BELLAIRE -- Pompadour -- Thank you.
Lip curl, gold lame jacket -- Thank you very much.
For tribute artists, doing their best version of Elvis Presley is all about the details. For Jake Slater, a 17-year-old Elvis lookalike from Bellaire, it's just all about The King.
He heard the first strains of "Hound Dog" at age 6 or 7 over his grandmother's Internet radio. Ever since, Slater is singin' all the time. He brought his Elvis act to area restaurants, clubs and last month's Saginaw King Fest, where he beat experienced tribute artists (don't call them "impersonators") to win his division.
"It's never gotten old for me. There's always something new, and there's always something interesting to me. It's not so much the music that is my favorite part, but it's the person who he is," Slater said. "He did charitable things. He loved his mother... . If you can get past all of what people say about Elvis and see him for the person he actually was, you can respect somebody like that and actually wish there were more people like that now."
The Bellaire High School junior fixated on Presley at a young age. He collected so many CDs, movies and memorabilia that his room "looks like a museum," and he discreetly practiced being Elvis. Around age 10, he and his parents were listening to a record when the boy announced, "Hey, I betcha I can dance like Elvis and sing like Elvis."
"I definitely had studied. I had found that even when I was practicing, a lot of it came naturally," Slater said. "I had no idea that anybody had even ever made money off copying Elvis. I had heard of Elvis impersonators -- people who dressed like him and walked around Vegas. I didn't like that. To me, that was like a mockery of Elvis."
His parents were his first audience, the living/dining room, his first venue.
"We're a bit theatrical in our family, so it didn't surprise me," said mom Sherri Slater.
From there, Slater studied Elvis in earnest, memorizing lyrics. He began with the ballads because they were slow and didn't require music. He sang at family parties, and each time grew more confident. Last fall, he performed publicly at area spots and in January entered his first contest.
The inaugural Saginaw King Fest drew 19 tribute artists who performed in two eras, the "Early Years" and the "Vegas Years." Contest organizer Richard Rosenthal wasn't sure Slater was ready for that level of competition.
"I was thinking, 'Wow. I know what he's up against. I don't want this kid to get discouraged when he gets his butt kicked,'" Rosenthal said. "But, when he got up and sang I felt like an idiot because here I am worried about this kid... (and) he basically blew the audience away."
Slater won the "Early Years" division and performed with a live band against Vegas-era winner Kevin Bezaire of Ontario, who claimed the title "King of Saginaw." Rosenthal believes the teen has a future in the Elvis contest sub-culture, where judges critique vocals, appearance, performance and stage presence.
"Everyone said, 'Watch this kid' because if he wants to, he is going to go places in this industry," Rosenthal said.
Yes, "industry" is probably the right word. One estimate places the number of Elvis emulators around the world at 35,000. Official contests are licensed by Elvis Presley Enterprises. A jumpsuit can cost $2,000 to $3,000.
Slater plans to sign up for more competitions but said only a handful of tribute artists make a living at their craft. His concerts run two to three hours and include 30 or more songs. He has about nine costumes created by a local seamstress, and his family dons matching shirts for his shows.
"It's pretty overwhelming. It's breathtaking at times because I can't believe that the voice comes out of him, and sometimes you can't even tell if it's a record of Elvis," Sherri Slater said.
Her son's routines inspired the same histrionics Elvis famously provoked -- tears and a certain look from fans when he hits the high notes. Slater was shy at first about his enthusiasm for Elvis. He knew it was a funny fascination for a kid born years after the King's death.
"I had no idea that I would still be into Elvis at this age because even my family told me things and come go," Slater said.
But Elvis is forever.