Writer and Artist
Elvis in Wonderland
by Marya Kalen
“Jack Wigan! Awesome performance, Jack. Really great.” The M.C. took
the microphone from the little man in the glittering white jumpsuit and tucked it
into the black rubber holster of the mic stand.
“Wasn’t he great, ladies and gentlemen?” he asked, prodding them into
another round of applause.
Jack bowed and waved as he made his way down the stage stairs.
The MC turned his attention back to the audience. “So is everybody
enjoying themselves this weekend?”
He listened to the garbled hoots and shouts from the crowd.
“Have ya had enough Elvis for the day?” He queried, girding himself for
the inevitable answer.
The crowd in the darkened theatre sounded a resounding ‘No!’
“Okay! I guess we’ll keep ‘er going then!” He hitched up his tight black
leather pants and slicked back his sideburns while the audience squealed out
in agreement. “Are you ready for your next contestant? This guy, wow… this
next performer comes all the way from Manitouwadge, Ontario. I think that’s just
east of Santa’s workshop, isn’t it, Buddy?” He pointed offstage to the waiting
performer who was nervously hopping from foot to foot, the fringes on his
jumpsuit fluttering and bouncing.
“Just kidding, Buddy. I’ve never been there, but I’m sure it’s a nice place to
be from. Okay folks, here he is, from Manitouwadge, Ontario, please welcome
Buddy, the Ultimate… Altima!”
The audience broke into hesitant applause until a screech of tinny
recorded music blasted through the stadium speakers. With a collective hiss,
they scrambled to cover their ears.
Undaunted, Buddy strutted out and spun into the center of the stage; long
beaded fringes swinging wildly with every movement. He grabbed the
microphone with one hand covered in brash gold rings, the cubic zirconia
sparkling in the light. He loosely pointed at nothing with the other equally
bejeweled hand and tapped his wooden Cuban heel nervously in time with the
music. His lips contorted into a vague sneer. He winked at one of the ladies
sitting in the ring of illumination around the foot of the stage. Sneered again,
then stepped back and started singing…
“As I’m walking through the rain…” he sang with great aplomb. He began
to sweat beneath his jet black latex wig, loosening the glue holding it to
his forehead, but he didn’t notice. The performance was all that mattered; they
were expecting a show and he was about to give them their money’s worth.
Besides, he had something big planned. Something they would never forget.
Okay, he thought. Here goes nothing. He abruptly stopped singing and
raised his hand against the light, shielding his eyes, just as he’d been
practicing all week in his bedroom back home. A diamond-studded lightning bolt
ring flashed in the bright spotlights.
“Hang on.” He exclaimed in an exaggerated drawl. “Oh, hang on. Ah… ah
can’t do this. Stop the music.” He made a slicing motion at his throat.
He removed his purple sunglasses and rubbed his eyes with his thumb
and forefinger dramatically. “I got somethin’ on my mind, y’know what I’m
sayin’? Ah know this’ll cost me points, and I thank the judges…”
The soundboard operator hit the stop button on the ancient control board.
Buddy had slipped him five bucks earlier in the afternoon to help him with
his shenanigans. He cued up the next song, sat back in his squeaky chair and
yawned. He shaded his eyes and squinted out into the audience, trying to see
the five men and women of the judging panel seated in the fifth row, but
couldn’t see beyond the large woman in the turquoise dress with the big pink
“Ah hope y’all will understand that this is somethin’ I got to do. Somethin’ a
whole lot more important than winning prizes right now. If you all
will indulge me for just a few moments, you’ll understand.”
He took their silence as permission.
“Hey, baby doll? You out there?” He shaded his eyes again, knowing there
was no way of seeing his girlfriend, but thinking it looked rather sexy.
“C’mon up here, darlin’.”
The audience applauded politely and looked around in the darkness. A
slender young woman with long flowing brown hair, dressed in a modest blue
knee length dress and flat heels walked gingerly down the aisle and up the
stairs. Buddy gently took her hand and led her onto the stage.
She blushed and waved awkwardly to the crowd.
