My ETA is Better Than Your ETA

LAS VEGAS, NV.  An interesting phenomena has evolved among fans and brilliantly commented by  Shane Paterson.  It is something I’ve recently noticed and personally experienced with an enthusiastic, dedicated ETA fan(atic).  Before getting to Paterson’s commentary let’s start with the genesis of the whole thing.

The phenomena was brought to light on Facebook after the David Letterman Show announced it was showcasing five of the six Ultimate ETA contest winners February 4-8.  The controversy began with a posting by the Bill Cherry fan club president, Genni Keomanivane.   It’s copied and posted here verbatim for your reading enjoyment.

As Bills Fan Club president I felt it would be easier to address everyone at once rather than to try and answer all of the emails and messages I am receiving.

Bill was the 3rd person in the world to ever win the title of Ultimate Elvis Contest , but Bill Cherry was not included in the lineup for the David Letterman Show which makes me personally very sad. He is one of the best Tribute Artist in the world and holds the Ultimate Elvis title for a reason!  If the Letterman show wants to have a true Elvis Week to honor his memory they should include “ALL” of the “EPE” Ultimate Elvis Winners as they are all equally deserving and the show should not just pick only 5 and leave one of the very best out out.

All I can say is that I hope Bill understands why I felt the need to say something but it is out of my love and respect for a very talented and humble tribute artist that I do so.

And just in case there is any confusion please let me clarify that I DO very much LOVE RESPECT and SUPPORT all of the artist that have been chosen for the show as every one of them deserve to be in this line up and that I am very happy for them. I also love and respect all of the tribute artist[s] I have come to know and enjoy seeing not just those with the title of Ultimate Elvis!

Personally I would think if someone were to ask EPE whom to talk to if looking for ultimate title winners they would have said all of these men and “Bill” along with the “Official Band Of Graceland” the fabulous EAS Band as they too are a fixture for the Ultimate Elvis Contest each and every year. They travel the country year round with these performers and know there stage presence and all the era’s of Elvis Presley’s music so well they could play for all of them well actually pretty much any tribute artist for that matter in their sleep. Why were they not also included ? Please feel free to mention them in your email.

You can contact the David Letterman Show at and let them know how you feel that Bill has been excluded from a very important event to honor the person he always admired and worked so hard to do a humble and respectful tribute to.

Thank You ~ Genni Keomanivane
Official Bill Cherry Fan Club

Bill Cherry is the third Ultimate ETA, winning the crown of the King in 2009 in Memphis, TN, and the only one allegedly not invited to perform.  Cherry is currently on tour with the Elvis Lives concert when Letterman airs his Elvis week show.

The whole thing went viral among ETA fans with a garrulous barrage of appraisements about who should be on the show and others who are better than the five selected.  Backhanded compliments were met with insult and dappled by philosophical comments it was all about Elvis and his music and memory.  As the dirt was tossed, Shane Paterson’s profound gem was dug up.  (I divided it up into paragraphs for easier reading.)

Elvis fans, as a bloc, have always included some real extremes. I mean the lunatic fringe, the kind that TV cameras ALWAYS gravitate toward, one result being that the popular image of the Elvis fan, in general, is of someone who’s at least slightly ‘off.’ Big contrast with Beatles fans, for example, who are more likely to be considered hip and groovy even though a number of them spent much of 1968 trying to play records backward and playing the labels of said records (no offense to Beatles fans…I’m one of those, too).

Elvis always, from the very start, provoked extreme reactions — witness the virulent responses of his concert audiences and the savage attacks he endured in the press and other media when Middle America saw him as the devil incarnate, breaking race barriers and exposing their children to all sorts of evil.   Anyway, it turns out that a good number of Elvis IMPERSONATOR fans are even _more_ way out there. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some fantastic people while pursuing this vocation, mostly Elvis fans with open minds regarding the motivations and performances that I and many of my peers (most of the guys I know are huge Elvis fans and collectors, usually serious scholars of the man’s work from way back) place squarely front and center. It’s nice to see that the image of ETAs is shifting somewhat, especially regarding serious Elvis fans who might now acknowledge that not all of us are wackjobs who are so inept that we do Elvis’ image (and anyone who was a fan in lean periods, like part of the ’60s and all of the ’80s, knows how sensitive that can be) an injustice.

Some ETA fans, though, are fighting a valiant battle to have us slide boldly back to being more widely looked upon as freaks and weirdos. I’ve heard a few ETAs opine that some ETA fans are less Elvis fans than ETA fans. Not sure what they’ve seen or heard to draw that conclusion, but I have found — in the last two to three years since I started getting out more in the ETA world and got on Facebook — that an AWFUL lot of ETA fans are devoted to only ONE Elvis performer, or maybe at least primarily to one, and they’ll not only tend to become obsessive regarding them but will lash out at fans of other ETAs and basically go to war if they feel their borders are threatened. Being a biologist with a working knowledge of evolutionary theory and an extensive background in the study of animal behavior, this sort of territorial response isn’t really a surprise to me, but neither is it very becoming. Actually, for the most part, it’s unnecessary and stupid. And there are some scary people out there, many of them probably fertile ground for a psychotherapist or the like.

