Monday, June 11, 2012
One could be forgiven for believing an over consumption of tar fumes (rising off the melting road into town) in the scorching swoon of a thirty-five degree afternoon, could have been responsible for the hallucinatory vision of a thousand Elvis’ stumbling down the main drag.
But unfortunately, blame couldn’t be palmed off so easily. The pop-star apparitions were real and happening, out amid the baking, brown countryside. The landlocked New Southern Welsh town of Parkes- renowned to UFO fanatics for its ownership of a gigantic radio telescope- also calls home to the annual Elvis Presley Festival.
What transpires over this tumultuous week in January is a lavish celebratory wake; where locals and fans from afar try to summon the spirit of the Dead King, heckling him to return and haunt every corner of Parkes’ dusty, yellowed streets.
And spook it he does- the singer’s southern drawl sloops from every dangling lamppost speaker (boxes usually reserved for blasting out Barry Manilow to annoy away alcoholics from habituating shop-front stoops) and his dulcet tones rumble through the town like tumbleweeds.
Every avenue or alleyway becomes podium to a sheep shearer or bus driver from Bondi donning the Elvis garb, the Royal Robes, who whinnies out Don’t Be Cruel with an outrageous outback twang.
What began in 1997 as the mind-warped brainchild of an Elvis nutcase named Neville (a Parkes local who was once granted a religious revelation during a journey to Graceland) attended by only a handful of farmers, has since become Presley pandemonium. It has ascended to become one of the premier deceased musician related festivals in the entire rural world- and is frequented yearly by thousands of Presley pilgrims.
Every Elvis in his cape and blue-stained shoes goes out on the town over a series of infinite evenings where the bourbons seem to rain from the ceiling like sewerage; each one keen on pashing one of the many Priscilla’s bumming around Parkes’ beer gardens in their fetching fifties housewife apparel.
Apparently, as legend insists, if enough part-time Presley’s swallow enough brain-draining liquids over the course of a festival evening, the real resurrected Elvis will descend and make a midnight appearance in the centre of the Parkes Hotel's karaoke stage- where it is claimed he bellows out the tune, Blue Moon of Kentucky (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AAOM-BRxcg&noredirect=1). During this eerie serenade, as tears escape the sensitive eye sockets of the audience, the King makes off with every soul left in the room, for sustenance, before heading back up to his swinging emerald chapel in the sky.
So as you can understand, upon hearing these indisputable facts, for us the surreal scene was set; kick-off 2012, this meteoric final year of the Mayan calendar, by driving out and debauching during an Elvis apocalypse. How could we go wrong?
A motley city mob of us jammed into the red wagon and jetted off toward this strange scenario- ploughing six hours from Sydney to find our fates under the flaming Elvis moon.
As we rolled into the Wild West setting of the empty outskirts streets, we were beginning to wonder; would it be all we hoped?
We needn’t have ever worried. A vicious Priscilla suddenly staggered out of a screen door following an apparent argument, and jumped into her battered old Ford- not before radiating our road-weary brows by striking a perfect princess pose- middle finger balanced pristinely aloft above the others, matched by the scowl on her fleshy jowls. We had made it.
Main Street then unfolded like a mesmerising hall-of-mirrors. Every nook and cranny was inhabited by a caped Elvis impersonator; some were back-slapping, sharing spotlights and singing, screaming Suspicious Minds, others shit-storming and howling hell into the hot afternoon.
An Aboriginal Elvis held down the front porch of the Commercial Hotel, wielding his guitar like Thor’s hammer, ready to rain destruction into the eardrums of passer-bys and pedestrians.
This crazy parade in the centre of Parkes had parched our throats; the dry wind had busted in through our shocked and gaping lips. As if in the throws of some wild delirium tremens, the necessity to get to the bar and refill as quickly as possible overtook all other urgencies.
As we stepped over the threshold of the nearest watering hole, we were hit by a sudden wall- like a schooner by a wave in a storm- of uncapped joy, peels of rankling laughter. The stark light of the afternoon disappeared into the eternal twilight of the Australian country tavern. The musty smell of soggy beermats rose up. We were home, home amongst Kings.
As the Priscilla poured our beverages from behind the bar, my staggered pallor suddenly reflected back at me- through the lenses of fifty pairs of golden glasses. Like the eyes of a fly. Elvis was everywhere, and he was watching everything.
The King’s trademark drawl was spat out in lashings of Aussie bush speak, smacked about by the troops of tradesmen who inhabited the neighbouring towns.
The mood was jaunty- fun as watching a coyote run free in a kindergarten- and we began to roll into the swing of these kooky kaisers.
Between billions of bourbons, caterwauling and cluelessness, somehow we had lost the daylight. Without any awareness of how it was humanly possible, we were now wedged in amongst an audience of inebriated Elvis’, staring at the stage.
Midnight karaoke at the Parkes Hotel.
A sudden surge of electricity pumped through the room, and for a second, the power flickered off. When the lights returned, Elvis was standing centre stage… still, silent, head bowed heavy. The same electrical thump passed through me as it had through the room, and I thought to myself, dazzled, “Was the fable true?? Blue Moon of Kentucky???”
Then, seemingly out of his underpants, the Elvis suddenly surfaced a cooked chicken. Unceremoniously, and without foreplay, he inserted his middle finger into its rear, and began pumping it with obvious zest- disembowelling it lewdly for all who were watching.
Sometimes, intermittently, he would remove his greasy digit and place it into his mouth, suckling on the succulent sauce of the chooks innards. The audience grew gaunt. And as Elvis finger-fucked that poor dead fowl, I realised; the king was truly in the building. He’d descended and changed us all, without doubt, for eternity.
He may not have played Blue Moon of Kentucky, and who cares (but with gladness) one iota.
But all the same, there was no chance in a lifetime of ever eating Kentucky Fried Chicken again.
So for all Elvis and alien watchers out there, don’t look further for interplanetary pop-stars sightings than out there on the sticky stage of the Parkes main drag during January… but be prepared to sprint at the first sign of a cooked chicken after sunset.