The M.C. had turned down the five dollar bribe, but was still willing to help
Buddy in his big moment. He slid a big red velvet overstuffed chair out from
backstage and placed it on the spot marked with a green masking tape X.
Buddy seated her into the chair and kissed her tenderly. Stepping back, he
introduced her. “Ladies and gentlemen, this here’s my girl. Isn’t she the
most beautiful creature you ever laid eyes on?”
Again, polite applause.
“We’ve only known each other for a few weeks, but already I know we’re
destined to spend eternity together. So today I have a very special question to
He pointed to the sound booth and called boldly, “Maestro, if you please!”
The music man punched ‘play’ on the CD player. A new song erupted from
the speakers and, at the back of the theatre, the doors to the lobby burst open.
A lively parade of Elvii, all in a variety of costumes— jumpsuits, gold lamè
jackets, and tight black leather suits—came dancing down the aisle.
“Won’t you wear my ring…?” Buddy sang as a dozen shining Elvis Tribute
Artists wriggled their way onstage. One by one they approached the chair,
placed a single red rose in his girl’s arms, kissed her tenderly on the cheek,
then took a place in the growing semi-circle onstage where they backed up
Buddy’s singing with oo’s and ahh’s. They swayed and snapped their fingers
while Buddy gyrated and swooned, making full use of the stage. The sound
technician grudgingly earned the remainder of his five dollars by swinging the
red and yellow disco lights around the audience, creating a somewhat carnival
atmosphere to the proceedings.
A snappy bark came from the theatre door from which the Elvii had
emerged. Presley…a little pug pup, dressed in a dazzling blue cascade
jumpsuit, came trotting down the aisle, a garish, oversized leather belt slipping
down around the sparkling anklets that ringed his paws, threatening to trip him
on his journey.
The techie shone a spotlight to help Presley on his way. The light revealed
the oversized sunglasses and big black sideburns that had been duct taped to
the dog’s head. One black curl fell over the pug’s nose. Presley stared at it with
bulging eyes. He grinned and panted, his short black tongue puffing in and out
of his flat little face.
“Come here, Presley!” called his trainer from the front of the stage, and
the little dog went bounding down the aisle, belt dragging behind him. The
audience cheered as his trainer lifted him onto the stage.
“Go on!” the trainer encouraged.
Buddy had finished singing and the room had gone quiet. He bent on one
knee beside the big red velvet chair and called the pug over. Presley bounced
over, lollygagging; excited to be part of the action.
“What do we have here?” Buddy overacted, scrambling his fingers around
Presley’s neck. He unzipped a little gold lamè pouch that was attached to the
dog’s collar, pulled out a crystal box and held it up for the world to see.
“Could it be?” he said into the sweaty microphone. He opened the box and
the tinkling of a tune started up. He couldn’t see the audience but he was sure
there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. "I’m pulling this off!", he thought happily, his
heart beating wildly.
Buddy reached into the crystal jewelry box and removed the tiny diamond
ring. He slipped it on his lady’s finger. Then, picking up on the melody
emanating from the tiny jewel box speaker, Buddy started to mid song.
“…falling in love...”
That’s all he was able to choke out before bursting into tears.
The audience applauded politely as Buddy fell into his girl’s arms, holding
her like he’d never let her go. The other Elvii clapped him on the back,
congratulating him as they made their way off stage. The judges bent over their
evaluation sheets, sending off their results to be tallied backstage.
~ * ~
“Weeeeell, Mrs. Elvis. Let me see,” insisted Wanda, one of the festival’s
organizers, when they got backstage.
“Show her, hon.” Buddy instructed. Shyly she shifted the bundle of flowers
to her right arm and presented the ring.
Wanda took her hand and bent over it like a pawnbroker. “Hmm. It’s nice.
You all kin get away with a tiny ring; you havin’ such delicate hands and all. I’m
afraid it would get lost on mine.” She flashed her fleshy digits in the air. “So
when’s the big day? Where are you going to have the ceremony?”
Buddy cut off any chance his fiancée had of answering any questions. He
had big plans for their wedding.
