Children of the King

A zine for children of Elvis impersonators turns into a documentary

| March-April 2011

  • Children-of-the-King
    Elvis impersonators practice a song at a hotel in Manila.
    REUTERS / Cheryl Ravelo

  • Children-of-the-King

Most adolescents know what it’s like to be embarrassed by their parents when friends come over. Sometimes the shame involves lame jokes and stories, and, if you’re particularly unlucky, the naked baby pictures come out. But visual artist and director Stephanie Comilang had the edge on this one—her father is an Elvis impersonator.

Comilang recalls enduring embarrassment when her father, Steve, would burst into “Love Me Tender” and the like in front of her friends when she was growing up in Toronto. To deal with the shame, Comilang would hide behind the couch. But as she got older, she started feeling differently: Her friends loved it when her dad hammed it up in front of them, and Comilang started to feel, well, a kind of pride.

About 10 years ago, when she was 18, Comilang decided that in order to deal with her conflicting feelings she’d create a sort of improvised support group via a zine to be titled Children of the King.

“There are equal parts love and ‘Oh, Dad,’ and it’s always been like that,” she says. “I had these feelings of complete embarrassment, especially when I was younger. The zine was this really cheap way of reaching out to other people.”

Children of the King was made up of photocopied pictures of Comilang with her dad dressed in Elvis-style jumpsuits and short reports of her experiences as a child of an Elvis impersonator. One anecdote in the short-lived zine (there were only two issues) read: “For Christmas last year I bought Daddy a gorgeous pair of shiny silver Elvis glasses. I thought his gold ones were getting played out.”

She tried to get her zine into sympathetic hands by taking copies to sell at her dad’s gigs and at film festivals. But her target audience—the children of other Elvis impersonators—proved to be elusive.