Sounds of Elvis


The Review - University of Delaware's Independent Student Newspaper

Elvis Speaks Out

By Lana Schwartz

Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Updated: Thursday, September 2, 2010 00:09

Most people are familiar with the phrase “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If this is the case, Elvis Presley must be smiling in his grave. Thousands of Elvis devotees worship their idol as they sing through a raised upper lip and studded costumes.

Among the thousands of impersonators is Ruben Castillo, 37, of Brick, N.J., who recently came in second place at the Elvis Impersonator Contest and Festival at the Dover Downs Casino on Aug. 6 and 7.

Although Castillo hadn’t competed in a contest in approximately two years, he was still able to take home a prize of $1,000.   

“I couldn’t believe it because I was going against world champion Elvises, people who place in contests all the time,” Castillo says.

Every time he performs as Elvis, Castillo tries to give the audience a similar experience to the one they would have seeing the King himself onstage.  

“I want to make sure my voice is on key, I want to make sure my look is appropriate and I want to make sure that I am engaging each and every person,” he says. “I want to make sure that I touch them in some way.”

Castillo says he believes people who have seen the real Elvis in concert felt like was singing to them personally, and that is his goal every time he tries to fill Elvis’s notorious blue suede shoes.  

“I hope I do that each and every time I sing,” Castillo says.

Despite the success, he says he is still perfecting his act. Castillo’s background and training is in musical theater, and he acts in plays when he can. His biggest challenge was attempting to make his loud, booming voice sound like Elvis’s, which took years to perfect.

In order to look like the king, Castillo has to alter his appearance, wearing blue contact lenses, putting lifts in his shoes to make him appear taller and wearing makeup to perfect the look.  

Then there’s the quintessential Elvis-impersonator costume: the white jumpsuit. Castillo says there are costume stores that actually specialize in Elvis jumpsuits. He says the average costume can range from anywhere from $1,000, to $84,000. Castillo says his garments are relatively cheap, and notes that people are always going to notice a performer’s physicality. However, when it comes down to it, Elvis’ legend is more important than glitter.

 “For the true Elvis fans, it’ll always be about the music,” he says.

This, of course, includes Castillo himself, who has been and Elvis fan since he was only 5 years old.  Only seven or eight years later, he knew he wanted to be an Elvis impersonator. Luckily, Castillo had the voice and the hair to make it possible. Aside from Elvis, he is able to impersonate both Sean Connery and President Barack Obama.

Castillo also works as a dog trainer, but he says entertaining is his true passion.  Besides entering Elvis contests, he performs at birthday parties and is hoping to get into restaurants. Castillo is planning a show with a few other Elvis impersonators and is looking into performing in the New York and New Jersey areas.

There’s a sense of camaraderie between Elvis impersonators, he says. Like with anything, there can only be one winner, but Castillo merely thinks of the contests as a place for all of them to showcase their skills.  

 “There are certainly people out there who only go to contests to gain notoriety or fans,” he says. However, Castillo says he is not one of them. He feels grateful just to have the opportunity to share his gift with others.  

“When all is said and done, we may have been going there on our last dime, but we still got to perform,” Castillo says.  “Some people never get to perform in their lives…[to] showcase their gifts and talents.”

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