what has brought us all into this unique family. I think Elvis would be touched to see how many guys are dedicated to keeping his memory alive. That's what being a tribute artist is all about.

Name: Johnny Thompson
Title: Elvis impersonator and founder of the Professional Elvis Impersonators Association

Where were you when Elvis died?
I was in Biloxi, Miss., I think I was about 11-and-a-half years old. I was on the beach with my family and we were staying at the Sheraton hotel where Elvis used to go on vacation, and we turned on the TV and saw our hotel on every channel. The first thing I did was I called my dad and stepmom in the next room and told them "Elvis is dead," and they said "That's not even funny." So I go "No, no, turn on the television," and it was pretty sad. My father was a huge Elvis fan and my mother was a huge Elvis fan, and when I grew up listening to his music and watching his movies.

What does the 25th anniversary mean to you?
Jesus. It means I'm getting old (laughs). To be honest with you, every day that I do Elvis it's in honor of him and a tribute to him. So this year's really not necessarily any different than any other year for me.

How will you commemorate it?
I'll be performing on the 15th to 17th at the South East Alaska state fair.

Name: Harry Shahoian
Title: Elvis tribute artist at the MGM Grand's Rock 'n Roll Fantasy

Where were you when Elvis died?
Home, age 5. I remember it but not very well.

What does the 25th anniversary mean to you?
It means to me that this was a powerful, powerful human being. This is a guy dead 25 years and has a number-one hit right now in Europe, called "A Little Less Conversation." That just shows you how great the man was: 25 years later the fact people talk about him and he's the most impersonated person in the world. I really wish he was still around.

How will you commemorate the 25th anniversary of his death?
I'm usually performing on that day. I don't know if I really mourn it, I just recognize it and do my best performance that I possibly can. I think it would be different if I was raised with him, but I've become a fan after his death. It's crazy because to a lot of people, Elvis is Jesus Christ. In a lot of people's eyes Elvis could do no wrong especially, in his last couple days, when there was no one there to tell Elvis what he was doing to himself was wrong. But he got away with it because he's like JC.