Book Reviews:

A "double dose" of Elvis from Dave Ehlert, author and ETA.......

If I Can Dream: The Story of “Being Elvis” for 50 Years

(ISBN: 9781311797063)

Elvirus! Elvi-geddon: Dawn of the Elvi Invasion

(ISBN: 9781311047281)


Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, October 2014

ETA, Dave Ehlert started performing as Elvis in 1967, a decade before Elvis’ death and he continues to perform in 2014.  Ehlert also recently published two Elvis related ebooks.  The first is his light-hearted autobiography and the second a clever and twisted Elvis sci-fi/zombie novel. Both books are characterised by the author's humor laden text which is multi-faceted, interesting and colorful.

EIN's Nigel Patterson recently donned his anti-virus protective suit and read both of Dave Ehlert's releases. The journey was a disparate and interesting one:

Review #1:

If I Can Dream: The Story of “Being Elvis” for 50 Years

Publisher's Description: A 3 yr. old boy sings into an imaginary microphone (hairbrush) and grows up to spend a half century “being Elvis”, performing during the terms of 10 U.S Presidents. Memoirs of wild road trips, clinging women, lost love, found love, lost friend, midnight visits from the mysterious “Ava”, advice from Elvis on being Elvis, schmoozing with Oprah, battles w/drugs, negotiations /alcohol and more.

The book is available from Smashwords in a range of ebook formats: epub mobi pdf rtf lrf pdb txt html

You would expect that anyone who has performed as Elvis for 50 years would have a lot to say.  And this is certainly the case with Dave Ehlert in his amusing autobiography If I Can Dream: The Story of "Being Elvis" for 50 Years.  Be it incidents from many of his live performances, appearing on Oprah or candid comments on the ETA genre, there is a rich array of stories and anecdotes to entertain and stimulate the reader’s mind.

The author's story is written with a heavy injection of humor as this (highly dubious) account of his first love affair attests:

My first romantic affair was actually much earlier.  I was one day old in the nursery when I noticed a cute little number in the crib next to mine.

“Hey”, I said.  “What’s your name?” 

“Ava” said the cutie. 

“You’re kind of cute, probably hot too, but I’m too young to know that for sure.  But honestly, you are definitely the prettiest girl I’ve ever met.  My eyes are still focusing but….”

 “Hey,” said the probably hot newborn, “I wasn’t born yesterday…..I was born the day before yesterday!”  

“That’s great! I love older women.” In fact, there were no younger women. “Ava,” I got serious now, “I know we haven’t known each other very long.  But I feel like we connected.  You wanna go steady?” 

“And just how are we going to do that?  I don’t suppose you have a ring on you”, she asked. (I really hate it when women get all logical on you.)  

“I know”, I was reaching now “I heard one of the nurses say my eyes twinkled.  How about if I give you the twinkle from my right eye?”  Somehow, I knew even as an infant that girls liked “sparkle”  “Then,” I continued, “When we meet again, I’ll know it’s you.” She went for it.  Even though our romance was in its infancy I was in it for the long run, probably forever...  Or, until her folks took her home.

Ehlert’s days as a performer started as a youngster in school, way before he caught the Elvis bug:

All eyes were on me.  Everyone had stopped what they were doing.  I looked down at the throng of people who were now captivated by my every move.  This was great!  No one had even noticed me a few short minutes before.  But now, I was at center stage and milking the crowd for every ooh and ah they had in them.  High above the heads of the entranced onlookers, I moved catlike to the music in my head.  Was this Las Vegas? Was this the big time?  Actually, I was in third grade and had no concept of either.
Dave Ehlert "live" in concert

On that night that all performers dread.......their first performance, Ehlert evocatively describes how it (unfortunately) unfolded:

Fear…... paralyzing, heart-stopping fear.  The kind that reluctantly allowed my next breath to be gasped to fill my deflated lungs.  The kind that transformed my carefully applied theatrical sideburns into rivulets of black macabre facial art that would have made Alice Cooper jealous.  That’s pretty much what I remember about my first performance as Elvis in 1967.  My leg had a natural twitch like the one made famous by the late rocker but mine was of the more uncontrollable kind driven by terror rather than rhythm. When I started to sing, the voice that had only hours before sounded similar to a young Elvis, now had the melodic tone of a rusty hinge.  Lyrics that had shortly before come with ease now had to be pried from my frozen jaws clenched as though in dire need of a tetanus shot.

