By Susan Hamilton
My sweet hubby came home the other night with two great tickets for great balcony seats to see Elvis LIVES® at the Majestic in Dallas. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the experience. I was a young girl in the 70s, and remembered more about his drug overdose and over-the-top performances than anything else.
Check out what I came away with.
For any of you not familiar with the Elvis LIVES®Tour, it’s basically a walk through his public life using song, movie and news reels, and three different men to play the various ages and stages of his life as a performer. Back up singers, rockin’ musicians, and lights – all bringing historical entertainment to life to engage the crowd. And that they did.
Before it was over, I was actually in tears. I had been on a journey that caused me to reflect on my life as it was, as it must have been for him, and from almost the opening scene, I began to pay attention to what his journey looked like from a comparison standpoint. No arrogance intended here; I just realized that I was a fool if I missed some of these huge life lessons.
The screen on the back of an empty stage wore a grainy black and white film reel sharing different photos of Elvis performing. You could hear his voice as a young man, and he was speaking about the first time he went out on stage. He shook so much from nervousness that he didn’t think he did very well, but he couldn’t stop. When he left the stage, the crowd began to scream, and they hadn’t made a peep at any of the other performers. Someone insisted he got back on stage and continue, and you could tell the whole experience he was relating was amusing to him.
Soon he was being invited to perform on television and other venues, and he was told not to shake so much. They would only show him from the waist up! He laughed that no one had ever moved on screen before. It made me smile. They wanted him to conform to what they were used to. He simply chose to be himself. That spoke volumes to me.
Color Outside The Lines – Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Yes, that’s a scripture reference, and most theologians would say that means ‘behave better’. In fact, it means to BELIEVE better. In business, don’t dim your particular light. Don’t be afraid that others won’t like it – they probably won’t – and persevere when they tell you to change your message to conform to the norms.
It’s okay to let yourself explore your talent, and the freedom in it, and your gift. It may be awkward; they will tell you you’re doing something wrong. Elvis had a gift for entertaining, and YOU have a gift, too. That may very well make the authorities uncomfortable. So. What. Your uniqueness is your paycheck. Dean Z, 2013 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Winner, truly brought out his style and wit.
Give Yourself Permission to Laugh While You Learn – Elvis went on to say he was cast in the film Girls, Girls, Girls, and he laughed as he said it wasn’t a film, it was just ‘girls, girls, girls.’ He was only 19 or 20, young and enjoying the experience. He recognized, however, that it didn’t showcase his talent whatsoever, and he knew it was silly. But he did it anyway, and looking back, laughed.
That struck me. There will be a handful of times in your early stages of any endeavor you feel passionate about when you end up walking right into something you know is kind of silly. You may talk yourself out of it, but he didn’t. Movies were part of the journey he was on, so he said “Yes.” He could have said, “Na, man, that looks kind of dumb,” but he chose to go forward. They weren’t all great moments, but they were all experience. Allow yourself experiences as experience begins to make YOU.
You Don’t Get Your Moments Back – Another clip that struck me was the black and white footage of Apollo taking off, and Elvis’ voice describing that time. From somewhere deep inside my memory, I remembered it. I was too young to understand what it meant for that era. I considered how quickly time passes, and how quickly experiences fade into the backdrop of our lives. Fact is, we’ve lived through some stuff. Every once and awhile, it might be a good practice to look directly into a past memory of a bygone era. It woke something up in me.
Shake It! I think I’m a lot like Ann Margret. Man, when she got on stage to shake it up with Elvis, I felt just like her! WHOO! She was nuts, I liked her. I thought about all the Christmas parties I’ve danced like that with my sweet Randy, only to wake up the next morning and feel like an idiot for letting loose. Watching her let it GO like that removed any lingering shame I may have held onto. It was refreshing. She was chewing gum on stage. Totally wrong. Chewing gum helped me quit cigarettes. Then I was addicted to gum for 10 years! I only stopped when I started speaking for business, realizing it was the wrong look for me. But she just let herself enjoy being a woman, shaking it up, chewing gum, and strutting around. She reminded me to strut. Jay Dupuis was the 2014 Winner of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, and did a fabulous job of engaging the audience during the second stage of his career.
