Monday, November 19, 2007
The Elvis Fan Club Loyalist
For a small group of diehards in Malaysia the King is not dead - long live Elvis! I'm not sure how all this weirdness began. For the full story you'll have to talk to a guy named William Honda Tan* - founder and president of the Elvis Presley Fan Club of Malaysia, and self-appointed Keeper of the Loyal - I mean the Royal - Archives. His video library includes, of course, every single film Elvis ever starred in; and I'm told his collection of Elvis memorabilia is worthy of a permanent museum.
The Elvis Fan Club first announced its existence in the late 60s. In its heyday there were regular meetings and lectures accompanied by the screening of Elvis movies. Once a year there'd be an Elvis Presley Look-Alike Contest with semi-finals held in small town cinema halls. Indeed, Malaysia can boast of a few classic Elvis impersonators who rose from obscurity to lifelong fame of sorts. Rocky Teoh, for example, won the coveted title 'Elvis Presley of Ipoh' - his prize included a roadshow contract that took him to every one-street town in the country, and even as far as Sarawak and Sabah.**
Many of us still remember Eddie Francis - dubbed Malaysia's Elvis Presley - who held the title year after year, enjoying an undefeated reign.*** Another character called HT Long has dedicated to his life to keeping the Elvis impersonator flame burning.
And we mustn't forget the Elvis Presley of Section 17, Petaling Jaya - otherwise known as Ricky Chan. He used to lurk in the Bier Keller on certain Saturday nights when the moon was blue, resplendent in his custom-tailored silver-studded all-white Elvis-in-Las-Vegas outfit. Ricky always knew the right moment to grab the mike and treat the pub audience to his incomparable version of Jay's-how Lock and Wooden Hut. When the crowd screamed, 'No more, please, no more!' Ricky would instantly oblige with No More (an Elvis evergreen). Yup, Ricky was a true-life phenomenon all right. (Wonder if he can fit into his Elvis costume these days. Indeed, I don't even know if Ricky's still thrusting his pelvis around - or if he's happily partying with The King in the Real Graceland.)
Not much has been heard from the Elvis Fan Club of late. 'Internal politics lah, you know,' a member confided. The membership is split into antagonistic camps: they can't agree on what rules to abide by when they organise an Elvis Sound-Alike Contest. One committee member will suggest that the contestants must dress exactly the way Elvis dressed when he sang that particular number in the movie featuring the song in question; while another will insist that points should be awarded according to the fidelity of the performance, per se, and not for the costume. Oh dear, first it was the MCA, then UMNO, then the MIC, and now... no wonder the country's in such a stste.
MCA - Malaysian Chinese Association
UMNO - United Malay Nationalist Organisation
MIC - Malaysian Indian Congress
*I went looking for William Honda Tan in the late 1990s and was told he had left the building to join Elvis. Guess you'd have to talk to Honda Tan through a medium now.
**Sadly, Rocky Teoh was killed in a car crash in 1990, a year after the publication of Adoi!
His daughter Ann maintains a website in memory of her colourful father.
***Don't think I ever met Eddie Francis - but his pretty daughter Connie did some back-up vocals for me and his son Derek (now my Facebook buddy) was audio engineer when I recorded my first solo album in 1984.
NEWSFLASH! While doing a bit of research to update this essay I stumbled on an item in The Star (dated 29 July 2006) publicising the appearance - at the Ol Skool Bistro in PJ - of the Elvis Trio comprising Frankie Fong, Aziz Daud, and Alex Wong, who represent a new generation of Malaysian Elvis impersonators. Apparently, this was part of a month-long tribute to Elvis. Well, who says The King is dead?