The 43 chapters (actually 41 plus an Introduction and Epilogue) are short but fun.  The narrative is not a linear one, the author jumping back and forth across time periods.  One moment we are in 1969, the next 1999 and the next back to the swinging sixties in 1966.  The time changes work well though and serve to keep the story fresh and interesting. 

Interesting and varied stories abound throughout such as how Ehlert became involved with Mary Starr, owner of Starr Records which originally handled country music artists but expanded to book and promote ETA’s.  Other welcome accounts include how Ehlert assembled his band – a group which had been fired from a club called Mama Mia’s because they were too drunk.  As Elhert wryly observes their firing was a feat in itself as:

Mama Mia’s was famous for having a guitar player who had actually been dead for 2 years, but was perfectly preserved due to his legendary alcohol intake.

Please note!!!

This is not Dave Ehlert's backing group nor is it the Mama Mia club featured in his book

If I Can Dream: The Story of “Being Elvis” for 50 Years is not all light-hearted.  The author shares moments that were confronting or unexpected:

As the pretty professional flipped open her notebook she leapt into the impromptu interview.

“Does it bother you that you’re making money off a dead man?” she queried.  “And that you’re causing grief and sadness within the Presley family?” she continued.  “Or that you are using Elvis to further your own career?  Don’t you think…--

“WHOA...?” I said, shocked at this unexpected ambush. “First of all,” I began, I’m not making that much money.  Second, I don’t believe that my sincere portrayal of Elvis would have any negative affect on the Presley family.  And last, I’ve been performing as “Elvis” since 1967, ten years before he died and I don’t think that qualifies as exploiting the dead.” 

Ehlert is also refreshingly candid about the various types of ETA’s that inhabit the ETA universe:

One group will include guys who are dead ringers for Elvis in facial features and physical characteristics ranging from the King’s lean profile in the 50’s to his bloated, obese appearance in the mid 70’s.  Despite their close resemblance, these performers possess absolutely zero aptitude for sounding like Elvis.  Some have good voices but could never be mistaken for Presley. The rest should be subjected to having their voice boxes removed to prevent them from injuring their audiences.  At the very least, they should sign an oath to limit their performances to the lip-sync variety. 

The final category consists of performers who bear absolutely no visible resemblance to Elvis but, when they sing it’s all Elvis.  It might be a bearded woodsman from Canada, A Filipino working in Manila, an African-American (going by the name of “Blackvis”), A 400 lb. behemoth (King Size Elvis in Vegas), or a 4 ft. 11 in balding recording technician in Memphis all of whom deliver uncanny recreations of Elvis’ voice.  Those groups above make up the “performance” segment of the Elvis Impersonator population. 

There is most disturbingly another segment.  These are unfortunate creatures whose only reason for existence it seems, is to become Elvis.  Like side-burned body snatchers, these would be Elvi ghouls don wigs, sideburns fake jewelry, high collared jumpsuits only to wander in the aisles of Wal-Mart, pose for pictures at Graceland,  conduct weddings in Las Vegas or, worst of all, attend one of my shows.

Verdict: You can count the number of published ETA biographies on one hand.  While Dave Ehlert’s If I Can Dream: The Story of “Being Elvis” for 50 Years is light-hearted, importantly it is also fun and entertaining to read.  A Reader Warning though: Many fans, particularly fans of the ETA phenomenon, will find this ebook results in a lot of broad smiles, followed by laughter and did I mention.....loads of fun.

Review #2:  

Elvirus! Elvi-geddon: Dawn of the Elvi Invasion

Publisher's Description: Elvis is Everywhere. Elvis Impersonators are taking over threatening our safety. A plot originating in Memphis almost 40 yrs. ago involving a mutant gene that causes ordinary people to become Elvi. Who is involved? You'll be surprised. Who or what will save the world from these "Zombie Elvi" Have you been infected? Have you been humming an Elvis Song as you've been reading this?

