New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

King For A Day

By Gary Wien

originally published: 07/21/2016

King For A DayWhen Erin Feinberg first visited Memphis, her jaw dropped.  Everywhere she looked she saw people dressed like Elvis Presley.  She wondered if the city was saturated with Elvis impersonators.  Actually, she happened to visit during Elvis Week — an annual celebration that leads up to the anniversary of the King’s death.

Feinberg, a photographer based in New York City,  instantly made a mental note to learn more.  In a city full of various competitions, she discovered that the biggest and most prestigious of them all - Images Of The King — was taking place at a nearby hotel.

“So, I went and checked it out and I was mesmerized!” recalled Feinberg.  “It was crazy! I had never seen anything like it.  It was partly funny because you saw all these people dressed up.  It was charming in a way because it was a world I didn’t know about with camaraderie and a celebration of the music.  Ultimately, everyone was really into the music.  Some of the performers were bad and some were very good.  It was a very mixed experience.  I just knew that I would be back and I wanted to photograph all these characters.”

Feinberg’s first book of photography, Diehards, was published in 2014 and featured truly serious music fans around the world.  She spent a decade shooting audiences across all genres from every vantage point.  This Elvis project would be very different.  It would be a look at the performers of all shapes and sizes, of all ages, and who come from all around the world to pay homage to the King during Elvis Week.  The result became King for a Day, a photography book published by Kehrer Verlag.

The competition features Elvis tribute artists singing and moving to tracks in a ballroom with rather poor sound. Some looked a lot like Elvis, some sounded like him, and others could move like him. Feinberg set up a portable photography studio in the lobby of the hotel and shot portraits of the performers for three consecutive summers.  In doing so, she learned about who these people are, why they do what they do, and began to understand this entirely passionate subculture of Elvis fans.



The article continues after this ad

 


“It’s like being a Broadway performer,” explained Feinberg.  “You get into this character for an hour or two.  There were some who may have been a little too obsessed for my taste, but that’s what made it fun - there was a range.  And they all had very strong opinions about how it was supposed to be done, what’s the right way to do it, and what’s the most respectful way.  Ultimately, as ridiculous as some of them looked at times, they didn’t want to be disrespectful to the image.  For me, that was the charm of it.  From the outside, it might look like they were making fun of certain phases of Elvis’ career, but they actually weren’t.”

One thing she learned was the Elvis tribute artists (or ETAs as Feinberg calls them) cannot stand the Elvis impersonators you might see on the street or at an event.  The tribute artists are very sensitive about this; they think the impersonators are mocking the image of Elvis.

“The people in King For A Day want to do Elvis justice,” she added.  “They want to represent him in the classiest way they can.  Even if they’re not pulling it off, their intentions are good.”

Another lesson she learned was that the tribute artists aren’t just fans, they truly are super fans.  They would gladly tell her the story behind the song they perform — detailing information about the exact show put forth by Elvis Presley for even the rarest of songs.

Feinberg has always been a huge fan of music.  As such, she was fan of Elvis as well, but admits she mostly liked his earlier work.  After spending time with these performers and hearing his work from the sixties and seventies, she became a fan of those songs as well.

King For A Day

“I went away with a very different feeling about his music,” said Feinberg.  “I started loving the later years of his work, which was less familiar to me going in.  I grew to love the 70s stuff through these tribute artists!  And then I went back and watched Elvis perform these songs on DVDs.  I think that’s the point — to go back and listen to those recordings you weren’t familiar with or never knew.”

Many of the people who attend these tribute competitions comprise a distinctly older demographic.  Feinberg wonders if the lure of Elvis will continue when these fans pass on.  2017 will mark 40 years since Elvis died.  While some of these audience members are clearly reliving moments they may have seen live or on television, will future generations share that bond with his music?  Elvis has always been larger than life, but will his image remain iconic in future generations?

King For A Day opens with a letter from Elvis Presley to an Elvis Presley impersonator sent less than a month before Elvis died.  In the letter, Elvis congratulated someone on winning a talent competition and thanked him for being a fan.  He also went further.  I really do appreciate you as a fan... and mimcry is a sincere form of being a fan.  Do develop your own special talents and abilities though, David.

“To me, the letter just said everything,” said Feinberg.  “He was respectful of it and flattered by this fan’s dedication and impersonation, yet he also encouraged the fan to work on his own talents.”

Three years of shooting led Feinberg to wonder how she herself would look in a jumpsuit.  After all, who doesn’t dream of being King For A Day?

King For A Day

All photos by Erin Feinberg





For more by this author, click here




More Articles You Might Like

Masters of Illusion: The Legacy of John F. Peto At Morven Museum & Garden
Masters of Illusion: The Legacy of John F. Peto At Morven Museum & Garden
Newark Arts To Open Application Process For ArtStart Grants In January
Newark Arts To Open Application Process For ArtStart Grants In January
The Fairfield University Art Museum Presents     A French Affair: Drawings and Paintings from The Horvitz Collection
The Fairfield University Art Museum Presents A French Affair: Drawings and Paintings from The Horvitz Collection
Collecting History: Personal Collections of Cape May's African American Community
Collecting History: Personal Collections of Cape May's African American Community
Perkins Center for the Arts Moorestown Opens Photography 38 Exhibition
Perkins Center for the Arts Moorestown Opens Photography 38 Exhibition
Paul Robeson Galleries Presents "Feast & Famine"
Paul Robeson Galleries Presents "Feast & Famine"






Event calendar
Friday, Mar 22, 2019


MUSIC

East Coast In Lullaby @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

LIONEL RICHIE @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Swingadelic Featuring Rob Paparozzi @ Roys Hall (Blairstown), Blairstown - 8:00pm

Carolyn Messina at Table 42 @ Table 42, Dover - 7:00pm

Tom Chapin with Dan Pelletier at the Minstrel @ Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown - 7:30pm

Finding Neverland @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Music of Cream @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm

Summer of Love IX @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

WARRANT @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville - 6:00pm

Selwyn Birchwood @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Mamma Mia @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Native Gardens @ Eagle Theatre, Hammonton - 8:00pm

The Source by Jack Canfora @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm

Sassy Mamas presented by Dunbar Repertory Company @ Middletown Arts Center, Middletown - 8:00pm

CURIOUS GEORGE: THE GOLDEN MEATBALL @ The Growing Stage: The Childrens Theatre of New Jersey, Netcong - 7:30pm

Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 7:00pm

Ken Ludwigs The Gods of Comedy @ Matthews Theatre @ McCarter Theatre, Princeton - 8:00pm

Theo @ Marion Huber Theater @ Two River Theater, Red Bank - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Comedy Night at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm


FILM

Hairspray Sing-Along with host Jeremy Grunin! @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 8:00pm


KIDS

Celebrate Holi @ iPlay America, Freehold - 4:00pm

View all events










 






















For more on our awards, click here








New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.