Living like the King
It was a rainy Monday afternoon and I was patiently sipping stale coffee at the McDonald’s on Del Paso Boulevard, awaiting the arrival of Ron Leger, also known as “Old Elvis.” A stout man with gray sideburns and a biker jacket approached me. Though his get-up was far from a white fitted bodysuit and sunglasses, it was official: Elvis had entered the building. Fifty-five-year-old hound dog, Ron Leger, took a swig of his Coke and whole-heartedly sang a portion of “Love Me Tender.” Throw on a blindfold and you’d think Elvis himself was under the Golden Arches. Leger wasn’t born with this talent. It has taken him over nine years to perfect his Elvis routine. But he’s now mastered the art of imitating the King.
How did you get started in your Elvis career?
I’ve always been into voices. I started imitating Nixon and Kennedy, people like that. It was easy enough to do Elvis’ voice. Thank you, thank you very much [in a believable Elvis voice]. One day, I was standing in front of the mirror—I had a beard—and I started shaving in segments. I left a mustache, sideburns. I shaved the mustache off and stared at the sideburns. It was around Halloween and I thought I should be Elvis for Halloween. Every Halloween I was a vampire, and this year I thought, “What the heck?” I went to a Halloween party and I was a big hit. After the party, someone came up to me and asked how much I’d charge to do a birthday party. I had no idea, so I said 100 bucks off the top of my head. That was a lot of money back then and I thought there was no way they were going to do this. But the guy said, “Sure, when can you be there?” So after that, the gigs started coming. As I got more and more into it, I perfected myself. I went from one costume to about five, 10 songs to 40 or 50 songs. I got better and better in front of audiences. I still get butterflies every once in a while, but it’s a lot of fun. And there’s perks to this business.
What kind of perks?
Well, this one time I was doing a gig for $300 in Napa and I stopped at a McDonald’s and got talkin’ with the manager. The manager says, “I’m a big Elvis fan!” and I offered to take some pictures with him. He said, “Oh great!” and gave me a meal on the house. Just one of the fun things that go along with this job.
Are you an Elvis fan, yourself?
I’ve always admired the man. Anyone that can do what he did and is like he was. He was really someone to admire. A lot of people don’t really know just how great he is. There’s an old saying that the Hell’s Angels used to say: “When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets.” It’s the same thing with Elvis. A lot of people think drugs, stuff like that, but they don’t remember the good. He was a good man. He gave from the heart.
Say, I hear you have Elvis’ spirit in you? Is this true?
Well, I feel I am keeping his memory alive and this is one of the main reasons why I do what I do. It’s really something. He has such a persona, that if you believe in anything spiritual, he sticks with you. He stays with you. Like if you had an aunt that died that you were close to, you’d feel like she was with you even after she left. You can’t help but feel he’s there when you do something that is so close to what he did.
Are there other Elvises in the area?
Sure, and we’re friends. Sometimes we can be competitors. There’s another impersonator who’s young. I do the older Elvis and he does the younger Elvis. And I thought for a while he was going to get out of the business, but I guess he stayed in it. He’s one of the local radio stations’ “Elvis” and I was hoping to get it. Such is life.
Do the ladies dig ya?
Nothing long term. They get into it when I’m doing the party, but afterwards, they probably wouldn’t recognize me. I did this party for older women—in their 50s and 60s—and they brought panties and were throwing them at me. The wildest thing any woman has done was this one time, I was wearing a belt that snapped on. She reached out and pulled my belt off! I have some lines I use on the women. If they are with a man, I’ll walk up to her and say, “Is this your husband?” and she’ll say, “Yeah.” And I tell the husband, “I’ll warm her up and you can take her home!”
If you could ask Elvis one question, what would that be?
I’d probably be so tongue-tied, I wouldn’t know what to say. I guess I’d ask him: You had it all. Couldn’t there have been another way to go towards the end so it wouldn’t turn out the way it turned out?
Do you think he’s still alive?
Oh no! I think when Lisa Marie married Michael Jackson, he would have come back then. Speaking of weddings, is that a ring on your finger?
Yes it is.
Know this. I’ve done weddings. They’re a lot of fun. I say to the woman, “Do you take this man to be your teddy bear? Not to step on his blue suede shoes? Not to be cruel?” I have done a couple weddings like that.
Thanks, Elvis! I’ll keep that in mind!