I remember the first time I encountered Ben Klein. It was back in 2003, when I was the calendar editor here at The Inlander. He was a baby-faced 20-year-old who looked like he'd been forced into a funny Elvis costume and cajoled into doing a family variety show. Every now and then, an event featuring Ben "Preslee" Klein would come across my desk. I'd snicker every time.
So I was surprised when I returned to the paper in 2009 that Klein was still performing as Elvis around town. More than ever, I wondered: what motivates someone to dress up like someone else, act like someone else, sing like someone else. Is impersonation (or as I learned while reporting this story, tributing) the ultimate form of fandom? Or is it just really weird?
For this week's cover story, I decided to find out. When I met Klein after months of phone tag — at the Indian Trail Starbucks last August — I was shocked. Not only was he not creepy, but he was incredibly charismatic and reflective about why he does what he does. Being Elvis onstage, to Ben, means being able to show everyone all the amazing reasons why Elvis took the music world by storm so many decades ago. It's his job, he feels, to show the best parts of Elvis to the world.
But even more, I was shocked to find out that "being Elvis" is a family affair for Ben and his family. It's as much a part of their lives as being Christian — something both Ben and his parents are passionate about.
After all these years of celebrating this man — this one charismatic, trailblazing, world-shifting man — the Kleins have begun to worship him in some ways. And that, to me, was absolutely fascinating to hear about.