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Jumpsuits, Sideburns and $1,000 costumes 

Where does the leather end and the man begin?Danny Vernon prefers to be called an Elvis "tribute artist," rather than an "Elvis impersonator." He's clearly

Where does the leather end and the man begin?Danny Vernon prefers to be called an Elvis "tribute artist," rather than an "Elvis impersonator." He's clearly aware of the connotation that accompanies the word "impersonator" and is pretty serious about what he does.

This is why when I ask him to slip into his Elvis character over the phone and answer a question like "what are your thoughts on Michael Jackson, your former son in law?" he's not all that thrilled. He laughs at the request, but it's a trying-to-be-polite sort of laugh - a let's-change-the-subject laugh.

Vernon gives me a quick sample of his Elvis voice, saying something along the lines of "Oh man, I dunno, man, I dunno if I can jump right into it" and it's pretty damn close to the King himself, even if Vernon says he could do better if he didn't happen to be fighting a cold. Good Southern drawl, excellent intonation, better than average mumbling. Let's score that a nine out of ten. In a contest of Elvis talk-a-likes (there are actually several of these) Vernon would do quite well, even if that's not really his specialty.

"I try to just be myself for the most part," Vernon says of his onstage personality.

Vernon, a Seattle-based musician who's recorded original material in addition to his Elvis cover records, says the music is where he steers most of his effort. Oh yeah, and he also doesn't mind devoting some time and cash toward looking the look - which is probably about 90 percent of the reason our celebrity-look-a-like-loving culture still embraces the Elvis impersonator.

"I've spent thousands of dollars on costumes and have really tried to get as close as possible to the look and sound of Elvis," Vernon says.

Vernon has devoted his career to playing the early hip shaking, rockabilly years, the 60s movie days, as well as the 1970s bloated-sweaty-and-strutting-across-a-Las-Vegas-stage era - all with striking accuracy. Even his records (despite the fact that "cover albums" don't quite make sense - why not just buy an actual Elvis album?) sound like modern recordings of the real deal. As for the thousands of dollars Vernon has spent on costumes, there's something to be said of subscribing to the "if you're gonna do something, do it right" ethos, even if that means finding a jumpsuit with the proper amount and arrangement of sequins. Please now direct your attention to the photo on the left where you'll notice what can only be described as killer sideburns and flawlessly crafted jet-black hair. Clothing aside, Vernon is pretty close to the King with just the hair on his head and face - but, as I've always wondered: "how do you, as an Elvis 'tribute act' manage that look when you're not onstage?

"I still have my hair and sideburns, but I try to keep it pretty tame and non-Elvis as I can. But everywhere I go, people say, 'thank you very much,'" Vernon says.

Yeah, that tends to happen when you go out of your way to look like Elvis.

The Illusion of Elvis with Danny Vernon

7pm Saturday, July 5. Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., 317-0700. $30. Tickets at towertheatre.org or the Tower Box office.

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