“I placed fourth at Pechanga’s Ultimate Elvis Tribute contest,” says Oceanside impersonator James Kruk, “but then I rallied and won first place at the [Del Mar] Fair, beating the second- and third-place contestants from Pechanga. One of the three male judges at Pechanga obviously didn’t like me, as he consistently scored me ten points lower than the other two.”
The Pechanga competition is part of an annual national contest run by the Presley estate with a $25,000 top prize, while the Fair’s one-off contest paid Kruk $1000 for his win. “My act at the Fair was a little different. At Ultimate, you have to be more true to what Elvis would have performed wearing a specific stage outfit. For example, if you wear an Aloha from Hawaii eagle jumpsuit, you can’t perform songs he didn’t do during that era. At the fair, you have a little more freedom, so I could wear the fringe jumpsuit from the ’70s and still sing songs from the ’50s and ’60s.”
Both Elvis contests attracted impersonators from all over the country, as well as L.A. Elvis impersonator George Thomas (third place in Del Mar) and locals such as Kruk and Paul Monroe (whom Kruk outscored at Pechanga). “San Diego is tough. Paul and I don’t gig as often as we’d like. People still sometimes hire terrible Elvises without looking into whether they have rank and standing among Elvis impersonators.”
Now that Kruk has achieved contest cred, he’s hoping gigs and the attendant paychecks will increase. “I can now say I’m the best in Southern California...officially on the national Elvis map.” He plans to compete at the next Ultimate Elvis elimination at Lake Tahoe later this month.