Knight in White Jumpsuit

Life with my hound dog husband

| November/December 1999

The Elvis impersonator unhooked his mike, lunged onto one knee, pulled a scarf from around his neck, and crooned to an adoring, big-haired woman, 'For my darling, I love you . . .'

Folks in the audience hooted and clapped. It was an audacious, seamless performance, complete with live band, backup singers, and beefy bodyguards. But there was no way that I, Elvis' wife, could keep watching. I covered my eyes with my hands and held my breath. It was the 54-year-old knee Elvis was leaning on that frightened me. At an earlier performance, it had popped out of its socket, and the King had dropped to the floor. Everybody thought the move was part of the show, but I, like most spouses of celebs, knew the gritty truth.

My odyssey with 'Elvis' began four years ago, when my husband, Bill, a novelist, college teacher, and father of our two young daughters, took the bait from an enterprising editor: He agreed to write a nonfiction book about the Elvis-impersonator scene.

The quid pro quo? He had to become one. Now, I am not an Elvis fan, but I am game for adventure. Indeed, my own path has taken some bizarre twists during our 20-plus years of married life: from modern dancer, professional dog walker, masseuse, community organizer, to mother and freelance writer. Who was I to protest? And how many times does a middle-aged pop culture hound get to morph into a rhinestone-studded Elvis?

Too many, I found out. One time, Bill drove two days to a show, leaving behind his jumpsuit and wig. 'You what?' I asked, incredulous, when he called. Visions of a frenzied mob of Dionysian Elvis devotees angrily dismembering my balding, Teva-shod husband quelled my wifely anger at his forgetfulness, and Fed Ex saved the day. At another concert, the wife of a real impersonator pulled Bill aside and suggested that he unzip his suit and 'show some chest.' Later, I found my man dozing in the bathtub, a swirl of muddy 'For Men Only' black dye burning the flesh on his chest.

'Who cares if your chest hair is white and your suit doesn't fit perfectly?' I wailed. (He'd made several trips to the alterations lady, trying to get the hand-me-down suit's crotch raised.) 'You're only an impersonator of an impersonator.'

I tried to stand by my man. I once taped this list to the bathroom mirror: