LAUGHLIN, NV. The competitors took the gloves off and came out and fought harder for their chance to win their ride to Memphis for the second night of competition. The fight was all in good sport, but there is a lot at stake here and everyone fought diligently to secure their spot. A lot of time, money, and energy have been spent by the competitors to get here with many competing multiple times. Winning would justify the expense and validate their talent.
Each contestant sang with conviction and tapped into the uique, intrinsic value that drives them on to sing like the King of Rock & Roll. Unlike a show where the ETA is in command and can step in and out of the Elvis persona, he can’t do that during a competition. For the time it takes to sing a song they have to convince both audience and judge Elvis is on stage. Some are more convincing than others, but all put forth every effort and perform at the best of their ability.
Some ETAs, like Fred Cineros, share the conviction that drives them to perform. Cineros said he loves to sing Elvis ballads and revealed from the stage that his muse is his wife Paula. Critique aside, you can’t fault a man who publicly shows the unfathomable depths of love for his wife. It’s romantic. Elvis sang some of the best romantic songs ever recorded with absolute conviction. Personally, I believe when Elvis sang the love ballads he was always singing to the only woman he ever truly loved, Priscilla. Many ETAs do the same for the special person in their life.
One of the many women in Elvis’ life was Kissin’ Cousins co-star, Cynthia Pepper. The contest was interupted by intermission of Pepper sharing her stories about Elvis on set of the movie.
Show emcee and producer, Kurt Brown, also entertained us by singing Sweet Caroline as Neil Diamond, then as Elvis, then back to Neil Diamond. Brown is a former entertainer and did an admirable rendition of the song.
The curtain came down, but the show went on as the venue vacated into the foyer for pictures with fans. Cameras flashed, bright smiles shone, and big grins stretched across faces as fans sought out their favorite ETAs for a photo op.
Round two ended with a celebration after party. The competitors hung up their jumpsuits, put the competition aside and rendezvoused at Mr. Laughlin’s personal bar, The Dance Club, and enjoyed their unique camaraderie with friends and family. The club is a karaoke bar with country-western theme, a large dance floor, and a bar tended by friendly employees like Katherine, who busied herself to make our favorite beverage. We sang and danced the night away until the last call. Now it was time to eat.
Mr. Laughlin doesn’t allow food in the Dance Club so we hit the Riverview Restaurant inside the casino. The restaurant is one the best things about the casino. It’s open 24 hours and has a full menu.
We found our respected spots and sat around the table like the Waltons and talked like we were all one big family. We talked about the contest and debated outcomes. Elvis was temporarily set aside while we shared stories from our lives and the common connections we have to each other. Discussion about insights from our marriages, relationships, children, God, were reminders about what really matters when you’re off the stage. Discussions were interrupted by bursts of laughter from a funny incident or joke and quieted down momentarily when we happily stuffed our mouths with delicious food. (I recommend the strawberry Belgian waffle or the strawberry pancakes.)
The happy, harmonious events of the day ended and all parted ways to prepare for the final round of competition to determine the top five, then the winner. ETA Will Humbarger, sums it up best for the competition with his Facebook post:
It has been an honor to share the stage with the ETAs at the Laughlin Elvis Fest. Good luck tonight guys, win or lose, I’m having a great time.
We’re all having a great time. Thank you to all the ETAs for keeping the memory of Elvis alive and fun.