The Sincerest Form of Flattery

In the spring of 1992, Scott MacDonald had an encounter that would drastically change the trajectory of his life: he caught the last half-hour of a rebroadcast of Elvis Presley’s 1973 special, Aloha From Hawaii, and in doing so, met The King for the very first time.

“The moment for me is when he’s singing ‘American Trilogy’,” MacDonald explains. “It is an incredible song; it starts out with ‘Dixie,’ and then it goes to ‘All My Trials’ and then to ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’… it’s a huge, huge song. ‘Oh I wish I was, in the land of cotton…’ I sat in my chair and I felt this tingling, going up and down my spine.”

MacDonald quickly became obsessed with the special, confiding that he’s since “watched it 500 times.” But more importantly, MacDonald started to sing along.

“I’d find myself in front of the TV with a tube of toothpaste, singing … this was a long time before I’d heard of karaoke. Essentially, I was a closet Elvis impersonator.”

MacDonald soon quit his day job as a salesman to fully pursue his newfound passion; his leap of faith paid off. MacDonald has now been performing as a professional Elvis for over two decades. He’s won competitions and played for crowds as big as 3,000 people.

The secret to his success is deceptively simple.

“You gotta come out and you gotta be Elvis; that’s what you gotta do. I don’t know how I get into that zone, but I can turn it on like flicking a switch. Basically, when my foot hits that stage, that’s it I’m there… he’s there, too, you know? It’s weird. Well, it’s not terribly weird, I’m not channeling him or anything . . . but he’s there.”

One can’t help but be surprised by how, for lack of a better word — normal — MacDonald is offstage. He never once slipped into character as we spoke, his house is tastefully decorated and contains not a single shrine to Presley.

Unlike some of his colleagues, MacDonald manages to leave The King onstage.

“I’ve been to all the festivals. I’ve met those guys. You say hello and they say ‘Thank you, thank you very much.’ And I’m like, well, I said ‘hello, but you’re welcome.’ They sit around eating spaghetti in their jumpsuits . . . I’m pretty sure Elvis didn’t do that. You know, just wear whatever you wear and be whoever you are, and when it’s time to be Elvis, be Elvis. That’s how I do it. But most of them don’t. Most of them are a bit freaky.”

On Saturday night, Victorians will have a chance to witness a transformation, most remarkable. For two hours or so, MacDonald will cease to be; The King will step into his well-worn, blue suede shoes. MacDonald makes it easy for us to suspend our disbelief and give us the opportunity to meet the King again for the very first time.

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