Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

According to the Professional Elvis Impersonators Association, there are 200,000 or so Elvis Presley impersonators around the globe. At least one of them lives in Oceanside California. His name is James Kruk. As an actor, he played Elvis in a Steve Martin play once but aside from having a more than passing resemblance to a 30-ish Elvis, Kruk had no real experience at singing Presley’s hits.

That is, unless you count the time Kruk sang karaoke in Poland, for which he won a prize.

As King Kruk, he is planning a tribute show to coincide with Elvis Presley’s 77th birthday in January. Kruk’s been doing the Elvis tribute now for about five years. If anything, the amount of money that he’s has been able to invest in his Elvis wardrobe speaks to the success of the enterprise. In the years prior, the New York native describes an actor’s life of financial hardship. He taught school on the side to make expenses. But now, it’s a different story. “When I put on the costume,” Kruk says, “people automatically have this respect.”

The first known Elvis impersonator of any public consequence was a boy only a few years younger than Elvis himself. His name was Jim Smith. His deal was to jump on stage and mimic Elvis. Many probably did the same, but apparently, Smith caught on and in 1957, the local newspaper claimed that the teenager's uncanny resemblance to young Elvis landed him guest slots on TV shows where he was said to lip synch. Smith could neither sing nor play guitar.

Bill Haney claims that he never set out to impersonate Elvis, but that is in fact what he did. He fronted a two-hour act in a sequined jump suit fashioned after the Nudie Cohn designs made for the King and he sang the hits. As such, Haney was possibly the first full-time impersonator to earn a living during the real Elvis’ lifetime. His fame amassed to the point that Presley was compelled to take in a performance. After, as the story goes, Haney was invited for some bro time at Graceland.

I liked Elvis just fine when he was alive, but not enough to seek solace in the grips of an Elvis tribute gig in the years following his death. In fact, not counting El Vez the Mexican Elvis or Elvis Herselvis, a lesbian Elvis impersonator, I only witnessed one Elvis tribute. He was an attorney from New Jersey who copped the early Elvis black leather rebel look. He did a pretty good job on “Jailhouse Rock,” and he blew on “All Shook Up.”

Otherwise, the majority of Elvis’s impersonators seem fixated on the man’s paunchy Vegas years. Kruk says that this apparently is the easiest chapter of the King of Rock and Roll's short life to imitate.

“People think you can get a wig and a jumpsuit and a pair of sunglasses and walk down the street and because Elvis was such an icon, people will wave or smile. You can even get jobs posing for pictures with people.”

But the job of an impersonator is certainly not without its hazards. “I have to find really creative places to change [into my Elvis costume.] Kruk says otherwise, jewels from the elaborate suits get stuck in the car seat. “I’ve become an expert at changing in parking lots. I have a big car. I do the makeup and all that at home, and that way all I have to do is quickly zip the jumpsuit.” The element of surprise notwithstanding, why not just change inside a venue?

“At some of the dives we were playing,” he says, “the parking lot was cleaner than the restroom.”

Starting with a bottle of Russian Champagne that Kruk won for imitating Elvis in Poland, it’s been a rather steady, if unlikely climb to where Kruk finds himself today: in demand on the local casino circuit and at lucrative corporate events. Elvis, it turns out, has been good to him.

“You have to have a lot of respect for him, and you can never lose it because you’ll lose all your fans. You’re only borrowing your fans from him. I have my own fans, but they’re really there because of Elvis.”

photo source: KingKruk.com

James Kruk's Elite Elvis Tribute features the Big Boss Men at the Belly up in Solana Beach, January 8th, 8pm-10pm Image

More like this:

Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close