MAYSLACKS' THIRD ANNUAL Elvis impersonator contest felt more like a reunion than a talent search on January 27. Organized by former Strawdog John Eric Theide, King Me featured such return performers as Ginger (a.k.a. "Elvis Herselvis") and the (apparently) equally well-known Marvin, who garnered cheers for his Method interpretation of a late-stage, post-Vegas Presley. The unlikeliest King by far--a blue-suited, nonpompadoured, wife-toting Elvis--was also familiar to patrons. His rendition of "Unchained Melody" (which appeared on Presley's lackluster Moody Blue a month before his death) met with sundry boos. "That's what he did last year," said a voice from the back of the room.
Alas, Mr. Navy Blue Elvis was treated no better offstage, though he did have the exit line of the night. After a heated scrap with some seated patrons who claimed he was blocking their view, he and his wife decided to leave, but were having difficulty pushing through the SRO crowd when something caught his eye. "Is that my son?" he called out, with apparent earnestness. He looked back at his wife and tried again to push through. "Is that my son? When did he get out of prison?"
Then he wheeled around in disgust: "Well, he's not going to Europe with us." With that, the crowd suddenly parted and closed behind him.
Bowl Out Your Dead
WHEN MIKE TUTTLE began playing selections from his library of live Grateful Dead shows once a week at Elsie's, the bowling alley he runs (729 Marshall St. NE), his brother (and co-owner) Tim and his father Bob (who owns the Stardust Lanes) told him he was nuts. Almost three years later, the alley requires early reservations for Grateful Bowl, when the plinks and plunks of Jerry and Phil waft across the Nordeast landmark's 16 lanes.
At 10:00 every Thursday night, when league bowling ends and those familiar anthems of the sun begin, the lights go out, and the black lights come on--as they do every night. A striking, newly painted impression of the downtown skyline glows along lane 16, while fluorescent green, pink, and orange balls roll through the darkness into headpins and gutters. But Grateful Bowl transcends the now-common family-style "cosmic" (i.e., black-lit) bowling experience in many ways--not the least of which is that there are no families on Thursdays. There's almost a nightclub feel to the place. Bankers, burnouts, coeds, dropouts, company happy-hour holdovers, and veteran leaguers all hash it out, side by side, into the wee hours, as "Truckin'" oozes out of a state-of-the-art sound system.
Tuttle has been a serious collector of show tapes for a long time, and he plays all the music from DAT tapes; sometimes he even plays videos of Dead shows on the scoring screens. Yet amid the twirling tie-dyes, loosened neckties, and touches of gray, Elsie's never loses its essential Nordeast beer-hole character. Good, reasonably priced food is cheerfully served by American beauties Bonnie and Cathy, while pro-shop worker Danny can give you a few quick footing tips in the dark. And Mike, sitting behind his desk, is ready to hold forth on any Berkeley shows from 1976 onward--at any moment.
"Most Dead heads I know like a little activity," says Tuttle. "And Thursday is the night I was here. It seemed like a no-brainer to me."
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