Kirk Wall
Kirk Wall
Jill Lloyd

Every Year, a Swarm of Elvis Impersonators Descend On Costa Mesa

Legend has it, a woman once gave Elvis Presley a crown and told him he was king. His reply was something along the lines of, "No, Jesus Christ is king. I'm just a singer."

Well, Elvis was wrong because he was the king, is still the king and forever will be the king. If not, explain how next Sunday's Elvis Festival -- taking place from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the Orange County Market Place -- is celebrating its 15th anniversary.

The gathering includes a Cadillac car show featuring passenger vehicles from 1950 to 1977, something called the Piled High Priscilla Hair and Elevated Elvis Hair contests and food trucks serving more peanut butter and banana -inspired dishes than a Memphis diner. And, as the main event, four stages will feature male and female tribute artists and karaoke singers singing and shaking their hips. (The over/under on "Suspicious Minds" is 12.)

Kirk Wall, a 57-year-old Anaheim resident, has hosted every year, which makes him pretty much an expert on just how awesome Sunday will be, which is why we spoke to him.

OC Weekly (Ryan Ritchie): Tell me about the event. Kirk Wall: In a way, it's kind of like a small town fair with the eating contests and all that sort of stuff. Then you got the Elvises -- some of them are pretty good and some of them are really, really bad and the bad ones are more fun to watch than the good ones. I think they have me host because I absolutely love Elvis and without a doubt he's my favorite singer. I kind of poke him of Elvis impersonators in a light-hearted kind of way. I don't make anybody feel horrible that they're an Elvis impersonator, but I make fun of the whole thing just a little bit because if they ever go see an Elvis impersonator and you see one that takes himself really seriously, it gets really weird really fast.

So you don't take yourself too seriously? No, I sure don't. But I don't make fun of Elvis. I don't do drug jokes or fat jokes.

Who's going to this?

It's a lot of die-hard Elvis fans and some people who just like events. A lot of people aren't big Elvis fans...

And what's wrong with them?

They way I know it -- there are Elvis people in this word and then there are Elvis people. Without a doubt, Elvis is my favorite singer and I can tell you that for every single guy that's going to be there, everyone of us loves Elvis. There's something about putting an Elvis suit on. Do you remember when you were a kid and you got your first toy gun holster? I remember strapping the holster to my leg with the leather strap. You walked differently. You walked like a man. And when you put an Elvis suit on, you just can't help but walk around like Elvis.

Is there any connection between Elvis and Costa Mesa and/or Orange County? I think it's the fact that there's where the Market Place is and that's where Jill Lloyd works and she's the one who thought this was a lot of fun and made a big deal out of it. I don't think there's an actual tie-in with Elvis and Costa Mesa as much as it's just where that's where this event started. You know...Elvis is broad. He's across the whole planet. You could be doing this in France. It's very cool he's that big and very cool that so many people like him enough to want to dress like him and sing and have fun together.

I don't subscribe to this idea that you're either an Elvis person or a Beatles person because I like both but for totally different reasons. If you were to ask me my favorite band, I would say, "You mean besides the Beatles, right?" I bet at least half the Elvis impersonators I know would say their favorite band would be the Beatles.

Can we agree that the '68 Comeback Special is the coolest thing ever? I think it's the coolest thing ever.

What people tend to forget -- or maybe they don't know -- is that Elvis could play. He wasn't just some pretty face. Really well. He's moving around. He knew the chords and knew when one of the players was off. He knew a lot about music, a lot more than people are aware of. He produced well and he knew how to take someone's song and sing the crap out of it.


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