The president and the King

Kevin Cowherd

January 20, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

Being a positive person by nature, I was willing to giv President Clinton a grace period (say, two or three hours) before savaging him in print and satisfying the blood lust that is a pre-requisite for this job.

I wasn't going to mention, for instance, that the man's hair simply does not move! - lending credence to the rumor that it's held in place by an industrial-strength shellac generally used on gymnasium floors.

And there was to be no talk here of the new president bringing a cat to the White House, desecrating the halls where Lincoln once walked with a sneaky animal that would just as soon scratch out your eyeballs as look at you.

No, my thinking was: Let others take their swings at the new president if they must. But not me. The man hasn't even unpacked his shaving kit yet.

Then that thinking went out the window when I studied the list of inaugural events ushering in the Clinton administration.

There, almost lost in a mountain of agate type, was this chilling note: Bill Clinton was having an Elvis impersonator march in his inaugural parade.

The new leader of the free world, the commander-in-chief of our armed forces, the man with his finger poised (figuratively if not literally) on the hot button, apparently felt an Elvis impersonator was an appropriate symbol for the next four years.

Oh, don't get me wrong here. I have nothing against Elvis impersonators.

To me, nothing says class like some fat guy named Sal with bushy black sideburns and a frayed rhinestone jump suit, fresh from a two week gig at the Holiday Inn in Parsippany, N.J.

It's just that . . . I don't know, a presidential inauguration is supposed to be different, isn't it? It's supposed to have an air of dignity surrounding it.

Plus there's something vaguely unsettling in the fact that the 42nd president of the United States is a card-carrying member of the Cult of Elvis.

To me, this says one thing: it's not too early to at least think about impeachment.

Quite frankly, the Cult of Elvis worries me. It keeps growing and growing. The King has been dead for what, 15 years now? But the way people still carry on, you'd think he keeled over in a bowl of Haagen-Dazs only yesterday.

Elvis TV movies, Elvis biographies, Elvis memorabilia, Elvis cologne (yes, there is such a thing) . . . short of being trapped in a mine shaft for a couple of weeks, there's simply no way of avoiding The King these days.

I will tell you a story of how pervasive Elvis has become in our culture.

I was at the grand opening of a furniture store the other day, a very classy furniture store, the kind of establishment where you wouldn't, under any circumstances, ask if they carried those pictures of the dogs playing poker.

Suddenly, while browsing through the wing chair section, I heard a familiar throaty voice say: "Uh, thank yew for coming. Thank yew very much."

Whirling around, I saw, to my horror, an Elvis impersonator, obviously hired by the store for the big day. He had the standard-issue beer gut and yellowed rhinestone jump suit, not to mention the bushy sideburns, cheap shades, etc.

Even more terrifying was the fact that he was talking to me.

The whole thing left me light-headed and gasping for air. Grabbing my wife's arm in a panic, I lurched out into the parking lot.

"What's wrong? " she said.

"It's El . . ."

"It's hell? What's hell? Shopping with me is hell?"

"No, it's El. . ."

"I ask you to go to one store," she said, "and you make a big deal out of it."

To think that you can't even walk into a furniture store without finding Elvis lurking by the chaise recliners . . . well, it's a sad state of affairs, is all I can day.

Then again, look at the madness that descended upon us last summer. The presidential campaign was in full swing, the economy was unraveling like a cheap suit, the riots were going on in L.A.

And you know what the big controversy in this country was? Which Elvis were we going to put on that new stamp?

Were we going to go with the young, clear-eyed Elvis who helped revolutionize rock 'n' roll?

Or were we going to go with the bloated, lounge-lizard Elvis who swallowed fistfuls of pills like they were Tic-Tacs and spent his free time helping the Hostess trucks back up to Graceland?

Now we have a president, a seemingly rational man, who has actually requested that an Elvis impersonator march in his inaugural parade.

It could be four long, long years.

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