Elvis-A-Rama - What Happened?
Exposing how contestants were ripped off by a show which never materialized!
James Warner (pictured opposite and below) is an Elvis Tribute Artist who decided to try his luck as part of the Elvis-A-Rama sponsored contest, "Don't Be Cruel: Search For The World's Best Elvis Impersonator"
What happened during that experience left indelible scars on James.
In a fascinating, yet disturbing, interview, James takes us behind the scenes to lift the lid on what went wrong with this show.
With impressive prizes (which appear not to have been awarded) and names behind the scenes including Jimmy Velvet, Paul Terry King and Chris Davidson, this was a TV show which never aired, leaving contestants financially out of pocket and not knowing what was happening.
James Warner's experience is a strong warning about how innocent people can be ripped off by promoters who promise a lot, but at the end of the day are only interested in their own bank account.
EIN: James, how did you become involved with the Elvis-A-Rama reality show?
JW: A friend of mine (Bobbie Arnold) from Follow That Dream Productions emailed me about the contest.
EIN: What were you initially told about the arrangements for the show?
JW: I called the museum and asked them how I should go about setting up an audition. I was told to send my promotional material to them and they would let me know. I sent them my material and they responded (about a week and a half later) by telling me to be there on August 8th or 9th, 2005. There were two days of auditions and I showed up for the first day's taping.
EIN: What prizes were offered by the producers?
There were several prizes. First place prizes were: A contract to record the controversial song alledgedly co-written by Elvis and Paul Terry King, titled If I'd Only Bought Her Roses. Second, the winner would recieve a custom 1965 Cadillac Eldorado, made for Elvis by George Barris. Third, the winner would recieve a $50,000 performance contract. Runners up would recieve various items such as one of Elvis' medallions, some TCB necklaces and so forth.
EIN: Were the prizes ever awarded?
JW: As far as the prizes being awarded...I don't know. We heard nothing after the first audition. Zilch. Zippo. Nada. As far as I know, EPE/CKX took ownership of most of the items in the museum, including the song the winner would have recorded. Chris Davidson, who sold Elvis-A-Rama to EPE, has plans to open an Elvis-themed operation in Hawaii.
EIN: Were you required to pay any money to participate in the show?
JW: No. We were not required to pay anything to participate in the show.
EIN: Were there any out-of-pocket expenses which you had to pay?
JW: Yes. I live in Michigan, so my wife and I and two friends flew to Las Vegas. The airfare was about $550.00 round trip (per person). We stayed at the Stratosphere and shelled out about $ 170 per night for the two rooms. We arrived in Las Vegas early on August 2nd and departed on the evening of August 5th. The only other expenses were for food and taxi fare and I do not recall how much that amounted to.
EIN: What travel and accomodation arrangements were made for the contestants?
JW: None whatsoever. It was up to us to find a hotel and find any way possible to be there. We called the airlines, gathered information, reserved and paid for everything.
EIN: How many other contestants were involved during the first taping?
JW: Please keep in mind that there was only one taping...in Las Vegas. There were supposed to be several more. There never was. Back to your question: There were approximately 23 contestants at the taping.
EIN: Were there any names that Elvis fans may recognize?
JW: I usually don't play the "contest circuit" ...so I don't know who is "popular". I did see a friend of mine there. We performed together in Montreal back ( February 2005).
EIN: Over how many rounds was the contest to progress before the winner was found?
JW: That was never specified. I do know that there were to be auditions in New York, Japan, Australia, etc. How the producers had that planned...I don't know. There's alot of unanswered questions. I tried to ask questions. (before I even decided to go to the first taping in Las Vegas) and I was told, " I can't answer that. Sorry."
EIN: Where did the taping take place?
JW: The first (and only) taping took place inside of the Elvis-A-Rama Museum. The room was located towards the middle of the Museum. It was hotter than Hell and the room was probably 16'x30'. Why not use the Museum's showroom?
EIN: What happened at the taping?