“We’ll have to discuss it, of course, but I was hoping we could pop down to
Vegas next month. You know, get hitched at the Little White Wedding
Chapel? I could wear my suit? It would be a hoot!”
Both women shot him a cold stare.
“A girl wants more than ‘a hoot’ fer her weddin’, Buddy,” Wanda scolded. “I
surely hope you put as much thought into that ceremony as you did into this
one. Vegas. Really, now, Buddy.” She patted the young woman’s hand. “Nice to
meet you, darlin’. I’ve got to go. No rest for the wicked!”
Wanda excused herself and waddled off to watch the next performer from
“Congratulations, you two.” Jack Wigan, the performer who had preceded
Buddy onstage greeted them and shook both their hands warmly. He had a
thick Irish accent. Buddy hadn’t noticed it when he sang.
“Thanks. How did you do? Get your marks yet? Think you’ll make it to the
finals?” Buddy asked, nodding toward the score tallying room.
“Don’t know yet. I’m still waiting. Sorry I missed your performance; Wanda
just told me wot you done. Wish I’d known, mate, I’d a helped you owt.”
“That’s okay, I didn’t need you; I had enough guys. It was pretty awesome.
Too bad you missed it. Don’t you think it was pretty cool, baby doll?”
She just smiled weakly and buried her face in her roses.
“I hope the judges still give me some kind of decent mark. I mean, I
deserve something for personality, I think.” Buddy raised his upper lip in a
sneer and guffawed.
“Well, you’ll find out soon enough. You can go get yer marks roight away,
not like at ‘ollingdale. You been to ‘ollingdale before, ‘aen’t ye, Buddy?”
Buddy nodded and fiddled with his gold thunderbolt necklace. “This’ll be my
second year. Third time here in Walkerton. And yeah, I like getting my marks
right away, too. If you don’t get the results for six weeks, you don’t get a chance
to dispute them. That’s not fair!” Buddy exclaimed, flinging his hands in the
air. “Like last year when they said my jumpsuit pants were too short!
Amazing. They weren’t too short. I can’t believe they took points off for that.”
“Did they take off points or just make a comment?” Jack asked.
“I didn’t make it into the semi’s, did I? That’s the only reason I could think
of. My performance was perfect. Maybe my voice wasn’t spot on, but neither
was Doug’s and he made it through. And you know Ian? Ian Mackleray or roy or
whatever his last name is? He forgot the words to ‘Mountain’ and he got into the
Jack just shrugged and said, “You ne’er know wot the judges are thinkin’.
They're the kings around here.”
“Yeah, well, that’s not right,” Buddy grumbled. “Someone should do
something about that.”
The door to the tally room opened and a young man called out Jack’s
“Judgement day, folks,” Jack said with a salute.
“Gotta go see ‘ow the judges treated the ol’ man this time around. Good
luck, Buddy. See you in ‘ollingdale. An’ again, congratulations, mate.” He
stepped into the office, closing the door behind him.
Buddy, realizing they were finally alone in the dim hall, pulled her close to
him and kissed her hard on the mouth. His hand snaked up along her hip and
waist, coming to rest on her soft breast, caressing it, but only for a brief
moment. She turned away, pushing his hand away with her elbow and squirmed
out of his embrace.
“Buddy!” She contorted her chin and wiped her lips on her shoulder, the
bouquet of roses taking up the available space in her forearms. “Not here. I
mean… That was sweet. The roses, the chair, the guys. I can’t believe you
gave up your spot in the contest to do this. I know how much the competition
means to you.”
“Don’t worry about it, buttercup… I’m sure the judges will be swept away by
the romance. After all, that’s what all this is about, isn’t it? The show? I think
that performance might just land me in first place, just don’t tell the guys. They’ll
all be doing it if they see it gets them marks. You’ll see. Hey, do you like the
She held out her long lacquered fingers from under the bundle of flowers
and squinted at the ring. “Buddy, we’ve got to talk.”
They weren’t going to be given the chance, for they heard the music end
with a squeal and the sound of thunderous applause. The next performer had
finished his song and was withdrawing to the backstage area. A small crowd of
stagehands and festival staff gathered around the fit, young entertainer clad in
tight black leather pants and jacket. Buddy groaned. It was Nick. Slick Nick.