Don’t Forget To Kiss People On Your Way – Each Elvis would play a tune that attracted women to line up for some personal attention. He would hold their hands, kiss them on the cheek, maybe even say a few words or give them his scarf. They adored him. These women had grown up with the real Elvis. They had swooned and dreamed and cheered him on his whole life, and at this moment, they got to experience attention they had only imagined. Some were young, but most were older. Elvis valued their adoration, and even though these were only impersonators, they made those women feel appreciated right back.
Kiss people on the way. Some people will appreciate you from a distance. Go out of your way to look for them, and stop and kiss them. You may impact them for a very, very long time. Just stop for a few moments and appreciate them.
Get Back Up – The last Elvis was really how I remembered him, to tell the truth about it. I remember documentaries that shared footage of his drugged out state and sloppy stage presence. But this performance didn’t portray him like that, and I realized that he had actually made quite a comeback. He had gone dark through addictions, but he got back up and got back out, and with his whole person, stood for God and country. He was an intense patriot, and he never stopped loving God and singing Glory, Glory Hallelujah.
His powerful renditions of Burning Love, In The Ghetto, Kentucky Rain – WOW. Bill Cherry, 2009 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Winner, brought passion and emotion to those songs we all remember so well. As he turned his back to the audience, got down on his knees, and opened his cape to reveal the bedazzled eagle as he raised his arms in the air – I was tearing up. My daughter has been USMC (United States Marine Corp) for 10 years, and she’s been overseas for almost a year. I loved him for loving our troops and honoring his country. I loved him for letting that be his defining moment, not his drug-induced failures. I loved the comeback, saluting veterans and first responders and their families. STAND for those things, America.
The last lesson I pondered as I watched all three versions of Elvis singing side by side, powerful, triumphant. They were simply beautiful, and brought the theater audience to their feet.
I considered the deep effects of drug addiction. I considered his daughter raised without him. How much could he have done had drugs not interrupted and defined his life for so long? It was sad, to be sure. It was also a little like Samson. He was gifted and skilled, and even though he let his reckless abandon overcome him and subject him to great loss, he was able to rise again before his ultimate destruction. God never left either of them, in fact, God used them until the very end and continues to use them today. Never give up on people.
Business owners are supposed to ignore the addictions in their families while they go about their day-to-day operations, but today, most American small business owners are family owned businesses of 9 employees or less. Over thirty percent of us are experiencing addictions in our families or work space – and everything that means.
We hire our addicts and give them second, third and more chances. Of course we do. They probably have families, too. We want to encourage them to succeed. Maybe like Elvis, I’m not supposed to talk about those two things together. Maybe I’m just supposed to talk business if it fits the acceptable mold others are used to, because the truth might be a little too revealing.
Fact of the matter is, probation, parole, and substance abuse are very real to us, and we know that the criminal justice system as we know it is not helping the situation. It’s costing business owners grievous amounts of time trying to comply with probation and parole requirements in order to employ from this community. Not enough business owners are willing to take the risk, because ultimately, there will be a sacrifice of work hours to accommodate them. There is a real risk that we could be stolen from or worse. But none of us want to throw people away. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it can be a very long journey, and in the meantime, if we don’t stand for reduced legislation, we’re spending time that’s costing us revenue and profit. That makes us a discarded legislative interest, because we have a bureaucracy that responds to money.
Everything we do at OffBeat Business Media is about helping you make MORE money and exposing you to ways to build strong brand influence. Whatever your cause, becoming profitable is the first step to addressing it.
I’d like to hear your comments, and invite you to reach out to me personally at Susan@OffBeatBusiness.com with your thoughts on how to approach this subject successfully.
In my opinion, we need greater access to programs that improve the skills of an ex-offender and get them ready for employment. We need marijuana leniency, but also reasonable outpatient programs that can be attended after work hours in nearby walking distance locations. Heroin, methamphetamine, alternative marijuanas, bath salts – these must be eradicated, but HOW?
Any of you who understand this space, please send your emails with the subject line ‘response to Elvis LIVES’ so I can filter them into a folder and study them. Thank you in advance for your participation.