CRANSTON - Amy Beth Parravano
curls her quivering upper lip to one side, then the other.
Back and forth she goes, baring her teeth or else flaunting
a doozy of a facial tic.
"Look," the 51-year-old Cranston
woman says. "I can do both sides."
Ed DeMayo notices. He's watching.
He sees Parravano across the table, through his enormous,
dark sunglasses. He's not preoccupied. He only appears that
way, pressing felt sideburns to his cheeks.
"I can't grow sideburns," he
confides. "I don't have that much of a beard."
That's okay. The glue's holding.
Meanwhile, Parravano's waiting.
So DeMayo nods approvingly, one professional to another.
"Thank you," Parravano says.
"Thank you very much."
Now DeMayo delivers the
shibboleth, raising the right side of his tremorous upper
lip before speaking.
"Thank you, thank you very much,"
the 50-year-old North Providence man says.
Knock it off you two. Get
serious. And suddenly, DeMayo does, sort of.
He sings, without warning, loudly
"You ain't nothing but a hound
dog . . . "
DeMayo, wearing a white jump suit
studded with precious plastic and wrapped with a gargantuan
glittering gold belt, steps off his stool for this.
Apparently he feels the need to stand, and swivel his hips.
"I should have brought my cape,"
This could be a long night.
" . . . you ain't never caught a
rabbit and you ain't no friend of mine."
We weren't looking for a show. We
just wanted a word with these people. Who, after all, could
appreciate Elvis Presley more than his impersonators?
Certainly they could help
commemorate tomorrow's 25th anniversary of his death, if
only they'd stop singing and snarling for a second.
"Elvis is in the building!"
That's Joe Baker of Providence
speaking. He loves that line.
Parravano and DeMayo turn and see
Baker walk by. He carries a telltale red jump suit, enters
another room and closes the door behind him.
"Elvis is in the bathroom,"
Oh no, keep the King off the
You remember the last time: Aug.
16, 1977. At age 42, Elvis fell from the throne and never
graced land again.
Wait. We've got Elvises to spare.
This place is flush with them.
We're at Baby Boomers, a
'50s-style bar in Cranston. Someone suggested we meet here,
as though these people needed a nostalgic nudge into the
"I think he's here," Parravano
The people at the table, even the
ones who look like Elvis, go silent. This is serious stuff.
The answer separates Elvis fans
from Elvis fanatics.
"Spiritually, he's still alive,"
Parravano says, backpedaling from boldness. "I'm living
So Parravano is a fan, not a
fanatic. But one wonders about DeMayo. The King, he says,
could be alive. He could have faked his funeral.
"It's possible," DeMayo says. "He
had enough money to fake it. He could do it."
Baker, 66, shuffles out of the
bathroom, looking, well, different. He wears the red jump
suit, zipped down to his stomach. And on his previously bald
head, he now has a heap of thick, dark hair, similar to what
you'd see along a roadside.
"Elvis is dead," Baker says.
"Believe me. If he wasn't dead, he'd say Golden Joe Baker,
knock it off; you're ruining my act.' "
Capturing the essence
There lies the essence of Elvis.
He has imitators, but no real impersonators, who admit as
much. That includes Parravano.
"I'm not Elvis," she says. "I'm
No, Elvis did not have a sister.
But he did have a song about one.
"Little sister don't cha kiss me
once or twice . . . "
Now Parravano is off her stool.
She's standing, singing and windmilling her arms, which
suddenly stop straight to one side and parallel to the
floor, as though she's sending a semaphore signal.
But look closely. Those are
forefingers, not flags, she's pointing.
"Thank you, thank you very much,"
No, thanks be to Elvis, the god
of rock 'n' roll, still revered, idolized and impersonated
decades after his alleged death.
Do you wonder why?
Well, he transformed music and
culture. He crossed racial divides when they were especially
deep. And he exuded sexuality in songs and movies when it
really wasn't widely welcomed.
King of comedy
"He's a legend," Baker says.