JW: We arrived for the first day's taping and basically waited for the place to open. Parked outside and baking in the sun was Elvis' 1965 Cadillac El Dorado. It looked old and haggard. I kept looking at it and waiting for someone to ask, "Are you in the contest? Come in here." When the placed opened, we were told to stay outside. The museum was "gracious" enough to put up tents for us to stand under. It was around 102 degrees or so. One guy was so warm that he threw up all over and had to go back to his hotel room and change. THAT'S how hot it was, Nigel!
About four hours later , we were given warm, bottled water and were told that the camera crew was having "technical difficulties". Two hours later, we were allowed to go inside and wait in the museum's AIR-CONDITIONED gift shop until we were called upon for our individual auditions. Why not let us in there in the first place? It would have been better than being kiln-dried in the desert heat!!!
EIN: What happened before, during and after the taping?
JW: I have covered what happened before the taping. During the taping, we were each called in to audition. We were told to bring our own background music. Minutes before the auditions began, we were told that we couldn't use our tracks.
When it was my turn, I went before the judges (Jimmy Velvet, Cynthia Pepper and Chris Davidson). I sang a song titled Almost which was from Elvis' 1969 movie, The Trouble With Girls.
Jimmy Velvet liked my singing as did Cynthia Pepper. Chris wasn't satisfied with the tempo of the song and asked me to sing something more up-tempo and well-known. I told him to pick a song. He chose It's Now Or Never. I sang it and they ALL appeared to be pleased. I recieved three "thumbs up" and left the room on cloud nine!!! I remember somebody shoving a microphone in my face and asking me questions. I informed the "host" that I made the audition. My wife ran up to me and began sobbing uncontrollably. She was positively ecstatic...as was I.
We were tired and hot, so we decided to return to our hotel. Upon leaving the museum, we were given a sheet of paper with some handwriting on it. We were told that the museum would be in touch. We would be informed of when and where the next round would be. The keyword in that sentence is informed, Nigel!
EIN: James, what can you tell us about Paul Terry King's involvement in the show?
JW: There's another mystery, Nigel. We never saw him. There is ALOT of controversy over the legitimacy of Mr. King's claims. You wrote a pretty good piece on him. You know what I mean. There's a few holes in his story...to say the least.
EIN: Who else was involved in putting the show together?
JW: I don't know. The museum and its employees were so tight-lipped about everything! We were told where and when to show up and that's all.
EIN: What happened between Chris Davidson and EPE?
JW: I've heard two versions of what happened. First, I was surfing the web and noticed a story about EPE buying out the Elvis-A-Rama and my heart sunk. As alot of people know, EPE just "loves" Elvis impersonators. I knew it was all over. EPE has recently had a "policy change" and has accepted us. Why? Dollar signs. Plain and simple.
The second story is this: I called the Elvis-A-Rama and spoke to a female employee. She told me that EPE contacted Chris Davidson and basically told him, " We want to buy your attraction and all the rights. Here's the offer. It would be in your best interest to accept it or we will build our own attraction nearby and run you out of businness." HER WORDS...NOT MINE!
EIN: What were you told about when and on what channel the show would be telecast on?
JW: Again, we were told nothing. While we were waiting for our numbers to be called...somebody in the room mentioned the Fox Network.
EIN: What happened to the show?
JW: That's the reason I am doing this interview. We were told NOTHING! We fulfilled our part of the whole project. We spent our hard-earned money, took vacation time from our jobs, and traveled many, many miles, put up with very hot weather and got the shaft. NO letter, NO phonecall, NO apology. NOTHING! I tried to contact Mr. Davidson for an explanation. He never returned my phonecalls. Not one!
EIN: What was your overall view of the reality show?
JW: Basically, I'm hurt and offended. Take a business like the Elvis-A-Rama Museum. They obviously have no respect for the "little man". Elvis fans are the reason why they stayed in business for many years! What did they do? They pissed on us, Nigel. The whole project was poorly planned. That is my overall opinion.
EIN: What else would you like to say about your experience?
JW: I would like to let Chris Davidson know that I am very unhappy with him. What he did was wrong...plain and simple! Do we not deserve an apology at least. What about the other guys who were in the contest. Don't they at least deserve an apology, too. It is my intent to let him know that we were wronged. What kind of a man is he?
