Aug 22, 2013

Elvis is Alive 5K

Apologies for the shitty picture quality, all I have to work with is my very old cell phone... but trust me, this is an image of an Elvis impersonator (between the starting line and the hanging American flag) counting off the start of a 5K race along Diversey Harbor with: "A one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and GO CAT GO!" He also sang the national anthem from that perch next to the starting line, prompted by one of the announcers saying how we should take a moment to reflect on how lucky we are to live in the greatest country in the world and be free to congregate and do this without fear (? no comment.) Those who came dressed as Elvis were relegated to run at the front of the pack, with bedazzled white jumpsuits, capes, and wigs flapping in the breeze. As the runners passed by the costumes steadily declined in sparkle and production level... jumpsuits turned into spandex, into masks, into Elvis shirts, into inflatable guitars bouncing in-hand.

So many of the runners did not come dressed as Elvis but as runners that I was dismayed at first when I arrived on the scene. The 20 minutes before the race were spent waiting around sheepishly on the fringes drinking free promotional coffee, thinking that they were going to sniff me out as an out-of-shape media addict rather than a sports lover. Thank God for the brave, freely-perspiring few who wore the jumpsuit (no one came as slim and devastating '50s-era Elvis, employing instead the look of corny casino-performing, huffing-and-puffing comeback Elvis.) I even saw someone I knew, surprisingly, not recognizing her at first because of the stick-on sideburns. After the race, the celebratory atmosphere was wonderful to bask in -- with peanut butter and banana sandwiches (not fried,though) and lots of beer.

The leader of the Elvii was Joe "Elvis" Tirrito and his backing band, The Mimix. He was tanned and chiseled, a teetering blend of suave and smarmy, and stayed in character even while holding one end of the finish line tape. A nice authenticity touch was having a woman onstage just to hand him water bottles, towels, scarves, and to drape his guitar over his shoulders. I kept waiting for them to play "Heartbreak Hotel" and they never did... but I stayed and danced anyway. It was interesting to see everyone feeling so nostalgic and warm about Elvis, the idea of him. Maybe it's a kind of brand recognition. I watched women young and old go up to the stage to touch the King's rings, get scarves put around their necks, or just smile and sway at him. I'm sure that they weren't just irresistibly drawn to this Tirrito guy sexually -- there's a cultural convention that women are supposed to act this way around an Elvis figure.

Here is Joe "Elvis" Tirrito's website: Looks like he's going to be in Illinois for a while, he's opening a Bank of America event here in mid-October.

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