Fake Sonny has that deer in the headlights look. The right side of his mustache is slowly slipping down to rest on his bottom lip, looking like a venomous breed of wooly caterpillar. It doesn’t take long for audience members to notice. They erupt in gut-breaking cackles at poor fake Sonny’s expense. This mockery is not undeserved, being that he did break rule number one of fake mustache wearing-make sure fake mustache is properly affixed.
This is fake Sonny’s worst nightmare. But his recovery is quick. Ever the intrepid impersonator, he changes lyric "the beat goes on" to "the moustache stays on" and bravely attempts to play off the snafu. Only seconds later, in a moment of failure, fake Sonny slips his mustache into the palm closed around fake Cher’s spindly fingers.
"I thought that was real, Sonny," fake Cher says, noting her partner’s suddenly naked upper lip region.
"I wish," fake Sonny chides.
"The things you don’t know about your own husband."
Tonight Bryant Lake Bowl is celebrating everyone’s inner cheese ball with a night of double takes, cringes and unbridled guffaws as members of local impersonation troupe, Party Crashers, take the stage.
The music begins with a solo routine highlighting Cher’s 80s hits. Decked out in a $5 wig, fake Cher rips off her miniscule black dress after the first song to reveal lingerie as scandalous as a 2 a.m. drag queen at Gay 90s. She looks much more pleasant after a costume change into the long white dress reminiscent of Cher’s earlier fashions. Following a rousing and authentic rendition of "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves," Sonny again joins the stage with freshly spirit-gummed facial hair for "I Got You Babe." Amid fanfare, he quietly slinks behind the curtain, perhaps to retire the fuzz forever.
The star of tonight’s show, though, is Terry Schulz, the Elvis Presley of the Twin Cities. Schulz is appropriately large for the latter day Elvis look. And his disco ball shaking pipes could rival the King’s own, were he still around for a croon-off. Schulz doesn’t need a microphone –he needs a muffler for fear of shorting out audience members’ hearing aids.
With his rabid leg pumping, snarled lip and sweeping arm movements, Schulz accurately conjures his idol. Those in need of glasses could easily reminisce about being in a sold-out stadium with the real deal, instead of Bryant Lake Bowl’s small, sit-down theater, while looking upon Schulz’ bell bottom, black jumpsuit bedazzled with red and gold rhinestones. His fingers are weighed down by enormous gold rings and a massive cross is entangled in Schulz’ snarled black forest of Elvisian chest hair.
Schulz, like the majority of Elvis impersonators, chooses to recreate the last shining moments of Elvis’ career. Strangely, impersonators choose to celebrate the era when Elvis was past his prime. Even though The Beatles never had an opportunity to pass their prime, their impersonators favor the early years, wearing mop-top wigs and Cuban heeled boots, even when they sing numbers from The White Album. The reason Schulz and his peers dress up in chintzy gear is because, by this time in Elvis’ career, he was, in a way, an impersonation of himself. Missing were the shaking hips, tight pants and sex appeal after the Army and the army of barbiturates that warped his persona. It was like looking at the revolutionary icon in a discotheque’s fun house mirror. Impersonating this era feels like kicking a man when he’s down. When Elvis emerges from his cryogenically frozen hideaway one day, will he laugh at these bastardizations or hang his head?
In the height of his act, Schulz doesn’t seem to concern himself with these philosophical quandaries. He simply has fun. The crowd is eating it up.
"This goes out to the girls right here," Schulz says, pointing a kingly finger at three elderly women before launching into "Love Me Tender." Crowd interaction is the focus of Schulz’ routine. Throughout the night, he tosses red scarves into the audience and bends down to hang leis around ladies’ necks, dripping sweat onto their unsuspecting forearms as he does so.
During "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear," he throws small, stuffed bears into the audience. A few songs later, a woman in the front row hands her bear to Schulz, making dabbing motions at her face. Shulz fills her request, wiping his drenched brow with the bear’s fur. The woman clutches it for the rest of the set, imagining it is a gift from the real thing.