"They live long. He came around at the right time. People
needed a superstar, and he was a good- looking guy. He was
something special. He had charisma."
But Baker had ambition. A year
after Elvis came to fame, Baker followed, becoming one of
the world's first Elvis impersonators, riding the King's
career like a barnacle on a boat.
"I had groupies all over," Baker
For 45 years Baker has been
filling in for the Man from Memphis.
"I don't do it seriously," Baker
says. "I do it with comedy."
That would explain his act's
rousing finale, when he pulls that apparent possum off his
head and throws it into the hirsute-hungry crowd.
"The crowd goes wild," Baker
Baker performed 11 years in Las
Vegas. He appeared on Tonight Show with Jay Leno. And he
proudly served with the Flying Elvi.
That's plural for Elvis.
A bunch of parachute-wearing
impersonators would jump out of a plane and land at some
outdoor stage, at which time Baker, who was the king of the
Flying Elvi, would join them.
"They'd pantomime," Baker says.
"I'd do a song."
Baker's singing voice is good, he
says, but he's no Elvis. Neither is DeMayo. No one is.
There's only one Elvis.
"His was a gift from God," DeMayo
Elvis had range, reverb, vibrato
and everything else that God apparently wanted to hear in a
"I love him immensely, but don't
take it to the point of over idolizing," DeMayo says. "I
appreciate his contribution in life and I think he had a
Elvis certainly influenced
DeMayo, who when asked in an assignment in second grade what
he wanted to be when he grew up, wrote "I want to sing like
After years of taking voice
lessons and 20 years of impersonating Elvis, DeMayo comes
close. But still, Elvis remains elusive.
"I believe in my heart of hearts,
he was given a gift from God," DeMayo says.
In June, Donna Adamonis, an
entertainment producer, attempted to find Rhode Island's
best Elvis impersonator, but was thwarted by none other than
"They're too much of a
brotherhood," Adamonis says. "They didn't want to compete
against each other."
But they are willing to celebrate
with each other. So, Aug. 30, in the Castle Cinema, they'll
come together in a special commemoration show, Elvis and
You should know this though:
Parravano is not Elvis's friend. She says she's his psychic
outlet on earth.
"I'm like a faucet," Parravano
says. "It's like the Star Trek series. This energy comes
down and I'm Elvis."
Parravano's story starts in 1997.
She's in bed, sleeping. That's when it happens.
"Elvis channeled to me in a
dream," Parravano says.
If it happened just once,
Parravano could dismiss it: Elvis had the wrong channel. But
it happened several times, Parravano says, in a recurrent
It goes like this.
Parravano is in the audience at
the Grand Ole Opry. Elvis is on stage, singing. Then he
stops. He spots Parravano, who stands up and walks down the
aisle toward him. Now, they're just a few feet apart. Their
eyes meet, and Elvis speaks.
"Can I depend on you?" Elvis
says. "I want you to be my little sister."
Parravano says yes. Elvis hands
her his golden microphone with the wish that she carry on
the tradition, you know taking care of business.
"A lot of people would say she's
got to be out of her mind,' " Parravano says. "But other
people accept it."
That's it. We've heard enough. We
wish the impersonators well and thank them, which we soon
"No," they all say, lifting
twitching upper lips. "Thank you. Thank you very much."
* * *
* IN THE BUILDING: Ed DeMayo of
North Providence, left, and Amy Beth Parravano of Cranston
celebrate the memory of Elvis Presley by impersonating him
at Baby Boomers in Cranston last week.
JOURNAL PHOTOS / GLENN OSMUNDSON
* JOE BAKER of Providence (shown
at Baby Boomers last week), one of the world's first Elvis
impersonators, performed in Las Vegas for 11 years.
* THESE THREE KINGS: From left,
Ed DeMayo, Joe Baker and Amy Beth Parravano strike their
best Elvis poses for the camera last week in Cranston.
JOURNAL PHOTO / GLENN OSMUNDSON
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