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Elvis sightings abound at open casting call

CBS miniseries will focus on singer’s early career
/ Source: Reuters

It was the ultimate Elvis sighting.

Some 200 sneering, hip-swiveling Elvis Presley look-alikes in pompadours, leather jackets, jumpsuits and blue suede shoes lined up for an open casting call Wednesday outside CBS studios, hoping to play the king of rock ’n’ roll on TV.

Elvis impersonators from as far away as Buffalo, N.Y., Boise, Idaho, Toronto and even Scotland turned Sound Stage 46 into a virtual international house of Presley as they filed one by one before casting directors and producers to perform a few bars of “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Jailhouse Rock” or “Hound Dog.”

Most, including beefy, middle-aged candidates dressed as the Las Vegas-era Elvis, were politely thanked for their efforts and sent on their way. A lucky few  -- all of them practitioners of the younger, thinner Presley look -- were asked to stick around to read a few lines from a script.

One of them was Gino Monopoli, 29, a soft-spoken professional Elvis “tribute artist” from Toronto, who like most of the contenders, spoke of Presley in unbridled superlatives.

“Elvis was the epitome of cool. You could bring him out today, in 2004, and he’d still rock,” Monopoli said.

Monopoli acknowledged being caught a bit off-guard when he got a chance to read for the part. “The southern accent was a little tough. I had about 10 minutes to get it down.”

‘Essence of Elvis’Organizers said they were looking for someone who captures the “essence of Elvis” and bears a close resemblance for an upcoming CBS miniseries about his early career.

Director Jim Sadwith said he hoped to find a newcomer who possessed “the sexuality, the vulnerability and the danger of Elvis .... We’re not looking for just an impersonator.”

The program will trace Presley’s rise to fame from age 18 to his triumphant 1968 comeback at age 33. No air date has been set. Presley died in 1977 at age 42.

While all the candidates had to perform a Presley number for the tryout, the winner won’t actually sing in the miniseries. He’ll lip-sync to Presley recordings licensed especially for the program.

Lined up outside the studio was a colorful collection of Presley hopefuls who came in all shapes and sizes. Tall, lanky Steve Gagnon, 44, a real estate agent and Elvis moonlighter from Battle Creek, Michigan, said he got his start performing as Presley for a charity and made it a part-time career.

Dressed in black leather jacket and pants, he now tours with an entourage of 24 people, including band, backup singers and bodyguards. He left them all back in Michigan. “It’s going to be a little rough to pass for Elvis at 18,” he said.

Chris Monte, 28, of Bryson City, North Carolina, stood out in a white jump suite studded with sequins and the likeness of a peacock embroidered in blue and turquoise. Part owner of a family lumber company, he brought along a personal publicist.

Francesco Caputo, 44, from Long Island, was the very first in line at 1:30 a.m., more than eight hours before auditions began. But he made it clear he had other interests besides TV.

“This Elvis is available to hot chicks,” he joked.