By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
“I don‘t believe you boys are from around here,” bellowed the imposing figure, as much to announce his entrance as to establish a greeting. “Colonel Tom Parker,” he said, extending a flabby hand. “Call me the Colonel. You fellas carnies?”
“What’s a corny?” asked Sid.
“The carnival outside of town. I was a carnival barker for 13 years. I could sell your handshake back to you if I took a mind to.”
“We are a corporation,” preened Malcolm, “dedicated to promoting chaos and overturning the established order, by feeding on the twin bloated corpses of fetish capitalism and corporate rock & roll.”
“Y‘all musicians?” asked the Colonel, genuinely intrigued now.
“Not him,” said Steve, throwing a glance Sid’s way.
“Well I do believe you‘ve come to the right place,” said the Colonel. “Follow me.”
They passed through the curtains into another space, roughly equal in size, but inhabited by one sole booth of half a dozen men. All were burly, with beards and mustaches, save for the figure in the middle, a freakish, swollen man in a silver lame jumpsuit and smoke-colored sunglasses. An expensive ram’s-head necklace dangled from around his neck, and a full-length white fur coat was crammed onto the teakwood mantle behind him. The Colonel led them straight to him without deference or apology.
“Gentlemen, it is my supreme honor to present to you the man, the myth, the legend -- Mr. Elvis Presley.” The man made no acknowledgment of their presence, and continued to sop up what looked like molasses trickled on top of cream gravy with a lone biscuit.
“It‘s an honor to meet you, Mr. Presley,” said Malcolm obsequiously, once the moment had hung there for more than a second. “We are visiting from England. We’re on Virgin Records and we‘ll be touring here in January. Perhaps you’ve heard of us -- the Sex Pistols?”
“What is it?” asked the Colonel.
“Hey, that’s Jim Reeves!” interrupted Sid, as the jukebox filled the tumescent air with warm treacle. “My mum sung this one to me. ‘Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone,’” he crooned along to the record, his voice sticking out like the sound of a sore thumb. For the first time, the big man in the booth looked up at them.
“What‘s your name?” Elvis asked John, the apparent leader.
“Johnny Rotten. And this is Sid Vicious, who I named after my pet hamster. I raised him in a shoebox.”
“You did not,” said Sid. “My mum raised me proper.”
“You come here to sell me some of your songs?” asked Elvis. The guys around him appeared noncommittal but nervous about this new tributary of discourse.
“Well, we did one called ’God Save the Queen,‘ for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee,” said John. “It goes: ‘God save the QueenShe ain’t no human being.‘ That got a pretty mention in the papers; you might like that. And our new one is called ’Anarchy in the U.K.‘ ’I am an Anti-Christ!I am an anar-chist!‘ That might be a nice addition to your repertoire.”
Elvis stirred his iced-tea glass with a long-handled spoon, weighing something internally. “Why don’t you boys get you something to eat?” he said finally. “Guys, can you take them over across the way there and help them get set up?”
“Sure thing, E.,” said one, and on his command everyone slid out of the booth. “Come on with us, Vicious,” said another one.
“You sit here with me,” Elvis said to John.
“Delightful,” John sneered.
The groups subdivided, Sid with the guys, and Steve and Paul off to the pinball machine in the corner to try their hand at the skittish charms of this latest high-strung beauty. The Colonel gently steered Malcolm to a separate table.
“Hey, is this you?” Steve called back, sizing up the leather-jacketed figure on the Happy Days Bally table before them.
“Naw, he‘s too skinny,” Elvis answered. He spread his arms out across the sea-green Naugahyde as his mood gained momentum. “You better keep an eye on that manager of yours,” he said. Across the room, Malcolm and the Colonel were now playing a spirited game of RoShamBo. A small stack of money was beginning to accrue at the center of the table.
“Malcolm likes to think he’s Oliver Twisted,” said John. “He let his own grandmother starve to death; that‘s how good he is at taking care of people.”
“These people will live off our corpses long after we’re dead and gone,” said Elvis. “Pharisees and motherfuckers. You put out a record yet?”
“We done it, but it ain‘t finished. It needs one more song. Malcolm says I’m supposed to write one about what I find here. Maybe I‘ll write about you.”
“My life is an open book,” said Elvis. “Red and Sonny took care of that.”