The men who would be king: Elvis impersonators who flirt with Jailhouse Rock

Weddings, bar mitzvahs, courtrooms? It turns out that being an Elvis impersonator can be criminal

Just as it seemed Paul Kevin Curtis would be doing the “Jailhouse Rock”, it turned out to have been a case of “Suspicious Minds”. Curtis, a 45-year-old Elvis impersonator, was last week accused and then cleared of posting ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama, a Mississippi Senator and a local judge.

However, it emerged that Curtis was a conspiracy theorist who has made repeated claims about a government plot to harvest and sell human organs. He has struggled with mental illness, and has previously been arrested on misdemeanour charges.

Like the “King” himself, Curtis comes from Tupelo, Mississippi, where he has spent years performing not only as Elvis, but also Roy Orbison, Prince and Randy Travis, one of whose numbers he sang a cappella in an appearance on CNN on Wednesday (watch it here goo.gl/0gsox). He and his brother Jack have even impersonated Elvis together: Jack playing the Vegas-era Elvis of the 1970s, and Kevin the more youthful version.

Curtis is far from the first Elvis impersonator to fall foul of the law. Just last Monday in Des Moines, Iowa, police ended a lengthy stand-off with a local Elvis tribute artist (ETA), Micky King, who had reportedly yelled at police officers before firing a gun at them and then shutting himself in his home. Only after 30 hours did they manage to persuade him to return to his porch, where he was subdued with a stun gun and arrested.

In March 2010, according to The Huffington Post, Darin Thrasher was arrested for trafficking drugs from the diner where he performed as Elvis, in Yukon, Oklahoma. In May 2012, a South Carolinan ETA named David Allen Credile allegedly assaulted a man after a dispute about a board game, and then fled from the scene with a pair of Blues Brothers impersonators.

Last February, Elvis impersonator Michael Conley, 64, locked himself in a Florida motel room after police arrived with a warrant for his arrest. During the siege, Conley claimed to be in possession of explosives, and threatened officers with a container of ricin. Following his surrender, he confessed the ricin was actually salt, and said his behaviour was brought on by diabetes.

The prevalence of criminally-inclined Elvis impersonators is likely due not to some inbuilt correlation, but rather to the vast number of Elvis impersonators: there are more Elvis impersonators than there are Abba impersonators.

The Elvis community is “huge around the world,” agrees Shane Paterson, a “jumpsuit-era” ETA who performs at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, “and there’s a great deal of camaraderie between impersonators”. Many ETAs were concerned their act might suffer following Curtis’s arrest, but then sympathised with him following his exoneration.

“It kind of sucks to be accused of such a thing,” says Paterson, who holds a PhD in marine biology. “I feel sorry for him not as an Elvis impersonator, but as a human being. “He wasn’t even exclusively an Elvis impersonator. Elvis is just part of his act, but it’s the part the news media grabbed on to… it carries a lot of weight.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot