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Elvis in disguise: lesbian Elvis Presley impersonator Patty Manning wants you to love her tender. (culture).

Patty Manning, a.k.a. Patty Elvis, to her knees, reaches out to her audience with her left arm, and begs, "Let's, not let a good thing die." Her rendition of "Suspicious Minds," the shimmering pop-rock tune that in 1969 put Elvis Presley back at number 1 on the after a seven-year absence, is her signature song, punctuated with the essential below-the-belt gyrations, karate chops, and sentimental pleas. "It's requested at every show," says Manning, 40. "It's a sweet, beautiful song." And a showstopper, she adds.

It's estimated that there are about 35,000 impersonators in the world paying tribute to or poking fun at Presley. The majority of Elvises are chubby, older white men, but pretenders to the throne are varied--Mexican Elvises, Asian Elvises, Serbian Elvises, Jewish Elvises, baby Elvises, political Elvises, vampire Elvises, and, as long as Patty Manning is around, at least one lesbian Elvis.

Manning, a Chicagoan who makes a living as an interior painter, says she's more interested in causing a sensation than stirring up controversy. "I've never really considered myself `the lesbian Elvis,'" she says. "And I'm not Mrs. Political. My number 1 thing is, I'm a comic. I love to laugh a lot and have a lot of fun. I grew upon comedians like Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Cheech and Chong--not Elvis. And I've always been silly, silly, silly: the class down."

Manning began imitating Presley about 12 years ago just to entertain friends. She learned to curl her lip and shake a leg. "Then I decided I was going to get a jumpsuit," she says.

Manning began professionally impersonating Presley in 1996, backed by an electric three-piece band--Bill Bango on guitar, Dave Budrys on bass, and Scott Carson on drums. "Everybody has a part of their life that's dedicated to Elvis. Think about how many different types of people there are and how much Elvis crosses into their lives," says the 112-pound, 5-foot-3 Manning. She has performed at Chicago street fairs, lesbian health-care benefits, senior citizens' centers, kids' birthday parties, Irish bars, and gay dance clubs. "It's just amazing the audience I can cover," she says. "I can do straight audiences, I can do gay audiences; it doesn't matter." The only audience Manning ever found problematic was stocked with men's rugby players. "They were drunk," she says matter-of-factly. "Hecklers."

Manning has tried other personae, including Cher and Michael Jackson. She hasn't incorporated the Cher routine into the show but always does Jackson. "I can sing very low, like Elvis," she says, her voice falling into that unmistakable deep Presley mumble. "And I can sound like Michael Jackson when he was 10 years old. So I'll throw in a couple of songs as a joke. People are blown away by the range."

She says she dreams of becoming the King of Kings, thank you very much. She'd like to find her own Col. Tom Parker, a manager who can take care of business and can sign her to big-time venues, negotiate a recording contract, get her booked on a really big show, and promote her to America the way Parker promoted Presley.

"This is where I'm putting my energy--in a one-in-a-million chance that I'm going to make it. I'm sitting on a gold mine," she says. "Elvis is only getting bigger and bigger. He never dies."

Neff is the managing editor of the Chicago Free Press.
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Author:Neff, Lisa
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Interview
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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