It’s a hunka-hunka-burnin’ Birthday — What would Elvis look like at 70? Here are what several regional artists envision
Elvis at 70 - Bill DayIt took some serious rehab, but after pulling through his drug crisis Elvis cleaned up enough to mount a Schwarzenegger-like political campaign which he parleyed into a bid for the presidency.
That’s the scenario painted by one artist as he envisioned the look of Elvis Presley had he survived the ’70s and lived to celebrate his latest birthday - his 70th - on Saturday.
We asked seven artists, including a sketch artist for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, to “age” Elvis, portraying him as he might have looked as the 70-year-old king of rock and roll. Some portrayed him as a gracefully aging granddad who gave up the black hair dye. One envisioned Elvis escaping fame in a scenario fit for the “Twilight Zone.”
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation sketch artist Sandi Poltorak took her cue from “forensic imaging” techniques taught by the FBI. In layman’s terms, she says, “I just drooped him.”
It’s the effects of gravity as we age. “He still looks like Elvis, but he’s older. Significant lines form around the forehead and eyes. There are significant lines drawing the chin down. The tip of the nose comes down. All of that is the effect of gravity on muscles.”
Poltorak, a Nashvillian, says she approached the project “anatomically and analytically,” taking artistic license by choosing as her model a portrait of a young Elvis in which he was partly in shadow. Instead of a straightforward mug shot-type drawing which she might normally do for a wanted suspect, she used the shadow to slightly soften the effects of aging on Elvis. “So, although he looks older, he’s still the god that everyone in Memphis thinks he is.”
Actor-artist Chris Ellis of Sherman Oaks, Calif., was less reverent. A former Memphian, Ellis says his “favorite drawings of Elvis were when he was the beautiful young Elvis. I did several different versions of that, thinking of Elvis cleaning himself up and jogging. But when I tried to age that version of Elvis it kept coming out looking like Susan Hayward.”
Instead, Ellis decided Elvis could give up one vice - drugs - but keep another - fried bananas. He became an Elvis of Burl Ives proportions, like his “Big Daddy” character, and with thinning hair. “I wanted to draw age spots on his forehead, so I had to lose the hair,” says Ellis.
Artist-entertainer Lamar Sorrento envisioned Elvis growing into the look of his father, Vernon Presley. Sorrento says Elvis’s presence in art always made a difference. “I once painted Scotty, Bill and D. J. (Elvis’s musical sidemen) and couldn’t sell it. I took it back and added Elvis, and it sold right away.”
At the University of Memphis, artist and art department chairman Jed Jackson “didn’t want to go the fat route” with the aging Elvis. “I thought Elvis would probably have gotten a personal trainer and would have figured it out one way or another.” He did give Elvis a comb-over, justifying it on grounds that hair “was so important in his career.”
Jackson put Elvis in an Izod shirt, imagining him as retired and “spending time on the golf course. I thought Elvis could either go the Michael Jackson route and get a lot of plastic surgery and dye his hair black, or he could go the Johnny Carson route.”
For The Commercial Appeal’s editorial cartoonist Bill Day, a cleaned-up Elvis meant a far more ambitious future. Day imagined Elvis’s former karate teacher, Kang Rhee, “got him back into a life of discipline after he entered drug rehabilitation.”
Seeing a plastic surgeon only “when necessary,” Elvis regained his old form. He resumed his rock and pop career, surpassing Bill Gates and others to become the richest man on the planet. As always, he remained a major philanthropist with his concern for others helping him decide to run for governor. Then with a single check he resolved the TennCare and Tennessee budget crisis.
Day’s Elvis was unstoppable: “He was finally convinced that his country needed him so he announced his bid for the presidency. … The headline waiting to be written? The King is President.”
Richard Robbins, artist and designer for The Commercial Appeal, imagined a more sedate Elvis, aging with a full head of white hair and tired eyes that had witnessed a revolution wrought by rock and roll. Had Elvis actually survived, Robbins says he likely would have gotten back in shape. “Hopefully, he would have eliminated his demons and been able to resume something more normal.”
Artist Shane McDermott, a student at Memphis College of Art, also envisioned Elvis seeking a “normal life.” McDermott, 27, was born in 1977, the year Elvis died. Instead of growing up with Elvis as an icon, McDermott says he thought of Elvis “as a regular guy from the get go.”
In that vein, he saw Elvis escaping the trappings of fame and seeking the solace of anonymity. “He still maybe has lunch with Priscilla on occasion, but he’s just sort of a regular Elvis that’s happy with being a regular guy.” Each time he pictured Elvis escaping, he saw him in a blue vest. Instead of leaving the building, Elvis is inviting others into a building with the phrase, “Welcome to Wal-Mart.”
What better way to escape? asks McDermott. No one would believe their rock idol would become a Wal-Mart greeter. Customers assume you are “just a guy who looks like Elvis.”
No Comments Yet
You can be the first to comment!