We got to the Tavern way too early, but we got a good seat to watch the band set up and observe the Beautiful People as they filed in for the New Year’s Eve show.
The Beautiful People were dressed in their finest — the girls all glitter and princessy, the men in their best jeans and the shirt the girl got him for Christmas, usually a witty tee or a nice western cut dress shirt, untucked. One Beautiful Fellow coiffed his hair up high except for the tell-tale curl dangling like a feather over his forehead. He wore white polyester and dark sunglasses. There was no mistaking him. His Beautiful Lady was the glitteriest girl of all.
“What if the King were to actually walk in here right now?” Willie asked in a tone of disapproval.
“By ‘the King,’” I asked, “do you mean Elvis Presley, the King of Rock’n’Roll?”
“Yeah. How old would he be now?”
We figured it out in our heads that he’d be turning 70 soon. Thereabouts.
“Do you believe he’s still alive?”
“Well,” I said, my eyes scanning the eclectic decor of The Tavern, “I doubt that he’s still walking around in his earthly body, but yes, the King lives. If you look over there above the cash register, you can see a photo of him.”
“Do you mean to say that because there’s a picture of him in the bar that his spirit still lives even though he no longer walks among us?”
“Yes. Even the Beautiful People are in tune with the energy of The King. We all create waves of energy as we go through our lives, some of us create more energy than others. Whether our souls live on in some other dimension, something we might call heaven, no one can say for sure. But some people achieve something close to immortality by the energy they create and leave behind.
“Elvis left a pretty good wake of energy behind him. Look around. There’s not only a picture of him above the cash register, but there’s another picture of him there on the opposite wall, from the movie ‘Speedway.’ All of these images store the energy The King left behind, and we amplify it with our homage. Did not the Beautiful Fellow raise the temperature of the room when he entered and spread his inner Elvis all over the place?
“Indeed, The King Lives,” I said, carefully capitalizing each word for emphasis, refraining from italics or exclamation points only for the sake of decorum. “Most people will leave behind a legacy that will last a few generations and only within their own family, but some people have such a powerful impact that their spirit will survive for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.
“As long as people perform the plays of William Shakespeare, Shakespeare lives. As long as the U.S. Constitution endures — which may not be much longer — Thomas Jefferson and the American Revolutionaries will live on.
“Of course, no one left a greater wake of energy than Jesus. Even though his message has been twisted and perverted to suit many questionable causes, his energy still pervades every aspect of our culture. Look over there, in the next room. There’s a clock with the painting of the Last Supper.”
Willie paused, took a thoughtful sip of his Miller Lite, then observed, “But there are two pictures of Elvis, and only one of Jesus. Plus, I find it highly unlikely that anyone will come into The Tavern tonight dressed like Jesus, wearing a tattered robe and carrying a cross. Does that mean that Elvis has a greater energy here than Jesus?”
I paused, took a thoughtful sip from my beer as the Faux King passed within inches of our table. I could have touched the hem of his garment, but chose not to, then immediately regretted it.
“Not necessarily,” I finally said, and proposed a thorough inspection of the posters, press photos, and reproductions of classical paintings that cluttered the walls of The Tavern.
And the search was on. We went out separately in order to save our vantage point, in turn scouring the walls of the front room, the pool room, and the parlor until we both came up with the same count: seven images of Elvis, three of Jesus.
Elvis turned out to be more versatile than Jesus, too. There were pictures of him as a cowboy and as a race car driver as well as pictures of him with his guitar or singing passionately into a microphone while wearing one of his famed jumpsuits. All of the Jesus pictures were of him chillin’ with the dozen at some version of The Last Supper. In one of them, he looked pissed as he called out the disciple about to betray him. Elvis never looked pissed. Just sexy as hell, every time.
We figured that was still a pretty good showing for Jesus because in The Tavern, Elvis had the home field advantage.
In most churches, chances are it would be a shut-out.
Portions of this essay appeared in the Hamilton Journal News, January 12, 2005.
Related: All the King’s Clones