If I were able to at least TALK to Chris Davidson, I'd ask him the following questions:
Step up to the plate, Chris. Admit that you were wrong. Admit that in a public forum!
Will you fly "under the radar" like before? For almost two years, I have let this whole thing bother me. I was respectful to you and everyone else. I showed up with a professional attitude and this is what I get, Chris? I should write a book and title it Chris: What Happened?
James, Thank you for taking the time to talk with EIN.
JW: Thanks for the opportunity to let everyone know what really happened, Nigel. Your website is very much appreciated!
EIN Comment: EIN welcomes a response from Chris Davidson and/or Paul Terry King about Mr Warner's account of the show
Contact James Warner at AllExperts.com
Comment on this interview
James Warner responds to Paul Terry King: Paul, Please tell me what the Elvis-A-Rama staff did by going out of their way. Was it...
1. Making us wait for most of the entire afternoon OUTSIDE, when there was an AIR-CONDITIONED area inside that was capable of holding all of us? The Elvis-A-Rama had absolutely NO problem opening up their gift shop to us...after the auditions.
2. Serving us WARM water? Hell, we'd have been happy to see Sally Struthers and a "Feed The Children" truck there...passing out sacks of feed and water.
3. Not having a pre-production meeting with the ETAs ...to "clue us in" to show's plans and progress?
4. Not having enough balls to contact us after the sale was made and let us know the contest was off? The last time I checked, Chris Davidson had $6.5 million worth of Elvis memorabilia in his possession. Postage stamps are 39 cents each. Out of the 23 contestants, 5 of us made it through two "Round Two". So, 5 people x 39 cents = $1.95!!! Here's a hint: MAIL US A LETTER. LET US KNOW THE SHOW WAS CANCELLED!
5. Where were you? You would have been an important part of the show. The reason for it actually. You alledgedly co-wrote a song with Elvis, didn't you? No Paul Terry King song...no contest. Right?
Paul Terry King: I read the eta warners description .man it was hot. i rode in a jeep cheroke there all the way from texarkana. bought the gas too. i enjoyed it though and was just as shocked to see the rug pulled out from under everybodys feet before the winner was decided and the prizes awarded. Chris Davidson and elvisarama staff did everything they could do for the eta contestants and guests though that was brave enuff to go including myself ! remember its vegas and it was a gamble to go there for the contest anyway nothing was guranteed.
Stan Longman: I'm a ETA from the south. I had thought of going in the Elvis-A-Rama comp, but man am I glad I didn't. Thanks for a great article.
Briony (New Zealand): Why is there so much rip-offs in the Elvis world. Elvis was a kind man who didn't hurt noone and he wouldnt want to see his memory been taken advantage of. Shame on people who dont care for what Elvis was lived for. Elvis tribute artists bring us fans a lot of good feelings and memories.
Jim Berner: I'm steadfastly an American patriot. But it riles me when I read how some Americans will take advantage of others just to make a fast buck. It is one weakness of our democratic capitalist system and its greed is good mentality. Good on James Warner for speaking out.
Bill Coady: Your interview with James Warner made me wonder. If Graceland bought Elvis-A-Rama, doesn't it have a responsibility to the ETA's in the competition?
Beth Carter (Tennessee): I was absolutely disgusted at what the Elvis-A-Rama promoters did to those who entered the competition. If you fly hundreds of miles, put yourself up in a hotel, and spend thousands of dollars of your own money, you deserve way better than what these scumbags dished out. I feel very sorry for James Warner and the other artists.
Alice Bartholomew: What an utterly shameful act!!!
Genny Frommer: I hope the good Lord gives those con men what they deserve.
Frank: I'm not a fan of ETAs and I usually go out of my way to avoid them (give me the real deal any day). But after reading James Warner's story I have to say how disappointed I am at what the Elvis world has become. Whatever happened to fans working together in a harmonious way for the good of each other? It is so disappointing that what was once a positive thing is now a cess pit inhabited by con men and charlatans.
Francis Green: I found your interview with James Warner to be very enlightening. I have seen James do his show in Michigan and he is very good, a true professional with Elvis at heart. What happened to him and others thru this competition is disgraceful. I hope Graceland does the proper thing with its competition.