Everyone, at least once in life, should go to the Elvis Festival in Parkes, Central NSW.The Leftist elites would hate it, which was one of many reasons I loved it last weekend.
Elvis Presley has become part-legend, part-joke: a musical genius, the ultimate entertainer who died way too young, leaving himself open to outrageous impersonations and hi-jinx. Here in Parkes if you can’t find the Elvis of your choice, you’re not really looking. I found Scottish Elvis (in a kilt), Chinese Elvis, Canine Elvis (a black-wigged mutt), Infant Elvis (a baby with sideburns) and of course, in this era of gender equity, Shelvis – beautiful young women dressed in white, tight-fitting body suits. I’m starting to be won over to the feminist cause.
My favourite Elvi were the ones looking like Presley if he had still been alive today – that is, 84 years of age, hair dripping with dye, body shape shot to pieces but still hoping to rock on as if it were Las Vegas circa 1969. In the Saturday morning main street parade, GI Elvis stood out – a tribute to an oft-forgotten part of The King’s career, his service in the United States Army 1958-60.
The one fault I found in the array of Elvi was the absence of Richard Nixon. In 1970 Elvis had a madcap plan to become an FBI agent, going undercover to identify the true nature of the drug problem among America’s youth. Undercover Elvis sounded like an ambitious project, with zero chance of him ever being able to conceal his identity. Nonetheless he scored an Oval Office meeting with the President, sans FBI badge. Copies of the Nixon/Presley photograph remain the most requested in the history of the US National Archives. Eventually Elvis left the building.
I feel a duty, as a political devotee, to organise dual Elvis/Nixon impersonators for future Parkes festivals, reliving the second most famous handshake in history (behind the Latham/Howard bonecrusher, of course). Nixon masks might be harder to find than gold sunglasses and chains, but I’m determined to push on. I’m taking Arthur Schlesinger, the Kennedy historian and speechwriter, as my inspiration. In late 1979 Schlesinger was horrified to find the Nixon family moving into the home across his back fence in 64th Street, New York. In his journals, Schlesinger, who had once been on Nixon’s Enemies List, lamented how, ‘The Bible says Love thy neighbor, but maybe those who hate each other too much get put together in the end’.
The diary entries are hilarious as Schlesinger’s family becomes obsessed with spying on their rival across the back garden. Ultimately, though, the ex-President’s abode became a rollicking opportunity for them, more than serious CIA-style surveillance. Each Halloween the Schlesinger children donned Nixon masks and rampaged through the neighbourhood playing ‘Tricks and Treats for Tricky’.
With 25,000 Elvis fans travelling to Parkes this time last week, mainly by train and campervan, it was the logical place for a One Nation NSW Leader to visit, kissing Baby Elvi in preparation for the March 23 State election. As I quipped to my offsider, ‘If the election was held solely in Parkes today, I’d end up Premier.’
This is the Australia I love: down-to-earth, enjoying bistro food, schooners of beer, bopping around the Leagues Club dance floor and when the conversation turned to politics, telling me how much they despise Malcolm Turnbull. I’ve never been to a place so upbeat and fun-loving. In a world of doom and gloom it was magnificently refreshing. There were no youth gangs terrorising older people and breaking into shops. In fact, the police presence was barely noticeable, mainly because it wasn’t needed. The town was packed but trouble-free.
My one awkward moment was in deciding how to dress. It was mandatory to make an Elvis-inspired effort. Yet at my age and shape, a body suit was high-risk. The last politician to appear in Parkes dressed in full white kit was Sam Dastyari (in 2017) and that didn’t end very well. So I went for gold sunglasses, fake sideburns and a cap and T-shirt. One Nation Elvis was born. On the morning of the street parade, an old dear came up to me and said, ‘You’re a very good looking man, I need to take your photograph.’ Then her Labrador led her away. But later in the main festival park, the news was not as encouraging. A lady approached me and said, ‘Can I ask your name please, I’ve bet my friend that you are Mark Latham.’ ‘Well, you’ve won your bet’, I replied, ‘But who did your friend put his money on?’ To my horror she said, ‘Kevin Rudd!!!’ This settled the matter pronto. There can be nothing worse in politics than being mistaken for Kevin Rudd – especially after I had shed 17 kilos late last year and Rudd himself seems to have put on 17. I was all shook up.
Next year in Parkes I’ll be wearing the full Elvis outfit, to be certain of avoiding Rudd comparisons.