Now the truth can be told: He really didn't croak. Elvis, it happens, lives right here in the Bay Area, residing in a modified pickup truck in a parking lot in San Leandro. The environs may not be as palatial as Graceland, but he has everything he needs: Home Run pudding pies, Japanese porno mags, and endless bottles of Jack Daniel's. (Besides, if he had a TV, he'd just shoot the damn thing anyway.) Elvis appears to be quite happy lounging shirtless in the messy confines of his cabin, caressing his rounded belly and getting high. During our interview, a female friend, Carrie, sits nearby, clad only in underwear and an undershirt; occasionally she licks his nipples or offers him sardines on a cracker, then returns to flipping through S/M books.
Of course, this is not just any ordinary Elvis; this is eXtreme Elvis, the wildest, most unruly, most disturbing Elvis of them all. In the past year, EE has shit onstage, pissed on audience members, shoved items up his ass, incited sound techs to riot, and broken children's toys. But there's a method to his madness. Behind the scare tactics and the unnerving confrontation lies the heart of a performance artist, a man inspired as much by Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty as by Elvis Aron Presley's gut-jiggling swagger.
"I want to establish some sort of connection with people -- the major part of the aesthetic is intimacy," eXtreme Elvis says. "And intimacy is uncomfortable and threatening and real."
The idea for eXtreme Elvis had been fermenting for a long time before it burst forth last year. Growing up in San Mateo, the future Mr. E (he declines to give his real name) tried out Elvis impersonations, performed at children's parties as Corny the Magical Clown, and hung out at the Gilman Street punk club in Berkeley. Then, while he was working for a political action group about five years ago, EE paid a visit to Congressman Bill Baker, who'd just voted to cut Head Start. EE dressed as the King, marched into the office, and declared, "Don't be cruel to your constituents."
But it wasn't until Burning Man last year that the character of eXtreme Elvis took shape. After buying a late-period Elvis white jumpsuit and wandering around Reno coked and liquored up, EE landed at the week-long Nevada freak fest. "Three or four days went by with me wearing this costume in the desert, and somebody noticed that I had some Hershey stains on the back of the pants and said, "Hey, that's pretty gross,'" EE remembers during an interview in his truck/home. "And I thought, "That's something, that's an angle.' When I think about it now, I think, "Why didn't anybody do this before? Why didn't anybody take Elvis from the day he died to now?'"
Motivated by "some serious CIA-grade marijuana," a bout of celibacy ("This is key, man; if you're going to be a creative person you need to suppress that stuff"), and the ideals of Andy Kaufman and tribal rock act Crash Worship, Elvis began wearing his outfit around town. "When I was in costume and I was walking through the sketchiest neighborhood, people wouldn't fuck with me. In fact, they'd treat me with respect."
EE gathered together some friends from other bands, intent on doing a show based on the idea of an id-embracing Elvis. "I thought I would do this in small towns and Reno. I would brandish a firearm and pop pills and shit my pants." But in late November 2000, the booker at the Bottom of the Hill had a last minute cancellation and gave eXtreme Elvis the slot. It would be the last time Elvis was allowed in the building.
The hefty, 28-year-old crooner began the evening by hiring the services of a Capp Street prostitute and bringing her to the club. "Everybody was freaked out -- here's this heroin-addicted crack whore, and we're doing amyl nitrate. I paid her right there in front of everyone. People joke about Capp Street whores, but they never deal with the humanity of them. Say what you will about the Bottom of the Hill but it's mostly middle-class kids watching middle-class college rock. Here's this woman that's literally living on the streets selling snatch to pump some more gunk in her veins."
Having set the tone for the evening, EE headed for the stage. "I didn't know any of the words, but it didn't matter because by the second song I was totally naked and attacking audience members. I'd never planned to get naked; I'd never planned to attack people. All the interactive parts I hadn't planned on. But we were still on the tail end of this dot-com thing, and I really thought people needed to feel unsafe because they had created this "anything is for sale' attitude in the city."
After warbling several Elvis classics, EE proceeded to take a dump onstage during "Blue Suede Shoes" and throw it at the crowd, sending them screaming in every direction.
Assistant Booker Anthony Bonet was bartending that night. "I'm more receptive to confrontation than most people," he says. "It took some doing, but he pushed me to the other side of the fence. There was this blond girl that came running by, and I imagined her with shit in her hair, coming up to the bar and saying, "I'm closing you down.'"
Instead, the club closed eXtreme Elvis down, insisting that the band clean up its mess. After escorting EE out, the doorman returned, inciting wild cheers with the required, "Elvis has left the building."