“My dream had been to pursue a theater career,” Pellicano said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I never got around to it with my Elvis career.”
This journeyed, veteran Presley performer will headline this weekend’s “Elvis to the Max” celebration, starting Friday and hosted jointly by the Eldorado, Circus Circus and Silver Legacy in downtown Reno.
Pellicano’s work as Elvis started in the late 1970s when he was spotted in a production of “Bye Bye Birdie” by a promoter who was putting together a re-crecreation of the King’s “Aloha from Hawaii” concert from 1973. The promoter was so impressed with Pellicano’s portrayal of Conrad Birdie, the character inspired by Elvis’ life story, that he asked Pellicano to star in the recreated concert. That gig lasted three years, Pellicano said, and spawned a role that would turn into a career.
As a child in the 1960s, Pellicano was more a fan of the Beatles than Elvis, though he said he has distinct memories of his older brother playing the record “Elvis’ Golden Hits” over and over. When John, Paul, George and Ringo crossed the Atlantic and appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1963, 10-year-old Pellicano decided he wanted to be a performer. He went on to study dramatic arts at California State University Hayward with the goal of being an actor, and he still views himself as such, even though he has been playing one role for three decades and sings more than he recites dialog.
In his act, Pellicano embodies Elvis at various stages of his career: from rebellious 1950s rockabilly hip-shaker Elvis to 1968 comeback special Elvis to Las Vegas, sparkly white jumpsuit Elvis. Those three stages will be part of his Reno act, which has been expanded to include two performances on Saturday. And although Elvis has been dead for 35 years now, even those who were born after 1977 appreciate the musician and his journey to fame — not to mention the hair and sideburns.
“The thing with him is, he is an American success story,” Pellicano said. “He was a poor country guy who never had a hope he’d make it, yet he did.”
Though Pellicano never got to see Elvis perform — he had tickets once, but the King got sick and canceled the show — he has studied him extensively, shook hands with Elvis’ father and even got to work with members of the Jordanaires, known for singing backup vocals for Presley.
“If you’d have met him, he’d have been your best friend,” Pellicano said of what the Jordanaires told him about Elvis.
Pellicano will perform shows in the Eldorado Showroom at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $20 and $30 and can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com or the Eldorado ticket office.
But the Elvis birthday weekend fun doesn’t start or stop there. The weekend kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday with karaoke at Circus Circus’ Cabaret and Silver Legacy’s Aura Lounge, and an Elvis-themed Skyy High Friday at BuBinga Lounge inside the Eldorado starting at 9 p.m. Be sure to pick up shades with sideburns at the Silver Legacy.
From noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Circus Circus is hosting a $5,000 Rock Around the Clock video poker tournament. At 7 p.m. Saturday, join Silver Legacy’s Elvis costume contest in Aura Lounge or step over to Circus Circus Cabaret for more Elvis karaoke.
The party continues at 8 p.m. Saturday with the Inaugural “Elvis To The Max” Pub Crawl at numerous bars within Circus Circus, the Eldorado and Silver Legacy. Bring your Elvis costume, purchase your Pub Crawl cup for $5 and join in the fun. Each property has drink specials and fun Elvis-themed drinks.
A proper birthday celebration is not complete without cake. Stop by Silver Baron Lounge at Silver Legacy from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or Circus Circus from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday for a slice of free Elvis birthday cake. One lucky Elvis fan will win a trip for two to Las Vegas and tickets to see “Viva Elvis” by earning entries all weekend from noon to 10 p.m. The winner will be drawn at 1 p.m. in the Circus Circus Cabaret.
For more information, visit www.circuscircus.com, www.eldorado.com or www.silverlegacy.com.