but Kosher Look at Little Known Part of Elvis’s Heritage"
On a regular basis EIN looks at a new release or issue in the
Elvis world. In this edition we shine our spotlight on:
In Search of Elvis Presley’s Jewish Roots, Jonathan Goldstein
& Max Wallace, ECW Press, Canada, 2002, 208 pages, Illustrated,
books in the Elvis world are difficult to review. This is
one of them.
reason why ‘Schmelvis’ is difficult to review is that it charts
unusual territory for an Elvis book and it does it in the
form of satire.
Searching for Elvis Presley’s Jewish Roots’ is loosely based
on a documentary produced by Diversus Productions.
arose out of a popular skit, “Jew, Not Jew?”, on the irreverent
television show ‘Saturday Night Live’ and an article published in
the Wall Street Journal in 1998: “All Shook Up in the Holyland”.
The book is essentially the author’s recollections of how the documentary
it is a satire, the facts of Elvis’s Jewish roots are authentic.
At the heart of the concept is the fact that Elvis’s great-great
grandmother, Nancy Burdine (who married John Mansell), on his mother’s
side was a Jew and under Jewish law her relations are considered
to also be Jewish. The Burdine family is thought to have come to
America from Lithuania around the time of the American Revolution.
is a very unusual entry in the world of Elvis literature. Its (at
times) choice language, eclectic Elvis-religious themes ranging
from Elvis and the Bible Code to the First Presleytarian Church
of Elvis The Divine (yes it does exist, in fact there is a chapter
in Melbourne, Australia!) and comments about what Elvis thought
of his genitals give it an uneven, but flavoursome texture.
in Zucchini Elvis, El-Vez (the Mexican Elvis) and Schmelvis in a
crowded Piggly Wiggly parking lot and this is one far-out reading
experience that often borders on the surreal! Written as part production
journal, part screenplay and part scrapbook, digesting Schmelvis
is definitely a heady, pot pourii experience. During their trek
across America and Israel to prove Elvis’s Jewish heritage the authors
are assisted by an eccentric Orthodox rabbi named Reuben Poupko.
On their travels they interview key figures in the Elvis world including
George Klein and Bernard Lansky (Clothier to The King).
characters in Schmelvis are colourful, the prose salty and the after
shock, funny. In fact, Schmelvis is highly amusing on many occasions
although the humour won’t be to everyone’s taste (be warned, the
funniest pieces, not reproduced here, involve very choice language):
you serve kosher peanut butter and banana sandwiches here?” Schmelvis
Israeli’s, they don’t like that.”
you serve one for Schmelvis.”
Graceland, a three-hundred pound tribute artist named J.R. is on
stage singing “Pork Salad Annie” while his manager hobbles around
on crutches handing out business cards:
for bachelorette parties”. While the book doesn’t make a big thing
of it, the authors do draw attention to Elvis’s use of the Star
of David and the absence of any mention at Graceland of his Jewish
In Search of Elvis Presley’s Jewish Roots’ also answers the burning
question of whether or not Max Wallace is an Elvis fan.
Highly unusual entry in the world of Elvis literature that will
appeal to those with a perverse sense of humour and a way out sense
of adventure. It is not for the squeamish.
Schmelvis is available from leading bookstores in the USA or can
be ordered online from amazon.com,
bn.com or bamm.com
This edition of Spotlight on The King was prepared by Nigel Patterson.
It was based on reading ‘uncorrected, unedited proofs’ of the book.
© EIN, 2002
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