Wedding Horror Story: Elvis Has Left The Building. We Wish.

November 23, 2016 by Tony Barthel

“This story previously appeared in Shawn McMaster’s Winter 2003 issue of his electronic magic publication The Mandala.” It was submitted by Marc Bacharach, The Kinder Gentler Hypnotist, who amended it with an addition.

Shawn wrote…On a totally unrelated subject, I think I should also share with you my increased level of hatred for Elvis impersonators. In September, I was performing at a huge Mardi Gras-themed event. The people who booked me really went all out. No expense was spared, and it showed. A variety of entertainers, including the singing group The Tokens (of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” fame) performed at this function. Anyway, I was scheduled to go on after The Tokens. I was informed during their performance, however, that an Elvis impersonator who was scheduled for later in the show had another engagement that he had to get to, and I was being bumped to allow him to go on before me. I was told that he would be on for about 10-15 minutes.

He did 45.

Now maybe it’s just me, but I have never understood the reason for Elvis impersonators. Before I start, let me go on record here by saying that I am a fan of Elvis and his work. And maybe shortly after his death, Elvis impersonators may have had their place. If for no other reason than to be thought of as giving homage to “the greatest entertainer to ever touch the stage” (a tag-line, in itself, that smacks of Houdini-like boastfulness). But after almost 27 years since the man’s death, it seems to me that it can no longer be considered “homage”, but, instead, just plain “sad”. There is no longer any purpose for these entertainers.

It’s not like they are offering anything original. They are singing Elvis’ songs. They have to. And Elvis Presley only recorded and performed so many songs. Do we have to constantly subject ourselves to listening to someone who’s not Elvis sing “Hound Dog”, swivel his hips, and talk in between numbers in a voice that sounds only marginally like Elvis at best?! And being an Elvis impersonator does not allow for creativity or original invention. They have to sing like Elvis. If they don’t, then they aren’t impersonating Elvis.

It was a nightmare, and he started to lose the crowd. This man went on and on and on. So much so, that I had to fight the urge to shove barbiturates down his throat and sit him on the toilet in the men’s room just so that I could finally go on.

Okay, that’s a cynical exaggeration (hold onto your hate mail), but the crowd despised him, as did the other performers.

Marc added…Now I will add, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”

The huge Mardi Gras-themed event Shawn just described was a wedding reception.

The bride had a well documented stage fright measured at truly phobic levels of intensity. So much so that the actual wedding had been held in another city with only six people in attendance a month before.

I had been hired as a stage hypnotist to include her in my performance and hypnotize her to unleash the world-class quality singing voice no one had heard for over 10 years because of this psychological condition. At that time her new husband, a Nashville country music star, would join her for a duet that would bring the house down and leave tears in everyone’s eyes. Shawn’s stand-up comedy/magic performance was slated to be my warm-up act, and would end with the bride being “flown” around the room, carried in Shawn’s arms after he “stripped” down from his suit to the blue leotard hidden underneath — the hysterical climax to a very funny routine.

Imagine, then,  the bride’s “delight” when “Elvis” brought her into the center of the room alone, put a microphone in her hand, and left her there for five minutes to fend for herself.

Why, you ask? Because a few moments before he had realized in his megalomaniacal stupor that his next costume change was still outside in his car and he needed to retrieve it right then!

It was all the poor woman could do not to faint dead away as she trembled and suffered through waves of acute panic and embarrassment. Luckily, her husband, a rather glib and charismatic fellow, carried on while no music played and the crowd became as unfocused as Elvis.

True to the “runaway train” nature of this wedding, still another character in the massive cast of entertainers, a large, overweight, oddly dressed female minister decided that she, too, would need to perform out of order and go on before our Magic and Hypnotism segment. Of course, “Mom” agreed to her demand, too. As this bizarre chanteuse warbled through some less-than professional sounding original material accompanied by her out-of-tune guitar, another half-hour of “how much can this audience possibly tolerate?” passed by interminably, with Magician Shawn, the band, and I off in the corner agreeing that this was the most poorly planned and executed wedding reception any of us had ever been part of.

As each excruciating moment ticked of with no end in sight, we entertained ourselves with whispered wisecracks, and shared fantasies of demanding “combat pay” afterwards.

Yes, you guessed right: “Mom” thought she could do all this herself: pull off a complex, entertainment-heavy 300 person reception without a wedding planner or coordinator. Four hours before, I had known pretty much where we were headed when I walked past the Mardi Gras Juggler I had hired to greet the guests … and there was “Mom” — on the verge of a nervous breakdown racing around the room alone with no help, putting decorations on tables and dealing with vendor crisis after vendor crisis, clearly having the least fun of anyone I’ve ever seen at a wedding reception. Not the enthusiastic, vivacious, thoughtful woman I had met two months before. An exhausted, embattled, and besieged amateur who had completely lost control of the event long before the people walked through the door. In retrospect, it was like watching a preview of FEMA managing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Well, to finish our story, Elvis left the building with the two female guests he had set out to impress and bed later; the minister assaulted any sensitivies, patience, and politeness the crowd had left in reserve; and five minutes before the magician was to take what was left of the “stage”, the bride and groom had completely disappeared! Forget about the perfect set-up we had painstakingly orchestrated… no way to delay our part of the show until they were found! So, no bride and groom during the entire warm-up act! The bride finally was found in the bathroom finishing her vomiting, and returned shaken to the main room.

Needless to say, I did not even consider involving her in the show at this point (the volunteers were already onstage and hypnotized, and she was far too fragile). The crowd, which had been extraordinarily responsive, gracious, and involved five hours before, was completely fried by this point, and I performed the fastest, briefest version of my show humanly possible. What troopers. If it had been me out in that audience, I might have been throwing things by then and screaming for the band to return.

Obviously, the entire purpose for our entertainment (hypnotizing the bride out of her acute stage fright to recapture the joy of singing) was completely obliterated. The only saving grace was that Mom had enough sense (and overwhelming feeling of defeat) to realize that this outcome was completely her doing, and did not renege on the payment of our normal princely sums. As she numbly handed over our payment envelopes, I resisted the twisted urge to remind her of how many times I had gently encouraged her to consider getting a coordinator to help her. Just smiled, thanked her for the opportunity to be of service, and congratulated her on producing on a beautiful reception for her daughter and new son-in-law.

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Tony Barthel Tony Barthel (49 Posts)

Anthony (Tony) Barthel has been a DJ since 1986 with a unique take on marketing that has resulted in over 1,000 events personally performed. In that time Tony’s weird sense of humor and unique perspective on the world got him started collecting these stories and sharing them with friends and other wedding professionals. Born in Baden, Switzerland Tony celebrates the unusual and outlandish as part of his lifestyle. He was married to Peggy Sue in 2005 in what his friends describe as the most unusual wedding ceremony and reception they’ve ever been to. The ceremony was in a 1928 movie theater complete with giant Wurlitzer Theater Pipe Organ and the reception lasted for two days including a gathering in an ocean side lagoon with 400 of their closest friends.


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