This current great news about David Letterman’s show featuring some of the best (by any measure…regardless of actual titles) Elvis impersonators around is a good example. Most of us are happy for those selected and also happy that ETAs will be shown in a more positive light and represented well by people who can actually sing, which is not always a given in this line of work. But then there’s the (pretty much inevitable and even predictable) backlash over someone’s favorite ETA not being picked, including those who weren’t in the running because they weren’t Ultimate winners. Some of the gripes themselves may be valid, inherently, even if the fact remains that EPE made the choice from their winners so that’s pretty much it and the overarching point of it is not to glorify any one particular performer but to inject a little Elvis while showing people that the world of ersatz Elvises is these days far more than it’s been portrayed in film and other popular media outlets.

Anyway, regardless of the validity of how the choices were made, the tone of the dissent here on FB is just plain ugly. I am seeing fans of one ETA put down other ETAs on multiple levels (all of them, of course, professing that ‘their’ ETA is the BEST…well, hey, at some point that’s kind of subjective, and everyone has favorites) and claims of ETAs who weren’t in the running not only BEING in the running but turning it down. I’ve seen one manager, of sorts, mobilize rabid attack fans to go after those who dispute the truth of such lies, including attacks by some people under multiple FB identities. My friends, it getting REALLY stupid out there. Stop it. It’s supposed to be fun, not “The Art of War” as read backwards by drunken capuchin monkeys.

Brilliant assesment about the shift from Elvis fan to ETA fan.  The shift isn’t surprising since the majority of fans never had an opportunity to see Elvis perform live.  It makes sense.

FanaticElvis is lost to us and can only be found in archived film, vintage photographs, and the repackaging of his music.  ETAs provide fans with a flesh, blood, and bone person who can be touched.  Fans have access to ETAs who befriend them, support them, and idolize them with varying degrees of sanity.  They’re real.  More importantly, they’re alive, but folks forget there is more than just one ETA, and more ETAs than their ETA.  (I think I’ve worn out that acronymn.)

Contests throughout the world each year reveal the pool of ETAs who are super talented and could be crowned the next Ultimate ETA in Memphis.  The past winners appearing on Letterman are a sampling of the very best.  Whether or not our ETA was asked to be on the show, or debates about who else should be showcased, is moot.  All should be grateful Elvis is still relevant today as much as he was yesterday.  It’s good big time celebrities like Letterman still realize this and can remind America Elvis is still alive in the talent from the best ETAs in the world.

I’ll leave the building with Paterson’s final paragraph from his commentary.

To those of you who are SO immersed in the lives and careers of ‘your’ ETA that you’ll blindly lash out at anything or anyone different, or even PERCEIVED as a threat, I can only offer you William Shatner’s immortal advice to certain Trekkies: get a life. And maybe go listen to the real Elvis for a while.

Yep.  I think I’ll listen to Just Pretend and look up the word ersatz–what a great word to add to my vocabulary and what a great name for an ETA:  Ersatz Elvis.

Paterson is a veteran ETA based in Las Vegas and managed by Sin City Entertainment.  Contact Lisa L. Lyttle for bookings at (702)896-0100 or (702)772-6547.

7 thoughts on “My ETA is Better Than Your ETA

  1. I have noticed this phenomenon and it is becoming wide spread. In early 2012 my group Graceland received a series of emails from a rabid Chris Connor fan deriding all ETA’s But extolling their beloved Chris. I thought this was quite crass. After looking up info on Mr. Connor I was impressed with him. But the actions of one of his rabid fans left a long lasting bad taste in my mouth. It is human nature for all of us to want to shout to the heavens our allegiance to our countries, our favorite sports teams, and even our favorite ETA’s. But if we all want the ETA brand of tribute to be taken seriously we must all be much more conservative in the bridling of our tongues in public discourse. I have my favorites. You all have your favorites. The overall goal should be the preservation of Elvis’ memory through all the people and events in the ETA industry. And we should all have fun with it. Entertainment was what Elvis was all about. I’m willing to get to know you and appreciate you. Are you willing to do the same?


  2. You are so right, we all have our favorites and I agree on the Chris thing. I did get to see him last year in Memphis and he is very good, but to keep saying he is the best in the world may be stretching it a little. I like to be friends on Facebook with some of the guys, but I am tired of all the posts (or should I say boasts) day after day so some I had to block. We love Elvis and we love the guys for keeping his voice alive for us, you are all equal and you are all good. So everyone needs to stop the who is the best?? and enjoy them all.


  3. all ETAS including me are no where near Elvis,none of us ,ive seen them all ,none are even close,i always say when judging against ELVIS its not who is the best ,its who is not the worst,when you put ANY voice out there side by side with Elvis ,none come close


  4. Pingback: Jacob Roman’s Journey to Elvis (updated) | Pompadour

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