Brian, the King for one night

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The Independent Online
FOR A man on a mission to restore dignity to the dubious art of Elvis impersonation, the request to sit down was a wicked one.

"I can't do it," Brian Lee told the television crew. "It'll split me in two."

Brian, weighed down by chains and medallions, bouffant-haired and resplendent in sideburns, was talking about his red jump-suit, the one blistered with pearls and gems, flared at the arms and ankles, tight on the derriere and finished with a collar high enough to cause bleeding about the ears.

It was his 15 minutes of fame: the first time he had been recorded for television. And it was at the London Palladium, home of a thousand stars from Frank Sinatra to Barbra Streisand . . . to Brian Lee.

Brian, 46, is a professional singer who sings tributes to Elvis Presley. His diary is full, he has a 1,600-strong fan club and tonight he will realise his ambition - to perform at the Palladium - even if it is costing him £15,000 for the privilege.

Brian has exhausted his life savings to pay for the venue and to promote it among followers of the King and those who simply like an unusual night out.

He is about 1,000 sales short of the theatre's 2,000 capacity, but he hopes that will be enough to break even.

On Friday, he and the theatre management were getting a little twitchy about the cost - hence the last-minute publicity.

"This thing was never meant to be sat in," Brian groaned at the TV crew, before being persuaded to peel off a white studded belt supporting the kind of paunch of which an ageing Elvis would have been proud.

The suit - an "old" £800 model, not the £2,000 Hawaiian special the audience will see tonight - held tight and Brian let out a heartfelt sigh. "Cor," he said. "I'm knackered."

Brian's mission is more than simply a lavish self-indulgence. He wants to remind people that Elvis impersonators are not all fat, bald or Japanese. That Mr Presley was, in fact, quite a talented performer; that those who impersonate him really ought to show more respect.

"Often, if you talk to people who aren't Elvis fans, they think it's all a bit of a joke," he said. "That's because they're used to seeing these idiots who don't look like Elvis and who can't sing like him. The worst one I ever saw was bald.

"I do my best to be like Elvis, but not exactly the same. If I can't be slightly different, inject a bit of my own personality into it, then I might as well get on the bandwagon along with all the others."

Fans of Elvis and Brian are travelling by coach from Clacton-on-Sea, Skegness and Chelmsford for tonight's extravaganza, and Brian promises they won't be disappointed.

"I'm very nervous," he said, "but this is the biggest night of my life. I'll give my best performance ever - for the fans and for the King."

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