The King, the Colonel and two Quebec Elvis

The film elvis, by Baz Luhrmann, is perhaps this early summer’s mega production. But what do the true connoisseurs think? We asked two impersonators of the king to share their impressions and criticisms. Conversation with Elvis Lajoie, 62, and John Carpenter, 33, two Elvis from Quebec who have nothing to do with Elvis Gratton.

Posted yesterday at 7:00am

Jean Christophe Laurence

Jean Christophe Laurence
The press

Question: Let’s break the ice, gentlemen. Your general impression of the film?

Elvis Lajoie: I was afraid of being disappointed. It’s a masterpiece. Very true to his life. I gave 10 out of 10. It’s the same costumes, the same sets, for the details they looked for the integral, it doesn’t make a good sense. I even recognized the waistcoat and stockings he was wearing.

John Carpenter: The pictures, the acting, hats off. The historian that I am would say that there were small mistakes left and right. For example, Elvis couldn’t sing problem 1956 since he recorded it in 1958. But maybe it should serve the purpose of the film.

Q. And Austin Butler as king? Can he get away with it?


Elvis Lajoie and John Carpenter (Jean-Philippe Carpentier), impersonators of Elvis,

EL: We’ve noticed a few hiccups. Too over the top for “shakes” or smiles, but it’s minimal. He’s particularly good at playing the Elvis from 1956 through the 1968 comeback. After 1970 there are little things Elvis didn’t do. But I think he’s remained himself, I like that.

JC: His acting, hats off. It’s an extremely difficult role because with Elvis you’re always at stake. It’s very easy to fall into clowning, parody. Not him. He understood who Elvis Presley was.

Q. What does it take to be a good King impersonator?

EL: Mainly the voice. Austin Buster does his best, even if he doesn’t exactly have the voice. I prefer that to an exaggerated voice.

JC: The voice, the body language, a certain physical resemblance. Attention to detail so that people can relive the spectacle of yesteryear. Above all, avoid low-end imitations. Personally, I pity the guys who distort, who don’t look good, who don’t have flattering wigs à la Elvis Gratton.

Q. It’s a film about Elvis, but also about the grip of his impresario, the famous Colonel Parker. He is the main villain of this story.

EL: Yes. The Colonel made him king, but he bullied him in his dreams. He sort of locked him in. He abused him financially. He took 50% of the earnings. There is no manager who does that. We didn’t see that back then, but Elvis didn’t have it easy.

JC: It was such a nebulous relationship. There were many rumours. But with this film we understand a lot of things. You can see how far the Colonel was willing to squeeze the lemon. And why he squeezed the lemon: He had a terrible gambling debt!

Q. Do you think they could have been successful without each other?

EL: The Colonel was important to Elvis. A manager who sold jewelry, toys, Christmas items that didn’t exist before him. He was a showman, he had that in his soul. He had a big mouth, he could get orders. But at some point Elvis could have done without him.

JC: They were two men who had one goal: to become larger than life. Unfortunately, that led to their downfall… The problem is that from the moment the Beatles arrived, the Colonel was blown away by what was happening in the music world. He then locked Elvis in a golden cage in Las Vegas when the trend was towards world tours. And he watched his foal waste away.

Q. Dans le film biographique de Baz Luhrmann, le colonel Parker affirme que c’est l’amour du public qui a tué Elvis. Qu’en pensez-vous ?

E.L. : Ce qui l’a tué, c’est les drogues. Il en avait besoin pour tenir ce rythme infernal. Il pouvait faire jusqu’à trois shows par soir. Personne n’est capable de faire ça. Il s’est usé. Quand il est mort, il paraît qu’il avait le corps de quelqu’un de 80 ans. C’était un vieillard.

J.C. : Elvis s’est brûlé, tout simplement. Il était arrivé au bout de ce qu’il était capable de faire. Il n’avait plus de nouveaux défis. Mais il s’est donné jusqu’à la toute fin pour son public. J’espère que les gens vont le voir comme ça après avoir vu le film.

Q. Il y a cette scène, assez forte, où Elvis finit par congédier le colonel. Ça se passe en plein milieu d’un concert à Las Vegas. Authentique ?

E.L. : On s’est posé la question. C’est arrivé qu’Elvis se foute de la gueule du colonel, mais de là à avoir fait une scène sur le stage, je pense pas. Il a peut-être fait une scène, mais pas agressive comme ça. Finir un show comme ça ? On l’aurait su.

J.C. : C’est romancé, disons. Ils se sont vraiment engueulés devant les musiciens, mais c’était après le spectacle. Le public était parti.

Q. Quel est l’héritage d’Elvis aujourd’hui, selon vous ? Encore pertinent ou il appartient à une autre époque ?

E.L. : Son histoire va peut-être s’effacer avec les années, mais sa voix va rester. Sa voix est unique.

J.C. : Il a été le premier à faire un vidéoclip [Jailhouse Rock]. The first artist to bring black music into the mainstream. If Elvis isn’t here, the Beatles aren’t here. He influenced many people. Until Celine Dion and Elton John.

Q. But who else loves Elvis? Are there young people in your shows?

EL: It’s certain that 70% of the people who come to my shows are in their fifties on the way up. But I have parents who bring their 15-20 year olds. And I often see young people listening to Elvis.

JC: I personally present mainly the 1954-1957 era, the era of rock ‘n’ roll, almost rockabilly, very wild in itself. I would say that this era will look a lot like new generations.

Q. And finally, do you have a manager?

EL: I had one at first but we kicked him out after two or three shows. Money was missing from the pot! After that, I always guided myself. It is much work. Since COVID-19 I donate less than shows. I’m 62 years old, I have less strength to prepare everything to get on my feet Internship and be fit.

JC: No at the moment. I had a few agents, but unfortunately things didn’t go so well. I’ve been taking care of my own stuff since the pandemic started. But if you look at the colonel, I say to myself, that’s a good thing!

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