Has to go and ruin my moment, he thought. Slick Nick the superstar. Fuck.
“That was amazing!” Wanda gushed madly. She had appeared out of
nowhere to congratulate Nick. He swept his head back with a whipping motion
and his hair obeyed, tumbling immediately into place. The girls from the
canteen surrounded him, holding out their programs, begging for an
Nick laughed, showing perfectly even, perfectly white teeth. “One at a time,
girls. I’ve got time for each and every one of you lovely…” He stopped when he
spied Buddy’s girl.
“Well, well, well, well, well!” He slicked back his hair with one hand, grinned
and strutted forward to greet her. “Congratulations on your forthcoming
nuptials, lovely lady. I can’t believe I let one such as beautiful as you get away.”
He gently took her hand, removed the flowers from her arm and held them in
front of them like a shield as he drew her close. He sniffed her hair and
She giggled, her eyes sparkling. Buddy glared at him and stated as firmly
as he could. “She’s mine, Nick.”
“Possessive little pup, isn’t he? Well, my darling, make sure he takes good
care of you. If he doesn’t, you know where to find me.” He bent and kissed her
hand gently then stepped away, letting the flowers take his place at her bosom.
He turned back to the gushing fans behind him and reached randomly for a
Buddy fumed but said nothing more.
“Hey, Budd… ay!” A warm voice came from behind him. Relief.
“Chet! You’re here!” He wheeled and greeted yet another Elvis in black
Chet set his knuckles in the air and playfully sparred with his friend. “Had
to be here, man! Woulda been here sooner, but I had the show at the Beacon.
Just a lunch thing, but, y’know, obligations and all that. And I wasn’t about to
turn down that kind of money for a one hour show. Besides, you know... The
“You’re not competing this year, are you?” Buddy asked, hoping against
hope that the answer would be negative; he’d never be able to contend against
Chet and his tall, handsome features. Chet had just turned forty; only a year
and a half younger than Buddy, but when he was in costume and makeup he
didn’t look a day over twenty nine. He still had all his own hair, too.
“Yup, sure am! I’ll be in the Professional Concert years this time around.”
He shrugged. “Which is fine, I figure, that way I’m not in the same category as
this asshole…” He kicked playfully out backwards at Nick, who tried to grab his
foot. Buddy laughed lamely, glad to be mixing with the cool guys.
“How’d you do?” Chet asked Buddy. “Get your marks yet?”
“Nah, still waiting.”
“Ya want yer marks, little Buddy?” Nick asked, chucking him under the
chin. He turned to Wanda, who was still standing as close as she could, basking
in Nick’s glorious presence.
“Wanda, my darling.” Nick took the glossy magazine from the plump lady’s
hand and playfully smacked Buddy in the chest with it. “You gonna get my main
man here his marks? He looks like he’s gonna bust a gut if he don’t get ‘em
soon.” He opened the book to page two and scrawled his signature across his
“Oh, sure, hon. I think they’re just about ready for you anyway,” she said.
“There ya go, man. That’s the way to take care of business, y’know what I’
m sayin’?” Nick scruffled Buddy’s hair.
Buddy made a grab for his hand, annoyed. Nick knew he was wearing a
wig—he was going to unglue it if he wasn’t careful. Dumbass.
Buddy grumbled a thank you and followed Wanda toward the judge’s
“Sorry, Buddy. You’ll have to go in alone,” Wanda said, holding the door
half open. She cast her eyes at his future wife.
Chet stepped up, took her hand from his and spun her around. “I’ll take
care of your girl, Buddy. Real good care. I promise.” He bent and planted a big
fat kiss on her ruby red lips and snuggled into the nape of her neck. He
whispered something Buddy couldn’t make out, and she slapped at his arm and
Buddy gasped. He took a deep breath and tamped down the jealousy
growing in his chest and the tears burning in his eyes. After all, this was Chet,
not Nick. He forced a smile.
“That’s what best friends are for, right Chet?”
- End of Chapter one.
|Elvis in Wonderland
by Marya Kalen