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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Rise of the Chinese Elvis
Chinese Elvis impersonator Paul Hyu
Hyu was was born in London, but grew up in Yorkshire

Chinese Elvis impersonators across the globe are donning white jumpsuits and glossing their quiffs to pay tribute to the singing legend, who died on 16 August 1977.

In the Far East, Elvis is a karaoke bar obsession, while in the UK, Chinese Elvis impersonators are starting to make themselves heard.

Paul Hyu, 35, who has been directing theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe, also performs at weddings, imitating the latter-day Elvis.

And Paul Elvis Chan, 45, loves the King so much that when he opened his London restaurant, he christened it Gracelands Palace, changed his own name and started entertaining his diners with heavily-accented hits.

Here they explain why Chinese Elvises are the real deal.


Paul Hyu

A lot of people think it is easy to do Elvis but you pass somebody the microphone and they are terrible.

People think just because you have put on a white suit you sound like Elvis.

There is something about Chinese Elvises. I believe that Chinese people are not sexually threatening in the West.

I'm playing a character who is Chinese Elvis. I fancy myself and I think I can get off with all the women.

I basically have one choice of costume, a white padded jumpsuit. The fact that it is padded is potentially sacrilegious to a lot of die-hard Elvis fans.

Elvis in his white jumpsuit is on of the most recognisable icons even to people in Botswana and Venezuela.

Chinese Elvis impersonator
Chinese Elvis impersonators are proving popular
People do get Elvis fatigue, but you could definitely do a four-hour set without repeating yourself.

I had never heard of a Little Less Conversation before it was on the Nike advert - now it is the most requested song.

He has gone down in Far East culture less as a rock star, and more as an icon of the West presented to them in a stage of their development.

Also, Japan and Asia invented the whole karaoke thing, and Elvis's songs lend themselves to karaoke.

When I'm there the boyfriends beckon me over to sit on their girlfriend's laps and sing.

I did a party for Angelina Jolie and Jon Voight before the start of shooting on Tomb Raider

I'm gyrating in their faces. Sometimes the women take off their knickers and throw them at me as a joke.

There are no famous Chinese people in the UK. Chinese Elvis is the vehicle by which I plan to change that low profile of the Chinese. Everyone seems to love Chinese Elvis.

I was born in London, but grew up in Yorkshire. My dad is Chinese and my mum English, but I feel more English than Chinese and I can relate very well to an English audience.

Elderly Chinese people don't seem to be impressed

The act is entirely tailored for a British audience. I've done Chinese gigs with Chinese people and it was tough going.

I've also done Bob Geldof's birthday, which was attended by the Rolling Stones and Sting, and I did a party for Angelina Jolie and Jon Voight before the start of shooting on Tomb Raider.

That was one of my very first gigs.

I can sound like Elton John, Billy Joel and even George Michael. But there is not much call for a Chinese George Michael. I've heard somebody was looking for a Chinese Cliff Richard, but I couldn't do him.

Elvis impersonators have to move with the times. I can do all the moves and I bring the spirit of Elvis to young people getting married.


Paul Elvis Chan

I've been impersonating Elvis for 14 years, ever since I bought my restaurant in the Old Kent Road.

Since I was a boy in Hong Kong when I was going in to study in college and couldn't pass my A-levels, it was more interesting to listen to Elvis.

Elvis is fantastic, his music is fantastic. Lots of Japanese and Chinese love Elvis.

Everybody knows Elvis is the king of rock 'n' roll. He is like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. He is a good-looking guy, his manner, all his moves, and all his songs - this guy dies too early.

Some of the meals are named after Elvis songs

I never met him when he was alive, otherwise I would have told him: "You've got to look after your health."

My place is called Gracelands Palace Chinese restaurant and people of all ages come to dinner or parties.

My costume is a 1970s white jumpsuit, although I have various colours of jumpsuit like blue and red.

I do early Elvis like Hound Dog, Don't be Cruel, Teddy Bear and Jailhouse Rock. And I do later stuff like I Just Can't Help Believing and In the Ghetto. My favourite is The Wonder of You and maybe Suspicious Minds.

'Shake my leg'

Sometimes I am good enough for them to book me for weddings and birthday parties.

Some of the meals are named after Elvis songs. Like Heartbreak spare ribs, and sweet and sour pork is I Just Can't Help Believing.

People are interested and surprised - they have a Chinese meal, but not all of them are Elvis fans. They might come for fun. I will shake my leg and sing my Elvis songs.

Some of the other Chinese Elvises are my friends but I am the original Chinese Elvis since 1988. I brought the Elvis memory alive.

There were too many English Elvises and no Chinese Elvis.



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