The book is available from Smashwords in a range of ebook formats: epub mobi pdf rtf lrf pdb txt html

"Elvis is everywhere".... Skid Roper and Mojo Martin

How does one adequately describe Ehlert’s sci-fi...Elvis zombie...reality infused novel: Elvirus! Elvi-geddon: Dawn of the Elvi Invasion

Exclusive: Zombie Elvis Found.  This newspaper headline starts what is a neat story which uses the presence of Elvis as omni-present, socio-cultural icon and cleverly twists that presence to fit its fabulous sci-fi/zombie plot line where a mutant gene (Elvirus) has infected people all over the world and turned them into Elvis derivatives or reborn Elvii.   From El Vez (the famous Mexican ETA) and Don Johnson as Elvis in Elvis and the Beauty Queen to Harvey Keitel as (maybe) Elvis in Finding Graceland, the very disconcerting sight of an obese, blue-jumpsuited Elvi in a Wal-Mart store and to ordinary hard-working citizens, the virus hits hard:

That fate too would befall the students from the Chicago area. Those who weren’t susceptible to the mutant gene contained in the “tonic” would become “carriers and pass it along to some poor unsuspecting soon to be Elvi victim.  A victim who should have been an engineer, architect or chemist but instead would dye their hair black, grow or glue on sideburns and torture their fellow citizens as they became the “King” reborn. 
There are plenty of twists and turns throughout what is an entertaining romp as the 40 year old plot underlying Elvirus! unfolds.  The rollercoaster ride involves its readers with Monk and Rudy (would be Elvis grave robbers), the involvement of Dr Nick in “the virus” plot, the Elvis faked his death conspiracy and a key to “the virus”.......100,000 dollar bills.  The narrative twists are striking with Elvi exterminators leading to Elvii assuming new identities such as Mark Twain.

The mystery deepens......

what is the role of a dollar bill in the rise of the Elvirus??

Other prominent players in the story include Ricky Nelson, Quentin Tatantino, Bruce (Bubba Ho-Tep) Campbell, the Flying Elvii, Jon Wayne, actor-comedian Steve Martin, the Terminator....Arnold Schwarzenegger, British actor Martin Shaw, Kurt Russell and from Eqypt, ‘Camelvis’.

In other parts of his story the author melds events from the ‘real’ Elvis story such as the familiar tale of Colonel Parker’s Dancing Chickens during his pre-Elvis carnival days and more recent claims about the Colonel’s apparently sordid past in Holland.  There is also an account of the advent of Graceland as a premier American tourist attraction.

There is comedy, there is drama as Elvirus spreads:

Gangs of Elvi are roaming the streets terrorizing defenseless wheelchair bound old people.  “Make him stop!” pleads one frightened senior. 

And as these media headlines from the story indicate, the spread of Elvirus results in incredible political, military and entertainment developments:





The Center for Disease Control (CDC) takes control as the Elvirus spirals out of control
When the Elvirus pandemic spirals out of control the Center for Disease Control (CDC) joins the action:

It’s addressed to “Special Projects” a little known division of the CDC assigned to bio-threats traced to terrorist organizations.  It was here that scientists were already working on a solution to the Elvirus pandemic.  Several Elvi had endured a medical “rendition” and were now being held in an isolation unit 200 feet below the surface of the earth deep within the top-secret facility.

After passing through several check points requiring fingerprint, voice recognition and even a retina scan, access to the isolation unit is gained.  The Elvirus research was a heavily guarded project.  If news got out regarding this work, the public would panic and riots would break out around the globe.  Inside the eerily lit unit, 36 “pods” were suspended by cables attached to the Ibeams that ran down the center of the room.  The translucent skin of each “pod” revealed an Elvi in a state of suspended animation surrounded by a pool of synthetic amniotic fluid by which they were fed nutrients to keep them alive, for now.  From time to time the subjects were extracted from the pods so that tests could be performed to determine how to isolate and destroy Elvirus.
Regular readers of Elvis fiction will find Elvirus! somewhat obtuse with its heady mix of Elvi Creeps accosting young children and stealing their bicycles and the (very worrying) idea that in Ehlert’s future Justin Bieber impersonators exist and are deemed appropriate for serious study!   There is also the anti-Elvis (who it possibly is will shock many readers!)  I will not reveal his name here but will say he is known for his use of a hover-board and experimentation with time travel.

Is there an anti-dote to the Elvirus?  Can the world be ridded of the viral Elvii?  Which other 20th century musical icon might hold the answer?  Or will the Elvirus be overtaken by an even more virulent disease?  To find out the answers to these burning questions and see how the storyline finishes you will need to read the book.

...........A word to the wise though, don’t throw away those old Elvis records yet, or as Werner Heffen would say:  “Pelvis Checkers are Wet?”

Verdict: Elvirus! Elvi-geddon: Dawn of the Elvi Invasion is another fun and humorous read from Dave Ehlert.  Its ingenuous plot device and narrative driver is nicely drawn and neatly symbolises Elvis’ presence as the pre-eminent pop culture icon of the past 50 years. Just be careful when you see a dollar bill!

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